Online courses could be mandatory for high school students in Ontario

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The Ontario Government announced its plan in March to make it mandatory for four out of thirty high school credits to be taken online. When the plan was announced, it was met with a lot of backlash from educators across the province. Former teacher, Beyhan Farhadi, told the CBC that e-learning is no substitute for in-classroom instruction. Beyhan is a PhD candidate at the University of Toronto, studying the use of e-learning at the Toronto District School Board. “Specifically to require students to take it, it’s a terrible idea,” Beyhan told CBC’s Metro Morning. “The ministry hasn’t paid much attention to e-learning, aside from having licensed the platform. In the research I’ve done, only a minority of students succeed, and those students are concentrated in really high achieving schools.”

So, what does this mean for students in North Grenville? E-learning is actually already a part of many students’ high school experience these days, especially in small schools. The high school at Sainte-Marguerite-Bourgeoys in Kemptville, which has only around fifty students, relies heavily on e-learning to provide courses for their students that they would not otherwise be able to offer. “They allow a greater number of options for students who are either in small classes, small schools, have conflicting schedules, or do not have access to the classroom,” says Marie Josée-Roy from the Conseil des Écoles Catholiques du Centre-Est. “The online classes encourage students to become responsible for their learning and be autonomous.”

Aaliyah Fleury is a Grade 10 student at Sainte-Marguerite-Bourgeoys. She is currently taking her fourth online course since she started high school in Grade 9. She says that, while online courses can be beneficial for students who enjoy learning at their own pace, they can also be quite challenging for those who might already be having trouble in a regular classroom. “Specifically, when there are certain courses that have certain due dates, many students quickly fall behind,” she says.

In her experience, Aaliyah has found that her efficiency in taking credits online really depends on the subject. She found that the first course she ever took (Civics and Careers) was relatively easy once she got the hang of the online platform. However, the course she is currently taking (French) is much more challenging.

The Ministry of Education says they are promoting e-learning because of the need for the education system to embrace technology. While this is important, Beyhan says online courses take the “social cohesion” out of the learning experience that is so important for students. It also creates barriers in terms of developing the student-teacher relationship.

Fulford Preparatory College in Merrickville is trying to rectify this issue through their new platform for online courses. All the classes that are taught at the school are now available as e-courses, meant to give students around the world the opportunity to take advantage of the school’s offerings. The difference between Fulford’s online courses and the traditional courses offered by the public-school board is their synchronous model. This means that students who are taking the courses online are following the same schedule as those learning in the classroom. They listen to the same lectures, have the same homework and assignment deadlines, and have access to the same teacher over the internet. “Online students will have as much attention as they need,” says Assistant Head of School, Scott Murray. “We’re really trying to bring the classroom to the students.

All high school credits are available online through Fulford. Scott says this is particularly beneficial for students that are highly involved in athletics and need the flexibility to learn around their training schedule. Through Fulford, it is possible for a student to complete all their high school credits without needing to step foot in the classroom.

While Scott acknowledges that nothing compares to face-to-face in-class learning, he believes the Fulford model of online courses is the next best thing. “It’s going to give kids independence, but support them as much as they need,” he says.

Should the Provincial Government move ahead with their plan to require students to do four high school credits online, the regulation will go into effect for the 2020/21 school year. The Ministry says they will be working with school boards to discuss facilitating access to e-learning for the students. School boards will also be required to provide accommodation for students with special education needs to access the curriculum.

Correction

In our paper of April 10, there was an article about online courses being mandatory for high school students in Ontario. It mentioned that Fulford Preparatory College in Merrickville has a new offering of online courses. However, this is not the case. It is Fulford Academy in Brockville that is offering the online courses to students worldwide. We apologize for any confusion this may have caused.

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