Local school officials expect the Burnaby school district’s 23-year-old distance learning program to grow after being chosen as one of 18 “provincial online learning schools” in B.C.
Burnaby Online was picked after a yearlong application process, according to Ces Martino, the district principal for the program.
“They were looking for a wide variety of services and the ability to upscale and a quality program,” he said.
Since 2018, the ministry of education has been working on changes to distance learning in the province to “ensure consistent access to quality programming for all students in the province,” according to the ministry’s website.
As part of the plan, it is picking only some of the 51 distance learning programs currently operating in the province and designating them as provincial online learning schools.
The ministry has already selected 18 public school district programs.
The process for selecting independent provincial online learning schools won’t be complete until the fall, according to the ministry.
Starting in September 2023, only provincial online learning schools will be able to enrol students from outside of their districts.
All provincial online learning schools will also move to the same new online learning platform: D2L Brightspace.
Burnaby’s distance learning program was launched at the then-new Burnaby Mountain Secondary School in 1999.
Back then it was mostly a correspondence program, according to Martino.
Today, the program is run out of Cariboo Hill Secondary School.
With about 3,000 students, it offers 80 online high school courses and a kindergarten-to-Grade 7 program.
“We have students that start with us in kindergarten and go all the way through to Grade 12,” Martino said.
He said about 80 per cent of Burnaby Online students live in Burnaby while the rest live elsewhere the province.
Without the provincial online learning school designation, Burnaby Online stood to lose about 20 per cent of its students,
On the whole, Martino and director of instruction Kevin Brandt said the changes to online education in the province will be good for the Burnaby program.
‘It’s not like it’s cookie-cutter’
For one thing, they expect more students because there will be fewer programs to choose from for B.C. parents who want to enrol their kids in classes in other districts.
And students already enrolled in Burnaby Online won’t see all that many changes, except the new online learning platform.
“There’ll be some learning for students for sure, but I do think that, from a quality of assessment end, from aligning ourselves to the redesigned curriculum, I think this learning management system is going to be better for us,” he said.
And just because the provincial online learning schools will all be using the same platform doesn’t mean learning won’t been personalized, according to Brandt.
“It’s not like it’s cookie-cutter,” he said. “There’s still all this customization that can be done.”
Still another benefit of all the provincial online learning schools being on the same page is that they are getting more support from the province than they were before, according to Brandt – and that includes training for teachers on how to use the new system.
“The ministry has actually dedicated quite a bit of time and resources to help that process,” he said.
For more information about the changes to online education, visit the ministry of education’s webpage.