Aurora Virtual School (AVS) has been providing online education for grades 8-12 in Yukon Territory for the past five years. We have seen significant growth in our program and the success of providing synchronous and asynchronous options to students across the territory. This is especially evident for those living in remote rural areas. Schools in our smaller and remote communities are coming to recognize the value of the additional opportunities their students can have when they include AVS into their programming planning. Schools with limited human resources are now able to offer their students a much expanded course selection by providing supervised blocks of time for students to take online courses while capitalizing on the strengths of the in-house staff. As a result, their students have more opportunities for post-secondary plans.
Our goal is to provide a caring and supportive environment where students can realize broader course selection and personal success in attaining their learning goals. Relationships are essential in any learning environment and perhaps more so in an online program. Offering a synchronous, cohort-based option increases the opportunities for developing these critical relationships. One of the benefits of our program, that isn’t often talked about, is the relationship that develops between students from disparate locations across the territory who are taking online courses. Students who take our courses synchronously are often more successful than those who participate asynchronously because, as we become a community of learners, we are able to teach and learn through the sharing of stories and experiences and engage in learning together. We are building a community in our online classroom where students are able to form new connections and see how their peers live in their respective communities. With the capability of moving into virtual break-out rooms and collaborating outside of class time, students are also able to brainstorm and work together on projects and assignments just like they would in a brick-and-motor school. Students tell us they feel more comfortable sharing stories or answering questions online because they can be who they really are without the fear of judgement and other social pressures found in typical school environments.
The successes that we have experienced at AVS, as well as the set-backs, have given us the confidence to expand our programing goals to include the development of K – 7 programs to support the diverse needs of students living in Canada’s North. We hope to unveil grade 1 – 4 options in the 2019-20 school year.