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BCTF Task Force on Distributed Learning (DL)

About the Task Force

Distributed Learning in public schools in BC grew quickly in the first decade of the 21st Century. However, enrolments plateaued and have been consistent at about 6,000 full-time equivalent (FTE) students. Most students in DL programs are taking one or to courses at the Grade 10 to 12 levels, so the 6,000 (FTE) are actually about 70,000 individual students at all levels from K to 12.

Private schools with public funding offer DL programs, as well. The number of students in these DL programs has risen to 8,000 (FTE) and they have been aggressive in seeking additional students.

The working conditions of teachers in public school DL schools have varied greatly over time and in different DL programs.  Unlike other teachers, no collective agreement provisions specifically cover DL teachers and DL teachers are explicitly excluded from provisions of the School Act that define some conditions for non-DL teachers.

In response to the need for boundaries in working conditions—and other issues about DL as it has evolved in BC—the BCTF Executive has appointed a Task Force on Distributed Learning of nine teachers in nine different schools around the province. The Task Force expects to have a report to the BCTF Executive by January 2018.

The views of teachers, particularly those in DL programs, are being invited by the Task Force through some surveys and focus groups in October and November 2018. Policies and reports related to DL are included on this section of the BCTF website to inform anyone interested in the issues being addressed.

Terms of Reference for the Task Force

  1. Examine research that describes the existing BC public school Distributed Learning programs, including staffing, qualifications, students, curriculum resources, special needs, professional development and training, organizational structures, funding, and results.
  2. Examine research on “blended learning” as an approach to DL.
  3. Identify the elements of the work of teachers in DL programs and survey DL teachers on the percentage and amount of time devoted to each element of the work.
  4. Devise possible approaches to defining the boundaries of working conditions of DL teachers that is equitable among DL teachers, as well as equitable in comparison to teachers in face-to-face programs and make recommendations for the 2018 AGM and the next round of bargaining.
  5. Compare Distributed Learning/online learning in other provinces to DL in BC, including staffing policies and collective agreement provisions.
  6. Report on the scope and funding of independent school DL programs and make recommendations.

What is “Distributed Learning”

Distributed Learning is defined in Section 1 of the BC School Act as

“A method of instruction that relies primarily on indirect communication between students and teachers, including internet or other electronic-based delivery, teleconferencing, or correspondence.

Distributed Learning School is defined as

“A school or francophone school that offers instruction by means of distributed learning only.”

In many jurisdictions outside BC, the equivalent descriptor used may be online education, e-learning, virtual school and the like.

Existing BCTF Policy

The policies specific to DL adopted in 2001 and later can be found here.

The BCTF included this recommendation to the new Minister of Education in a briefing book:

Review policies and funding for Distributed Learning programs to create a system that is built on a co-operative, provincial basis, provides funding for provincial course development consistent with the curriculum changes, and has the resources to provide teaching conditions that are comparable to teachers in face-to-face programs.

The rationale for this recommendation can be found here.

BCTF Research Reports

Distributed Learning 2010 Survey:  DL Working Conditions

Distributed Learning Trends, 2006–07 to 2015–16

The working conditions of BC teachers working in Distributed Learning: Investigating current issues, concerns, and practices (2007)

Analysis by Larry Kuehn of DL issues arising from State of the Nation 2016 report 

Other reports on research related to DL

Voracious Appetite of Online Teaching:  Examining Labour Issues Related to K-12 Online Learning” A report for the BCTF prepared by Michael K. Barbour and David Adelstein (Jan 2013)

Working Conditions for K-12 Distance & Online Learning Teachers in Canada (2017) by Michael K. Barbour

State of the Nation: K-12 E-Learning in Canada—2016
This study updates the provincial, territorial, and federal governance and activity of K-12 e-learning in each jurisdiction, along with providing vignettes to illustrate a variety of those individuals and programs providing these e-learning opportunities.

Ministry of Education Policy and Reports on Distributed Learning

The Ministry website includes Ministry policies, the agreement that the Ministry has with boards that define requirements for programs, links to DL schools and data about students and programs.

DL programs undergo audits by the Ministry. Audit criteria and audit reports can be found here.

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