As was described yesterday, 0n 15 March 2019 the Government of Ontario announced the Education that Works for You – Modernizing Classrooms proposed policy. Today, we wanted to examine the centralization of the e-learning program. As a reminder, the proposal calls for:
Starting in 2020-21, the government will centralize the delivery of all e-learning courses to allow students greater access to programming and educational opportunities, no matter where they live in Ontario.
Since 2006, the Ontario e-Learning Strategy has guided the Ministry of Education to provide school boards with various supports necessary to provide students with online and blended learning opportunities. The Francophone version of the strategy, Apprentissage électronique Ontario, was released in 2007. Under this policy, the Ministry provides school boards with access to a learning management system and other tools for the delivery of e-learning, asynchronous course content and a variety of multimedia learning objects, and a variety of other technical and human resource supports (including a “Technology Enabled Learning and Teaching Contact” in each school board). School boards delivering either online or blended learning must sign a “Master User Agreement” to access all of these services.
Essentially, e-Learning Ontario (a unit of the Ministry of Education) centrally provides all of the tools and content needed to deliver e-learning, and even provides each school board with human resources to encourage the use of these services. The only decentralized role in the existing system for school boards is basically is the determination of which courses will be offered, the selection of the individual teachers to provide instruction in those courses, and the enrollment of students into the centralized learning management system. However, even these individual school board-based programs cooperate with other school boards throughout the province as a part of the Ontario eLearning Consortium, Ontario Catholic eLearning Consortium, and/or Consortium apprentissage virtuel de langue française de l’Ontario to maximize their online offerings by sharing course offerings, resources, and students. The reality is that the existing system is already highly centralized.
Given the announcement calls for the government to centralize the delivery of all e-learning courses, a question that has been common in the media and with the public at larger is:
What is more effective? A centralized or decentralized model?
Yesterday the Canadian eLearning Network posted an entry on this very question (see Which Is More Effective… Centralized Or Decentralized?). In their response, they pointed to the research literature that highlighted the Newfoundland and Labrador centralized system of e-learning was effective. They pointed to the research literature that highlighted both in Newfoundland and Labrador and in British Columbia decentralized systems of e-learning were effective. Finally, they pointed to data that the State of the Nation: K-12 e-Learning in Canada researchers have presented that show that the current model of e-learning in Ontario has been found to be effective.
The authors of this entry also highlighted the fact that while the organizational model may have impacted on who and how the e-learning program is operated, that it is the conditions under which the e-learning is designed, delivered, and supported that will impact whether students have success. So contrary to statements made by University of Toronto doctoral candidate Beyhan Farhadi, who based on her dissertation study has claimed not all students can be successful in an e-learning environment. Given the right design, delivery, and support, any student can have success in any kind of learning environment. The main question for the Government, at this early stage, should be what conditions they plan to implement to ensure that students will have success?