Virtual School Meanderings

August 6, 2019

EDTECH537 – Audio Entry: Ideology And The E-Learning Proposal In Ontario

As I mentioned in the Week 6 entry for my EDTECH537 – Blogging In The Classroom course yesterday, today I wanted to post a sample of an audio entry.

Yesterday, in my image entry, I chose to focus on the Government of Ontario’s Education that Works for You – Modernizing Classrooms proposed policy related to e-learning.  As a reminder, that section read:


The government is committed to modernizing education and supporting students and families in innovative ways that enhance their success. A link to e-learning courses can be found here:

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.

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.

With these additional modernizations, the secondary program enhancement grant will no longer be required.

About two and a half months after this was first proposed, Stephen Hurley had me on his podcast “In Conversation,” as a part of his VoiceEd Radio show.  During the session, we chatted about the recent developments in e-learning in Ontario – especially the mandate for students to take four e-learning courses in order to graduate from high school.

Stephen described the session as:

Michael K. Barbour is Associate Professor of Instructional Design for the College of Education and Health Sciences at Touro University California. He has been involved with K-12 online learning in a variety of countries for well over a decade as a researcher, teacher, course designer and administrator.

Michael joins me to talk about the requirement that Ontario secondary school students take 4 of their high school credits online.

You can access the episode directly at:

I thought about this podcast this morning, as I was reviewing what I wrote in the EDTECH537 image entry on e-learning in Ontario and broadband access, the stuff about this being a shades of grey issue and that those who have taken a black or white stance on it were speaking from a position of ignorance or ideology.  A couple of weeks ago, there was a column in the Toronto Star that asked “is requiring four online courses the weirdest things DoFo has done?” (and I apologize about the link, it was the only non-password version of the article I could find).  In the article, the columnist focuses on online charter schools and the mess that they are in the United States (see the Virtual Schools in the U.S. 2019 report, particularly the research section – Section II – for a primer).

The problem is Doug Ford hasn’t proposed virtual charter schools.  He hasn’t proposed charter schools (where Alberta is the only jurisdiction in Canada to have).  He hasn’t even proposed full-time online learning options.

What Doug Ford has proposed one course a year for the four years of high school.  And the research has been quite clear on this front.  While students engaged in full-time online learning tend to do quite poorly compared to their brick-and-mortar counterparts, when it comes to supplemental online learning (i.e., those students registered in a brick-and-mortar school that take one or more courses online) their performance is entirely based on how to the course is designed, delivered, and supported.  In the same way that teachers do things multiple ways in the classroom to accommodate a full range of students and their interests, those engaged in online learning must do the same.

But let’s get back to the Toronto Star column for a bit.  I find it kind of ironic that seven and a half years ago I wrote two entries on the tactics of the neo-liberals/conservatives in K-12 online learning, and now I see them being used in Ontario.  As a means of review, the three tactics that I discussed and provided examples of were:

  1. Claim methodological issues or that the finding is an irregularity.
  2. Jump on one small error or omission, while ignoring the overall focus on the piece.
  3. Ridicule your opponent, change the focus of the story, or duck the issue altogether.

It seems that the Toronto Star columnist opted for the third option, to change the focus of the story.  The issue is focused on requiring supplemental online learning for graduation, but the columnist wants to focus on the poor track record of student performance in full-time online learning and the fact that so many of those programs are run by for-profit companies.  I suspect that the reason the columnist chose this tactic was because of their ideology, and the fear that the ideology of the current Government of Ontario will lead them down the road to privatizing public education – or at least the online learning portion of it.  But that’s an awful big jump, given that right now there is a public system in place that offers access to the software and online course content necessary for supplemental online learning programming.  And that the proposal is simply to require that students avail themselves of that program for one course a year.

Interestingly, around the same time The Times Colonist out of British Columbia ran a similar column, which again questioned the proposed online learning graduation requirement on the basis of ideology.  The columnist wrote that “the concern for educators in Canada would be that politicians who find public education expensive might be looking for ways to download costs.”  This implies that the rationale for this change used by the Government of Ontario (and which was also used by the governments of Michigan, Florida, Alabama, Virginia and Arkansas – as well as several other states that have had required online learning at some point in the past) was bogus and its all about the money.  The columnist continues and states that “e-learning is much less expensive and, at the same time, not as irritating and inconvenient as classrooms, where class size is restricted by contract with those pesky members of teaching unions.” – which is again an ideological leap of faith.

Now if you listen to the audio that I have embedded above, you’ll hear that I’m not necessarily in favour of this policy.  In fact, if you look at the only research to date on whether an online learning experience at the K-12 level has any impact on students’ orientation to online learning later in life you’ll see it was found to have a negative impact.  So I’m certainly not defending the proposed policy.

But what I can say is that if in their opposition to this – or any – policy that those who are doing the opposing stoop to the levels that progressives regularly criticize neo-liberals and conservatives for taking, haven’t we lost something much larger than the battle over a specific policy?


  1. […] access based on an image that was making the rounds and yesterday I focused on some of the ideological tactics being used by folks that oppose the announcement.  Today, in the video entry I want to turn my attention to focus my attention to how we can make […]

    Pingback by EDTECH537 – Video Entry: E-Learning In Ontario And Shades Of Grey | Virtual School Meanderings — August 7, 2019 @ 7:00 am | Reply

  2. […] Audio Entry: Ideology And The E-Learning Proposal In Ontario […]

    Pingback by EDTECH537 – End Of Course | Virtual School Meanderings — August 17, 2019 @ 7:03 am | Reply

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