Virtual School Meanderings

December 11, 2019

Meri Kirihimete 2019

An item for my Kiwi readers.

Please note that I am a member of the Governance Group for this e-learning cluster.

November 17, 2019

New Zealand: Tomorrows Schools Review Report Out

One of my Kiwi colleagues passed this along…

Online or e-learning does have a place in the pages of the Government’s decision document:

Flexible learning and specialist provision: Over the longer term, the Government will consider opportunities to promote a more cohesive national approach to support flexible learning and specialist provision. This would include the roles of Te Aho o Te Kura Pounamu (Te Kura) and the Virtual Learning Network (VLN), and the national and local special schools/kura.

4e. A review of the roles of Te Aho o Te Kura Pounamu (Te Kura) and the Virtual Learning Network (VLN), and the national and local special schools/kura, is undertaken with the aim of developing a more cohesive national approach to flexible learning and specialist provision. Progress further Priority B: Progress within the next 2 – 4 years “

October 30, 2019

October Update 2019

An item for my Kiwi readers.


Please note that I am a member of the Governance Group for this e-learning cluster.

October 28, 2019

Canada, Mandatory E-Learning, And The Corporate Motive

So it has been just eight months since the Conservative Government in Ontario under Doug Ford announced:


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.

As you might imagine, there has been a great deal of discussion around this proposal – the vast majority of which has focused on the mandatory four courses.

It is a bit unfortunate that much of that discussion has focused on things that aren’t all that useful should schools and school boards actually have to implement this requirement in ten months.  And while the Government has backed down on other initiatives thus far in their short time in office, the reality is that they do have a majority government and, if they desire, this is a change that they can force through regardless of how many people oppose it or how loud those people opposing it are.  As such, simply arguing that this is a bad idea isn’t really helping the cause.  Particularly when there larger issues about how the current mode of design, delivery, and support needs to be broadened to allow for a wider range of students to have success, or how teachers – both those delivering courses online AND those in the local schools supporting students – need training and professional development to ensure that students can have success, or how investments in rural and inner city broadband – both inside and outside of school – need to occur prior to 2021-22 if the e-learning mandate comes into effect for 2020-21.

The most unfortunate part of the overall discussion is that many of those opposing this mandate have done so on the basis of an assumption of the motives of the Government – namely this this decision is designed to open e-learning in Ontario to private schools, multinational corporations, charter schools, and/or other profit seeking entities.  The problem with these discussions is that Doug Ford hasn’t that proposed private schools provide e-learning or corporations take over e-learning Ontario or the introduction of charter schools.  These fears are based on isolated occurrences that folks are pointing to as examples of a larger, hidden agenda OR based on their perceptions of the Government’s ideology and examples of what other governments with a similar ideology have implemented.

The problem with this kind of thinking is twofold.  The first is that is fails to examine the realities of the actual proposal.  Instead the conversation focuses on the fears of what might be coming next or what this one action might lead to with the next action, the one after that and so on.  The second is that it traps the entire discussion into a process of taking something to its logical extreme (or reductio ad absurdum).  Essentially, we can’t take the first step down this road because one of the possible endings is a road leads everyone off a cliff.

One of the The reality is that we haven’t seen these kinds of things happen in other jurisdictions.  For example, Alberta introduced charter schools in 1994.  Yet in the past 25 years we have not seen corporate or for profit educational management organizations establish strings of charter schools in Alberta like we see in the United States.  British Columbia provides significant funding for private e-learning programs in the province (close to the same levels as public e-learning programs).  Yet the completion rate of e-learning in British Columbia remains consistent with face-to-face instructions.  US states like Michigan and Alabama have introduced mandatory e-learning (in the case of Michigan, more than a decade ago).  Yet the graduation rates in those states have continued to increase since the mandate.

Instead of arguing whether it should or shouldn’t be a mandate, debating whether four courses is the right number, or looking for ulterior motives, let’s have a conversation about what’s needed to implement this mandate if and when the time comes.  For example, many of the US states that have an online learning graduation requirement have a process where students with an IEP can be excluded, will this be the case in Ontario?  What kinds of physical and technological infrastructure are being put into place at the local school level to provide students with an adequate space to take this e-learning?  What kinds of professional development are being provided to local teachers that will still need to perform in the in loco parentis role as they are supervising these students engaged in e-learning?  What kind of training is being provided to online teachers responsible for delivering this e-learning, as the mandate requires a tenfold increase from the current model?  What are the plans for infrastructure to allow students access to their e-learning content outside of school?  How is the centralized curriculum provided by e-Learning Ontario being revised to reflect a wider range of students – both in terms of abilities and with respect to their diverse backgrounds?  Does the 2020-21 implementation date refer to the first class or freshmen that will be held to the mandate or is this just when they will begin to put in place all of the resources implied by the previous questions?

One of the reasons we should be focusing on these kinds of questions is because it will be in the implementation that the current proposal runs into trouble.  The current Government has shown through a number of actions that they are unwilling to invest additional resources into the education system.  However, without significant investment on a variety of fronts this mandate simply can not be able to be implemented as it is currently proposed.  When Michigan announced that it was requiring all students to have an online learning experience in order to graduate from high school in 2006, it implemented the mandate for the graduating class of 2011.  This timeline provided the school system with approximately 500,000 high schoolers (or about 100,000 fewer than Ontario) three and a half years to get ready to be able to provide approximately 120,000 with at least 20 hours of online learning during the 2010-11 school year.  So instead of fighting the motivation or hidden agenda of this mandate, fight the specifics of the implementation.

October 22, 2019


An item for my Kiwi readers.


Please note that I am a member of the Governance Group for this e-learning cluster.

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