Virtual School Meanderings

September 8, 2021

[REPOST] Alec Couros Touts New CANeLearn Report Examining the Models of Learning During the 2020-21 School Year

This entry was originally posted on the Canadian eLearning Networks blog at

Report 5 Cover

It is with great pleasure that I write a foreword for this incredibly relevant and timely report chronicling the state of face-to-face, hybrid, and remote teaching across Canada during the 2020-21 school year. As we move into what seems likely to be a third year of schooling disrupted by the continued COVID-19 pandemic, it is critical that we learn from our experiences over the past year in order to better prepare ourselves for what lies ahead.

While previous reports in this series documented the cross-Canada responses to the initial few months of emergency remote teaching as well as the state of K-12 education in the Fall of 2020, this new report offers us an overall picture of our first full year of pandemic schooling. And while we might hope for a return to normalcy in the upcoming school year, the fact remains that we are staring down the barrel of a year that promises to be very similar to last, so the best thing we can do is learn from our successes and failures of the past 12 months.

As teachers across the country return to their classrooms to prepare for the arrival of students in a few short days, those in positions of power should be studying reports such as this one to glean insight into what we might do to ensure that remote learning, if and when it comes, is a successful and well-planned endeavour. For instance, and perhaps most unsurprisingly, the data in the pages that follow confirms that districts with robust pre-existing e-learning programs and solid Ministerial support fared best over the past year, while those without existing systems in place struggled. If we are lucky, Ministries of Education across the country will take this evidence as a catalyst for the rapid funding, development, and shoring up of permanent (rather than emergency) provincial and territorial e-learning programs in order to avoid being caught unprepared, again, for a mid-year shift in learning modalities. Forewarned is forearmed, as the old saying goes.

Dr. Alec Couros
Director, Centre for Teaching & Learning
Professor, Educational Technology and Media
University of Regina

Download the report at

September 7, 2021

Focus on dealing with trauma | The Student Behavior Blog

Filed under: virtual school — Michael K. Barbour @ 9:01 pm
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A newsletter from the folks at SRI International, which is a bit of an interesting read.

[REPOST] Fast and Hard: CANeLearn Researchers Analyze Disruptions to the 2020-21 School Year

This entry was originally posted on the Canadian eLearning Networks blog at

Following the end of the 2020-21 school year, CBC News (2021a) published a map to indicate the number of weeks schools were closed provincewide/territory-wide for each jurisdiction.

Figure 1. Time lost to provincewide school closures for each province or territory across Canada for the 2020-21 school year

Canada map school closures 2020-21

However, it should be noted that many schools were also closed at the local community, district, and/or regional level, and the amount of time that students were forced into a remote learning context was likely longer for most K-12 students across Canada.

In fact, this was a trend in the overall data collection. One of the consistent findings as each jurisdiction was examined was a lack of specificity in terms of explicit guidance and/or direct mandates at the provincial or territorial level, which allowed individual school boards or districts to make decisions and take action at the local or regional level. For example, on Thursday, May 27, 2021 it was publicly announced that there had been two potential COVID-19 exposures in a local grocery store in Stephenville, Newfoundland and Labrador on the previous day (CBC News, 2021b). Later that day the Newfoundland and Labrador English School District (NLESD) closed Stephenville Elementary School and Stephenville Middle School for Friday, May 28, 2021. On Sunday, May 30, 2021, it was announced that there was a new cluster of COVID-19 cases, and the region was placed into Alert Level 4 (i.e., the province’s second-highest restriction level). However, the NLESD only closed Stephenville Primary School on Monday, May 31, 2021 (Saltwire News, 2021). All other schools in the region were open – including Stephenville Elementary School and Stephenville Middle School – and Stephenville Primary School was open again by Tuesday, June 1, 2021. In these instances, the days lost at these schools would not be included in the 17 weeks listed in Figure 12 for Newfoundland and Labrador. While this is one example, there are literally hundreds of these local and regional examples that occurred across the country when schools were forced to close and resort to remote learning.

It is important to remember that the Canadian eLearning Network (CANeLearn) pandemic reports have been designed to simply document public actions and pronouncements of various jurisdictions (see ). To date, CANeLearn has not engaged in an assessment of the educational response various governments have made during the pandemic. However, a deeper analysis of the health impacts can lead to recommendations that help to guide policy and improve safety in schools, which subsequently impact how learning opportunities are provided. For example, both Ismail et al. (2021) and Larosa et al. (2020) stressed the importance of quick testing, isolation, and other preventative interventions to better control clusters that developed in school-age children. This advice was consistent with more broadly focused research conducted by Kochańczyk and Lipniacki (2021), who examined 25 highly developed countries – as well as 10 individual US states – and found that jurisdictions that enacted quick, stringent, and sustained restrictions had lower case counts and death rates than jurisdictions that were slower to bring in restrictions or brought in looser restrictions. Additionally, Kochańczyk and Lipniacki also reported that those jurisdictions who enacted quick, stringent, and sustained measures had fewer restricted days overall, at least compared to those jurisdictions that were slow to act or brought in half measures.

From a schooling standpoint, restrictions often resulted in some form of hybrid learning or remote learning. As the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (2021) stated, based on data collected March 2020 and February 2021:

Last year, 1.5 billion students in 188 countries were locked out of their schools. Some of them were able to find their way around closed school doors, through alternative learning opportunities, well supported by their parents and teachers. However, many remained shut out when their school shut down, particularly those from the most marginalised groups, who did not have access to digital learning resources or lacked the support or motivation to learn on their own. The learning losses that follow from school closures could throw long shadows over the economic well-being of individuals and nations. (p. 3)

While Canada was one of the approximately three dozen countries featured in the report, there has not been systematic research on the impact of the pandemic on K-12 schooling. For example, the Canadian Hub for Applied and Social Research (CHASR) at the University of Saskatchewan surveyed 1002 Canadians in March 2021. These researchers found that while 63% of respondents indicated that online education delivery was a positive long-term change from the pandemic, 54% also felt that changes from COVID-19 would have a negative impact on children’s education (CHASR, 2021). Beyond this kind of perception data, much of the literature has focused on a perceived fear of potential impacts the pandemic might have on K-12 schooling (e.g., Moore et al., 2021).

Research out of the United States found that most teachers reported not being adequately trained to design, deliver, and support learning remotely (Diliberti & Kaufman, 2020). Despite the fact there was little or no delay in the re-opening of schools for the 2020-21 school year, initial research from both the United States and Europe indicated that reopening schools increased the rate of community spread of COVID-19 (Casini & Roccett, 2021; Courtemanche, 2021; Goldhaber et al., 2021; Harris et al., 2021; Riley et al., 2020). This type of discussion and research on the spread of the disease in schools has not been included in the CANeLearn reports.

As summer 2021 begins to wane, after a full year coping with pandemic school closures, most jurisdictions announcements have once again focused on a ‘safe’ return to school buildings Plans continue to be for a return to the ‘new normal’ with the opening of schools being the lynchpin to re-establishing both social and economic balance. Like in the past year, there continued to be more demand for remote learning options from some parents. Unlike in the past year, it is likely the majority of students age 12 and older will be vaccinated – along with their teachers. While a year later, at the start of the 2021-22 school year some schools are likely entering Phase 3 (particularly those with younger students, where the start could be in-person learning).

Figure 2. Four phases of educational response to COVID-19 in terms of remote and online learning adoption.

education phases COVID-19

However, the potential for COVID-19 outbreaks in the unvaccinated population in schools and communities looms. In the United States, where many schools open in August, schools are already closing as outbreaks of the Delta variant of COVID-19 erupt (Goldberg et al., 2021; Knutson, 2021; Zalazni, 2021). Although it is also important to point out that many US states have enacted laws or executive actions that prevent requiring masks and/or ban the use of remote learning (Blad, 2021; Center on Reinventing Public Education, 2021). While not handicapped by these same kinds of mandates, there is still real potential for school boards and districts across Canada to follow the same pattern as their American counterparts in terms of disease transmission within the school setting.

Given these realities, it is important to once again underscore that this line of inquiry from CANeLearn has not been designed to make assessments about the effectiveness of emergency response or the possible impacts of that response. However, it is also important that readers use the descriptive data provided by this line of inquiry over all five reports to make determinations about the appropriateness of the planning, preparations, and actions of each of these Canadian jurisdictions.

To read all of the individual profiles for each province and territory, as well as to read the full report, please visit

September 3, 2021

[REPOST] CANeLearn Documents the Pandemic Response of Canadian Provinces and Territories during the 2020-21 School Year

This entry was originally posted on the Canadian eLearning Networks blog at

There were five dominant models through which K-12 education was provided during the 2020-21 school year.

Figure 1. Various learning models available during the 2020-21 school year

At the beginning of the year, many jurisdictions provided parents/guardians the option to enroll their students in school-based, in-person learning, or a distance, online learning, model. These two learning models were consistent with any other school year. In-person learning is the traditional model of K-12 schooling, where students are enrolled in a brick-and-mortar school and engage in their learning with teachers located at their school in a typical classroom setting. It is the kind of learning that many readers of this report will have experienced throughout their own K-12 education. In some cases, up to 6% of these students might take one or more courses at a distance because they were unable to access the course in their brick-and-mortar school for a variety of reasons (Barbour et al., 2020b; Barbour et al., 2020c). Even while engaged in these individual online courses, this small number of students were still physically located in their brick-and-mortar school – often under the direct supervision of a teacher or paraprofessional in an online learning or computer lab, the learning resource centre or library, or even the back of a classroom. This form of supplemental distance learning, for a very small population of students, has been available in most jurisdictions since the late 1990s or early 2000s.

While full-time distance/online learning has been available to K-12 students in most jurisdictions for some time, traditionally these students represent less than 1% of the students enrolled in the K-12 system. However, during the 2020-21 school year, many jurisdictions gave parents/guardians the option to enroll their students in these full-time distance, online learning opportunities.

Table 1. Jurisdictions where parents/guardians had the opportunity to enroll in full-time distance learning

<td”>Full-time distance/online learning an option

Jurisdiction Ability to enrol in full-time distance learning
British Columbia Full-time distance/online learning an option
Alberta Full-time distance/online learning an option
Saskatchewan Full-time distance/online learning an option
Manitoba Full-time distance/online learning an option for any student sick with COVID-19 or secondary students
Quebec Full-time distance/online learning not an option
New Brunswick Full-time distance/online learning an option
Nova Scotia Not specified
Prince Edward Island Full-time distance/online learning not an option
Newfoundland & Labrador Full-time distance/online learning an option for students home due to COVID-19
Yukon Full-time distance/online learning not an option
Northwest Territories Full-time distance/online learning not an option
Nunavut Full-time distance/online learning not an option

For a variety of reasons (e.g., presence of immune-compromised family members in the household, general public health concerns about the community or region, concerns about the disruption from sudden school lock-downs and/or the back and forth between in-person and remote learning, etc.), parents/guardians decided to enroll their children in a model of learning where the student did not attend a brick-and-mortar school at all, but rather completed all of their learning at a distance online. In most cases, these online learning opportunities were provided by existing distance and online learning providers – some of whom had a history of providing supplemental and full-time learning opportunities for over two decades. However, there were also instances where school boards and districts established their own distance education programs over the summer of 2020 – sometimes in partnership with an existing K-12 distance, online learning program and sometimes on their own.

Depending on the jurisdiction, there were also some learning models that combined aspects of the different mediums to accommodate various public health measures (e.g., mask wearing, physical and social distancing, restricted class size, etc.). The measures related to physical distancing and restricted class size forced some schools to adopt a learning model where students were only in the physical classroom a certain portion of time. One such model is a hybrid learning model, which has one group of students learning in-person in their classroom and another group of students learning at home through distance, online learning.

Table 2. Typical schedule for a hybrid learning model

In this hybrid learning example, students in Group A would be in-person on Monday and Tuesday, then in a distance/online learning model on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. Students in Group B would be in a distance/online learning model in-person on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, then in-person on Thursday and Friday. Another common model would be alternating days (see Table 3).

Table 3. Another typical schedule for a hybrid learning model

Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday
Week 1 Group A In-person Distance In-person Distance In-person
Group B Distance In-person Distance In-person Distance
Week 2 Group A Distance In-person Distance In-person Distance
Group B In-person Distance In-person Distance In-person

This second hybrid learning model had one group of students in the classroom each day with the other group at a distance. Over the course of a two week period each group of students would have five in-person days and five distance/online learning days.

The type of distance/online learning that was provided varied. In some instances, schools provided distance/online students with asynchronous course content created by their own teachers, provided free of charge from different online learning providers, and/or leased from a online content vendor. However, a more common hybrid model was the concurrent teaching learning model (also called co-seating or co-locating). In this model the classroom-based teacher taught some students who were in-person with the teacher in the physical classroom (i.e., colloquially referred to as ‘roomies’). At the same time, the teacher’s instruction was being streamed live through a video conferencing software such as Zoom or Google Meet or Microsoft Teams with other students logged in at home (i.e., colloquially referred to as ‘zoomies’). Essentially, concurrent teaching was an individual teacher providing instruction in-person to roomies, broadcast online to zoomies at home (Molnar et al., 2021).

Regardless if students were attending school in-person, through a hybrid schedule, or in a concurrent teaching model, the local epidemiology of the virus caused schools in many jurisdictions to close all of their classroom-based instruction and revert to a remote learning model. The main difference between remote learning and distance/online learning is remote learning is designed to be a temporary shift of instructional delivery to a distance/online delivery mode, which will return to in-person or hybrid model once the emergency abated.

To read all of the individual profiles for each province and territory, as well as to read the full report, please visit

September 2, 2021

[REPOST] CANeLearn Releases New Report Examining the Pandemic Response During the 2020-21 School Year

This entry was originally posted on the Canadian eLearning Networks blog at

Toggling between Lockdowns: Canadian Responses for Continuity of Learning in the 2020-21 School Year

Sponsored by the Canadian eLearning Network (CANeLearn), a leading voice in Canada for learner success in K-12 online and blended learning, this is the fifth report in a series, noted previously, that highlights the announcements, supports, and policy changes each Canadian jurisdiction made to continue to promote learning throughout the pandemic. Information was gathered for each province and territory through government websites, educational organizations, and current news releases. This information highlighted each jurisdiction’s strategies to provide supports, resources, and technologies appropriate for the continuation of teaching and learning. A website was created to host this report series along with an archive of online workshop presentations based on each report (see ).

Report 5 CoverThis fifth report provides a summary of the publicly announced accommodations that were made to ensure continued pandemic schooling during the Spring of 2021. In some instances, along with the school opening plans that were in place for Fall 2020, some jurisdictions had remote learning plans in place for the complete 2020-21 school year. In other instances, school districts and boards were left to determine individual remote learning plans with or without use of provincially or territorially provided resources. Given the lessons that could, or should, have been learned during the rapid transition to emergency remote teaching in Spring 2020, the reality was that some jurisdictions did not put in place the necessary planning or preparation to allow for uninterrupted continuation of learning.

As the Fall 2021 approaches, despite a full year coping with pandemic school closures, most jurisdictions announcements have once again focused on a ‘safe’ return to school buildings. As in the past year, there continues to be more demand for remote learning options from some parents. However, unlike in the past year, it is hoped that the majority of students age 12 and older are likely to be vaccinated – along with their teachers. Yet the COVID-19 Delta variant continues to surge worldwide, affecting both the vaccinated and unvaccinated population but at different levels of severity. However, the potential for COVID-19 outbreaks in the unvaccinated population in schools and communities looms.

Click here for the full report.

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