Online courses for Ontario students during COVID-19 won't count towards grades, but that could change

The Ontario government announced the launch of a new online platform entitled, “Learn at Home” for two-million students out of classrooms due to COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.

Education Minister Steven Lecce said he intends to 'better involve educators as part of the solution'

Classes are cancelled until at least April 6 as the number of COVID-19 cases continues to grow. Ontario rolled out a 'learn at home' online portal on Friday that provides resources for parents. (David Donnelly/CBC)

Millions of high school and elementary students off for the next two weeks can now log on from home to keep up with their math and literacy skills, but the optional schoolwork won't count toward their grades, say school boards.

While Ontario's Ministry of Education calls the Learn at Home online resources "curriculum-linked," parents should know those activities do not replace what students have been learning at school and won't be graded by their teachers.

"Through the next two weeks of the government mandated closure, what we are going to be doing is relying on the resources at the Ministry of Education, which students can use for self-directed and independent learning," said Carla Pereira, director of communications and community relations, for the Peel District School Board.

"What that means is that classroom teachers won't be involved in the delivery of those resources and any work that students do with those online resources will not be graded and will not be assessed as part of their course or classroom program."

Carla Pereira, Director of Communications and Community Relations for the Peel District School Board, says its classroom teachers won’t be involved in the delivery of online resources. (Lisa Xing/CBC)

But that could change.

During the media conference Friday, Education Minister Steven Lecce said he intends to "better involve educators as part of the solution."

And he says he will be contacting school boards and teachers' unions.

"I know many of them want to be part of the solution to learning during this period of unprecedented instability," Lecce said.

Ryan Bird, spokesperson for the Toronto District School Board, said the ministry is helping school boards assess student information technology needs and what continued learning involving teachers and students province-wide might look like.

"We know these are challenging times for students and families and we are committed to working with the Ministry of Education to support you during this unprecedented interruption to student learning," said Bird in a statement to CBC Toronto.

School boards are also looking at the resources that students may need, as not all have equal access to computers or other devices, or convenient Internet connectivity.

Rahul Paul and his 11-year-old son Kevin take to the court at St. Luke’s Catholic Elementary School in Port Credit. Online courses are one thing, but they lament the loss of phys-ed and socializing too. (Philip Lee-Shanok/CBC)

"We are very cognizant of the fact that many of our students may not have the hardware or the devices that they need to access online resources and the boards across the province are looking right now at ways that we can help address that so that we can ensure equity of access," said Pereira from Peel Region.

That's where Rahul Paul and his 11-year-old son Kevin were shooting hoops outside a darkened St. Luke's Catholic Elementary School in Port Credit.

"I'm used to working from home, so it wasn't a big change for me, but it's a bigger change for them," Paul said.

He says so far, it hasn't been so bad, but he's concerned about how long this could last.

"The first week was going to be a break anyway," said Paul, who is more concerned about the impact of a lack of social and physical activity.

"They go from lots of activity every day to [doing] just about nothing," he says. "I think that's the big challenge."

And then there's spiritual instruction.

The Toronto Catholic District School Board (TCDSB) is putting together additional online learning resources reflecting the Catholic curriculum in their schools, which can be used to supplement the materials provided by the province.

Those will be available early next week.


Philip Lee-Shanok

Senior Reporter, CBC Toronto

From small town Ontario to Washington D.C., Philip has covered stories big and small. An award-winning reporter with more than two decades of experience in Ontario and Alberta, he's now a Senior Reporter for the National Network based in Toronto. His stories are on CBC Radio's World Report, World This Hour, World at Six and The World This Weekend as well as CBC TV's The National and CBC News Online. Follow him on Twitter @CBCPLS.