Ontario's At-Home Learning Program Launches Today

What you need to know about Ontario's at-home learning program, which launches today

Distance learning begins after schools closed on March 14 due to COVID-19

Schools in Ontario remain closed, but classes are technically back in session today as the province's at-home distance learning program begins.

The program is led by teachers, but students will need to learn independently and receive direction and support from parents, according to Minister of Education Stephen Lecce.

Lecce said the plan includes online learning, but telephone calls and mail-out packages are also an option.

He said while the program isn't perfect, it gives students the opportunity to engage in learning, be on track to graduate and reconnect with teachers.

"We have to be focused on ensuring learning always happens irrespective of the circumstances thrown at us," Lecce said in an interview with CBC News Sunday.

Lecce also said students will be able to access mental health resources, including psychologists, psychotherapists and social workers.

The program: flexible, differing requirements, year-end report cards

The education ministry has set out different requirements when it comes to the amount of hours of work and what subjects are being focused on.

  • Kindergarten to Grade 3 — Students will complete five hours of work each week, focusing on literacy and math.
  • Grades 4 to 6 — Five hours of work each week, focusing on literacy, math, science and social studies.
  • Grades 7 to 8 — 10 hours of work each week, focusing on math, literacy, science and social studies.
  • Grades 9 to 12 — Three hours of work per course each week for semestered students, or 1.5 hours per course each week for non-semestered students.

Lecce told CBC News unconventional teaching and learning methods will be used and it'll be up to teachers to decide what assignments look like and how students will be engaged.

He said work is underway to get students electronics if they don't have what's needed at home, and that households without internet access won't be left behind.

Teachers ensuring a sense of classroom community

Since schools closed in mid-March, teachers have been connecting with parents and students and preparing for distance learning. Dixon Grove Junior Middle School teacher Kimberly Liang has been checking in on her Grade 8 students and speaking with parents about the distance learning program.

"It was nice to have parents give us a little input on how their children will learn best," the Etobicoke teacher said.

Toronto public schools are using e-learning sites like D2L, which was already used in some classrooms before schools were closed. They're also using Google Classroom to share information, handout assignments and communicate with students.

Liang said many teachers will also be checking in with students and parents through email and phone calls.

She and her teaching partner have been creating instructional videos for students by writing on virtual whiteboards.