The North has always been subjected to the tyranny of geography in supporting learning and the delivery of courses equitably across its expansive regions. The Beaufort Delta Education Council, partnering with the Northwest Territories Department of Education, Culture and Employment, is working to close those gaps. Beaufort Delta Education Council eLearning is in its seventh year of operation and has evolved from one community and one telephone to a high definition video conferencing system involving six communities across the territory.
2016-17 marks the sixth year that Beaufort Delta Education Council has partnered with the Department of Education, Culture and Employment to deliver the eLearning program to a growing number of communities. Beaufort Delta Education Council schools Helen Kalvak (Ulukhaktok), Chief Julius (Fort McPherson), and Mangilaluk (Tuktoyaktuk) are all returning this year, as are Fort Resolution’s Deninu School and Fort Liard’s Echo Dene School.
Using a dedicated NorthWesTel service called V-Connect and the Moodle Learning Management System, eLearning sees Inuvik teachers instruct community students via video conference. This features a synchronous, online course delivery which is allowing community students to access academic courses without having to leave their hometowns. Classes are face-to-face on screen every day for the entire semester. Volunteers monitor work alongside the students in the communities, offer support to students and liaise with the online Inuvik teachers. With the ECE partnership, funding is provided in order to assist schools with costs incurred by the program. Supplies and accommodation, school hardware, connection costs and tutoring are partly covered by the Department of Education, Culture and Employment funding.
Last year’s eLearning program had an overall success (pass) rate of 74%, impressive when compared with other predominantly rural populations. For the current school semester there is a total of 46 students enrolled in four courses taught out of Inuvik (i.e., Social Studies 20-1, Math 20-1, English 10-1 and 30-1). Four more courses will be taught during the second semester.
As the program continues to evolve over the years, plans are in place to expand to even more communities and to deliver more courses. Thanks to committed teachers, strong partnerships, increasing bandwidth, and driven students, eLearning in the north will only get bigger. By working collaboratively, learning opportunities and academic courses are delivered to even the remotest of locations.