Sun West Distance Learning Centre
The Sun West School Division operates 40 schools that offer K-12 educational programming. The division covers 32,000 sq. km. in south west central Saskatchewan, Canada. This is a rural school division servicing 19 communities as well as 17 Hutterite Colonies with an approximate total of 5,140 students enrolled for the 2016-2017 school year.
In an attempt to bring equitable educational programming to rural students, the Sun West School Division began developing and delivering high school distance education courses in 2007. Initially, synchronous audio-visual broadcasts were delivered over the internet by three teachers housed in the Kenaston School. In January 2016 the Sun West School Division built and opened a 15,600 sq. ft. stand alone Distance Learning Centre in Kenaston, Saskatchewan with a capacity of housing 100 staff. As of September 1, 2016, there are approximately 70 full time staff in the Distance Learning Centre including about 55 teachers delivering over 130 asynchronous online courses to students in grades K through 12. There are over 700 full time online students (many of which used to be home schooled students) and approximately another 4,000 asynchronous online courses delivered to students throughout Sun West School Division schools and other students across the province of Saskatchewan.
The Sun West School Division hired, trained and placed Educational Assistants in all non-Hutterite schools with the expressed purpose of supervising students who are taking an online course from the Distance Learning Centre. This practice has elevated student success rates in online programs to between 75-95%. Over the past four years the Sun West School Division has also been implementing blended learning environments in division schools. Numerous supports have been provided to teachers in an attempt to change their teaching pedagogy and render them “activators” of learning. All Sun West School Division teachers have open access to all Distance Learning Centre courses K-12. This practice helps support the implementation of blended learning and specifically promotes the use of project based learning practices.
Sun West School Division teachers quickly realized the extreme value that technology and Distance Learning Centre supported programming provided them in implementing personalized learning. The convergence of three types of learning: 1) Online; 2) Blended; and, 3) Personalized have created a new reality for learning in Sun West. This is the “Personalized electronically Blended Learning (PeBL) journey that Sun West School Division schools are pursuing. The Distance Learning Centre is now focusing on disaggregating online programs that will provide a more themed based approach to online digital resources for students and teachers in the Sun West School Division. For more information on the Distance Learning Centre please go to http://www.sunwestdlc.ca