Concerns: E-Learning, an Important Matter for Teachers, Staff and Students —

In speaking to teachers and education workers in this election, I am impressed by everything they are doing to find out what is taking place at their schools and how it affects their students, parents and, of course, their own teaching conditions. A concern a number are raising is how e-learning is being implemented and what is its aim.

E-learning has emerged as very lucrative for private interests that see it as a way to make profit from the public education system. One example is the Waterloo-based company Desire 2 Learn (D2L), that has been given millions by the Ontario government in handouts to develop e-learning platforms and sell them abroad. They are also being paid through school boards across Canada and around the world who use public funds to pay for licenses. Former Premier Dalton McGuinty who was instrumental in bringing in this direction for Ontario’s education system went to work for D2L, lobbying governments, after he resigned.

A major issue for teachers is that e-learning as a supplement to face-to-face classroom instruction, or what is called “blended learning” is being transformed almost completely into on-line instruction for the students and teachers. Teachers are under pressure that if they do not just accept this, their schools may be closed, funding cut and they and their colleagues could be out of jobs.

Some school boards in the province have already established whole e-learning departments and use them to recruit students from across the province and around the world, with the argument given that school boards who haven’t done the same are lagging behind and not being “competitive”.

In my opinion, e-learning is itself not negative. It can be very positive if the aim is to improve the quality of education. Teachers and education workers are not afraid of this new technology and embrace its power. The issue however is who sets the aim for how and in what circumstances it will be used? The Liberal government is really pushing this direction in the name of “innovation” and other buzz words. However, these new technologies are not being developed on a public basis. Instead they are used to funnel hundreds of millions into the hands of companies like D2L, Microsoft, Google and the like. Teachers also have big concerns about how student data is used, how students and staff are tracked by these companies.

Teachers and education workers take up this concern guided by the principle that their working conditions are students’ learning conditions. That is why I am running as an independent in this election. By speaking for ourselves on these matters, we can make sure that we have a say over the direction of the education system so that it serves the youth and is not another avenue for private interests to make profits and siphon public funds out of the economy.

Laura Chesnik