Virtual School Meanderings

June 14, 2019

State of the Nation: K-12 e-Learning in Canada – Special Report: E-Learning Class Size

This was posted earlier this week on the State of the Nation: K-12 e-Learning in Canada website.

In March 2019, the Government of Ontario unveiled its vision for education through a policy entitled Education that Works for You – Modernizing Classrooms. From an e-learning perspective, the proposed policy called for a centralization of e-learning courses and a graduation requirement that students take a minimum of four e-learning courses beginning with the 2020-21 school year. Either as a part of, in conjunction with, or simply at the same time, the Government also engaged in a public consultation around class sizes that would increase the class size limit for face-to-face courses to 28 students and increase the limit for e-learning courses to 35 students. The goal of this report is to examine the literature related to e-learning class size in Canada and internationally.

However, before any examination of the literature related to class size, it is important to understand the different roles that educators play – and the different types of educators involved – in the e-learning environment. While in the traditional classroom environment a single teacher may select or design the materials used, deliver the actual instruction in a variety of ways, and support the student as they engage the lesson; in the e-learning environment the research clearly indicates that these roles are performed by multiple educators in different settings. Based on the model of e-learning utilized in Ontario, the two most defined roles are those of the e-learning teacher and the local school based facilitator or mentor. The e-learning teacher being responsible for determining the best pedagogical strategies, methods of assessment, and way to meaningful communicate with their students; while the local facilitator or mentor is responsible for supervisory and administrative duties, technical troubleshooting, and – in some cases – content-based assistance.

The available literature related to e-learning class size demonstrates there has been a historical expectation in Ontario that the class size limit for e-learning courses was the same as the class size limit for face-to-face courses. The literature further demonstrates that across several provinces the class size limit for e-learning courses has ranged from a low of 22 students to a high of 30 students per course. In both Canadian and American jurisdictions where there has been a significant increase in the e-learning class size, student outcomes have also decreased significantly – particularly in full-time e-learning environments. Finally, the literature demonstrates the local facilitator/mentor role must be included in any conversation around class size because that teacher has a significant impact on class size and, more importantly, student success.

The present e-learning model in Ontario clearly describes the importance of the supporting roles of teachers in school settings where students are taking e-learning courses. If teachers at the school level provide substantial levels of support in a wide range of areas, an e-learning class size could be higher than a traditional brick-and-mortar class in that context because there would be two educators that have instructional responsibility for those students. The larger question looming for the implementation of a drastic increase in e-learning in secondary schools in Ontario is how the present supports, which the research indicates are essential for e-learning success, will be scaled for the unprecedented increase of e-learning courses in the province.

To read the full report, click here.

June 10, 2019

Report – Missing In Action: School Storm Days, Student Absenteeism And The Workplace

This report, which includes some aspects of K-12 online learning, came across my electronic desk late last week.

Missing in Action: School Storm Days, Student Absenteeism and the Workplace

View a summary of the new study here 

Missing in Action: School Storm Days, Student Absenteeism and the Workplace by Dr. Paul Bennett makes several recommendations to better serve the education and parents of school-age children such as adapting instructional time as a protected a provincial education priority, along with ensuring students’ safety during severe winter weather.

No other region of Canada, urban or rural, comes close to the Maritimes in closing schools for weather-related reasons. Storm day cancellation numbers may go up and down, but the trend from 2013-2014 to 2017-2018 is clear – school is cancelled almost twice as often as it was 20 years ago.

Good public policy is based upon a careful assessment of chronic issues and a grasp of the ripple effect of unintended issues originating in one sector, but with long-term consequences in another. Already high rates of student absenteeism in Nova Scotia’s P-12 schools are compounded by cancelling record numbers of days for weather-related reasons. Based upon the research, it is clear that, as Sharpe and de Avillez (2012) observed, “inappropriate” education policies and practices exert “a negative impact” on productivity in Nova Scotia.

Cancelling school during rare occurrences of adverse weather is not only sensible, but defensible. The critical question is at what point the practice impacts student learning and affects productivity in the workforce. Goodman (2012, 2014) based his research on 2003-2010 data from Massachusetts, which averages three snow days a year. He demonstrated that planned school interruptions were less damaging than student absenteeism, and therefore students were not losing out as a result of closures. However, few commentators examined the magnitude of the difference in storm day cancellations between Massachusetts and Nova Scotia. Nor did they examine conflicting U.S. studies that demonstrated the adverse impact on student progress (Marcotte and Hansen 2010) and the damaging effect of many cancellations on mathematics and reading performance (Gershenson, Jacknowitz, and Brannegan 2015).

Read the full study here

May 27, 2019

SETDA – State K12 Instructional Materials Leadership Trends Snapshot

A while ago – like about five or six weeks ago – this article scrolled over my electronic desk.

One of the things that caught my attention was the statement:

“Nine states require that students take at least one online course before graduating high school, and three states—Arkansas, North Carolina, and West Virginia—require that digital instructional materials be implemented.”

This caught my attention because to the best of my knowledge there were five states (i.e., the ones outlined at  If you go to the website described in the article – i.e., – there isn’t any help there, as you’d have to search state-by-state (although there are four digital learning categories that are interested.

The report itself is described at:

And the direct link to the report is:

In the report, under the heading of “Digital Learning” it states:

“One of the fundamental aspects of a successful shift to digital learning is state and local leadership to support digital learning environments. With policies and practices, state leaders demonstrate to districts and schools a commitment to digital learning to support the personalized learning needs of all learners. States support such processes with the enactment of state digital learning plans, supporting district digital learning plans, defining personalized learning, policies around the implementation of digital instructional materials and the development of digital learning standards for students. The number of states with definitions, guidance and policies supporting digital learning environments continues to increase annually. This trend reflects the shift toward the implementation of digital instructional materials supporting conditions so that all students are provided with access to personalized, engaging learning experiences. The number of states that have online course requirements for students is another interesting trend reflecting the move towards digital learning. Currently, nine states, Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Florida, Michigan, Missouri, Nevada, Utah and Virginia require students to take an online class prior to graduation.” (p. 1).

If we select a state that isn’t among the five that we already knew about, say Missouri, the state profile at – i.e., – reads:

State Statute – Online Course Requirement

Missouri does not have a statute requiring students to take an online course prior to graduation.

Missouri allows for but does not require online courses.

In fact, if you look at the other read it also reads:

State Statute – Online Course Requirement

Georgia has a statute requiring students to take an online course prior to graduation.

Senate Bill 289 directs the state Board of Education to “maximize the number of students” who use digital learning to complete high school coursework in some capacity. This effort to maximize participation will begin with students entering the 9th grade during the 2014-2015 school year.

Nevada has a statute requiring students to take an online course prior to graduation.

The term “Distance Education”, often used interchangeably with “Virtual education”, is defined as instruction during which students and teachers are separated by time and/or location and interact via computers and/or telecommunications technologies. Virtual education ranges from straightforward coursework presented online for students to view at their own pace; to interactive, real-time instruction between teachers and students over an electronic medium unconstrained by geographic or temporal boundaries. When properly employed by skilled instructors, technology can make many learning opportunities available to any student, at any location, and at any time.The Department of Education regulates the approval of distance education courses and programs according to NRS 388 and C 388.

Utah has a statute requiring students to take an online course prior to graduation.

Effective 5/9/2017. 53A-15-1204. Option to enroll in online courses offered through the Statewide Online Education Program. (1) Subject to the course limitations provided in Subsection (2), an eligible student may enroll in an online course offered through the Statewide Online Education Program if: (a) the student meets the course prerequisites; (b) the course is open for enrollment; (c) the online course is aligned with the student’s plan for college and career readiness; (d) the online course is consistent with the student’s individual education plan (IEP), if the student has an IEP; and (e)the online course is consistent with the student’s international baccalaureate program, if the student is participating in an international baccalaureate program.

So take it for what its worth as to whether or not these are “requirements” for graduation.

Report Notice – Does Online Course-Taking Increase High School Completion And Open Pathways To Postsecondary Education Opportunities?

I wanted to bring to folks attention this report that came across my electronic desk last week, which is by some of the same authors in the article from earlier today.

Does Online Course-taking Increase High School Completion and Open Pathways to Postsecondary Education Opportunities?

Recent substantial increases in high school graduation rates have been linked anecdotally to the expansion of online course-taking for credit recovery. Online course-taking that supports high school completion could open new opportunities for postsecondary education pursuits. Alternatively, poorer quality online instruction could diminish student engagement and learning and discourage persistence toward graduation and further education. Using fixed-effect models and inverse probability weighting with regression adjustment with data from an eight-year longitudinal study of online course-taking in high schools, we find positive associations between online course-taking in high school and credits earned, high school graduation, and college enrollment. Our results leave open the question of whether online course-taking supports learning that will lead to longer-term postsecondary education and labor market success.

online instruction, credit recovery, high school completion, postsecondary outcomes
Education level
K-12 Education
Program and policy effects

Suggested citation

Carolyn J. Heinrich, Jennifer Darling-Aduana. ( ). Does Online Course-taking Increase High School Completion and Open Pathways to Postsecondary Education Opportunities?

May 23, 2019

Publication du onzième rapport sur la situation nationale du e-learning en M-12 au Canada

Cette édition du rapport sur la situation nationale du cyberapprentissage en M-12 au Canada en est à sa 11ème année, et c’est aussi la sixième fois que le Réseau canadien de cyberapprentissage (CANeLearn) nous soutient dans cette recherche. Ce rapport suit l’édition relativement longue du dixième anniversaire, et le rapport annuel a subi des changements importants. Cette 11ème édition décrit les changements survenus en lien avec la gouvernance et l’activité de cyberapprentissage au cours de l’année écoulée tant au niveau des provinces qu’à celui des territoires. Les profils juridictionnels complets se trouvent sur le site internet du rapport : . De plus, nous nous limitons à présenter brièvement ou à nous référer à des documents de discussion et des vignettes que nous avons reçus, mais que nous reprenons dans le détail sur notre site web. La version électronique du rapport sur la situation nationale du cyberapprentissage en M-12 au Canada continuera d’être une ressource plus complète pour l’apprentissage en ligne dans chaque juridiction.

Il n’y a pas eu de changements significatifs dans la nature de la gouvernance et de la règlementation de la formation à distance et/ou de l’apprentissage en ligne en M-12 et le cyberapprentissage demeure relativement stable. Les 263 686 élèves ou la proportion de 5.1% d’élèves engagés dans la formation à distance et/ou l’apprentissage en ligne en M-12 à travers le pays représentent une légère diminution du niveau de participation totale des deux années scolaires précédentes, soit seulement une différence d’à peine un demi-pourcent. En termes de proportionnalité, le nombre d’élèves en M-12 engagés dans le processus de formation à distance et/ou d’apprentissage en ligne est demeuré relativement stable au cours des six dernières années. Pourtant, parallèlement, des estimations d’activité d’apprentissage mixte pointent vers une augmentation substantielle. Ces estimations constituent la meilleure approche pour quantifier ce type d’activité en ligne.

Ce rapport sur la situation nationale du cyberapprentissage en M-12 au Canada, de même que ses publications connexes sur le site web, fournit des informations essentielles et une introspection quant à la manière dont les autorités éducatives canadiennes et les gouvernements intègrent les approches soutenues par la technologie pour préparer les élèves à l’économie contemporaine et à la société de demain au sein de laquelle la technologie sera omniprésente. Ce rapport et ce site web représentent une référence pour les éducateurs, servent de guide et offrent un contexte et des idées pour améliorer le programme et la pratique de l’apprentissage mixte et en ligne. Le Réseau canadien de cyberapprentissage constitue un fier défenseur et partenaire de cette recherche, de sa publication et de la diffusion de ses résultats et publications de recherche connexes.

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