Much has been written about the COVID-19 pandemic in Canada: its effects on workplace dynamics, its toll on families, and the scientific advancements it has engendered. However, in the plethora of online articles, TV news items and newspaper columns about the pandemic, you find precious few words about one of society’s most fundamental underpinnings: education.
Specifically, what will happen to education when the pandemic ends? Will it be “business as usual”? Or – like many other sectors of society are realizing – will it undergo significant changes?
Early signs point to the latter. Even before the COVID-19 pandemic struck, online education was gaining momentum. According to research in the Globe News Wire, the market share for online education in North America is slated to reach over $319 billion by 2025 (a sizeable increase from $197 billion in 2019). Increasingly, Canadian parents choose online schools for their accessibility, ease and range of support options. And many kids prefer the comfort of working from home.
In this post, let’s explore the future of Canadian education by taking a closer look at online learning. What is it? Why do certain parents prefer it? And how do you vet online schools for quality?
What Is Online Education?
First, a point of clarification. When experts discuss online schools, they do not typically mean the online models set up by public schools throughout the pandemic. Public schools were responding to a novel and largely ill-defined external threat; they did the best with what they had on short notice.
Online education normally refers to private, Ministry-inspected online schools in Canada. The courses an online school offers count toward a diploma, and the teachers are certified. The main difference between a brick-and-mortar private school and an online one is the environment (in-person versus remote).
Why Online Schools Are Gaining in Popularity
Online education has several benefits for students. The best online schools feature “self-paced learning,” which means students set the pace of their studies; they spend longer on concepts they find challenging and may move quickly through material they pick up easily. Many parents and students prefer this individualized model, as opposed to the one-pace-fits-all approach of a traditional classroom.
Online courses are also flexible. Students may start a course whenever they want, and finish when they want (within 12 months). They are accessible, free of typical high school distractions (like bullying and peer pressure), and convenient.
How to Vet Online Schools for Quality
When choosing online courses in Ontario – or elsewhere in Canada – keep a list of essential criteria in mind. Here are a few questions to ask of an online school:
- Are they Ministry inspected? Do they offer credit courses that count toward a provincial diploma (for instance, an OSSD)?
- Are the teachers certified, professional and passionate? If the school is Ministry inspected, teachers will be certified. Through conversations with the school (or through their website), try to determine whether teachers are enthusiastic and professional.
- Do they have good reviews? Positive online reviews are a reliable indication of professionalism and quality education.
- Will your kid be supported? For example, does the online school feature access to tutoring in addition to lessons with certified teachers?
Essentially, the process for vetting an online school is the same as any private high school. Ask questions, do your research and consult reviews.
The future of Canadian learning appears to be online. The more parents know about online schools now, the better positioned they will be to make smart decisions about their kids’ education.