Last week our State of the Nation: K-12 e-Learning in Canada researchers posted this item to their blog.


The total K-12 population in Canada for 2017-18 was approximately 5.2 million students. Based on actual and estimated enrollment data, the number of students engaged in K-12 e-learning was 927,393 or 17.8% of the overall K-12 student population (see Table 1). The overall e-learning activity was based on the number of K-12 students engaged in both distance and online learning, as well as blended learning.

Table 1. Summary of the K-12 e-learning activity by jurisdiction for 2017-18

# of K-12 students # enrolled in e-learning Percent involvement
NL 66,323 ~9,000 13.6%
NS 119,383 ~98,000 82.1%
PE 20,131 56 0.1%
NB 98,906 ~10,200 10.3%
QC 1,003,322 ~51,800 5.2%
ON 2,020,301 ~597,000 29.6%
MB 203,515 ~6,398 3.1%
SK 182,173 ~14,000 7.7%
AB 719,889 ~63,000 8.8%
BC 635,037 ~75,000 11.8%
YT 5,662 1043 18.4%
NT 8,449 ~193 0.2%
NU 10,107 ~40 0.1%
Federal ~107,000 1,663 1.6%
Total 5,200,198 927,393 17.8%

The highest level of e-learning activity by raw numbers was Ontario (based on recent estimates), but, by proportion of students, Nova Scotia. However, these figures were largely due to estimates of blended learning activity based on enrolments in the provincial learning management systems. The level of participation in most jurisdictions represents a relatively consistent rate (i.e., less than 2% difference), with the exception of Nova Scotia (see Table 2).

Table 2. Summary of estimated K-12 e-learning activity over the past two years

# students engaged in e-learning
2016-17 2017-18
NL ~8,000 12.1% ~9,000 13.6%
NS ~54,000 45.2% ~98,000 82.1%
PE 89 0.4% 56 0.1%
NB 9,179 9.3% ~10,200 10.3%
QC ~47,900 4.8% ~51,800 5.2%
ON ~559,000 27.9% ~597,000 29.6%
MB 8,941 4.9% ~6,398 3.1%
SK ~8,500 4.8% ~14,000 7.7%
AB ~50,000 7.1% ~63,000 8.8%
BC ~63,350 10.0% ~75,000 11.8%
YT 1028 20.1% 1043 18.4%
NT 79 0.9% ~193 0.2%
NU ~40 0.4% ~40 0.1%
Federal 1,927 1.8% 1,663 1.6%
Total 812,033 15.7% 927,393 17.8%

As Table 2 illustrates there was a significant increase in the number and proportion of e-learning students in Nova Scotia, largely due to the potential number of students engaged in blended learning.

Based on actual and estimated enrollment data, the number of students engaged in K-12 distance and online learning only was 263,686 or 5.1% of the overall K-12 student population (see Table 3). It is important to note that the ~ symbol below means that one or more approximations were provided during the data collection.

Table 3. Summary of the K-12 distance and online learning activity by jurisdiction for 2017-18

# of K-12 students # enrolled in distance/online learning Percent involvement
NL 66,323 1,233 1.9%
NS 119,383 ~2,700 2.3%
PE 20,131 56 0.1%
NB 98,906 ~3,239 3.4%
QC 1,003,322 30,366 3.0%
ON 2,020,301 ~82,000 4.1%
MB 203,515 ~6,398 3.1%
SK 182,173 7,738 4.2%
AB 719,889 ~63,000 8.8%
BC 635,037 65,556 10.3%
YT 5,662 136 2.4%
NT 8,449 93 1.1%
NU 10,107 ~40 0.1%
Federal ~107,000 1,131 1.1%
Total 5,200,198 263,686 5.1%

As in past years, British Columbia has the highest level of reported activity in distance and online courses followed closely by Alberta. Although it should be noted the number of students in Alberta was based on an estimate. The data collected indicated that there were 80,359 course enrolments, but there was no data on unique student enrollments. In previous editions of this report we have assumed that approximately 20% of the students took a second distance or online course, which is how we calculated the figure of ~63,000. If one third of the students enrolled in a second course it would decrease the figure to ~60,000 students. If 10% of students enrolled in three courses and 25% of students enrolled in a second course, the level of participation would be under 49,000 students.

The 263,686 students or 5.1% proportion of students engaged in K-12 distance and online learning across the country was a decrease in the overall participation level from the previous two school years (see Table 4).

Table 4. Summary of estimated K-12 distance and online learning activity over the past three years

# students engaged in distance and online learning
2015-16 2016-17 2017-18
NL 1,105 968 1,233
NS ~2,500 ~2,600 ~2,700
PE 89 89 56
NB 2,527 3,262 ~3,239
QC ~41,000 ~42,600 30,366
ON ~94,500 ~91,000 ~82,000
MB ~8,000 8,941 ~6,398
SK ~12,000 ~8,500 7,738
AB ~60,000 ~50,000 ~63,000
BC 69,735 57,046 65,556
YT 149 189 136
NT 81 79 93
NU 325 ~40 ~40
Federal 1,390 1,289 1,131
Total 293,401 277,603 263,686

While there has been a decrease of approximately 30,000 students over the past three years, this represents only approximately a half a percent proportion difference in the students engaged in K-12 distance and online learning across the country (see Table 5 below).

Table 5. K-12 distance and online learning student enrollment in Canada

Year # of distance education students % of students engaged in distance education
1999-2000* ~25,000 0.5%
2008-09 ~140,000 2.7%
2009-10 150,000-175,000 2.9%-3.4%
2010-11 207,096 4.2%
2011-12 245,252 4.9%
2012-13 284,963 5.2%
2013-14 290,185 5.4%
2014-15 311,648 6.0%
2015-16 293,401 5.7%
2016-17 277,603 5.4%
2017-18 263,686 5.1%

* (Canadian Teachers Federation, 2000)

From a proportional standpoint, the number of K-12 students engaged in distance and online learning has remained relatively steady over the past six years (i.e., within 1%). Project researchers continue to believe that this decrease primarily represents the variability in the accuracy of data collection (i.e., six of the 14 jurisdictions were approximations), along with some actual shift from distance and online learning to more blended learning contexts.

While blended learning is a much more recent development within the K-12 system, the best estimates that are available indicate that it is increasing significantly. Based on mainly estimated enrollment data, the number of students engaged in K-12 blended learning was 665,134 or 12.8% of the overall K-12 student population (see Table 6).

Table 6. Summary of the K-12 blended learning activity by jurisdiction for 2017-18

# of K-12 students # enrolled in blended learning Percent involvement
NL 66,323 ~9,000 13.6%
NS 119,383 97,575 81.7%
PE 20,131
NB 98,906 ~7,000 7.1%
QC 1,003,322 ~21,300 2.1%
ON 2,020,301 ~515,000 25.5%
MB 203,515
SK 182,173 ~11,500 6.3%
AB 704,813 ~3071 0.1%
BC 635,037 ~9,500 1.5%
YT 5,662 907 16.0%
NT 8,449 ~100 1.2%
NU 10,107
Federal ~107,000 531 0.1%
Total 5,200,198 665,134 12.8%

The blended learning activity in Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Ontario, the Yukon, and the Northwest Territories are based on enrollments in the provincial learning management system – all of which were provided by the Ministries. While the enrollments in a learning management system are as good an indicator of e-learning activity as any other, it may be misleading. For example, Ontario reported that there were approximately 565,000 unique student logins in the learning management system. This figure includes the approximately 50,000 students engaged in online learning courses, which researchers have removed from the blended learning figure above. However, it is possible that 35,000 of these students are taking one or two courses in an online format, and one or more of their face-to-face teachers are also using the provincial learning management system and content in a blended learning context. Similarly, while Nova Scotia reports that “Google Apps for Education (G-Suite) is now available to all students, teachers, and administrators province-wide and there are 97,575 or approximately 81% of all students that have accounts,” that doesn’t mean all 97,575 students, teachers, and administrators are actually using those accounts. Having said that, the availability of blended learning tools and content is likely a reasonable predictor of the potential for blended learning.

Below, Table 7 illustrates the blended learning that this report has estimated over the past three years and the basis for that estimation.

Table 7. Summary of estimated K-12 blended learning activity over the past three years

# students engaged in blended learning
2015-16 2016-17 2017-18
NL 10,905* ~8,000* ~9,000*
NS ~54,000* ~54,000* 97,575*
PE
NB 4171** 5,917** ~7,000**
QC 44,500** ~5,300*** ~21,300***
ON 237,930* ~468,000* ~515,000*
MB 24***
SK 1895*** ~11,500***
AB 1463*** ~3071***
BC 6578*** ~6,300*** ~9,500***
YT 653** 830** 907**
NT ~100**
NU
Federal *** 638** 531*
Total 358,737 657,985 664,134

* Estimate based on learning management system data
** Data provided by Ministry
*** Data extracted from individual program survey response

It is important to underscore that these estimates of blended learning activity continue to be a best effort attempt at trying to quantify this type of e-learning activity. Beyond the issues of whether teachers or students enrolled in provincial learning management systems were engaged in blended learning, this data largely represents information obtained from programs that were primarily engaged in distance and/or online learning (and simply also involved in blended learning). For example, based on the most recent individual program survey data it was reported that:

  • Manitoba: 1 of 10 programs reported students engaged in blended learning
  • Saskatchewan: 5 of 14 programs reported students engaged in blended learning
  • Alberta: 5 of 17 programs reported students engaged in blended learning
  • British Columbia: 20 of 42 programs reported students engaged in blended learning

Yet, for these four provinces the researchers for this study have information from only distance and/or online programs. While we can report that K-12 blended learning is growing (and appears to be quite significant in some jurisdictions), we also believe that the estimation of blended learning activity in this report does not begin to scratch the surface of the true level of blended learning in most jurisdictions.