The 21 November news release from the Ontario Ministry of Education ‘walks back’ the mandatory 4-credit requirement first announced 15 March to a two-credit requirement and adds some clarification to exemptions:

The previous announcement created a media stream of misinformation about e-learning that was inconsistent, or at odds, with CANeLearn’s current compilation of existing research on K-12 e-learning in Canada and internationally.  As a Canadian national nonprofit organization, we have no vested interest in the discussion in Ontario or direct involvement with formal organizations in the province (such as the Ministry of Education), we only wish to ensure that an accurate portrayal of e-learning is depicted in the discussion following such announcements.

As a research-based organization, we regularly publish peer-reviewed research about K-12 e-Learning, particularly in Canada and have a soon to be published journal article specific to the present state of e-learning in Ontario.  Given the timing of the Ministry announcement, several key points in that publication are being shared not and should be kept in mind during any discourse about the e-learning announcement.

  1. First, e-learning in Ontario is not a student in a room by themselves or at home, logged into a computer where they complete online content without interacting with a teacher online or another human in person.  That is the legacy model of correspondence education which still exists in parts of Canada but does not in most Ontario board’s e-learning programs.
  2. The Ministry of Education has provided guidance on how schools should implement e-learning that includes:
    • assigning personnel to all boards for the delivery of the Provincial e-Learning Strategy;
    • providing a virtual learning environment and courses;
    • ensuring adequate program support for all students;
    • providing an orientation program to students taking e-learning courses to validate the student’s suitability for e-learning and to prepare them for this style of learning; and
    • ensuring that e-learning teachers make themselves available to students at scheduled times to support e-learning students.
  3. It must be underscored that all students can be successful in an e-learning environment.  e-Learning is not inferior to classroom learning, simply another learning environment teachers can use to support and engage students — such as a makerspace, a library, a metal or woodshop, or any other place where teachers can structure and manage learning opportunities.
  4. Structure, support, and teacher presence are the critical ingredients for success in any learning environment, and e-learning is not excluded from this.
  5. e-Learning class-size limits generally do not include the educators involved in the design of the e-learning course content or the local support provided to e-learning students and should be part of the consideration in comparing e-learning class size with a classroom.
  6. Finally, a caution that our current research suggests the scalability challenge could impact quality without adequate resourcing, or deviating from the current model.  Ontario’s existing e-learning model has local support and access to courses with completion rates comparable to or better than classroom-based courses (up to 94% pass rate in some consortium models).  Successful e-learning models, such as those managed by several of the consortiums of boards in Ontario, favour a reallocation of resources and funding, not a reduction.