Online Learning Independent Schools Policy (Interim)
Date came into force or revised
July 1, 2021
Interim online learning policies are in effect for the 2021/22 and 2022/23 school years.
A British Columbia independent school authority may provide all or part of an educational program by means of online learning. An independent school authority may provide online learning or operate an online learning school to serve only its enrolled students without an agreement with the Minister. To cross-enrol students who are enrolled or registered with a board of education or another authority, the independent school authority must have a signed interim online agreement with the Minister.
Rationale or purpose of policy
Changes to the Independent School Act regarding online learning come into effect on July 1, 2021. A new, comprehensive online learning policy and a procedures guide are under development with Indigenous rightsholders and stakeholders and will be fully implemented on July 1, 2023. The former distributed learning policies have been replaced by interim online learning policies that will be in effect until June 30, 2023.
The purpose of this policy is to establish a framework under which independent schools may offer online learning.
Policy in full
Online learning is a method of instruction that relies primarily on communication between students and teachers by means of the internet.
Online Learning (OL) provides another choice for learning within the current K-12 system. Online learning takes place outside of the regular classrooms, typically when a student is at a distance from the teacher and from the school building. Students may opt for online learning when they live in remote locations, due to scheduling conflicts for required courses or sometimes because of learning preferences. Students in OL programs have increased flexibility in determining their academic schedule as school calendars are not bound by time and space. Students may enroll at any time during the school year, subject to school policy.
An independent school authority may provide online learning or operate an independent online learning school to serve its enrolled students without an agreement with the Minister. To cross-enrol students who are enrolled by a board of education, francophone education authority, or another independent school authority, the independent school authority must have a signed interim online learning agreement with the Minister. To enrol homeschoolers who are registered with a board of education or another independent school authority, it must also have a signed interim online learning agreement with the Minister.
To be funded, independent online learning schools are inspected to ensure that they are complying with the Independent School Act and related regulations and orders.
For information on homeschooled children and online learning, please see Online Learning Policy - Homeschoolers (Interim).
Procedures related to policy
The Interim Independent School Online Learning Agreement (PDF) and Schedule A - Standards for Delivery of K-12 Independent School Online Learning in British Columbia outline the requirements and expectations for delivering the OL program.
Students wishing to enrol in independent online learning schools administered by independent school authorities may do so directly through the independent OL school.
Funding for Online Learning
Group 1 independent OL schools are funded at 50 percent of the public school OL FTE rate, while Group 2 independent OL schools are funded at 35 percent of the public school OL FTE rate.
External Evaluation and Monitoring of Online Learning
Independent schools offering a DL educational program undergo evaluations in the following ways:
- an initial external evaluation
- following that, an external evaluation at least once every 2 years
- a monitoring inspection in the alternate years.
Inspections are based on compliance with the Independent School Act and the supporting regulations and orders and the education requirements set out in the Schedule A - Standards for Delivery of K-12 Independent School Online Learning in British Columbia (PDF)
Special Needs Funding for Online Learning Students
- When students with special needs are enrolled in more than one school, special needs supplementary funding will be made available to the school at which the students are taking most of their educational program or the majority of their courses. In situations where students with special needs are enrolled with more than one school administered by the same Authority or cross enrolled with another Authority or a Board, the Ministry expects that schools will work together to develop and support the student’s Individual Education Plan (IEP) by taking a holistic approach, including consideration of services each school may need to provide to support the IEP.
- For more information about students with special needs and online learning, see Online Learning Policy - Special Needs (Interim) and Special Education Services - A Manual of Policies, Procedures and Guideline (PDF).
Sharing of Student Records
In some cases, students will cross enrol in OL courses with an independent school authority and a public board of education at the same time and have records with both. When this occurs, independent school authorities and boards of education must provide the others with access to information in student records necessary for each to satisfactorily perform its obligations under the Independent School Act or the School Act.
Payments to Third Party Service Providers
As per the Guidelines for independent school authorities operating an online learning school - third party services and resources, if an authority uses a third party to provide educational services or learning support, materials, or resources to learners, the Ministry expects the authority to do the following:
- Ensure that the educational services, materials, and resources are part of the educational program supervised by an authority employee who is a BC certified teacher or Letter of Permission holder.
- Pay only the third party directly and not the parent, learner or any other person
- Ensure that parents and third party service providers clearly understand their roles and responsibilities for student safety and security
- Clearly describe the authority’s responsibility to provide the program outlined in a student’s learning plan or Individual Education Plan separately from additional services the student may receive from the third party service provider.
If an authority uses a third party to provide educational services or learning support, materials, or resources to learners, the Ministry expects the authority to pay only up to a maximum of $600 per FTE in grades K-12 for reimbursements to third party resources and service providers.
This limit to the amount of the operating grant to be used for third party resourcing would not apply to:
- Supporting students with special needs in levels 1, 2 and 3 special needs supplementary funding categories and special needs categories K,P,Q,R, in achieving the curriculum learning standards and/or goals in their Individual Education Plans (see the Ministry’s Special Education Services: A Manual of Policies, Procedures and Guidelines)
- Career technical centre program courses
- Post-secondary transition program courses
Limits to financial assistance for learners or their parents
- The Ministry expects that independent school authorities will not provide financial payments or reimbursements to learners or their parents, nor use any amount of money budgeted to support an educational program as an incentive to have a learner enrol in an online learning program or course.
- An independent school authority may provide financial assistance to learners or their parents for a portion of the one-time internet connection fees, if and only if the learner requires an internet connection to participate in an educational program delivered in whole or in part through online learning. Connection means cost of the household connection to the internet. It does not include ongoing maintenance.
- An independent school authority may lend, but not give, equipment with an asset value (such as a computer that is required for participation in an online learning program or course) to learners or to parents or families of learners.
Other Home Based Learning Options
For more information on home based learning options see the following areas: