February 24, 2014

K-12 Online Learning in Canada

Michael Barbour of Sacred Heart University has released his sixth annual report on the state of online learning in Canada, and it’s worth a review to see what’s happening in online learning with our northern neighbor.

From the executive summary:

“The practice of K –12 online and blended learning continues to growth (sic) across Canada, although that growth remains uneven. Additionally, in some instances an increase or decrease in the reported level of participation in K –12 distance education may simply be due to better tracking by the government of that jurisdiction. There also continues to be a lack of research and evaluation into what constitutes the effective design, delivery and support for K –12 online learning.”

Much of that description could apply equally to the United States.

Also similar to the U.S., federal government figures track distance education courses and not online courses. These numbers (distance education and online learning) are converging as online becomes the dominant proportion of distance education, but they are not exactly the same. The report notes that “During the 2011–12 school year there were 284,963 or 5.2% K –12 students enrolled in one or more distance education courses…an increase of approximately 40,000 students from the previous school year. British Columbia and Alberta continue to lead the country…”

One Response to K-12 Online Learning in Canada

  1. Thanks for this plug Amy. I do believe that there are many similarities between the Canadian and the US experiences. But there are also some key differences that I have outlined in the report over the years. The first, and I think most apparent, is where the push for K-12 online and blended learning is coming from. Within the US context, there is a concerted effort by those from a neo-liberal ideology that are pursuing expansion of K-12 online learning, whereas in Canada this is not a driving force (granted, faith in the free market isn’t as apparent in most sectors of Canadian life in comparison to the American experience).

    The second is how blended learning is viewed. Within the US context blended learning has become wrapped together with the K-12 online learning movement – often pushed by those same neo-liberal advocates. However, in the Canadian environment blended learning is generally not seen together with online learning, and is most associated with traditional classroom practice – as it is largely viewed as simply another form of effective technology integration into the classroom.

    Finally, the third main difference is the role of unions within the K-12 online and blended learning. Because K-12 online learning in Canada has not been pushed by neo-liberal advocates, unions have not only been less antagonistic about it, but have actually been quite supportive of expanding K-12 distance education opportunities. Within the United States, K-12 online learning has often been associated with those wishing to – for lack of a better term – union bust. Folks like Moe and Chubb, Petersen, Packard, and Horn have all written about this in the books they have published.

    Anyway, thanks again for the plug!

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