This entry was originally posted on the Canadian eLearning Networks blog at It is being reported here because of its relevance to the focus of this annual study.

There were five dominant models through which K-12 education was provided during the 2020-21 school year.

Figure 1. Various learning models available during the 2020-21 school year

At the beginning of the year, many jurisdictions provided parents/guardians the option to enroll their students in school-based, in-person learning, or a distance, online learning, model. These two learning models were consistent with any other school year. In-person learning is the traditional model of K-12 schooling, where students are enrolled in a brick-and-mortar school and engage in their learning with teachers located at their school in a typical classroom setting. It is the kind of learning that many readers of this report will have experienced throughout their own K-12 education. In some cases, up to 6% of these students might take one or more courses at a distance because they were unable to access the course in their brick-and-mortar school for a variety of reasons (Barbour et al., 2020b; Barbour et al., 2020c). Even while engaged in these individual online courses, this small number of students were still physically located in their brick-and-mortar school – often under the direct supervision of a teacher or paraprofessional in an online learning or computer lab, the learning resource centre or library, or even the back of a classroom. This form of supplemental distance learning, for a very small population of students, has been available in most jurisdictions since the late 1990s or early 2000s.

While full-time distance/online learning has been available to K-12 students in most jurisdictions for some time, traditionally these students represent less than 1% of the students enrolled in the K-12 system. However, during the 2020-21 school year, many jurisdictions gave parents/guardians the option to enroll their students in these full-time distance, online learning opportunities.

Table 1. Jurisdictions where parents/guardians had the opportunity to enroll in full-time distance learning

<td”>Full-time distance/online learning an option

Jurisdiction Ability to enrol in full-time distance learning
British Columbia Full-time distance/online learning an option
Alberta Full-time distance/online learning an option
Saskatchewan Full-time distance/online learning an option
Manitoba Full-time distance/online learning an option for any student sick with COVID-19 or secondary students
Quebec Full-time distance/online learning not an option
New Brunswick Full-time distance/online learning an option
Nova Scotia Not specified
Prince Edward Island Full-time distance/online learning not an option
Newfoundland & Labrador Full-time distance/online learning an option for students home due to COVID-19
Yukon Full-time distance/online learning not an option
Northwest Territories Full-time distance/online learning not an option
Nunavut Full-time distance/online learning not an option

For a variety of reasons (e.g., presence of immune-compromised family members in the household, general public health concerns about the community or region, concerns about the disruption from sudden school lock-downs and/or the back and forth between in-person and remote learning, etc.), parents/guardians decided to enroll their children in a model of learning where the student did not attend a brick-and-mortar school at all, but rather completed all of their learning at a distance online. In most cases, these online learning opportunities were provided by existing distance and online learning providers – some of whom had a history of providing supplemental and full-time learning opportunities for over two decades. However, there were also instances where school boards and districts established their own distance education programs over the summer of 2020 – sometimes in partnership with an existing K-12 distance, online learning program and sometimes on their own.

Depending on the jurisdiction, there were also some learning models that combined aspects of the different mediums to accommodate various public health measures (e.g., mask wearing, physical and social distancing, restricted class size, etc.). The measures related to physical distancing and restricted class size forced some schools to adopt a learning model where students were only in the physical classroom a certain portion of time. One such model is a hybrid learning model, which has one group of students learning in-person in their classroom and another group of students learning at home through distance, online learning.

Table 2. Typical schedule for a hybrid learning model

In this hybrid learning example, students in Group A would be in-person on Monday and Tuesday, then in a distance/online learning model on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. Students in Group B would be in a distance/online learning model in-person on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, then in-person on Thursday and Friday. Another common model would be alternating days (see Table 3).

Table 3. Another typical schedule for a hybrid learning model

Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday
Week 1 Group A In-person Distance In-person Distance In-person
Group B Distance In-person Distance In-person Distance
Week 2 Group A Distance In-person Distance In-person Distance
Group B In-person Distance In-person Distance In-person

This second hybrid learning model had one group of students in the classroom each day with the other group at a distance. Over the course of a two week period each group of students would have five in-person days and five distance/online learning days.

The type of distance/online learning that was provided varied. In some instances, schools provided distance/online students with asynchronous course content created by their own teachers, provided free of charge from different online learning providers, and/or leased from a online content vendor. However, a more common hybrid model was the concurrent teaching learning model (also called co-seating or co-locating). In this model the classroom-based teacher taught some students who were in-person with the teacher in the physical classroom (i.e., colloquially referred to as ‘roomies’). At the same time, the teacher’s instruction was being streamed live through a video conferencing software such as Zoom or Google Meet or Microsoft Teams with other students logged in at home (i.e., colloquially referred to as ‘zoomies’). Essentially, concurrent teaching was an individual teacher providing instruction in-person to roomies, broadcast online to zoomies at home (Molnar et al., 2021).

Regardless if students were attending school in-person, through a hybrid schedule, or in a concurrent teaching model, the local epidemiology of the virus caused schools in many jurisdictions to close all of their classroom-based instruction and revert to a remote learning model. The main difference between remote learning and distance/online learning is remote learning is designed to be a temporary shift of instructional delivery to a distance/online delivery mode, which will return to in-person or hybrid model once the emergency abated.

To read all of the individual profiles for each province and territory, as well as to read the full report, please visit

[REPOST] CANeLearn Documents the Pandemic Response of Canadian Provinces and Territories during the 2020-21 School Year

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