|May 11, 2016
State of the Nation 2015: K-12 e-learning in Canada
Michael Barbour, Isabelle Farrington College of Education, Sacred Heart University, Connecticut
Current research in K-12 online learning in Canada has focused on defining distance learning and its current strengths and weaknesses. Yet, the proliferation of technologies and digital learning spaces has led to the emergence of new instructional strategies and digital learning practices for teachers in many K-12 classrooms, both online and onsite. Traditional school-based classrooms are incorporating technology-supported open learning options, creating “blended learning” opportunities where at least part of instruction occurs in a classroom, part online at a distance to the teacher, both combined with some element of choice in learning for students. For these emerging practices little is known empirically, only anecdotally, as research into these practices has been limited or nonexistent, particularly in Canada.As you will find in the 2015 State of the Nation: K-12 E-Learning in Canada report, many provinces and territories in Canada have some reference to distance education in their Education Act or Schools Act, the reference is typically used to describe distance education or to enable the Ministry of Education to create, approve or regulate K-12 distance education. However, few provinces and territories have any regulations describing online or blended learning. Two exceptions may be Nova Scotia and British Columbia. In Nova Scotia distance education is described in the collective agreement signed between the Government of Nova Scotia and the Nova Scotia Teachers Union. British Columbia has the highest level of regulation for K–12 online learning, featuring a structured system that allows students to freely choose any online course or program, and a funding model where dollars follow student choice. BC also has defined and published standards and a focus on quality for their online learning programs. As digital learning practices expand, there is a clear need for further research and study in the emerging field of K-12 online and blended learning.