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British Columbia

The legislative language in the School Act, 1996 allows for a student engaged in distributed learning to enrol in educational programmes falling under multiple jurisdictions (or boards of education — see section 3.1 of the School Act), and that any school district wishing to establish a distributed learning school can do so “only with the prior agreement of the minister” (see section 75 (4.1) of the School Act). The Independent School Act, 1996 contains similar language concerning the establishment of distributed learning schools “only with the prior agreement of the minister” (see section 8.1). As such, these agreements between the Ministry and the school districts or independent schools, combined with policy, serve as the main governance documents for distributed learning in British Columbia.

In addition to the distributed learning agreements between the Ministry and the individual school districts, the Ministry also has a series of policy documents that outline the regulations that distributed learning schools must follow. The key features of these regulations are:
  • boards of education are responsible for distributed learning;
  • boards must use BC certified teachers;
  • students taking distributed learning must meet the same course requirements as any other student;
  • courses taken through distributed learning are equivalent to the same course taken in a classroom; and
  • students enrol at the school of their choice, not through the Ministry.

Links to all of the policy documents, along with the general agreements between the Ministry and school districts are available on the Ministry's website (and the Independent School Distributed Learning Program).

The responsibility for quality assurance falls upon the Ministry, which is undertaken through the use of compliance audits and quality review site visits that combine a series of quantitative and qualitative measures.

The audit programme checks for compliance with provincial funding rules (e.g., proof of attendance or participation) and other key statutory and policy provisions, such as:
  • meeting provincial programme requirements (e.g., curriculum, graduation);
  • residency;
  • learning resources approved according to provincial policy, including ensuring that religious
  • materials are not part of public programmes;
  • teacher-led instruction rather than blatant home-schooling; and
  • no financial incentives to parents to enroll.

All distributed learning schools in the province are subject to audits of this nature. At present approximately 6 distributed learning schools are audited every year. Poor audits have implications for the conditions of Distributed Learning Agreement renewal, apart from recovering enrolment grants. A detailed documentation of the criteria used for the 2008-09 audits is also available on the Ministry’s website.

The quality review process is based on E-Learning Standards for Distributed Learning. The purpose of the Quality Review process is to foster improved quality in distributed learning practice while supporting implementation of Ministry legislation, policy, and DL Agreement requirements in K-12 schools. At its core is critical examination of instructional and leadership practices as reflected in the DL standards, research on practice, as well as new and emerging practices. Evaluative data such as student achievement results and responses to the DL Satisfaction Survey are also given critical consideration and reflection. The quality review model consists of three distinct parts:
  1. Internal review conducted by all DL school staff as part of their annual planning,
  2. An external review that validates the internal review through site visit by an team of DL practitioners, and
  3. Sharing of emerging distributed learning instructional and leadership practices through an online community space and evolving practices document.