School boards work together for mandatory online courses

·3 min read

If you and your kids hoped never to hear the words “Zoom Class” again, this is not what you want to hear.

Online learning is here to stay.

This was the message trustees of the St. Clair Catholic District School Board heard at its meeting on June 21.

The Ontario government has mandated students who are currently in Grade 9 will need two e-learning credits in order to obtain a high school diploma. There are currently three courses offered by the St. Clair Catholic District School Board, - English, computer science and digital management - said St. Clair’s Superintendent of Education Chris Kehoe. He oversees virtual learning for students in Grade 9 to 12.

There have been 135 Catholic students who have taken the online courses while 145 students from outside the school district were registered in those courses.

St. Clair will be offering 12 e-learning courses in September and have plans to ramp that number up to 24 courses by 2023. Students can choose from online courses from their own school district and throughout the province.

But, the Catholic board has to be careful when students choose to take e-courses in other school districts.

“Every student we send out, we have to take a student in,” said Kehoe. If more local students learn elsewhere than come to St. Clair for classes, the board would loose provincial funding.

The story is similar at the local public board.

There are currently between 40 and 45 e-learning courses being offered by the Lambton-Kent District School Board, said Mary Mancini, Superintendent of Education. About 900 students are taking these courses - 550 students from Lambton-Kent and 350 students from the rest of the province. That’s about 12 to 13 percent of the secondary school student body.

Lambton-Kent has been involved with the Ontario E-Learning Consortium for the past five or six years, said Mancini. There are a lot of small schools in the district, so it was better for students to find courses they need.

It is also good for students who want to work independently, she said. A teacher assigned to a course who will set office hours for those students who need help. There is also a dedicated space at each of the high schools where students can go to do their online courses.

The dedicated space for e-learning at St. Clair’s secondary schools are at the school libraries.

It is a challenge to get some students engaged in online learning classes, said Kehoe but the school board is still having face-to-face teacher conferences with students to give them assistance and make sure they are progressing.

St. Clair Catholic District School Board is also a member of the Ontario E-Learning Consortium, as well as Catholic Virtual Ontario, which prioritizes Catholic based courses.

Mancini and Kehoe said most of the courses being offered are at the Grade 11 and 12 level.

And while the province wants to see students take the online line courses, there is a process to opt out of the e-learning.

At St. Clair Catholic School District, two percent of students have opted out. It just didn’t fit their learning style.

The drive to continue offering the online learning doesn’t sit well with some for the provinces teachers unions.

The Ontario Teachers’ Federation released two studies on May 30, which looked into the effects of e-learning.

“On the basis of these findings, there is no place for mandatory e-learning courses and hybrid learning in publicly funded education,” they found.

“This policy has failed to meet the needs of students, teachers and educators,” said Ontario Teachers’ Federation President Chris Cowley.

“We need the Ontario government to focus on in-person learning and commit to reducing class sizes, which provides for greater student-teacher interactions.”

, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Independent

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