As a follow-up to their 15 March 2019 announcement, the Government of Ontario issued a press release today under the title “Ontario Brings Learning Into The Digital Age: Province Announces Plan to Enhance Online Learning, Become Global Leader.” From the perspective of their earlier announcement, the key features were:
- “While online courses will be a mandatory graduation requirement, exemptions will be made for some students on an individual basis.”
- “Ontario students will be required to take two online credits to graduate from secondary school.”
- “Students that graduate in the 2023-2024 school year will be the first cohort that are required to complete online courses.”
- “All Ontario students and educators in all publicly funded secondary schools will have access to reliable, fast, secure and affordable internet services at school, in all regions of the province by September 2020.”
The first item confirms one of the new details about Ontario’s e-learning mandate that we provided a commentary on nine days ago. At the time we indicated that there was an exemption for special needs students in only one of the five existing jurisdictions with online learning requirements.
The second item represents a decrease in the number of credits from four down to two. However, this is still twice as many as any other current jurisdiction. Back in 2011, Idaho initially had a two-course requirement that was approved by their State Board of Education, but later overturned by the legislature before it could take effect. Interestingly, the public schools chief Tom Luna and Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter initially wanted students to take up to eight online course credits – for those that believe the original proposal from the Ford Government was outrageous. Anyway, the Idaho requirement specified that one of the two courses must be “asynchronous,” which they had defined as taught remotely, without a teacher present in the classroom with students, and with students and the teacher participating on their own schedule. This description was consistent with the old legacy model of distance education, and the fear that many in Ontario have about the current requirement (i.e., a student in a room by themselves under the sole guidance of an online teacher in some distant location). However, under the current eLearning Ontario Master Agreement, this would be against the existing regulations.
The third item is a confirmation of the initial start date, that is the phrase “starting in 2020-21” in the 15 March announcement is the same thing as “students that graduate in the 2023-2024 school year” from today’s announcement.
Finally, the fourth item represents an escalation in the timeline for schools to be wired to accommodate this mandate. In the 15 March announcement, the Government indicated:
That is why all Ontario students and educators will have access to reliable, fast, secure and affordable internet services at school at a speed of one megabit per-second for every student in all regions of the province. The project will be completed by 2021-22, and will include all boards, schools and students.
But today’s announcement has this process being completed by September 2020, which would be the beginning of the 2020-21 school year.
However, as we wrote in our last entry on this topic, like so many aspects around the proposed e-learning policy, we continue to be left with speculation as to exactly how the Government of Ontario intends to implement many of these changes.