Credenda Virtual High School
Credenda Virtual High School is a First Nations online school that uses Elluminate® to deliver primarily synchronous learning. In 2005 Credenda had a modest start with 55 students; it has since grown to accommodate approximately 500 eStudents over the school year. Our school is projecting in excess of 670 students from around the Province of Saskatchewan for 2012-2013, both First Nations and Non-First Nations.
Credenda’s approach to online learning involves a team effort that provides built-in supports for eStudents in such areas as:
- eTeacher daily instruction and encouragement
- Easy access to technical support and help desk personnel
- Guidance counseling services, and
- Administrative supports combined with the on-site teacher interaction for moral support and accountability.
eStudents have regularly scheduled classes daily in an online classroom setting with their eTeacher. Each course is structured with a common template for achieving learning outcomes, which is hosted on our servers with our learning management system, Desire2Learn®.
Each individual teacher’s experiences are unique and will vary depending on the level of interaction teachers insist upon with their eStudents. However, it should be said that it takes a very special teacher to teach online. It is not a matter of transferring regular bricks-and-mortar pedagogy into an online setting. Credenda eTeachers say this is the hardest they have worked in years, because it requires so much more preparation for their daily classes. The challenge is engagement. In the face-to-face setting, a teacher can observe whether a student has his or her head on the desk and is taking a snooze, but online a student may log on and be doing other things. That is why the on-site teacher is so critical to ensure students are on task. Credenda requires participating First Nations schools to have a site teacher, who is a qualified teacher that supervises or monitors students when they are taking their online courses from Credenda. Additionally, eTeachers ask more questions of their eStudents to determine whether an eStudent is listening and involved in the class. They use a lot of online Web 2.0 resources for student assignments. eTeachers spend a great deal of time following up with students. If an eStudents is absent, he or she is referred to the Principal and Guidance Counselor, who follow up with the eStudent and on-site eTeacher.
In 2012-2013 Credenda is expanding to offer the Credenda Online Extension Program (C.O.E.P.) to First Nations schools. This program will allow the schools to use their own teachers, on their schedules, to deliver Credenda programming. Credenda will provide licenses, resources, materials, professional development and on-site training for community-based teachers. Credenda ‘lead teachers’ will provide ongoing support and students will have full access to all the Credenda resources.
Many eStudents have commented that Credenda is a school that cares for students. The school motto is “Be the Change You Want to See” and, as such, Credenda organizes charity drives and offers a Social Responsibility course for free, as well as a Leadership course. The school feels that equipping students academically is very important, but equally as important is equipping them for life. So Credenda gets involved in their lives and reaches out to students struggling with personal issues and tries to provide the supports they need. Academically, Credenda has high expectations that are outcome-driven. To achieve these outcomes, Credenda utilizes a mastery learning approach. The school also has monthly eStudent Assemblies where they feature a career opportunity and connect it with online learning outcomes. The intent is to make learning meaningful.