Online Learning Policy – General (Interim)

Date came into force or revised

July 1, 2021


Interim for the 2021-2022 school year

Policy statement

A British Columbia board of education (a “Board”) may provide all or part of an educational program by means of online learning. A Board may provide online learning or operate an online learning school to serve enrolled students resident in its school district without an agreement with the Minister.  Boards require an agreement with the Minister under certain circumstances set out in the School Act and described in this policy.

Rationale or purpose of policy

Changes to the School Act regarding online learning came into effect on July 1, 2021. The 2021/2022 school year will be an interim year in the implementation of changes to online learning in the Province.  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, 2022.  For the 2021/2022 school year, the former distributed learning policies have been replaced by interim online learning policies that will be in effect until the new online learning policies are implemented on July 1, 2022.

Online learning provides the flexibility to meet learning needs of many B.C. students not served through conventional school programs. Schools in rural and urban communities may have difficulty offering a full range of courses and program options to all students, and online learning can expand equitable access to education, specifically providing choice for those students who have restricted options.


Pursuant to section 75 (4.01) of the School Act, and the orders of the minister, a board may deliver all or part of an educational program through online learning.

Pursuant to s. 75(4.1), a board may deliver an educational program, or part of an educational program, through online learning to the following persons only if the board has approval to provide the educational program under an agreement with the minister:

(a) a student, as defined in the Independent School Act;

(b) a student who is enrolled in an educational program provided by another board, or a francophone student;

(c) a student who is not resident in the board's school district;

(d) a child who is registered under section 13 with a school operated by another board, a francophone school or an independent school.

Policy in full

In this policy, the terms board of education or Board include a francophone education authority. The term Authority refers to an independent school authority. 

Online learning programs and courses must be led by BC certified teachers or Letter of Permission holders.

A Board is required to have an interim online learning agreement (PDF)  with the Minister of Education to provide online learning in the following circumstances:

  • To enrol a student who is enrolled with an independent school (cross enrolment)
  • To enrol a student who is enrolled with another Board (cross enrolment)
  • To enrol a student who is resident in another Board’s school district  
  • To enrol a homeschooled child who is registered as a homeschooler with a school operated by another Board or Authority.  

If none of those circumstances exist, a Board no longer needs an online learning agreement with the Minister of Education to provide online learning to students who are resident in the school district or to operate an online learning school that enrols only students who are resident in the school district.

A Board that has an interim online learning agreement with the Minister must be able to demonstrate that any online learning program or online learning school meets all of the requirements in that agreement, including the following: 

  • All of the requirements of the School Act and any other relevant legislation  
  • All of the requirements of the interim online learning agreement  between the Board and the Minister of Education
  • All of the Ministry of Education policies and standards

 Access to Grade 10-12 online learning courses

Boards should not in any way act to prevent students from enrolling in online learning courses through means such as the following:

  • Requiring a minimal number of courses within the student’s schedule at a particular school (see Form 1701 Instructions for exceptions)
  • Providing inaccurate information relating to credentials, provincial graduation assessments, to transcript eligibility, or other processes
  • Refusing to cooperate with other schools offering online learning instruction.

Quality Standards

For the interim school year 2021/2022, the Ministry expects Boards to continue to follow the online learning standards contained in Standards for Online Learning Content in British Columbia  and Standards for K-12 Online Learning in British Columbia (PDF, 429KB).

A Board offering online learning should work toward 100 percent participation in provincial assessments and satisfaction surveys.

Reimbursements to third party service providers

If a Board uses a third party to provide educational services or learning support, materials, or resources to learners, the Ministry expects the Board to do the following:

  • Ensure that the educational services, materials, and resources are part of the educational program supervised by a Board 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 Board’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 a Board uses a third party to provide educational services or learning support, materials, or resources to learners, the Ministry expects the Board 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 curricular 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
  • A portion of the family's Internet connection costs if required to participate in an online learning program or course.

Limits to financial assistance for learners or their parents 

The Ministry expects that Boards 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.

A Board 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.

A Board 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.

Procedures related to policy

Online Learning School/Board websites will:

  1. Provide Learners a direct link to the school’s contact information
  2. Provide information about the type of program and services offered to learners
  3. Provide information about the courses available
  4. Provide information about how to enrol in a course or school
  5. Align with the directives outlined in this policy about the use of third party services
  6. Align with the Online Learning Policy--B.C. Residency (Interim)
  7. Contain a clear statement about being a BC certified teacher-led program that provides quality services to learners
  8. Clearly communicate the Board’s policy about digital communications, including a code of conduct and expectations for participation in digital communications 
  9. Learners must be able to link directly from the Ministry’s Course Finder to the School’s website, preferably where and how to register for the program and/or course(s) of interest.  

Online District Contact information

By July 31 of each year, the Board should complete the Online Learning Contact Information Form and submit it to the Ministry. This document includes instructions, contact roles, and the information form.