This entry was originally posted on the State of the Nation: K-12 e-Learning in Canada website.


This past week, Ricardo Tranjan from Behind the Numbers posted a blog entry entitled The board-by-board impact of larger class sizes and mandatory e-learning.  In that entry, Ricardo calculated “the impact of these changes on educators in each community, mapped by school system (English public school boards, English Catholic school boards, Conseils scolaires publics, Conseils scolaires catholiques) and broken down by elementary schools and secondary schools.”

The impact map, which has been making the rounds on social media, is based on:

The vast majority of these losses will be in high schools due to the scale of the increase in class size and the four mandatory online credits.

The model then compares the number of teachers that will be employed under the new plan with the number of classroom teachers that would have been in the education system if the government had not increased class sizes and made online learning mandatory.

One of the things that this analysis failed to take into account is the same thing that the Financial Accountability Office of Ontario’s (FAOO) Expenditure Estimates 2019-20: Ministry of Education failed to take into account – the actual teachers required by the Government of Ontario’s model of e-learning.

The Government of Ontario describes e-learning as:

E-learning refers to the use of the tools of the Provincial vLE/LMS when there is a scheduled distance between the e-learning teacher and students and/or students and each other. Distance may be related to location (i.e. students from different locations enrol in one e-learning course) or time (i.e. students from one location enrol in one course but access it during different periods of the day). (Ontario Ministry of Education, 2013, p. 2)

Further, the Ontario Ministry of Education (2013) also provided guidance on how schools should implement e-learning that includes:

  • assigning personnel for the delivery of the Provincial e-Learning Strategy, including a contact person who will be the liaison with the Ministry on matters pertaining to the strategy;
  • establishing class sizes and Pupil Teacher Ratios as outlined in provincial and school board policies and as specified in the applicable collective agreement;
  • ensuring e-learning and blended learning courses are part of the teacher’s “workload” as specified in the applicable collective agreement;
  • ensuring that day school students enrolled in day school e-learning courses are taught by day school grid teachers and placed on the day school funding register;
  • ensuring that all students, including those with special needs, have equitable access to appropriate e-learning opportunities and support within e-learning courses;
  • ensuring that students who enrol in a secondary school e-learning course are registered in the home school, as defined in enrolment register instructions;
  • ensuring adequate program support for all students, including those with special needs, and making the delivering school aware of these needs prior to enrolment in the course (e.g., orientation sessions);
  • providing a location and proctor for summative evaluations (e.g., final examination, culminating activity), if required, and ensuring the return of the completed examination to the e-learning teacher by a date pre-determined by the delivering teacher, in compliance with teacher workload;
  • providing an orientation program to students taking their 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. (pp. 7-10)

Based on these Ministry mandates, it is important to remember that the model of e-learning in Ontario looks something like this:


Figure 1. Click on the image to enlarge. In this kind of environment, the students (S) are enrolled in one of three brick-and-mortar schools. The online teacher (T) is also enrolled in one of these three schools. At each school, the students have access to the school-based administrator (A), local IT support (IT), and a facilitator (F).  There are also parents/guardian (P) that may be available to assist their children, as well as one or more subject specialists that the Ministry had contracted with to originally design (D) and later update the asynchronous course content. (Davis & Niederhauser, 2007).

The analysis by Ricardo in the the board-by-board impact of larger class sizes and mandatory e-learning entry calculates the number of teachers based only on the online teacher (T), but fails to take into account the fact that under the current model of e-learning there would need to be additional teachers (i.e., one per participating school) in the form of a local facilitator (F).

Given that there are no additional details about the mandatory e-learning requirement, we must assume that it will be implemented under the current model of e-learning that exists within Ontario.  If this is indeed the case, it would mean that even with a larger class size for e-learning courses, there would actually be a need for more teachers with mandatory e-learning.  This is actually one of the potential issues related to the scalability of the current model of e-learning.  It is also a legitimate question to ponder whether the model of e-learning that currently exists within Ontario will continue to exist when the Government implements the following portion of the Government’s Education that Works for You – Modernizing Classrooms announcement

Starting in 2020-21, the government will centralize the delivery of all e-learning courses to allow students greater access to programming and educational opportunities, no matter where they live in Ontario. (Government of Ontario, 2019, ¶ 10)

However, in the absence of additional details, these concerns are unfounded conjecture at this stage.

References

Barbour, M. K. (2019). E-learning class size. Half Moon Bay, BC: Canadian E-Learning Network. Retrieved from https://k12sotn.ca/wp-content/uploads/2019/06/e-learning-class-size.pdf

Davis, N., & Niederhauser, D. S. (2007). Virtual schooling. Learning & Leading with Technology, 34(7), 10-15. Retrieved from https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/EJ779830.pdf

Financial Accountability Office of Ontario. (2019). released its Expenditure estimates 2019-20: Ministry of Education. Toronto, ON: Author. Retrieved from https://www.fao-on.org/en/Blog/Publications/expenditure-estimates-education-2019

Government of Ontario. (2019). Backgrounder – Education that works for you – Modernizing Classrooms: Province modernizing classrooms. Toronto, ON: Queen’s Printer for Ontario. Retrieved from https://news.ontario.ca/edu/en/2019/03/education-that-worksfor-you-2.html

Ontario Ministry of Education. (2013). Provincial e-learning strategy: Master user agreement. Toronto, ON: Author. Retrieved from https://efis.fma.csc.gov.on.ca/faab/Memos/B2019/B09_attach1_EN.pdf

To see the earlier entry on the FAOO’s analysis, visit E-Learning and the Expenditure Estimates 2019-20: Ministry of Education.  Similarly, to see a more thorough discussion of this issue, visit the State of the Nation’s E-Learning Class Size special report.