Hello my name is Cheryl and I am a first nations learner. I went to reserve band schools in elementary well part of it and also went to the ABE program to complete my grade 9 and 10. I then transferred to Ogrady Highschool thinking that my ABE program is transferable and recognized but that was not the case they did not recognize it all and I had to start over so I completed one year of 9 and 10 and then was to old for the rest of the class (19 yrs old) so I transferred to the college of new caledonia and completed there upgrading program and then to a criminology diploma to University of Northern BC and completed a BA with a double major in Political Science and First Nations Studies. Anyways, I took the online courses (WEBCT) and I love the fact that you do them on your own time and as for the papers I always used to pick my topics with first nations content in terms of politics. Basically, that is the only way theres was aboriginal content. It would be great if we could get online learning on the reserves as it would save money in terms of living allowance and you would be close to home. As for making online learning more aboriginal I am not sure how you would do that besides through curriculum development in terms of language and culture.
Through this First Nations Pedagogy for Online Learning project we hope to increase the number of quality online courses that learners can take in their own communities. Living allowances is one factor but also being close to family.
You mentioned the benefit of doing courses on your own time. Were the webct courses you took regular semester length (like September to December)? Or were you able to start the courses at any time and take as much time as you needed to complete them (continuous entry)?
I ask this because we're always having to weigh the pros and cons of both types of delivery. It's great to take the course on a scheduled basis and learn from others in your class, but in reality it can be difficult to complete a course that has a tight schedule, especially when you factor in work and home responsibilities.
We'd love to hear more about your online learning experiences!
The face-to-face courses are expensive and exhausting, but they free participants from the daily demands of their lives. Most have children and partners and demanding jobs in educational settings. In addition, small community life is often disrupted by extraordinary challenges such as searches for people lost on the land and so on.
Although the distance learning courses allow participants to work mostly at their own pace, we have found that they are more vulnerable to the effects and demands of community life.
Your last statement really resonated with me. I too have noticed how often our students in smaller communities get pulled away by local situations -- sometimes personal, often community-driven.
Whether it's the death of an elder, the illness of a neighbour, the demands of children or work, it seems there is always something for our students to contend with.
I was asked the other day whether our DL courses had a higher dropout rate than our Whitehorse-based courses and for many of them it does seem to be an issue (although we haven't compared it with the dropout rate in our f2f classes.) My belief is that it is for the reason you identify rather than the challenges of a DL model.
We too find this an issue at NVIT. Students seem to have so many things going on in thier lives that the first thing to slip off the plate is the online course. I keep a record of "reasons for withdrawing from online course" each semester and overwhelmingly the reason is life and all its curve-balls.
To date we have run all our online courses over the regular semester cycle. This summer we may attempt to run an online course in an intensive 6-week format. We want to see if the shorter run time has any affect on motivation. Not sure how it will all come together but it might provide an interesting comparison.
Students tend to start with a bang but over the semester interest seems to diminish. We are wondering if a shorter run time will force students to stay engaged and allow for less time to fall behind.
WRT, with a shorter timeline, I think that's one of the reasons for the success of the short, intensive FTF sessions that are also a part of our program. The shorter time means less opportunity for interruptions. Because we move to a relatively neutral site (still in Nunavut) we also remove ourselves physically from the sources of many of the interruptions without being away too long.
I'd be interested in hearing how your shorter courses do as well. One of the potential dangers is that the shorter the course, the less the time for processing and assimilating new ideas.