|Keewaytinook Internet High School
Keewaytinook Internet High School (KiHS) is a blended learning high school in Northwestern Ontario serving on average 16 First Nation communities yearly. It was established as a pilot project in 1999 and worked with only three communities. KiHS uses e-learning as the means of delivery and also has a local teacher who works with the students in a classroom in the partner communities. Students are required to attend the classroom each day and complete online activities while getting help, clarification and direction from the local teacher. The funding for the programme is established through a nominal roll process, where formula funding comes from Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada (AANDC). KiHS claims students in the partner communities and receive funding directly from AANDC. No other funding is received for these students outside of KiHS.
KiHS developed as the First Nation chiefs recognized the need for a community-based secondary option which would help deal with issues students were facing when they had to leave their communities at sometimes as early as thirteen years of age. The resulting social implications and personal effects this had on students, families and communities made the community-based KiHS a necessary solution. In the partner communities, students now have the direct influence and guidance of family and community as they pursue secondary education.
KiHS has developed into a quality secondary programme in the territory, offering all streams of courses leading to workplace, college and/or direct entry into university after high school. Initially the programme targeted Grade 9 and 10 students as a transition programme students moving to senior high school. However, as the demand from parents and students grew for senior courses, the programme expanded to now offering about 70 secondary courses. The achievement results have continued to rise each year and we have graduated over 70 Grade 12 students with their secondary diploma since beginning to offering senior courses in 2006. Many parents and students are making KiHS their first choice for secondary education and are developing many technical and academic skills in the programme, which promotes independent thought and students taking control of their educational success.
A Model of Success
The model used at KiHS is mainly asynchronous delivery using Moodle as the learning management system. KiHS instructors develop a course that includes appropriate content for the students we work with and post lessons online. The activities are made available weekly and local teachers ensure students are moving along. The instructors are responsible for marking activities and provide feedback to students weekly on their progress. However, we use also use synchronous technology as well as video conferencing tools such as Elluminate, Adobe Connect and face-to-face mentoring with the local KiHS teachers. KiHS has a technical staff person who travels to all communities and works to make sure the connectivity and other technical needs are met with the help. An outside helpdesk is provided through Schoolnet, a federally funded internet access programme for First Nations schools in Canada.
The local community supports the programme by identifying and providing a space for the classroom as well as accommodation for the teacher. They lend any support needed from their local Education Authority and make available the local school services for gymnasium activities and maintenance support. Each community has a member present on a KiHS Steering Committee that helps guide the developing progress of the programme as we respond to changes in education provincially, as well as addressing community needs.
KiHS has been a solution for some of the issues resulting when students have had to leave First Nations communities for a secondary education. Our programme has grown and changed over the years to reflect the needs identified that will improve student achievement. KiHS is the only secondary programme in our territory to offer such a variety of courses at all grade levels and streams in the First Nation communities. The programme is also placing a secondary school in each partner community, with all the services most secondary provincial schools would have. This is a great achievement since many of the KiHS classrooms have a small number of students. Due to the presence of KiHS, the communities have more opportunity for their members to receive quality education while remaining at home—a privilege all in Canada should share.