Yesterday, the Ontario Student Trustees’ Association/Association des Élèves Conseillers/ères de l’Ontario (OSTA/AECO) released their e-Learning: The Students Perspective report. While much of the popular and social media have focused on the more sensationalized, negative perspectives that often make up the minority opinion, there is a lot of positive guidance for e-learning in Ontario – and Canada in general.
CANeLearn does not support or oppose the proposed changes to e-learning policy in Ontario. However, as an organization it is important for CANeLearn to underscore the realities of e-learning in Ontario, and what we actually know from the research about K-12 e-learning. For example, it is important for stakeholders to understand the current model of e-learning in the province, which includes a certified teacher hired by a school board to provide the e-learning instruction, a variety of local support at the school level for the students while they are engaged in e-learning, and an e-learning class size that is the same as the face-to-face class size.
CANeLearn has also stressed that a one size fits all model of instruction is not a solution – for e-learning or for classroom learning. E-learning will need to be designed, delivered, and supported in different ways for different students in order for all students to have success. Interestingly, the OSTA/AECO report provides exceptional e-learning guidance from the student perspective in the following recommendations that conclude the report:
- BROADBAND: That reliable broadband internet services be accessible to all schools in Ontario;
- MATCHED RATIO: That the student-to-teacher ratio of elearning classes match those of in-person classrooms;
- TRAINING: That students receive proper training for the use of elearning software;
- LEARNING SKILLS: That a considerable effort is made to retain critical learning skills such as time management and collaboration by incorporating face-to-face interaction with elearning teachers and students;
- OFFICE HOURS: That elearning teachers establish “office hours” to notify students of their availability to answer questions and return course assessments;
- TEACHER RESOURCES: That the Ontario College of Teachers (OCT) enhance the existing Additional Qualification (AQ) course for instructing elearning, “Teaching and learning Through elearning”, and providing additional resources for teachers;
- LEARNING STYLES: That the delivery of elearning content should accommodate the learning styles of all students within the platform’s limitations;
- LANGUAGE BARRIERS: That elearning platforms respond to language barriers, g. accommodating the needs of English as a Second language (ESl) and French-speaking students;
- ACCESSIBILITY BARRIERS: That elearning platforms respond to accessibility barriers, g. accommodating the needs of students with exceptionalities or physical disabilities;
- DIVERSIFIED IMPACT: That the Ministry of Education conducts research to understand the impact of this mandate on different socioeconomic statuses and backgrounds — including for Indigenous, racialized, and lGBTQ+ students — and its consequential gendered; and
- FOCUS GROUPS: That the Ministry of Education should spend the time between now and the implementation of this mandate performing focus groups on elearning with students of all.
These recommendations in the OSTA/AECO provide an excellent list of the kinds of conditions that CANeLearn has argued are needed in order for students to have that opportunity to succeed. These 11 items could form the basis of a program improvement plan for any school board delivering e-learning – anywhere in Canada.