Earlier this week, there was an article posted on The Tech Edvocate entitled “Should K-12 Classrooms Get On The Online Learning Bandwagon?” The article states that there were “over 1.8 million K-12 students took distance-learning courses during the 2015 – 2016 school year,” as there are approximately 50.4 million K-12 students in the United States, this figure represents approximately 3.6% of the total K-12 population that are engaged in distance learning in the United States.
In an almost comical fashion, the following paragraph in the article states:
But how do we measure up to other countries? The short answer is that the U.S. is the leader in online learning due in part to our widespread access to broadband internet and how common it is in households and schools. Other nations are racing to catch up, though.
I say “in an almost comical fashion” because one of the three countries that the author focuses on is Canada (as well as England and China). For Canada, the author wrote:
Canada. In 2011, enrollment in distance education courses for children in Canada was only around 4.2 percent for the total student population. That number is rising, though, despite highly-publicized criticism from teacher’s unions. An initiative in Nova Scotia seeks to nearly triple the number of students enrolled in online learning programs and Ontario is trying to centralize its online learning efforts to provide something similar to interdistrict learning in the U.S. Nine of the ten Canadian provinces have K-12 distance education programs run by the government.
The first thing to do is correct the data provided by the author. As we have housed four additional reports into the state of K-12 distance education since 2011 on this website, we can report that the current level of enrollment in distance education courses in Canada is approximately 6.1% of all K-12 students. But even at 4.2% of the total student population, that is still more than the 3.6% reported for the United States earlier. Yet the United States is leading the way with 3.6% involvement, but Canada is catching up with 4.2% or 6.1% (depending on if you use recent data or five year old data).
The other issue that we have with this description of the state of online learning in Canada is the way that unions are characterized. Unions have been supportive of K-12 distance and online learning in Canada. Period. In fact, we have highlighted this in several of the previous State of the Nation: K-12 E-Learning in Canada reports. For example, in the 2012 edition of the report we described the supportive nature of unions on pages 15-17 or in the 2013 edition of the report on pages 15-16.