While there has tended to be consistency from year to year in types of K-12 distance and online learning programs that exist throughout the country, almost every year there has also been some change (see Figure 1).
Figure 1. Types of K-12 distance and online learning programming across Canada
Students from all thirteen provinces and territories continue to participate in K-12 distance and online learning opportunities. Most jurisdictions continue to have either primarily district-based programs or district-based programs and provincial programs. The exception to this trend is in Atlantic Canada and Northern Canada, where there continues to be a dominance of single province-wide programs. The only changes from the previous school year have occurred in British Columbia and in Ontario – both of which have changed from “primarily district-based programs” to “combination of provincial and district-based programs.” In the case of British Columbia it was due to the implementation of the distinction between Provincial Online Learning Schools and District Online Learning Schools that occurred during the 2022-23 school year. As for Ontario, the change was debated last year with the increased role of the Independent Learning Centre as a provider of distance learning in the province. However, the main reason the decision was made to change its designation this year was due to the significant increase in private online schools in Ontario that operate as province-wide programs (i.e., from 5-8 fully online schools in 2020-21 to 34 in 2021-22 to 69 in 2022-23).
As noted above, there has been a great deal of consistency throughout the sixteen years that this project has existed. For example, Figure 2 represents the first map that was created for use in the 2009 annual report of the State of the Nation: K-12 Online Learning in Canada.
Figure 2. Types of K-12 distance and online learning programming across Canada during the 2008-09 school year
The differences that exist are minor in nature. In Atlantic Canada Nova Scotia shifted from a combination of provincial and district-based programs to just provincial programs; while Prince Edward Island shifted from a jurisdiction that primarily used programming from other provinces to a jurisdiction that was starting to develop its own capacity, but still used programming from other provinces. In Central Canada, both Ontario and Quebec shifted from being provinces that utilized primarily district-based programs to provinces that utilized a combination of provincial and district-based programs. However, for the most part of the nature and type of programs haven’t changed – only the scope of their activities has expanded (as well as our understanding of the true nature of those programs). In Western Canada Manitoba and Saskatchewan have remained unchanged (although next year Saskatchewan will change from a province that utilizes primarily district-based programs to a province that utilizes a combination of provincial and district-based programs). Alberta has shifted from being a province that utilizes a combination of provincial and district-based programs to a province that utilizes primarily district-based programs with the loss of the Alberta Distance Learning Centre, while British Columbia has changed from a province that utilized primarily district-based programs to a province that utilizes a combination of provincial and district-based programs with the implementation of their provincial online schools and district online schools. Finally, in Northern Canada two of the three territories have shifted from a jurisdiction that primarily used programming from other provinces to a jurisdiction that was starting to develop its own capacity, but still used programming from other provinces. One of the three territories remained unchanged. This should underscore the fact that while some of the regulatory changes described in the previous section in recent years has been quite substantial, the actual impact of the provision of K-12 e-learning has often times only been minor.
It is important to remote readers that the distinction between “primarily district-based programs” and “combination of provincial and district-based programs” is becoming quite blurred. For example, in Alberta while there isn’t a single English-language provincial program whose mission is focused on serving students province-wide, the changes to the funding mechanism in Alberta encourage all district-based distance learning programs to enroll students from outside of their own geographic region. The same is true for online schools in Saskatchewan. Even the district-based programs that operate at the school board level in Ontario have the ability to enrol students from anywhere in the province.