|Wapaskwa Virtual Collegiate
Wapaskwa Virtual Collegiate (WVC) is a growing e-learning institution that targets high school First Nations students in Manitoba, Canada. Historically, educational opportunities for these students has been (and continues to be) limited due to a number of factors including:
- Different levels of funding
- Total absence of, or limited access to local secondary programming in many communities Inadequate sections of available classes
- Impromptu cancellation of small classes
- The lack of available specialty teachers and classes.
Online learning with WVC allows First Nations students from across Manitoba to access supportive teachers outside their home communities.
The Manitoba First Nations Education Resource Centre (MFNERC) first received funding under the Education Partnerships Program established by Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada, in 2009. The MFNERC took the lead in writing an educational partnership’s success story when it created the WVC. During its inaugural year, the WVC first developed one trial course to be delivered online. The WVC found a First Nations school that had three willing student participants. The trial was successful and the WVC programme was ready to expand and grow. Over the past five years, WVC offerings have grown to 20+ courses delivered to 800+ students from 13 First Nation communities. By working together, local school administrators have begun to streamline planning by moving toward common start times and class schedules, in order for students to have full access to the WVC online course timetable. Since its inception, the WVC has been working hard to gain status as a provincially accredited institution. The WVC has worked with Manitoba Education and Advanced Learning and has completed two contiguous years of courses (grades 9 and 10) as part of the initial requirements to become accredited. On November 16, 2013, the WVC became the first fully accredited e-learning institution in the province of Manitoba.
By the end of 2013-14, students will have access to most of the core courses from grades 9 to 11. The WVC plans to continue adding to its programming options through ongoing course development. The WVC is staffed with content developers, media professionals and teachers who work as a team to bring the courses to the communities. The course development process at WVC involves planning, analysis, design, development, implementation and evaluation. During the initial pilot of a course, instructors and course developers note and address deficiencies in the course content. By working together, the WVC ensures consistency and continuous improvement in the development and evaluation stages.
Model for Success
Each of the WVC courses is rich in content and available to students online 24 hours per day. Inclusion of embedded videos, animations, simulations, online links to additional sites for student reference, resource and practice have all been included as part of our course development structure. In addition to accessing the course content directory, the live classes are scheduled synchronously, in real-time during the school day, to include daily instruction, interaction and support between the provincially certified teachers and students in the communities. Many forms of communication can take place online with our Web-conferencing tool, Elluminate, which features a large whiteboard area for lessons along with live drawing tools, instant text chat, one button quick polling responses, live audio, web tours, application sharing and live camera interaction. Each live class is designed for 75 minutes of instruction per day, Monday to Friday. Teachers record each class and afterward recordings are archived, catalogued and posted as part of the content directory. Elluminate integrates smoothly with our learning management system, Desire2Learn, by allowing easy login to the live classroom and automatic postings of live daily lesson recordings. Whiteboard notes are also exportable and can be saved for later posting within Desire2Learn.
WVC enhances the academic options that are available at First Nations high schools. Due to staffing and class sizes, many classes are offered only once a year, creating potential conflicts in scheduling. Students can take online courses with WVC to enrich the course offerings by including technology applications designed to complement the subject matter. WVC courses do not require prior online course experience to participate, as there is an on-boarding programme for all new students during the first week of classes. WVC was created to help First Nations students in Manitoba access new sources of education and find new learning opportunities for students to be successful in 21st century. Moving toward the future, the WVC plans to revamp its courses by creating working models them that could be used for credit recovery programmes and summer school options.
Each year, the WVC continues to develop and add to our course calendar, thereby increasing curricular options for the students and schools we serve. This year, seven more courses will be added to the WVC course list of offerings. As the WVC grows, more communities are relying on the WVC to provide both core and optional programming. The WVC is becoming more sustainable as confidence in the programme continues to grow with renewed yearly partnerships. The options increase for community schools and the students attending these institutions. The WVC works collaboratively with the First Nations school teams by partnering at the beginning of the semester with the host schools. The MFNERC and First Nation Education Authority enter into an agreement defining how the schools will work together to provide the class(es) for the student. The WVC and home school will examine the technology at the local level. Where necessary, the WVC IT technician can visit the school to assess the school’s technology and Internet capacity. Bandwidth capacity in First Nations communities can be a limiting factor for local enrolment in WVC classes. However, the WVC can work to help streamline and allocate bandwidth with Manitoba First Nations SchoolNet. The host school must also provide a suitable physical space, a wired Internet connection, computer hardware and a school staff member to act in a facilitator role throughout the semester. The WVC will provide the online teacher, access to course content and IT desktop support, where required.