This entry was originally posted at https://k12sotn.ca/blog/ontario-e-learning-graduation-requirement-scalability/

As was described earlier this week, 0n 15 March 2019 the Government of Ontario announced the Education that Works for You – Modernizing Classrooms proposed policy.  Today, we wanted to examine the e-learning graduation requirement in greater detail.  As a reminder, the proposal calls for:

Secondary students will take a minimum of four e-learning credits out of the 30 credits needed to fulfill the requirements for achieving an Ontario Secondary School Diploma. That is equivalent to one credit per year, with exemptions for some students on an individualized basis. These changes will be phased in, starting in 2020-21.

To better understand the level of growth that this requirement would create, it is useful to examine what we know about the level of e-learning that currently exists in Ontario.

On 08 April 2019, People for Education released their latest Ontario school survey report – Connecting to Success: Technology in Ontario Schools, which examined the use of technology in Ontario schools.  The data included “1,254 [survey] responses from elementary and secondary schools in 70 of Ontario’s 72 publicly funded school boards, representing 26% of the province’s publicly funded schools” (p. 12).  Based on these responses, as well as previous surveys, the report indicated the percentage of students enrolled in e-learning courses were represented in the figure below.


From 2008-2014, People for Education asked school principals how many students are enrolled in e-learning courses. This question was asked again five years later in 2019. (p. 3)

This is somewhat consistent with the levels of participation that have been reported annually by the State of the Nation: K-12 e-Learning in Canada annual reports (with the 2013-14 school year being the main anomaly).

Annual Report Covering
School Year
Percentage of K-12 Students Involved
in Distance and/or Online Learning
2009-10 1.4%
2010-11 2.4%
2011-12 2.6%
2012-13 3.7%
2013-14 3.9%
2014-15 4.3%
2015-16 4.7%
2016-17 4.5%
2017-18 4.1%

However, in both instances these figures represent all K-12 students engaged in distance and/or online learning.  As we described earlier this week, if the figure is limited to only secondary school students, approximately 10% of secondary students were engaged in e-learning courses during the most recent school year that data is available.

In a specific sense, we reported in that earlier entry that there were approximately 630,000 public secondary school students in the province, but only between 50,000 and 60,000 of those were engaged in an e-learning course.  If we were to assume that those students are evenly distributed across the four grade levels of secondary school (i.e., grades 9-12), that would mean that there were approximately 12,500 to 15,000 students currently enrolled in e-learning in each secondary grade.  If this requirement is phased in, beginning in the 2020-21 school year, in terms of enrollment it would mean:

  • 2020-21: ~186,000 – all grade 9 students (i.e., 144,475), plus the historical enrollment from grade 10-12 students (i.e., 37,500 to 45,000)
  • 2021-22: ~309,00 – all grade 9 and 10 students (i.e., 288,793), plus the historical enrollment from grade 11-12 students (i.e., 25,00 to 30,000)
  • 2022-23: ~453,000 – all grade 9-11  students (i.e., 439,224), plus the historical enrollment from grade 12 students (i.e., 12,500 to 15,000)
  • 2023-24: 628,032 – all secondary students

This growth represents a significant increase in the number of students engaged in e-learning.  For example, in the first year there would be three to four times the number of e-learning students.  By the second year, there would be more students engaged in e-learning in Ontario than have ever been engaged in e-learning during a single school year in all of Canada.  By the fourth year, three out of every four students engaged in e-learning in Canada would be from Ontario.  Again, this growth represents a significant increase in the number of students engaged in e-learning.

At present, the existing e-learning program is of high quality (i.e., several consortiums report a 90%+ pass rate).  In order to maintain this success, the Government will need to ensure that teachers have the initial teacher education – as well as the on-going professional development – to be able to design, deliver, and support high quality e-learning.  The Government will also need to make sure that the level of technical assistance that is provided to the students, teachers, schools, and school boards is increased at an appropriate level.  If e-learning is no longer a choice for students, the Government will also need to ensure that students have equal access to their e-learning outside of the traditional school building and school hours, as well as providing a much higher level of technical support to parents and the home.  These factors are all issues that need to be planned for with such a significant increase in the number of e-learning students, to ensure that the existing high quality program is scalable to the degree that the Government has indicated in this announcement.