Number of K-12 Schools: 4844
Number of K-12 Students: 2,056,055
Number of K-12 Distance Education Programs: ~81
Number of K-12 Distance Education Students: ~850,000
Note that these profiles are taken from the most recent edition of the report, please review additional annual profiles below.
Governance and Regulation
There is no reference to distance education and/or online learning in the Education Act R.S.O, 1990. However, the Education Act, 1990 does make a reference to “equivalent learning,” which is defined as a learning situation that falls outside the instruction traditionally provided by a board, that is approved under paragraph 3.0.1 of subsection 8(1) and for which a pupil’s success can be reasonably evaluated.
Since 2006, the Ontario e-Learning Strategy has guided the Ministry of Education to afford 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 for 122 English-language and 109 French-language courses and a variety of multimedia learning objects, along with a variety of other technical and human resource supports (including a “Technology Enabled Learning and Teaching Contact” or “personne-ressource en apprentissage et enseignement par la technologies” in each school board). School boards delivering either online or blended learning must sign a “Master User Agreement” to access all of these services.
Ontario publicly-funded schools must report student enrollments in elearning classes to the Ontario Student Information System. Students who are enrolled in elearning courses as part of their regular day school, continuing education and summer school programs are to be recorded.
Funding for e-learning day school programs in Ontario’s publicly-funded district school boards is the same as the traditional brick-and-mortar education. In English-language schools, students may enroll in an online course offered by another school board provided they do so through their home school. In such a situation, the applicability of provincially established fees for students taking e-learning courses are worked out locally between the two school boards. The fee for the 2019-20 school year was $585 per credit course. In French-language schools, students remain with their home school board and take online courses offered by the Consortium d’apprentissage virtuel de langue française de l’Ontario (CAVLFO), a consortium funded and managed by all twelve francophone school boards.
Private schools operate as businesses or non-profit organizations independently of the Ministry of Education, and in accordance with the legal requirements established by the Education Act. These private schools do not receive any funding or other financial support from the government. While all private schools in Ontario must meet the same general requirements, private schools seeking the authority to grant credits toward the Ontario Secondary School Diploma must be inspected by the Ministry of Education. Inspectors look for evidence of ongoing interactions between the teacher and students in the online learning environment, and for a direct link between the specific and overall curriculum expectations being taught and assessed in compliance with Ministry policy and observed practices. For any credit course delivered online by a private school, all of the curriculum expectations including hours of instruction, assessment, evaluation and reporting must be in accordance with the policies outlined in Growing Success: Assessment, Evaluation and Reporting in Ontario Schools-First Edition, Covering Grades 1 to 12 (2010) and the relevant curriculum documents.
On November 21, 2019 the Minister of Education announced that Ontario students would be required to take two online credits to graduate from secondary school beginning with students graduating in 2023-24, and that courses could count toward this requirement beginning in September 2020 (Ministry of Education, 2019). Additionally, the Ontario Educational Communications Authority Act and the Ontario French-language Educational Communications Authority Act, 2008 were amended in July 2020 to:
provide that its objects include supporting the establishment, administration and coordination of distance education programs by or with prescribed persons or entities and discharging any prescribed duties. Related regulation-making powers are added.
This change broadened the mandates of both Television Ontario (TVO) and Télévision française de l’Ontario (TFO) to position them to provide centralized administration, coordination and support for teacher-led online learning in the English-language and French-language publicly-funded education systems.
K-12 Distance and Online Learning Activity
Each of the publicly-funded 60 English-speaking and 12 French-speaking school boards have the ability to offer some form of online learning using the Ministry-provided learning management system combined with the online curricular materials provided or their own. Many of the school boards also participate in one or more consortia designed to allow its school board members to work together to maximize their online offerings by sharing course offerings, resources and students (e.g., Ontario eLearning Consortium, Ontario Catholic eLearning Consortium, etc.). During the 2018-19 school year (i.e., preliminary as of March 1, 2020), approximately 72,000 elearning courses were completed by more than 61,000 students in online learning programs offered by English-language publicly-funded district school boards. The French-language school boards had between 2,500 and 3,000 students per school year taking courses through the CAVLFO.
Additionally, the Independent Learning Centre (ILC), which operates within TVO, serves Ontario youth 14+ and adults seeking to earn high school credits or an Ontario Secondary School Diploma. The reporting year for the TVO ILC runs from April 1 of one year to March 31 of the following year, as such April 1, 2018 to March 31, 2019 there were 18, 932 students enrolled in the TVO ILC.
Finally, there are as many as eight different private or independent K-12 distance or online learning programs, some of which have also formed their own consortium. The most recent data available indicated that approximately 15,000 elearning credits were earned in private online schools.
K-12 Blended Learning Activity
The Ministry of Education defines blended learning as instruction and student learning that incorporates digital resources in the face-to-face classroom. In addition to the various resources provided by the Ministry that were described earlier (e.g., learning management system, digital content and resources, Technology Enabled Learning and Teaching Contact, etc.), the Ministry has also provided funding to school boards through the Technology and Learning Fund from 2014 to 2017 to implement innovative practices to transform learning and teaching.
The Ministry does not track the wide variety of digital tools that may be used to support blended learning that take place in Ontario schools. The Ministry does provide licenses for a provincial learning management system, and digital tools for school boards to use for blended and e-learning opportunities with their students. As such, all educators in Ontario have the opportunity to use digital tools to provide a blended learning experience that meets their student needs. In the 2019-20 school year there were approximately 849,000 unique student logins in the learning management system (and, as stated above, more than 61,000 of these were students engaged in completing eLearning courses).
Emergency Remote Teaching
Schools closed on March 23, 2020 and remote teaching began on April 6. The Ministry of Education launched their remote teaching resource website, and partnered with the publicly-funded educational television network to provide access to learning tools and resources. School boards distributed available digital devices to students and the Ministry partnered with Rogers Communications and Apple to include internet for those families without access. There were attendance expectations, and report cards were delivered with grades frozen from March 13 with the option to improve.
Government of Ontario (2020). Bill 197, COVID-19 economic recovery act, 2020. Queen’s Printer for Ontario. https://www.ola.org/en/legislative-business/bills/parliament-42/session-1/bill-197
Ministry of Education. (2019). Ontario brings learning into the digital age: Province announces plan to enhance online learning, become global leader. Queen’s Printer for Ontario. https://news.ontario.ca/en/release/54695/ontario-brings-learning-into-the-digital-age
Previous Provincial Profiles
History of K-12 E-Learning
Like many jurisdictions, the origins of K-12 e-learning in Ontario are found in the print-based medium. In 1926, the Correspondence Courses program (which later became the Independent Learning Centre) was established by the Ontario Department of Education “to provide elementary education for children living in isolated areas of northern Ontario”(Ontario Educational Communications Authority, 2016, para. 7). Courses covering the complete secondary school curriculum were available by the 1950s.
There is actually some disagreement over the development of K-12 online learning in the province. For example, Barker and Wendel (2001) indicate that the first K-12 online learning established in the province was the Avon Maitland Distance Education Centre, which organized by the Avon Maitland District School Board in Ontario in 1994-95 (although the program did not offer any courses until 1997-98). As such, Barker, Wendall and Richmond (1999) claim that the first K-12 online learning program to actually offer courses was the Electronic Distance Education Network – a project originally designed by the Orillia Learning Centre of the Simcoe County District School Board to deliver high school courses to adults – during the 1995-96 school year. However, Smallwood, Reaburn and Baker (2015) argue that Virtual High School (Ontario) is the oldest K-12 online learning program in Ontario, offering its first course in 1995.
By 2000, there were several district-based programs in operation in the province. Joining Avon Maitland and Simcoe, were school boards in Trillium Lakelands, Peel, Durham and Toronto – all of whom were operating in isolation and using a variety of systems. In September 2000, many of these school boards came together to form the Ontario Strategic Alliance for e-Learning. This Alliance operated under a co-operative model where each district was responsible for writing two courses and student enrollments were shared across the Alliance. This Alliance would eventually grow into the Ontario e-Learning Consortium by the 2005-06 school year.
In September 2004, the Ministry of Education began to play a more active role. The first steps involved a survey of all of the distance education courses currently being offered throughout the province, which eventually led to the decision to host a provincial course management system and create a standard set of online courses that all school boards could use. Since 2006, the Provincial e-Learning Strategy has guided the Ministry to provide school districts with various supports necessary to provide students with online and blended learning opportunities, as well as providing e-learning leadership within the provincially funded school system. School districts are responsible for the delivery of online learning.
It should be also noted that the French-language school boards in Ontario have also been active in distance education, and this activity is believed to have a longer history than that of the English language boards. Unfortunately, there is little published information in English about this activity.
Barker, K., & Wendel, T. (2001). e-Learning: Studying Canada’s virtual secondary schools. Kelowna, BC: Society for the Advancement of Excellence in Education. Retrieved from http://web.archive.org/web/20040720185017/http://www.saee.ca/pdfs/006.pdf
Barker, K., Wendel, T., & Richmond, M. (1999). Linking the literature: School effectiveness and virtual schools. Vancouver, BC: FuturEd. Retrieved from http://web.archive.org/web/20061112102653/http://www.futured.com/pdf/Virtual.pdf
Ontario Educational Communications Authority. (2016). ILC mandate and origins. Toronto, ON: Television Ontario. Retrieved from http://www.ilc.org/about/our_mandate.php
Smallwood, J., Reaburn, J., & Baker, S. (2015). Virtual High School (Ontario): A case study of an online private school. In T Clark & M. K. Barbour (Eds.), Online, blended and distance education in schools: Building successful programs (pp. 144-155). Sterling, VA: Stylus Publishing.
- TVO ILC – The Evolution of a Distance-to-Digital Learning Model in Ontario (2019)
- Wahsa Distance Education Centre (2019)
- On Site Mentors at KiHS (2017)
- eLearning At The Upper Canada District School Board, Supported By The Ontario eLearning Consortium (2016)
- Online Learning and the Toronto District School Board Local Ontario Secondary School Teachers Federation (2013)
- Gai Hon Nya Ni: Amos Key Jr. E-Learning Institute (2013)
- Keewaytinok Internet High School (2013)
- The Conference of Independent Schools eLearning Consortium (CISELC) (2012)
- Ottawa Carleton e-School (2010)
- Keewaytinok Internet High School (2009)
Brief Issue Papers
- Making Ontario Canada’s Leader In Online Learning In Secondary Schools (2019)
- Virtual High School K–5 Course Project (2017)
- An Online Private School’s Relationship with the Ontario Ministry of Education (2016)
- Putting Theory into Practice: Flexible Learning and Course Development at VirtualHighSchool.com (2013)
- Teaching and Learning through e-Learning: A New Additional Qualification Course for the Teaching Profession (2012)
- Waves Across the Oceans (2012)
- Teacher Education and Preparation for Leading Online Learning (2011)
- Keewaytinook Internet High School: Moving First Nation Students ahead with Technology in Ontario’s Remote North (2010)
Individual Program Survey Responses
|Program||Most recent response||Medium||# of Students||# of Teachers||# of Courses|
|Algoma District School Board
|14 full time||125|
|Avon Maitland District eLearning Centre
|2015-16||Online||1,567||7 full time
14 part time
|Bluewater District School Board
|2010-11||Online||120||9 part time||8|
|Bruce-Grey Catholic District School Board
|2010-11||Online||10||1 part time||7|
|6 full time
|Consortium d’apprentissage virtuel de langue française de l’Ontario
|2018-19||Online||2,283||24 full time||156|
|Durham Catholic District School Board eLearning
|2012-13||Online||350||21 full time
1 part time
|eLearning Consortium Canada
|Grand Erie District School Board Virtual Academy
|2018-19||Online||500||18 part time||18|
|Halton District School Board
|2010-11||Online||275||11 full time||10|
|Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board
|56 part time
|Independent Learning Centre
|18,932||80 part time||144|
|James Bay Lowlands Secondary School Board||2010-11||Online||1||1 part time||1|
|Kawartha Pine Ridge District School Board e-Learning
|2016-17||Online||1183||1 full time
20 part time
|Keewaytinook Internet High School (Ontario)
|2019-20||Online||350||21 full time||80|
|Limestone Minds Online
|136 (online school year)
354 (online summer)
|5 part time
|Nimbus Christian Education||2020-21||Online||35||12 part time||60|
|Northwest Catholic District School Board||2010-11||Online||85*||3 full time||3|
|Ontario Catholic eLearning Consortium
|2019-20||Online||~1,500||43 full time
95 part time
|Ontario eLearning Consortium
|Ontario Virtual School
|2019-20||Online||5,074||10 full time
58 part time
|Open School Ontario
|2018-19||Online||75||1 full time
1 part time
|Ottawa-Carleton District School Board eLearning
|2019-20||Online||1,900||45 part time||59|
|Ottawa Catholic District School Board eLearning
|2019-20||Online||863||30 part time||26|
|Quinte Adult Education (HPEDSB)
|2,034||1 full time
21 part time
|Peterborough Victoria Northumberland and Clarington Catholic District School Board
|2010-11||Online||104||3 full time||9|
|Rainbow District School Board
|2010-11||Online||213||10 part time||14|
|Rainy River District School Board
rrdsb.elearningontario.ca / moodle.rrdsb.com
|2010-11||Online||106||6 part time||7|
|Simcoe County District School Board eLearning
|2018-19||Online||823||2 full time
3 part time
|Thames Valley District Virtual Academy
|2018-19||Online||1,636||47 full time||36|
|Toronto Catholic District School Board eLearning
|Upper Canada District School Board eLearning
|2019-20||Online||1,000||6 full time
12 part time
|Upper Grand District School Board eLearning||2018-19||Online||1,400||35 full time||21|
|Virtual Elementary School – Ontario
|2015-16||Online||35||2 part time||9|
|Virtual High School – Ontario
|2018-19||Online||8039 credits||98 part time||74|
|Virtual Learning Centre
|2018-19||Online||800||22 full time
14 part time
|Waterloo Region District School Board e-Learning
|90 full time
75 part time
* This is the number of students enrolled in blended courses.
** The Consortium represents 12 individual French-language district school boards. These figures represent the combined totals for all 12 programs.
To update this information, visit http://tinyurl.com/sotn-program-survey
Inter-provincial and International
A student registered in an Ontario school who takes a course from an online program in another province, territory or country is able to receive recognition for the learning through the Prior Learning Assessment and Recognition (PLAR) challenge process. Under this process students have their skills and knowledge evaluated against the overall expectations outlined in the appropriate provincial curriculum policy document to receive credit towards their Ontario Secondary School Diploma (OSSD). PLAR procedures are carried out under the direction of the school principal who grants the credit. Students may be granted a maximum of four credits through the PLAR challenge process.
Ontario’s publicly funded school boards may offer online programs to students living outside of Ontario provided they do not use the provincial learning management system which is licensed for use only by Ontario students and educators. A credit is granted in recognition for the successful completion of a course that has been scheduled for a minimum of 110 hours. Credits are granted by a principal on behalf of the Minister of Education for courses that have been developed or approved by the Ministry. For the purpose of granting a credit, scheduled time is defined as the time during which students participate in planned learning activities designed to lead to the achievement of the curriculum expectations of a course.