Dear Minister Lecce,
On behalf of the Toronto District School Board, I am writing you to express our deep concerns with your government’s plan to introduce mandatory e-learning courses for all secondary school students.
On March 15, 2019, your government announced that starting in 2020-2021, all secondary students will take a minimum of four e-learning credits out of the 30 credits needed to fulfill the requirements for achieving an Ontario Secondary School Diploma. Since then, we have not received any further information about this plan, which has raised many questions and concerns by parents/guardians, students and our own staff, not limited to how this plan will be implemented and how it will be equitable for all secondary students.
I want to make it clear that we are not against e-learning, but we are very concerned about the mandatory nature of this plan, the timing and the general lack of information available for parents/guardians, students and staff.
In just a few short months, secondary students will begin selecting courses that will lead them to graduation. We fear that the lack of information on mandatory e-learning courses could harm our students’ achievement and well-being levels and, ultimately, hinder their graduation and post-secondary education plans. This is a major concern considering our most recent census data tells us that students are already expressing challenges with mental health, belonging and accessing a caring adult in schools and the role of technology in relation to their overall well-being.
Recently, one of our own educators and current PhD candidate at the University of Toronto – who has taught e-learning and researched it – raised major concerns with your plan, including: only a small percentage (5%) of Ontario students currently partake in e-learning courses, which means there is no ability to anticipate its likelihood of success to a greater population; we have little to no time to implement a plan that will require internet and infrastructure updates in some communities as well as professional learning for staff at a time of possible labour unrest; and that we are embracing inequality for our most vulnerable youth. I encourage you to read her research in full as it paints a more fulsome picture of these concerns and more.
Currently, we know that our e-learning program is mostly accessed by higher achieving students and that means we know little about how students with more learning needs may fare in a program that is about to become mandatory. This begs the question, is this plan equitable and could it potentially set some of our students up for failure?
To ensure we are reflecting the concerns of our students, parents/guardians and staff, we will be consulting our school communities about mandatory e-learning courses for all secondary students. We value the input of our communities and feel an obligation to provide your government with this information. The results of our research will be available this upcoming winter, which we will happily share with you.
We hope that we will hear more information about your plan to implement mandatory elearning courses for all secondary students as soon as possible and that you share the results of your own research publically.
As always, I would welcome the opportunity to discuss this topic further.
Robin Pilkey, CPA, CA, ICD.D
Chair, Toronto District School Board
Ontario Student Trustees’ Association