Virtual School Meanderings

March 4, 2020

Report – The Virtual Learning Network In New Zealand: History And Future Thoughts

Kind of an entry for my Kiwi reads, but really for anyone interested in the history of online learning at the K-12 level in New Zealand.  This report by a good friend of mine, Derek Wenmoth, provides an exception telling of the history of how virtual learning developed in the country.

VLN paper.png

The Virtual Learning Network in New Zealand – History and Future Thoughts

The first part of this paper provides a background to the development of the VLN in New Zealand, providing insights to how it came into being and why. The second part of the document explores some ideas about how the use of online learning might become more embedded as a part of our education system, regularly used by students and teachers to provide access to learning content and experiences that aren’t available to them in their local setting.  (Download PDF 1.4Mb)

February 22, 2020

OSTA-AECO – Affording Our Students’ Success: 2020-21 Pre-Budget/Grants for Student Needs Submission

Late in the week, this submission from the Ontario Student Trustees’ Association (OSTA-AECO) scrolled across my electronic desk – Affording Our Students’ Success: 2020-21 Pre-Budget/Grants for Student Needs Submission – which is available at:

For those that don’t want to wade through the document itself, pages 28 and 29 read:

Enhancing Virtual Learning Environments

In today’s society, technology has become an integral component of our education system. The ways in which we integrate technology into our classrooms are ever-evolving to meet modern pedagogical standards.

In March 2019, the Ministry of Education outlined its latest mandate Education That Works for You. Among a variety of proposed changes it includes the introduction of a mandatory four-credit eLearning requirement that would take effect for the 2020-21 school year.[70] This mandate, which was later modified to require students to complete a minimum of two credits on a Ministry-approved Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) to receive their Ontario Secondary School Diploma, has been critiqued and/or criticized by both teachers’ federations and employer bargaining agencies for lacking critical supports in broadband access, students in special education, and a solidified student-teacher relationship.[71][72][73][74]

In response to this mandate, OSTA-AECO published a report on the challenges of mandatory eLearning.[75] Our findings included that 95% of students disapproved of the new eLearning mandate, that a majority of students felt that their learning styles have not properly been accommodated, and that a maximum of 90,000 of Ontario’s 2 million currently-enrolled students would not be able to obtain their Ontario Secondary School Diploma (OSSD).[76] These findings are considerably important, and they highlight a number of challenges that must be addressed before eLearning can be equally accessible for all Ontario students. OSTA-AECO has recommended numerous improvements to eLearning, including enhancing Additional Qualifications for teachers who may wish to become eLearning instructors, addressing language barriers, and focusing on the retention of critical learning skills,[77]

OSTA-AECO continues to be concerned about the implementation of the eLearning mandate. Though the Ministry has suggested that the number of mandatory eLearning credits have been reduced to two,[78] considerable issues with achievement rates and access to resources in online courses have not been addressed. Additionally, the amount of funding that has previously been dedicated to supporting the implementation of eLearning through the Continuing Education subgrant had decreased in the previous budget season.[79][80] If the Ministry is able to put this new requirement into effect for the 2020-21 school year, it will prove to be difficult to integrate this mandate without the accompanying necessary funds. However, if this mandate is reversed for the 2020-21 school year, an increased investment in this subgrant will still be necessary to accommodate an increasing number of students who wish to take courses through online learning.

OSTA-AECO recommends:

1. That the Ministry implement substantial investments in continuing education, in order to meet increasing demand for eLearning and blended learning environments.

2. That the Ministry reverses its mandate requiring all students to take a minimum of 4 eLearning courses and retract its subsequent proposals to modify the mandate to 2 eLearning credits.

70. Ontario Ministry of Education, Education that Works for You — Modernizing Classrooms. (Toronto: Queen’s Printer for Ontario, March 15, 2019).

71. Ontario Public School Boards’ Association, Next Phase of Consultation on Hiring Practices and Class Size. (Toronto: Ontario Public School Boards’ Association, May 31, 2019), 4-5.

72. Ontario Catholic School Trustees’ Association, Submission to the Ministry of Education: E-Learning and Catholic Education. (Toronto: Ontario Catholic School Trustees’ Association, June 24, 2019), 2-4.

73. Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation, OSSTF/FEESO to begin information pickets and limited withdrawal of administrative services. (Toronto: Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation, November 21, 2019).

74. Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association, Responding to the Government’s Cuts to Education. (Toronto: Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association, January 7, 2020).

75. OSTA-AECO Executive Council, eLearning: The Students’ Perspective. (Toronto: Ontario Student Trustees’ Association, 2019).

76. Ibid., 5.

77. Ibid., 21-22.

78. Caroline Alphonso, Ontario reducing online learning requirement for high schoolers from four courses to two. (Toronto: The Globe and Mail, November 21, 2019).

79. Ontario Ministry of Education, supra, note 56, 80.

80. Ontario Ministry of Education, supra, note 57, 74.



56. Ontario Ministry of Education, Technical Paper 2018-19. (Toronto: Queen’s Printer for Ontario, 2019), 69.

57. Ontario Ministry of Education, Technical Paper 2019-20. (Toronto: Queen’s Printer for Ontario, 2020), 63


This is interesting, as if you examine their original report on e-learning they were quite biased in their presentation of data and information, but their recommendations were all VERY well thought out and articulated.  In the two pages of this report focused on e-learning, they were much more rationale in their discussion of the issue – and their recommendations were fairly reasonable too.

February 19, 2020

Report Download: Student Perspectives On Online Programs

While focused on higher education, this report may be of interest to some readers.

Report: Student Perspectives on Online Programs
Get the Report →
Access Exclusive Insights for Elevating Online Student Satisfaction

Wiley Education Services strives to empower our university partners to provide impactful learning experiences. How do students view the online programs that we support? To find out, download our new research report, Student Perspectives on Online Programs.

For this study, we teamed up with Aslanian Market Research to survey nearly 3,000 learners supported by Wiley. The report offers a transparent look at online student satisfaction, along with insights that all universities can use to refine their online programs, including:

  • Leading reasons students choose to study online
  • Factors that influence student satisfaction
  • How faculty can help create better experiences

See How This Report Can Help Your University

Contact Wiley Education Services to explore the report findings further. We’ll go behind the data to share solutions that empower universities to boost student satisfaction, accelerate enrollment, and strengthen retention.

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February 5, 2020

2019 State of the Nation: K-12 e-Learning in Canada Released

This was announced on the State of the Nation: K-12 e-Learning in Canada blog on Monday, but the 2019 annual report has been released.

The 12th issue of the State of the Nation: K-12 e-Learning in Canada report is also the seventh year of the Canadian eLearning Network’s (CANeLearn) support of this research. This report and its accompanying research briefs and vignettes grow in importance given the increasing interest and attention e-learning is taking in K-12 education. New policy changes in several provinces have sparked public debate about the effectiveness and application of e-learning. Now, more than ever, research specific to e-learning in K-12 education in Canada is necessary to inform policy changes and the conversations generated.

This report provides a foundation for expanding research that reflects the diversity of needs and solutions that digital technologies and e-learning are addressing in our educational practices. This issue, unlike those in the past, describes only changes that have occurred in relation to the governance and e-learning activity with full jurisdictional profiles available on the project research website at Additionally, any brief issue papers and vignettes received are simply introduced or referred to in this report, but are presented in full on the website.

While there have been no major changes in the nature of regulation governing K-12 distance and online learning activity and distance or online learning enrolment remains relatively stable, there were several initiatives launched or concluding in the 2018-19 school year likely to impact activity in two provinces as well as in First Nations programs nationally. Ontario announced that starting in the 2020-21 school year e-learning would be centralized and two e-learning course credits would be required of the 30 credits to achieve an Ontario Secondary School Diploma. In British Columbia a review of funding for K-12 in the province will result in a change in policy as well as funding for the province’s distributed learning (e-learning) programs.

The State of the Nation: K-12 e-Learning in Canada report, and its accompanying publications on its project website, provides critical information and insight into how Canadian educational authorities and governments are integrating technology-supported approaches to prepare students for today’s economy and a future society in which the use of technology will be ubiquitous. The report and website provide a benchmark for educators and offers background, guidance, and ideas for the improvement of policy and practice in online and blended learning. The online version of the State of the Nation: K-12 e-Learning in Canada will continue to be the comprehensive resource for e-learning in each jurisdiction.

The full report is available at

December 22, 2019

iNACOL Report – Policy Brief Highlights Need For Higher Education Institutions To Create Systematic Changes Within Teaching

This report from the neo-liberals came through my inbox this past week.

Policy Brief Highlights Need for Higher Education Institutions to Create Systematic Changes Within Teaching

A new report by the Aurora Institute, previously known as iNACOL, details the need for higher education institutions to create systematic changes within the teaching field.

Titled “Transforming Teaching: What University Presidents and Deans of Colleges of Education Need to Know about Modernizing the K-12 Educator Workforce,” recommends three main policy changes including the need to “diversify the workforce, modernize teacher preparation and promote continuous professional learning and development.”

Dr. Katherine Casey

“We know that one of the most important things we can do to improve the quality of public education across our country is to improve the quality, sustainability and livability of our teacher workforce,” said Dr. Katherine Casey, who is the author of the policy brief. “Teaching is a profession that compared to many others, has yet to evolve. Keeping in pace with the changes in the way students learn, changes in our educational reality and environment.”

According to the Aurora Institute, Black students who have one Black teacher by 3rd grade are 13% more likely to enroll in college. Those who have two Black teachers by 3rd grade are 32 percent more likely to enroll in college.

Students of color who are educated by teachers of color report higher rates of safety and belonging. Additionally, students of color who have teachers of color face lower rates of disciplinary action, the Aurora Institute reported.

“Schools are better and kids learn better when they are able to spend time with representative adults,” said Casey. “Diversifying the teacher workforce is both an ethical and a practical issue. Ethical because it aligns with values of equity and social and racial justice and practical because outcomes are better for kids. And yet, we see nationwide, very little change in the diversity of the teacher workforce.”

To increase diversity, the brief recommends that higher education institutions recruit potential teachers who hold different racial, cultural and religious backgrounds. Higher education leaders can also create a call to action to diversify the teaching workforce.

In order to provide more opportunities for underrepresented and low-income individuals, the brief also suggested that local school districts forge partnerships with higher education leaders.

Under this partnership, for example, both postsecondary and alternative pathways such as substitute teaching and para-professional opportunities can be created. Postsecondary pathways allows students in high school to take college-level courses for credit.

“It’s important for us to have culturally responsive learning environments,” said Susan Patrick, president and CEO of the Aurora Institute. “The lived experience of educators coming from diverse backgrounds and representing the diversity that our students have as well is critical.”

In terms of modernizing the teaching workforce, the brief emphasized the importance of using innovations to focus on student-centered learning and teaching.

Additionally, schools can also integrate adult learning with research and the learning science. This can include mentorship, residency with clinical practice, project-based and personalized learning, the brief stated.

Susan Patrick

For continuous education learning and development, the brief recommends that higher education leaders work with state education agencies to develop multi-tiered systems of licensure and credentialing, offer opportunities for ongoing learning and micro credentialing through orientations and diversify programs to develop distributed leaders.

In addition to suggestions for higher education leaders, the brief also offers case studies to test out the theories, which focuses on implementing programs for competency-based learning and personalized learning environments. The case studies highlight the partnerships between Baltimore County Public Schools and Towson University; Southern New Hampshire and 2Revolutions; Virginia Department of Education and the College of William and Mary as well as the Dallas Independent School District.

According to Patrick, the goal for this report is that it will “ignite a challenge” for higher education leaders to transform the education system.

“We think that there are big opportunities so we would really like to see the presidents of universities and deans of these colleges of education recognize the role that they play in shaping K-12 education across the U.S. in state, in their communities,” said Patrick. “And that ultimately, the joint results of better aligning these systems will impact the outcome for students and the readiness for students that are going to come on their campuses and that are coming into our democratic society.”

Alongside this brief, the Aurora Institute also released two other reports that focused on challenging federal and state policymakers to change the K-12 system.

“My hope is that this brief contributes to a groundswell of interest and urgency around thinking very differently about teaching, not just teachers, but teaching as a profession and can elevate some very specific actions that higher education can take,” said Casey.

Sarah Wood can be reached at

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