The Beginning

In March of 2019, the government of Ontario mandated that all students in Ontario would have to take 4 online credits, as a requirement for graduation, starting in the 2020 – 2021 school year. The reaction in education circles was predictably negative, and for good reason. However, the reality is that the future of education lies in technology. The challenge is to use technology to continue and build on the good work being done in traditional classrooms every day.

The reality of today is we need to be embracing technology for good. And when it comes to online opportunities for our students, I think we should all agree …: we want to make sure that they have every opportunity to put their best foot forward. Lisa Thompson, Former Ontario Education Minister

So, while the educator and parent in us did not like this mandate, the empowering education facilitator and former graduate from online courses in us decided to take the minister up on her challenge. We immediately set out to create an online school that is designed to as closely as possible replicate the positives of the classroom environment, while taking advantage of the benefits that technology brings.

The Facilitators

When founding OntarioOnlineSchools.ca, our focus first turned to our Education Facilitators. All online education facilitators working with OntarioOnlineSchools.ca are professional Ontario teachers, meeting high standards of skill and conduct.

OntarioOnlineSchools facilitators are carefully selected – only educators who have demonstrated a mastery of the classroom, familiarity with technology and online learning, and a consistent record of delivering an authentic, engaging, culturally relevant, and most importantly inclusive experience that properly prepares students for their future.

The Learning Platform

A Learning Platform is the tool used to provide an online education experience to students. We chose to use the popular Moodle learning platform, which is used in many Ontario Colleges, Universities, and businesses, and is extremely popular worldwide. Exposing students to a platform that may be used throughout their post-secondary life and career advancement is yet another way we prepare students for the future.

We are aware that students have a wide variety of needs – while we strive to use only the most powerful learning technologies available, some students may lack high-speed internet, or a powerful computer. To account for this, we ensure our content is accessible from Desktops, Laptops, Netbooks, and Mobile Devices. Most course material can also be downloaded and worked with offline. Our courses may also be accessed through a mobile app on Android and iOS.

The Learning Environment

We at the Ontario Online Schools Network know that ELearning is not for every student, and not every course can be delivered effectively online. Detractors of ELearning often point to the larger class sizes, the poor assessment practices and the detachment from education facilitators and peers, that students often feel, in online learning environments.

To mitigate these concerns, we decided to only offer a limited slate of senior high school courses, and cap class sizes significantly lower than the class size limits of public school board online courses.

We have also tried to mitigate the damage being done to students’ high school experience as a result of course cancellations by focusing on elective courses that students can no longer take in regular high school. These courses are often the high point of a student’s educational experience, as evidenced by the fact that students often choose to take them. In an Ideal world, these courses would be taken in traditional day school, but in this new reality, we will offer them online, and try to make the experience as rewarding for students as the traditional mode would have been.

As professionals, all our education facilitators adhere to the assessment, evaluation, and recording requirements found in Growing Success. In all courses, a student’s final grade will be the distillation of the education facilitator’s informed professional judgment. To come up with a mid-course and final grade, our education facilitators Triangulate Evidence of Student Learning through evaluations of the products students create the education facilitator’s observations of the students participation and contribution to class activities, well as evaluating the quality of education facilitator-student, and student- to student conversations. Collaboration is an essential 21st Century skill, and as such, Ontario Online School learning environments are designed to encourage student to work collaboratively, as they develop the skills articulated in the curriculum. Plainly put, success will be based less on what students know, and more on what students can do with what they know.

It is this Application based approach to education that explains why we use the phrase “education facilitator”, rather than “teacher”. We are preparing students for a future that does not exist yet. As such, the Teacher-As-Keeper-Of-Knowledge model of education is now inadequate. Instead, our educators will strike to teach students the necessary skills, as outlined in the subject curriculum documents, and then facilitate the discovery process, as students use those skills to demonstrate their learning through the solving of real-world problems.

We believe that we have successfully created “A Different Kind Of Online School”. We are sure you will agree.

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