Ontario Policy/Program Memorandum 167 – Mandatory eLearning
Jon Procter, Executive Director – Ontario eLearning Consortium
A November 21, 2019 announcement established 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 began counting toward this requirement beginning in September 2020. With this announcement, Ontario became the only jurisdiction in Canada with an online learning graduation requirement. On February 1, 2022 the Ontario government issued Policy/Program Memorandum 167 to explain to Ontario K-12 educators and leaders implementation of the online learning graduation requirement and opt-out process. Ontario students have been taking online learning courses for graduation credit since 2004 and the new policy requires at least two of a student’s graduation program consist of online courses. The policy is intended to foster digital literacy and technology skills for post-graduation success by providing access to high quality online learning.
Starting with students who entered Grade 9 in 2020-2021, students must earn two online learning credits to obtain their OSSD (unless exempt or opted out). Up to one secondary school credit completed by Grade 9 students in the 2020-21 school year during the province-wide school may be counted towards the new graduation requirement as a remote learning credit. Parents and guardians have the choice to opt out of the mandatory online learning credits. Adult learners entering the Ontario secondary school system in 2023-24 or later will also be required to meet this graduation requirement unless they opt out. In addition, Grade 8 students, with parental consent, may be given permission by the principal of a secondary school to “reach ahead” to take secondary school courses, either during the school year or in the summer prior to entering Grade 9. Other than the 2020-21 remote learning exception for grade 9 students, no remote learning credits are eligible nor blended learning or flipped classes.
To address the massive increase in e-learning, the Ontario eLearning Consortium (OeLC) has grown immensely and are central to the implementation of the e-learning mandate. What began as a grassroots partnership of Ontario school boards that began 2005, the OeLC has grown to include 55 of the 60 public and Catholic school boards, representing students who reside in both metropolitan and rural areas. The OeLC is a collective of boards, each of which has entered into mutual agreement to open their eLearning courses to all students throughout member boards without a course fee. The number of seconded staff has quadrupled from one to four for the 2022-23 school year to manage the policy implementation. Similarly, CAVLFO, a francophone consortium of all 12 public francophone boards, has been offering online courses to students and adults since 2010 and will be responsible for meeting the mandate for the francophone boards. CAVLFO formed to ensure equity of access to courses in French, retention of students within the Francophone system, increased success rate, and in response to the growing desire among students to learn differently.
At the same time as this massive increase in e-learning, throughout the pandemic and continuing for the 2022-23 school year, each District School Board is also mandated by Policy/Program Memorandum 164 to offer a synchronous Learn-at-Home Program delivered through Remote Learning and hosted by a virtual school. During this remote learning, teachers must be always available to students during the teachers’ assigned teaching period(s), as they would be if they were face-to-face in a classroom setting. Students and parents must be provided with a daily schedule or timetable that includes 300 minutes of learning opportunities, with a combination of synchronous and asynchronous learning activities. Finally, daily minimum synchronous learning time requirements for grades 9 to 12 students are the higher of 60 minutes for each 75-minute class period or 225 minutes per day for a full course schedule.
Full implementation of Policy/Program Memorandum 167 still has many questions remaining yet to be answered:
- Where will the courses/sections come from to meet the increased demand?
- Where will students work from?
- What about supervision?
- Do we have sufficient hardware?
- What existing supports will need to be leveraged and what new supports are needed?
- How about the teachers? FT or PT? Central or distributed? Permitted to work from home? How will they be hired? trained? supervised? supported? evaluated?
- Finally, what impact will increased online enrollments have on F2F classes?
The challenges are tremendous for the 2022-23 school year and we will need the full support of the Ministry, District School Boards, and the team at OeLC to meet the two e-learning courses graduation requirement.