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March 1999

High School
At Home

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What started as primary schooling for children in remote Northern Ontario has changed to secondary education for adults anywhere.

By Mary Yannakis and Larry Anderson

More than 40,000 people in Ontario are attending high school at home. They’re enrolled in the Independent Learning Centre (ILC) of the Ministry of Education and Training.

ILC has been offering a distance education program since 1926, when it started providing elementary education for children of miners and loggers living in isolated areas of Northern Ontario. Now, adults, anywhere in Ontario, are the predominant client group.

ILC offers courses from Grade 10 to OAC, in English and French. It also has a Grade 9 program for adolescents, as well as courses in English as a Second Language and Adult Basic Education.

ILC students choose distance learning as a convenient alternative to the classroom. At any time of the year, they can start a course, finish a course, or earn their high school diploma. They study independently, fitting education into their busy lives.

"Many of our graduates have gone on to university or college programs and new careers over the years. The success stories are many, and often moving," says ILC director Paul Raymond.

More adolescents have joined ILC since the day school program was re-established in 1997. This program expands course offerings in schools where a full program cannot be offered, augments alternative programs and supports students who cannot enroll in a course because of timetable conflicts.

ILC courses are mostly print-based, but many also include audio or video cassettes. The service includes all printed materials, the loan of textbooks and tapes, assessment by licensed teachers, and academic assistance via mail, phone, fax or e-mail. There is also a final test.

Students work through the lessons on their own, then submit their work by mail for evaluation. They write their final tests in their own community.


Computer technology is resulting in more options for taking courses. ILC is undertaking several pilot projects in computer-mediated courses and electronic course delivery.

"The intention is not to eliminate the traditional paper-based correspondence process," says Raymond, "but to widen the choices that students have in accessing educational opportunities with ILC. We are taking advantage of new ways to facilitate learning for those who choose distance education."

ILC is testing the software for an electronic course journal that can replace the print-based course journal students currently use. The new journal will be submitted and returned electronically instead of by mail.

One of ILC’s first electronically delivered courses will be Career Connections, a web-based, Grade 11 course developed in partnership with Humber College. The course will be accessed through ILC’s web site and will take advantage of the vast resources of the Internet.

Courses are being developed for delivery by CD ROM in partnership with several school boards. These courses include French-language OAC Physics and English-language Grade 12 Geography.

With TVOntario’s Virtual Classroom, ILC offers an optional, additional interactive component to enrich its OAC Chemistry course.

In this project, the TVO on-air teacher demonstrates scientific principles and facilitates an interactive question-and-answer session. Contact North, a long time partner, is working with ILC and TVO to expand the use of the Virtual Classroom in the north.

ILC and the Special Education Technology Consortium of Ontario have been working on ways to expand learning opportunities for students with special needs. The project, called SNOW (Special Needs Opportunities Window), is making selected ILC course materials available through the SNOW web site. This project has also developed a free, on-line workshop for teachers with students who fall within a wide range of special needs.

ILC, Education Network of Ontario, and Ontario Learning for Sustainability Partnership have developed a two-credit science course that enables students to use the Internet to cover the material in both Environmental Science (SEN4A) and Information Technology (DEC4X). The course is conducted through electronic communication only. All lessons and resource material are available on the Internet.

ILC has expanded into areas related to distance education to offer even more options. For people who do not want to enroll but would like to purchase the material, ILC’s sales program lets anyone buy course material.

Distance education remains a necessity for many, but it is also the choice for many lifelong learners.

For more information go to ilc.edu.gov.on.ca or e-mail: ilcsales@edu.gov.on.ca or fax (416) 325-4675, call 1-800-267-2979 or (416) 325-4222.

Larry Anderson is acting manager of the Program Design and Development section at ILC. Before joining the ministry, Anderson taught for 16 years with the Peel Board of Education. Mary Yannakis is ILC’s communications officer.