Virtual School Meanderings

January 22, 2020

April DL Symposium Program Launched!

A newsletter from a pan-Canadian e-learning organization.

Canadian eLearning Network

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2020 Digital Learning Symposium

April 19 – 21, 2020 — Vancouver, British Columbia

Trevor MacKenzie #InquiryMindset – Both Sunday & Monday!

Mandatory eLearning ~ How? Why? Lessons from abroad

BC’s New Education Funding Model ~ Implications for DL Schools

  • Senior leaders from government, post-sec, and K-12

  • Structured dialogue, networking, and discussion

  • Hands-on learning and cutting edge tech tool demos

  • Emergent practices – high energy closing Demo Slam

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Register now! ~ Groups/Members $445

https://events.eply.com/DLsymp20

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  • 2020 DL Symposium registration includes Sunday afternoon and evening Pre-Symposium keynote & social!

  • In-depth workshops on skills, one-on-one with Trevor

Check out the program at https://2020dlsymp.sched.com/

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Can’t come Monday/Tuesday?  Register at $95 for Sunday only!

https://canelearn.net/symposium20/

  • Join over 400 educators, technology coordinators, developers and administrators, K-12 & post-sec!

Register today!  More information at

https://canelearn.net/symposium20/

Featured PD Events

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Digital Learning Collaborative Annual Conference

February 24-26, 2020 – Austin TX

Delivering on the real promise of online, blended, and digital learning

https://www.deelac.com/

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2020 BOLTT (Bringing Online Teachers Together)

April 2-3, 2020 in Toronto

Evening keynote address // Full day skill building event

More info at http://www.boltt.ca/toronto-fall-conference/

Archived keynote from BOLTT Ottawa 2019 available here

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2020 Digital Learning Symposium

https://canelearn.net/symposium20/

April 19-21 in Vancouver (see above)

Events

Archives

Aurora Institute (formerly iNACOL) Symposium 2020

  • Check out the shift in the organization and its new focus keynotes posted here

Joe Sisco’s Keynote from blendED Alberta

Events

See all CANeLearn archives here (members only)

CANeLearn Leadership Summit

Archives of DLsymp19

Stay Connected!

  • Use #CANeLearn to stream specific items of interest to members. Join the conversation!
  • Follow @CANeLearn, “like” us on Facebook, subscribe to our YouTube Channel
  • Check out our Members’ Site
  • Join CANeLearn – only $50 for associate membership!

The Canadian eLearning Network (CANeLearn) is a Canadian registered not-for-profit society with a vision to be the leading voice in Canada for learner success in K-12 online and blended learning.  CANeLearn provides members with networking, collaboration, and research opportunities..

CANeLearn promotes effective practice in online and blended learning; fosters community and facilitates interaction among online and blended learning educators; and connects educators to online and blended learning organizations.

eLearning

January 21, 2020

Google Alert – “Michael Barbour”

An item from one of my open scholarship networks.

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“Michael Barbour”

As-it-happens update ⋅ January 19, 2020
WEB
Michael Barbour and Randy LaBonte

Michael Barbour is Associate Professor of Instructional Design for the College of Education and Health Services at Touro University California in …
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January 16, 2020

Labour Timelines, Centralizing E-Learning, PISA And More!

Note the e-learning item from Ontario in the newsletter below.

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Province looking for feedback on education funding

The province has sent out a memo to education stakeholders asking for input on next year’s budget for education. Their goal is to “improve and refine the education funding formula.”

According to the memo, “the ministry is welcoming feedback on all areas pertaining to education funding, with a particular interest in receiving comments on initiatives that could support reducing red tape and administrative burden for the education sector.”

The deadline for submissions is January 31st, and they should be directed to EDULABFINANCE@ontario.ca with “Education Funding Feedback” in the subject line.

Education labour unrest

What’s the timeline and what are the issues?

People for Education has developed a synopsis and timeline outlining current labour issues in Ontario education.

Read the synopsis

Canada’s PISA scores are good – but what does that really mean?

People for Education has taken a look at Canada’s PISA results and done a quick scan of what researchers and education experts are saying about the implications of international testing in Reading, Mathematics, and Science.

Do results in these three areas really tell us enough about whole education systems? Are there dangers in focusing on country rankings? And despite Canada’s excellent results, has there been a decline over time?

Read more here

Blogger calls for formation of national network to support evolution in education

Bridget Stirling is an Edmonton School trustee, a PhD student, and a passionate advocate for children and for public education.

In her blog – written after attending People for Education’s Annual Conference in November, she lays out the reasons that it is vital that we learn more from each other across the country.
“We need more spaces in which we speak to and learn from each other about what we do and what matters in public education.”

Read the full blog here

Are you the “unicorn” People for Education needs?

People for Education is seeking a new member for our team. We’re looking for someone with experience and skills that go across communications and marketing; who knows how to plan and execute fund development, and how to translate evidence into accessible stories.

Most importantly. we’re looking for someone who has passion for the cause and a drive to communicate it.

The deadline for applications to be People for Education’s Director of Communications and Marketing is January 27th.

Read the details here.

People for Education

People for Education 728A St. Clair Ave. West 2nd Floor Toronto, Ontario M6C 1B3 Canada
info@peopleforeducation.ca
http://www.peopleforeducation.ca/

Commentary: OSSTF’s Statement On The Ford Government E-Learning Plan

Yesterday I wrote a brief commentary on The Toronto Star article entitled “Secret Document Shows Ford Government Changed Its Mind Before Making Online Course Mandatory For High Schoolers.”  A day earlier, the President of the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation (OSSTF) released a statement on Facebook about the plan outlined in the ‘secret document’ (for those without Facebook, I’ve re-produced the full statement below.  While the OSSTF (and all teachers’ unions to be honest) are engaged in job action against the Government right now, it is a bit unfortunate how skewed this statement is given how good the OSSTF has historically been when it comes to K-12 distance/online learning.

Let’s look at some of the comments from that statement…

The Doug Ford plan is all about removing investment from the system, reducing students’ access to the teachers and education workers they rely on to help them succeed, and creating an online learning system that amounts to bargain basement education delivered on the cheap.

Based on what has been publicly reported about the secret document, the Government did intend to reduce funding to school boards.

…which also calls for steep cuts in funding to school boards. The plan calls for $34.8 million less in the school year starting September 2020, $55.8 million in 2021, $56.7 million in 2022 and $57.4 million in the 2023-2024 school year.

After that, there would be “continued cost saving of $57.4 million annually with full catalogue of online ‘gold standard’ courses,” the plan predicted.

There was also some comment about the online courses saving money on an annual basis – although there is no mention if this is due to savings from removing duplication by centralizing the system, offsets generated from revenue of the sale of online courses to out-of-province clients, or – as Bischof contends – “bargain basement education delivered on the cheap.”

The OSSTF statement also reads:

Nowhere in the government’s secret plan is the quality of education addressed. Nowhere is it acknowledged that success rates for students taking online courses are significantly lower than for students in a traditional classroom. Nowhere does the plan mention that significant numbers of students simply don’t learn well in a self-directed environment, without the guidance of dedicated education professionals.

Actually, the plan mentions a “gold standard” process for the online courses and the need to increase the number of courses that meet this gold standard from the current small proportion courses to include all online courses.  The lack of an acknowledgement that success rates for students taking online courses are significantly lower than for students in a traditional classroom may be because the research simply doesn’t support Bischof assertion.  In fact, the research into supplemental K-12 distance and online learning has generally found that students in the online environment tends to perform at similar levels or even out-perform students in the traditional classroom.  Now there is a lot of caveats about that research, including the fact that online or face-to-face is just a medium in which education is delivered and does not impact student performance.  It is the design, delivery, and support of learning that impacts learning.  Finally, it is a complete mischaracterization of the current online learning system in Ontario to describe it as “a self-directed environment.”  This completely negates the good work that is done by e-learning teachers across the province – all of whom are members of the OSSTF.

The OSSTF statement continues…

…the plan contemplates the creation of a “business model” for marketing Ontario’s online learning system to international students, and for licensing course content to jurisdictions outside Ontario. It contemplates a system designed not to deliver the best possible education, but designed instead to generate “maximum revenue.”

The business model for out-of-province students is actually a common model outside of Ontario.  In fact, if the revenue generated by selling online course content to out-of-province students was invested back into the quality of the online learning program it has the potential to actually improve the quality of online learning for students in Ontario.  And as I noted in my entry on The Toronto Star article, this is actually happening in Ontario and other jurisdictions in Canada right now – “a private online school in Ontario that enrolls international students and a public school district in BC that established a model to allow them to do the same.”

After a bunch of editorializing about the motives of the Government  (which I tend to agree with, but aren’t actually supported by what is actually in the “secret document” – only the OSSTF’s slanted presentation of that document), the OSSTF statement concludes with:

There is simply no evidence, anywhere, that mandatory online learning is good for students’ learning experiences or that it helps them succeed. All the evidence, in fact, points to the contrary.

Actually, there is no formal evidence at all.  No one has examined the impact of mandatory online learning.  So we don’t know if it “is good for students’ learning experiences” or if “it helps them succeed” – but we also don’t know that it doesn’t.  So the statement “All the evidence, in fact, points to the contrary.” is just incorrect.  The closest to an examination of the impact of mandatory online learning that is available is a look at graduation rates in the US jurisdictions that have implemented this kind of requirement.  According to what Randy LaBonte and I wrote in an article published in the International Journal of E-Learning & Distance Education entitled “Sense of Irony or Perfect Timing: Examining the Research Supporting Proposed e-Learning Changes in Ontario,” we write:

In examining the graduation data for some of these jurisdictions, the Michigan Department of Education reported a four-year graduation rate of 74.33% in 2011 (i.e., the first class that would have been held to the online learning graduation requirement), which was a decrease of 1.62% from the previous year.v  However, there was also an increase in the graduation rate each subsequent year since the requirement was implemented. Similarly, the Alabama Department of Education reported that the graduation rate in 2013 (i.e., the first class that would have been held to the online learning graduation requirement) was 80% or five percent higher than the previous year; and their graduation rate had also climbed each year since the online learning graduation requirement has been implemented.

However, we also caution that:

Since 2000, the No Child Left Behind Act and its predecessor, the Every Student Succeeds Act, both placed a major emphasis on raising graduation rates in the United States. As such, graduation rates have been going up consistently but other measures of achievement have not risen. This dichotomy suggests that graduation rates may have been inflated in some way that do not truly represent student academic success, as was reported in the case of Alabama (Carsen, 2016). The main takeaway from examining this information is that, based on the available data, it does not appear that the implementation of an online or e-learning graduation requirement has negatively impacted graduation rates in these other jurisdictions.

A much more nuanced view of the issue than the unsubstantiated statement by OSSTF.

This is not to say that the OSSTF is incorrect in its descriptions of what motivates this Government (i.e., decreasing funding for public services).  What I am saying is that this six-page confidential document that the OSSTF is commenting on doesn’t support these attributions, and that the language that Bischof and the OSSTF uses is continuing to misrepresent e-learning in Ontario and continuing to disrespect those OSSTF teachers who work in this environment.

This is also not to say that the Government should implement their e-learning proposals.  As mentioned above, there is no research to support many of the aspects of their plans (e.g., see the research into class size and online learning in this report and how it aligns with the Government’s proposal).  There is also the issue that publicly these proposals have been driven by a belief that regardless if it is workplace professional learning or some form of post-secondary, students today will need to know how to learn online – or at least learn in an independent fashion.  But there is no research out there to actually show that experience with distance/online learning in their K-12 careers helps students develop those skills.  There’s also no research to disprove it either.  In fact, this is the only research on the topic that I am aware of is a study that was conducted by Dale Kirby and Dennis Sharpe (and I joined the team to add the literature review, but was not involved in the actual study).  The study was designed to “examine the impact that experience with online learning at the K–12 level had on students’ perceptions, attitudes, and habits in online learning at the postsecondary level.”  The authors reported that

These results indicated that when the high school distance learners were compared with the other university students who participated in the survey, there were no significant differences between them on any of the measures.

So the experience of learning online in high school had no impact on students perceptions, attitudes, and habits in online learning at the postsecondary level!  Instead of misleading the public about the nature of online learning in Ontario and demonizing those dedicated OSSTF teachers that work in that environment, maybe we should be talking about what is the best way to prepare students to develop self-efficacy, self-directedness, self-motivation, self-regulation, etc.?

 


The Ford government e-learning plan: a statement by OSSTF/FEESO President Harvey Bischof

Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation (OSSTF) · Tuesday, January 14, 2020

The Ford government’s confidential “implementation plan” for e-learning, which has been obtained by the Toronto Star, offers all the proof we need that this government’s approach to education is nothing more than a fiscal exercise.

The Doug Ford plan is all about removing investment from the system, reducing students’ access to the teachers and education workers they rely on to help them succeed, and creating an online learning system that amounts to bargain basement education delivered on the cheap.

Nowhere in the government’s secret plan is the quality of education addressed. Nowhere is it acknowledged that success rates for students taking online courses are significantly lower than for students in a traditional classroom. Nowhere does the plan mention that significant numbers of students simply don’t learn well in a self-directed environment, without the guidance of dedicated education professionals.

Instead, the plan contemplates the creation of a “business model” for marketing Ontario’s online learning system to international students, and for licensing course content to jurisdictions outside Ontario. It contemplates a system designed not to deliver the best possible education, but designed instead to generate “maximum revenue.”

As this document makes abundantly clear, anyone who cares about Ontario’s students and their future should be deeply concerned about the kinds of values and assumptions that underpin the Ford government’s approach to education. We see clearly that the most important concerns for students – the quality of the learning experience and the chance to succeed – do not even register. The only concerns that do register are purely fiscal. This government sees education not as a key to future success for the province’s students, but rather as a product to be marketed. This is a plan clearly designed to set into motion the privatization of Ontario’s world-renowned public education system.

There is simply no evidence, anywhere, that mandatory online learning is good for students’ learning experiences or that it helps them succeed. All the evidence, in fact, points to the contrary.

OSSTF/FEESO members will remain steadfast in their resistance to the Doug Ford secret plan for mandatory e-learning.

Original available at https://www.facebook.com/notes/ontario-secondary-school-teachers-federation-osstf/the-ford-government-e-learning-plan-a-statement-by-osstffeeso-president-harvey-b/2663308370389838/

January 15, 2020

The Toronto Star – Secret Document Shows Ford Government Changed Its Mind Before Making Online Course Mandatory For High Schoolers

On Monday, an article appeared in The Toronto Star entitled “Secret Document Shows Ford Government Changed Its Mind Before Making Online Course Mandatory For High Schoolers” (see here for an open access version).  The crux of the article is that sometime after the 15 March 2019 announcement related to e-learning, but before the revised 21 November 2019 announcement, the Government of Ontario produced a secret six-page document that was “implementation plan for Ontario’s transformed online learning system.”  Based on the article, we’ve learned four new details about the Government’s thinking on how they plan to actually implement some of these broad announcements.

As a reminder, the two announcements – along with a class size consultation process – have stated three main e-learning proposals:

  1. a centralization of e-learning,
  2. a graduation requirement of two e-learning courses, and
  3. increasing the class size limit for e-learning courses to 35 students.

A recent article that Randy LaBonte and I published in the International Journal of E-Learning & Distance Education entitled “Sense of Irony or Perfect Timing: Examining the Research Supporting Proposed e-Learning Changes in Ontario” discussed the research on each of these three points…  So I won’t go over these points again.

As for the new details that we have learned, the first point from The Star‘s article was:

“closely monitor uptake of online learning over the first four years of implementation, assess the feasibility of making online learning mandatory for credit accumulation” toward an Ontario secondary school diploma.

the six-page document also envisioned allowing students to get high school diplomas “entirely online” starting in September 2024

The first portion of this quotation is essentially what happened with the 15 March announcement, and was revised with the 21 November announcement – the Government decided to make online learning mandatory, as opposed to simply optional. The only part of this that is news is that for some time the Government was not planning on making online learning mandatory.  As for the second part of this quotation, it essentially says that the Government was interested in allowing students to do all of their secondary schooling online.  To be honest, it is a little surprising that students cannot already do accomplish this.  Within our school system there are students who simply don’t learn well when forced to sit in desks in rows facing the teacher at the front of the room, moving from room to room in one hour blocks.  There are students in our system who have an inability to sit still or quietly in that room for any length of time.  There are students in our system who are bullied on a daily basis, but live in an area where it is geographically impossible for them to simply go to another school.  There are students who have career or talent-related opportunities while they are still in high school that prevent them from attending a physical school on a regular basis.  There are any number of students that don’t learn well or do not have the opportunity to learn in the manner in which schools are currently organized.  Should we ask the student to continue to be bullied, simply to attend a brick-and-mortar school?  Should we ask the student to pass up the opportunity to play on Hockey Canada’s under-17 team?  Or should we provide these students with the opportunity to continue their studies in a non-traditional format?  Right now, these students must enrolled in the self-directed courses offered by the Independent Learning Centre or enroll in a private, Ontario-accredited online school in order to continue to receive an Ontario Secondary School Diploma education.  Why not allow students to get their high school diplomas entirely online if they want that option?

The second point from The Star‘s article was:

Under the heading “cost saving and revenue generation,” the document noted “the system does not generate any revenue for the province” and warned “costs for creation of online learning tools and resources may be duplicated across multiple delivery partners.”

Like most systems where there are multiple school boards that deliver similar programs, there likely is some duplication of resources in the current system.  However, the duplication that exists within the current system of e-learning also allows for flexibility at the local level.  Say that the needs of learners and how the school boards feels they can best serve students in Toronto Catholic District School Board is different than Windsor-Essex District School Board or Near North District School Board.  So while there are probably some sayings that could be realized if the duplications were eliminated, and some that could probably even be realized without impacting the existing system, many of these cost savings would come at the expense of the quality and flexibility of programming at these local levels.

The third point from The Star‘s article was:

The plan directed the education ministry “to develop (a) business model to make available and market Ontario’s online learning system to out-of-province and international students and examine feasible options for selling licensing rights to courses/content to other jurisdictions.”

This idea of marketing Ontario’s e-learning program outside of Ontario is a common way for K-12 distance and/or online learning programs to generate revenue without negatively impacting the students within their jurisdiction.  In fact, it might have the potential to improve the quality of programming for students in Ontario if the revenue from out-of-province students were invested back into the e-learning program.  The annual State of the Nation: K-12 e-Learning in Canada study even began tracking the provinces and territories policies on importing and exporting e-learning with the 2012 report (the very last section reports on how jurisdictions treat in-province students that enroll in a distance/online program outside of the province and how the jurisdiction treats out-of-province students that are enrolled in distance/online programs within the province is described in the “Inter-provincial and International” section at the bottom of each jurisdictional profiles).  There was actually a vignette produced by the annual report that looked at a private online school in Ontario that enrolls international students and a public school district in BC that established a model to allow them to do the same.

The final point from The Star‘s article was:

The confidential document also mentions the need to improve internet data transfer rates in high schools to one megabyte per second by May, which would allow for testing in time for the fall return to school, and to explore opportunities to improve internet service in public libraries within five kilometres of high schools.

In the International Journal of E-Learning & Distance Education article, Randy and I wrote:

It is also important to note that e-learning projects have historically led to increased connectivity and broadband, as well as the deployment of technology.

This point in the confidential document seems to agree with this statement – announced projects often drive investment in the necessary technology to successfully undertake or deploy the project.

Unfortunately, even with these additional details, we continue to be left with speculation as to exactly how the Government of Ontario intends to implement many of their announced e-learning changes.  In particular, whether the Government intends to maintain the provisions outlined in their own Ministry of Education’s Provincial e-Learning Strategy: Master User Agreement.

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