This title is a bit clunky, but it is designed to get at the chicken vs. egg idea behind whether policymakers should wait until all of the infrastructure is in place before embarking on innovative projects or if the announcement of innovative projects drives the implementation of the necessary infrastructure. This question was cause to reflect on this statement that our researchers made back in a 2019 article examining the research supporting proposed e-learning changes in Ontario that was published in the International Journal of E-Learning & Distance Education.
It is also important to note that e-learning projects have historically led to increased connectivity and broadband, as well as the deployment of technology.
At the time, the Government of Ontario had announced that all students would be required to complete four e-learning course – later revised to just two e-learning courses – in order to graduate from high school. One of the issues that was being examined around this announcement was whether there was a technological capacity to be able to handle such an increase in the level of e-learning – particularly when it came to access to the Internet. At the time, the article described previous efforts to address the broadband gap (e.g., Connect to Innovate, Eastern Ontario Regional Network, Telesat LEO, etc.) and also detailed the promises related to broadband access as a part of the original Education that Works for You – Modernizing Classrooms announcement.
The article then turned its attention to the chicken vs. egg issue, where it suggested that in the past the implementation of e-learning initiatives have often forced governments to invest in the provision of the necessary tools in order for the e-learning initiative to be successful – citing the Centre for Distance Learning and Innovation in Newfoundland and Labrador and the Contact North program in Ontario as examples.
It is important to revisit this issue at this time because yesterday the Government of Ontario issues a news release entitled “Ontario Launches New Preview Sites for Online Courses: Internet Connectivity Now Completed at All Publicly Funded Schools.” The germaine portions of the release for our discussion are:
The government has now confirmed that internet connectivity is complete at nearly 100 per cent of schools — 4,841 elementary and secondary schools are now connected, with three active connectivity projects underway in remote schools.
As part of a strategy to reduce barriers to online learning, the provincial government is improving access to the internet at all publicly funded schools in Ontario. Under the Broadband Modernization Program, schools across Ontario have completed improvements to their broadband networks, so that students can access online learning resources. The program also provides more efficient technology to support affordable network scale-up and enhanced cyber protection in the future and addresses long-standing internet access challenges faced by students and educators in northern and rural communities.
While the very real concern of access to computers and reliable broadband in the home (i.e., to allow students to have the same access to their learning outside of school as an in person course would offer), this announcement is an illustration of the statement that e-learning projects have historically led to increased connectivity and broadband, as well as the deployment of technology.