On 15 March 2019, the Government of Ontario announced the Education that Works for You – Modernizing Classrooms proposed policy. From an e-learning perspective, the proposal calls for:
The government is committed to modernizing education and supporting students and families in innovative ways that enhance their success. A link to e-learning courses can be found here: www.edu.gov.on.ca/elearning/courses.html.
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.
Secondary students will take a minimum of four e-learning credits out of the 30 credits needed to fulfill the requirements for achieving an Ontario Secondary School Diploma. That is equivalent to one credit per year, with exemptions for some students on an individualized basis. These changes will be phased in, starting in 2020-21.
With these additional modernizations, the secondary program enhancement grant will no longer be required.
As outlined by the State of the Nation: K-12 e-Learning in Canada annual reports, Ontario already has a fairly centralized system of e-learning. At present, e-Learning Ontario (a unit of the Ministry of Education) provides school board access to a centralized learning management system and student information system. e-Learning Ontario provides school boards with access to content that is centrally created and updated. e-Learning Ontario even funds a “Technology Enabled Learning and Teaching Contact” in each school board to assist with the implementation of e-Learning Ontario technology and content in online learning programs and individual teachers incorporating blended learning in their classrooms. The only decentralized aspect of the current e-learning programs are the administration and actual delivery of individual online learning programs, which are operated at the board level. However, even these school boards have engaged in a variety of consortiums throughout the province that allow them to cooperate and coordinate their online learning programs between boards – often on a province-wide basis. The reality is that the existing system is already highly centralized.
Currently, there are no Canadian jurisdictions that have any form of e-learning graduation requirement. However, there are six US states that have some form of online learning graduation requirement.
- Michigan (2006): successfully completed at least one course or learning experience that is presented online (i.e., 20 hours of online learning)
- New Mexico (2007): an Advanced Placement, honors, dual enrollment or distance learning course
- Alabama (2008): complete one online/technology enhanced course or experience, with an opt-out for students with IEPs
- Florida (2011): at least one online course
- Arkansas (2013): at least one digital learning course for credit
- Virginia (2013): at least one online course
A four course e-learning graduation requirement would be four times that of any online learning graduation requirement in North America. According to the Ontario Ministry of Education, there were 628,032 secondary school students in the province during the 2017-18 school year. Based on data received from e-Learning Ontario, there have been consistently between approximately 50,000 and 60,000 unique students enrolled in online courses in the province.1 In order to implement a four course e-learning requirement, the Government would have to scale the existing system by more than 10 times. In order to scale the existing system to this level, the Government of Ontario would need to invest in significant, additional resources and professional development to ensure that students had the opportunity for success in order to maintain the existing ~80% graduation rate.
Over the next few days, we will examine some of the issues around these two proposals (i.e., increased centralization of the e-learning system and the e-learning graduation requirement) in greater detail.
1 It should be noted that even though publicly-funded schools must report student enrollments in e-learning classes to the Ontario Student Information System, e-Learning Ontario is only able to provide data from the previous school year as a part of the data collection for the annual State of the Nation: K-12 e-Learning in Canada study. For example, for the 2018 report that was published in December 2018, e-Learning Ontario was only able to provide accurate data from the 2016-17 school year (and not the 2017-18 school year that would have ended in June 2018). As such, one of the first technical aspects of any e-learning graduation requirement would be the need for the Ministry of Education to have a more reliable and up to date tracking system for e-learning.