In 1999 an e-learning project was initiated to offer quality educational services to small schools in English-language Boards throughout the Province of Quebec. Even though online learning was very popular in the eastern and western provinces, it was practically unheard of in the province of Quebec – even at the post secondary level. Most recognized online learning programs utilize an asynchronous delivery mode, which raised concerns since research indicated that unless a student was an independent learner they were usually unsuccessful. A focus on secondary students, along with political issues and the lack of qualified online teachers for the Quebec education program, forced the project organizers to look for an innovative online alternative that was familiar “brick and mortar school”. The team focused on a synchronous model with asynchronous support to deliver primarily mathematics and science courses.
|Learn Quebec has evolved somewhat since the initial project, but it has retained both its focus on math and science, and its synchronous model consisting of a multi-point synchronous VOIP system with white board applications. Because of the platform’s ability with low bandwidth, it is ideal for the restrictive connectivity issues encountered by many of the receiver schools. The addition of an open source learning management system (i.e., SAKAI) has provided supplementary communication tools that enhance interaction outside of the classroom and permit the transmission of documents between students and teachers. This enhanced model is also being used for evening homework
tutorials (i.e., SOS Learn), which were made available to all English students across Quebec. All resources produced for online classes have also been uploaded to a provincial LMS, making the archived material accessible to all educators and students.
Online teachers are experienced regular classroom instructors, who receive ongoing online professional development. The use of constructivist’s techniques, which incorporates best practices, encourages students to become independent learners. For example, the use of the screen grab and direct web access in the platform bring current material directly to the student. Math teachers, such as Audrey McGoldrick and Peggy Drolet, combine synchronous guidance with asynchronous activities and research to work through math problems online and during independent work periods. Whiteboard tools are used to engage the learner to solve these problems and work with classmates. Science teachers, such as Andy Ross, Kerry Cule and Tamara Vaughan, user video to demonstrate labs and, in turn, have students demonstrate their work to other learners. Through these different activities, these online teachers encourage students to learn but also become knowledge providers as they work in peer sessions and share their discoveries with their classmates and their instructors.
In 2009 a research study was presented to the Quebec Ministry of Education that examined student performance from the previous nine years. The results indicated that online students’ performance was comparable and, in many instances, better than the provincial levels and scores.