Credenda Virtual High School

Credenda Virtual High School is a First Nation online school that uses Elluminate to deliver primarily synchronous learning. Since 2005 Credenda has grown to accommodate approximately 500 eStudents over the school year, both First Nations and Non-First Nations, from around the Province of Saskatchewan. Our approach to online learning is a team effort for eStudents that provide built in supports from Credenda 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 a 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 of the teacher’s experiences are unique to the individual teacher. Depending on the level of interaction they insist upon with their eStudents, each experience is different. However, it should be said that it takes a very special teacher to teach online. It is not a matter of transferring regular brick-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 their head on the desk and is having 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 Nation 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 eStudent is absent, they are referred to the Principal and Guidance Counselor who follow up with the eStudent and on-site eTeacher.

Many of 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 organises 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 try to provide the supports they need. Academically, Credenda has high expectations that are outcomes driven. To achieve these outcomes, Credenda utilises a mastery learning approach. The school also has monthly eStudent Assemblies where they feature a career opportunity and connect it with their online learning outcomes. The intent is to make learning meaningful.