LONDON, ONT. -- As thousands of students who enrolled in remote learning classes this fall enjoy their first break since mid-September, discussion of whether the virtual format has been successful are already underway.

Education directors across the province have also been talking to one another about whether remote learning will have a future in a post-pandemic world. 

"I’ve had discussion with other directors across the province about, potentially, is it a possibility of running some sort of virtual school in the future, and rolling that into our existing staffing processes and protocols. Because, if it’s done well and intentionally, with the right teachers, for some students it’s working very well," says Mark Fisher, director of education at the Thames Valley District School Board. 

The early returns, and success of a system that did not exist a year ago, are winning over decision-makers going forward.

One of those is the director of education at the London District Catholic School Board. 

"We’re not going back, there will always be, to a greater extent, remote learning," says Linda Staudt. 

There was a lot of skepticism at the start of the school year about whether remote learning could match the in-class experience or whether the platform would be embraced by staff and students. 

"When this started we had a high percent of teachers that were unfamiliar with these digital platforms," Fisher says, "and we’ve basically provided thousands of teachers with training and the more they use it, the better they get at it, and they are developing their own networks organically and we’re seeing some really exciting things happen in those spaces."

No one expects schools to be empty next fall or for remote learning become the predominant format for education, but there are benefits to the system, if done right, according to Staudt. 

"We have a group of students right now that is literally learning at their fingertips, and we’ve learned a lot from it."

While Fisher believes it is evolving, and can only get better as time goes by. 

"I’ve seen some terrific examples, I’ve visited a lot of these full remote learning classrooms, virtually, and I’m really excited about some of the things I’m seeing."

This the first year the Ministry of Education has required high school students to take a minimum of two elearning course, and the pandemic made that quota easy to meet. 

While no decision has been made for the fall of 2021, the next six months will play a key role on whether this evolves into a new form of education.