History of Distributed Learning

History of Distributed Learning

BC has a long history of leadership in offering distributed learning as a choice for its students. The development of distributed learning in British Columbia may be traced back almost a century.

From Correspondence to Distance Education
By 1918, correspondence education was becoming the commonplace term for schooling that took place at a distance from schools using the postal system to send and receive educational materials. In 1995, the School Act changed the term correspondence education to distance education acknowledge the importance of computer technology. Nine schools in the province offered distance education at this time.

From Distance Education to Distributed Electronic Learning (DEL)
In 1998, the British Columbia Ministry of Education expanded the number of school boards that could deliver distance education to 18. Two models were available for delivery. Under the first model, all 18 school boards tested the use of technology for students enrolling in September. These projects were known as distributed electronic learning (DEL) pilot projects and focused on using technology tools to increase interactivity between students and teachers.

Government capped the number of students who could participate in the DEL pilot projects at 2,200 and capped the funding amount at $3,500 per student. Meanwhile, the Ministry maintained the existing continuous entry program, which allowed only the original 9 Distance Education Schools to be funded for students who enrolled after September 30 and throughout the calendar year. These students were funded at $250 per course, on what was known as the hurdle system, a model that paid school districts for portions of the $250 as students completed course modules.

Elimination of the Enrolment Cap
In 2001, the DEL pilot project ended, and after this time all school districts could offer distance education with no enrolment caps. This change also meant that any student who enrolled in September was funded the same as any other student in the province. This funding policy proved beneficial for students who enrolled in September; however, for those students who enrolled after September, funding remained at $250 per course.

Distributed Learning in 2006
Bill 33 and the revised School Act levelled the playing field, eliminated unnecessary rules, set common definitions and terminology, substantiated accountability processes, and put standards in place for quality. Accompanying these changes were significant improvements to the way students taking distributed learning would be funded. Starting September 1, 2006, all school districts offering distributed learning at any time throughout the year will be funded at the same rate as any other student the province. For more information about this funding system, see the Funding Policy for Distributed Learning page on the Ministry of Education website.

The 2006 changes to distributed learning in BC reflect government commitments to improve student achievement and to create a high quality, performance-oriented education system. Aligned with these commitments is the Ministry’s Vision for Distributed Learning:

  • To create a quality, dynamic, and engaging learning environment that all students in BC can access. It will not be limited by schedules, calendars, facilities, or location;
  • To ensure student performance in Distributed Learning will continuously improve; and
  • To provide equitable access to education, specifically providing choice for those students who have restricted options, especially students in rural communities, students with special needs, and Aboriginal students.

More information about these changes can be found on the Ministry of Education website.

Source: Patrick A. Dunae, The School Record (Victoria: British Columbia Archives and Records Service, 1992), p. 73; Belle C. Gibson, Teacher-Builder: The Life and Work of J. W. Gibson (Victoria: privately printed, 1961), pp. 101 - 109.