Cubism take on E-learning Products

The e-learning program that I would like to look at is probably very familiar to everyone. I wanted to look at the WebCT platform (Blackboard) because it is really the only one that I have had any experience with. Specifically I would like to look at how it is used within our own school district (SD 27 Cariboo-Chilcotin). Two years ago our school partnered with the distance learning school in Kamloops in order to offer more options to our students so that we could retain more of them. The idea was that we would offer courses to students that perhaps had a need to do their courses electronically for a variety of reasons. Some students were looking for ways to complete their high school studies at a quicker pace, others wished to take courses that simply were not offered in our regular timetable simply because of very low enrollment (i.e. English Lit 12). Still others, for a variety of reasons, felt that they could not successfully participate in a “regular classroom”.

In terms of the cube, the market is clearly K-12 although it really is only being offered through our school at the grade 10-12 level. The actual development of the courses/program was left up to the Kamloops school district.

In terms of the global market it is fairly limited. The students accessing this resource are really only those that fall within our catchment area. Theoretically we could be offering these courses to students outside of our area. Initially there was some attempt at being the hub for the whole school district but that never really got off the ground. The advantage form our school’s point of view was an increase in FTE. This is probably why it never happened as there does seem to be some competition between schools for FTE.

The development of the local market has not been very strong. The number of students who have taken advantage of these courses has been very small. The students that I have spoken to who have attempted these courses do find that there is a disconnect because they miss the face to face interaction with an instructor and their classmates. The delay in response to their questions (via email) is another common complaint.

The integration of the technology can be somewhat problematic. It is not that unusual for a student to have no access to high speed internet at home. In some cases, students have no access to internet at all. Because of this, the students are often tied to the computers in our school. Access to computers within the school can be difficult at times because of a lack of availability.

While I might be sounding negative, I do see a positive use for this type of program. The availability of these courses to students allows us as educators to fill a niche that perhaps a traditional timetable cannot fill. Despite the alarm expressed by some of my more senior colleagues on staff when we first introduced this new program, these courses are not being offered to replace staff. Instead, they are in place to meet the needs of students who, perhaps, would not have those needs met in a regular classroom setting.

Georges Braque, Woman with a guitar, 1913

4 comments


1 davidp { 09.16.08 at 10:33 pm }

Well, this is real example of how learning technologies play out in actual markets. Thanks for presenting it, Ken.

From the info you’ve provided, I think you may have the raw material for a newer and better venture that needs further development, fueled by key learnings from this courses and insights provided in other posts from members of the class.

I see some faces of the Cube where you could add value right away to make this particular venture more successful.

Your comments on the development of the local market seem to provide openings for improvements that could be key hooks for generating student interest – like immediate response to students’ questions, telepresence tools or other strategies for upping student engagement, etc.

Others may have additional comments or insights. However, this case study could be a useful venture for development for A3. Knowing what is missing in the current iteration of the venture means you could begin to speculate on a more powerful remedy.

d.


2 Sarah Wood { 09.18.08 at 8:26 am }

Ken,

I work in Vernon and we also have the problem of smaller high schools and diminishing students enrolment. Our district is trying to run live classes where students can participate. For example, we have 2-3 students who sit in a computer lab at our school and watch the lecture live at another school. There are camera’s so our students can ask questions synchronously. What I don’t know is how (or if) students can participate in labs (if required for a science class). I have heard from the Admin that we do need “stronger” students to participate in these courses. I suppose, like your school, this might be one of the only options for these kids.

Sarah


3 Bruce Spencer { 09.20.08 at 7:29 pm }

Hello Kenneth

I have had students take online courses from Chinook College and Alberta Distance Learning and the response has been much the same as yours (students missing fac-to-face interaction, the lack of realtime response, etc.).

We used this type of learning sparingly (scheduling restraints, required to graduate) and students were only permitted to sign up for one course per semester, provided they were successful in their previous attempt.

I have to agree with Sarah, it takes a certain kind of student (i.e. disciplined) to succeed in this type of learning environment.

Incidentally, students taking courses requiring lab work (i.e. Chemistry) were sent packages with all the required materials, and were supervised by a teacher while working in the lab. This worked rather well actually.

Cheers


4 Kenneth Heales { 09.26.08 at 1:59 pm }

Thanks for the comments folks,
I agree that you definitely need to have the right frame of mind as a student if you are to be successful using online courses. I know just from my experiences in this program that it took me awhile to get used to this type of learning. I have to admit that I’m having a bit of trouble becoming used to this weblog format after having done all of my previous courses in WebCT and Vista. I think I miss the structure of how all the comments are organized in the other two programs. I’m sure that by the end of this course, though that I’ll be more comfortable here.
Cheers,
Ken

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