Wapaskwa Virtual Collegiate
|The Wapaskwa Virtual Collegiate (WVC) is a virtual high school servicing the First Nations communities within Manitoba. WVC was established under the Education Partnerships Program in 2009, funded by the federal Department of Indian and Northern Affairs, as a consortium project for all Manitoba First Nations. The need for WVC was identified by the Education Directors of the Manitoba First|
Nations, and the online school began delivering courses, as a part of an initial pilot project, in the spring of 2010.
There are 19 First Nations schools providing grades 9-12 courses to students seeking to meet the graduation requirements in the Province of Manitoba. In most locations, high schools are unable to offer a full compliment of courses, primarily due to insufficient staffing and high costs associated course in the sciences. These limitations require First Nations schools to offer their courses in a specific sequence in two or three year rotations. With limited ability to repeat courses, particularly in grade 12, it often hinders a students’ ability to graduate on schedule. Without the capacity for students to have a second chance to take these courses, the graduation rates cannot achieve parity with those of larger schools. Additionally, the unavailability of trade prerequisite courses places the students in an economically disadvantaged position.
The principal purpose of the WVC is the to ensure equal opportunity for success for First Nations learners. With the support of and in partnership with Credenda Virtual High School (in Saskatchewan) and Manitoba Department of Education, the WVC acts as an e-learning service provider to First Nations operated K-12 schools in Manitoba. The experience of being a novice e-learning institution over the past year has been a challenging one, as WVC played dual roles as both course developer(s) and online teacher(s). As course developers, the task was to provide an interactive program for a blended presentation. The programme was required to develop courses that provided engaging learning opportunities, through links to online learning activities and assessment that appealed to the different learning styles of students. These learning options needed to be utilised by the instructor(s) during synchronous sessions on Elluminate and by the student(s) using the asynchronous material on the Desire2Learn management system. As instructors, the most important information gained through the initial pilot course was the need to build a strong relationship between the student and instructor. WVC was fortunate to have opportunities to meet the students and visit them in them at their local school. Providing a variety of opportunities for feedback to students in the blended program was essential for establishing that positive working relationship. For example, using the chat, discussion board, e-mail and verbal communication during the daily synchronous Elluminate sessions.
Although WVC was successful at providing assessment feedback in a timely manner, our greatest challenge was encouraging students to complete assignments in a timely manner. The staff and students look forward for their second round of piloting, having survived the many challenges of this new experience during its first year.