Ken’s A3 Post

I seem to be having considerable difficulty posting this thing.  I’m going to paste my assignment in the post because I did it in Word and cannot seem to figure out how to attach it.  If anyone has any suggestions I’ll gladly repost it.

Cheers,

Ken

Venture Pitch:

Guided Online Aboriginal Learning (GOAL) Program:

Student Success Through a Community Centred Approach

Ken Heales

Ventures in Learning Technology

ETEC 522

Submitted to: Dr. David Vogt

November 23, 2008

Introduction

There is a market for a distance education program for First Nations students that will allow them to complete their high school education in their home community instead of having to move to a larger community where they do not have the social and family support networks in place to facilitate a greater level of academic success.  First Nations students in B.C. have a much lower high school completion rate as is evidenced by the B.C. Ministry of Education report on Aboriginal education titled, “Aboriginal Report 2002/03 – 2006/07: How Are We Doing?“.  This report shows that in the 2006-2007 school year, only 49% of First Nations students completed high school compared to 83% of non-First Nations students.  These numbers have remained consistent over the past five years of the report going from a low of 47% in 2002/2003 to a high of 50% in 2004/2005 and 2005/2006.  The graduation rates of non-First Nations students have also remained consistent over the same period, ranging from 82% to 84% (B.C. Ministry of Education, 2007).  There is clearly a gap in the educational needs being met by the public education system between First Nations and non-First Nations students.

The Guided Online Aboriginal Learning (GOAL) program presented here is designed to improve the graduation rates for First Nations students so that they would be able to experience more success academically and continue on to higher education, allowing many to improve their socioeconomic status.  Leaving their home communities has often had a detrimental effect on First Nations students.  Cora Voyageur’s (2001) observation about First Nations post-secondary students could easily be applied to First Nations secondary school students, “Students who were forced to leave the community to attend postsecondary institutions often dropped out before completion for many reasons including loneliness, intimidation, and an alien, competitive environment.” (p. 104).  Our program will allow these students to remain at home where they can maintain the support network that they have grown up with.

There have been many distance education courses offered to First Nations communities in the past, but most have failed for a variety of reasons.  As McMullen and Rohrbach (2003) point out:

We have been continually told that our students have failed distance education courses. We contend that in many cases distance education courses have consistently failed the student. Too many distance education courses that did not consider the needs of the student or the environment in which the course was delivered have been sold to communities. (p. 6)

Most distance education courses have been developed with a one size fits all attitude.  The reality is that the educational needs of First Nations students are very diverse and require cultural and environmental considerations.  There are several barriers to be addressed to allow for success with any distance education program targeting First Nations students.  These include:

…the costs of delivery, the effects of politics and the perception that distance education is a second-rate option compared to face-to-face delivery. Barriers encountered also included the continued lack of access to reliable technology in remote communities and the failure to research and adapt the course material and delivery methods to the unique needs of remote Aboriginal students. (McMullen and Rohrbach, 2003, p. 8)

The GOAL program presented here would address these issues so that there is a greater opportunity for student success in remote First Nations communities.  By tailoring our product to the needs of First Nations students and their communities, we feel that we can improve First Nation student success in completing secondary school.

What is GOAL?

GOAL refers to Guided Online Aboriginal Learning.  The idea behind this product is that too often in the past, any attempt at educating First Nations students by distance education was defeated by the very design of the product.  There was little, if any, consultation with the community that the product was being marketed to.  Often, the lack of success experienced by students was blamed upon the students themselves without any real attempt being made to look into why those students were not experiencing success.  There is a need to restructure the education system where it is applied to First Nations students so that there is more relevant content delivered in a more meaningful manner for, as Wotherspoon and Butler (1999) point out, “…the conventional education system remains ill-equipped to overcome high rates of Aboriginal failure and dropout due to the lack of Aboriginal content, cultural curricula, and personnel” (p. 4).  GOAL proposes to start with consultation with each individual community to find out what the needs and expectations of the community are.  Once that information is obtained, GOAL will develop the curricular program which will best suit the needs of the individual communities.

GOAL is an educational program that will be delivered online and meet the requirements of the B.C. Ministry of Education.  Within those requirements there is enough flexibility to allow for First Nations content.  For example, the B.C. Ministry of Education has just recently introduced an alternative to English 12 called English 12 First Peoples.  They also have developed the course, B.C. First Nations Studies 12, which can take the place of Social Studies 11.   As well, where possible, First Nations content will be included in course materials so that First Nations students experience learning relevant to their context rather than learning material with which they cannot identify.

Who Will Benefit From the GOAL Program?

The GOAL program will be best suited for those communities that have benefitted from Industry Canada’s implementation of broadband internet access in remote communities. This is provided via satellite connection and has been in place for several years in communities such as Nemiah Valley in B.C.’s Chilcotin region.  Nemiah Valley is an excellent example of how the implementation of a broadband satellite connection can open up new opportunities for a remote community, even one like Nemiah Valley where the only power available is individual generators.  Nemiah Valley currently is home to about 200 people and their children have to travel three hours to Williams Lake in order to complete grades 10-12.  During the week, these students must live in a dormitory in a city where they have not grown up, usually without any sort of support network in place that they are familiar with.  It is not surprising then, to find out that many of these students do not experience success at the secondary school level.

With the access to a broadband satellite connection, GOAL can provide quality, relevant educational programs to the students of the community so that they can remain in their home community and complete their secondary education.  The lack of educational success of their children is a very real concern for the members of these communities.  GOAL can provide them with the opportunity to have their children remain with them for the duration of their secondary school education.  This way, they will be able to provide their children with the support and care that they find sorely lacking when they are shipped off to an unfamiliar community setting.

Another factor that will make GOAL appealing to First Nations communities is the ability of the communities to have input into the format and content of the GOAL program.  This will make the community a stakeholder in the success of the GOAL program as they will have a vested interest in that success.  The opportunity to collaborate in the development of the content of the curriculum gives the community and, by extension, the students, ownership of the program.  Too often in the past, First Nations communities have had various educational programs imposed upon them with little or no input allowed or expected.  The GOAL program will not operate successfully without that collaborative element between the company and the community.

How Will the GOAL Program Work?

The GOAL program will offer courses in an online format.  The GOAL program will work in conjunction with the individual Band education committee and/or the local School District to put the proper support network in place in terms of instructors and IT support.  Where possible, tutors on site will be preferable to tutors residing in another community.  Instructors are contracted out, either from a school board or in conjunction with a school board.  It is important that the availability of the instructors be made very clear to both the students and the instructors from the outset.  The ability to access their instructors will be important to the students as they do not want to feel like they are not being heard.

One of the larger issues in regards to First Nations education is the imposition of deadlines on assignments and course completions.  Too often, in the traditional school setting, First Nations students get behind in their work and then feel helpless when they feel that they cannot catch up.  The reality for many of these students is that the pace they learn at is not necessarily governed by the calendar.  Many Aboriginal communities place great importance on familial and cultural events, some of which can take up a considerable amount of time.  McMullen and Rohrbach (2003) argue that programs which do not allow for this type of flexibility will only prevent student success in Aboriginal communities, “…adhering to strict course delivery schedules that do not allow for community ceremonies such as funerals and cultural events does not allow for the dynamics of remote Aboriginal communities” (p. 63).  To this end, the GOAL program would allow for flexibility in course completion.  If a student does not complete a course within an allotted time frame like a semester, they will not be punished with a failing grade and then face the reality of starting a course over the next year.  Instead, they will be allowed to continue on from where they left off.  This way, they will be able to see themselves successfully completing courses and, ultimately, graduating from high school.

Who Will Pay for GOAL?

There are potentially three partners that could be interested in providing funding for the GOAL program.  First, the individual Band councils will have an interest in providing this service for their children so that they can experience an increased rate of success.  At the moment, they are watching their children being sent off to schools away from their community and seeing only roughly half of their children experiencing success.  Another potential partner is the individual school districts who are currently providing education programs for First Nations students.  Many school districts are making the success rates of their First Nations students a priority.  The GOAL program would offer them that opportunity.  Finally, the federal government would probably be interested as well as they also have an interest through Indian Affairs in seeing student success rates increase for First Nations students.

The cost benefit of the GOAL program will make it attractive for all parties involved.  The band will have a greater say in how their children are educated and will have a greater opportunity for their children to remain in their home community as adults with credentials that they can then use to contribute in their home community.  The individual school districts can combine greater success rates with a lower cost of service delivery as they will not have to transport and house these students for several years of their schooling.  The federal government will hopefully see more First Nations students becoming successful adults, thus requiring less social care from the federal government over the long term.  The long term cost benefit of the GOAL program is not only measured in dollars but in long term community development as well.

How Will the GOAL Program Measure Success?

There will obviously be a transitional phase for students as the GOAL program is implemented in their home community.  The program would be best implemented with a cohort of grade 10 students first and then add grades 11 and 12 in each of the following years.  The goal is to take those students who are enrolled in the GOAL program and have them graduate at a rate higher than is presently occurring with First Nations students who have been shipped out of their home community to complete their high school education.  If the GOAL program can improve First Nation student high school graduation rates by 20-25%, then it will be considered a success with the intention of improving even further on those numbers over the long term.  The ultimate target is to have First Nations students graduating from high school at a rate that is comparable to non-First Nations students.

EVA Analysis of the GOAL Program

From an EVA perspective there are several questions that need to be addressed before the GOAL program can be considered for implementation.  One of the most important factors to consider will be the reliability of the broadband network in each community.  It will be important to make sure that the network that has been installed will be able to consistently deliver service so that the First Nations students are not left without a connection to their courses and instructors.  If the broadband connection can be shown to be reliable then the issue of provision of service can be considered adequately addressed.  Another issue will be IT support for the actual computers to be used by the students in their home community.  Will they be operating from home or will the computers be provided for them in a central location within the community?  If they will be operating from a central location, will IT support be on site or will a technician need to be sent out from another location?  The continued reliable operation of the computers on site will be as important as the reliability of the broadband connection.

The actual curriculum provided by the GOAL program would have to be in line with the standards set out by the B.C. Ministry of Education so that the students would be receiving an equivalent level of education as those students attending public schools in other communities.  Also, the First Nations content included within the curriculum package of the GOAL program needs to be relevant to specific cultural groups as there is a great deal of cultural diversity between First Nations groups.

Probably most importantly, the GOAL program will have to demonstrate that the result will justify the investment.  There will have to be appreciable positive change in the number of First Nations students achieving graduation.  This will have to be tracked and reported back to the stakeholders so that they can consider whether or not to continue.  There is not just a financial investment at stake with the implementation of the GOAL program; there is also the education of First Nations youth at stake.  The GOAL program will have to prove that it is providing a better educational alternative to having students leave home to attend school.

Conclusion

The GOAL program offers First Nations students living in remote communities the opportunity to complete their high school education without having to leave home and attend school in unfamiliar surroundings.  It is the belief of the GOAL program that First Nations high school completion rates can be dramatically improved through the use of GOAL.  The obvious need for an improved form of educational delivery to these students means that there will be a receptive market for this product.  The inclusion of the First Nations communities in the development of the curricular material will help to promote ready acceptance of the GOAL program by these communities. With the successful implementation of the GOAL program in select remote First Nations communities, others will then be solicited for the option of implementing the GOAL program.  The large number of remote First Nations communities combined with the increasing availability of broadband internet access through Industry Canada creates a rapidly growing market that is not currently being serviced.

The GOAL program has the potential to grow over several years as more students are enrolled in the program and experience a greater degree of success.  The expansion of the GOAL program to more remote First Nations communities will allow the company to grow and expand to possibly offer an educational program for other groups outside of British Columbia and Canada.  The GOAL program, if implemented properly, can provide both financial benefit for the company as well as social and educational benefit for the students and communities involved.

References

British Columbia Ministry of Education, Aboriginal Report 2002/03 – 2006/07: How are we doing? (2007). Retrieved November 16, 200, from http://www.bced.gov.bc.ca/abed/performance.htm.

First Nations Education Council, School District 73 (Kamloops/Thompson), British Columbia (n.d.). Improving school success for First Nations students. Retrieved November 15, 2008 from  http://www.bced.gov.bc.ca/abed/readings/iss/toc.htm.

McMullen, Bill & Rohrbach, Andreas.  (2003).  Distance education in remote Aboriginal communities:  Barriers, learning styles and best practices.  Prince George, British Columbia: College of New Caledonia Press.

Perley, S.  & O’Donnell, S. (2006). “Broadband video communication research in First Nation communities,” presented at the Canadian Communication Association Annual Conference, York University, Toronto.  National Research Council of Canada.  Retrieved October 01, 2008 from, http://www.iit-iti.nrc-cnrc.gc.ca/iit-publications-iti/docs/NRC-48745.pdf

Voyageur, Cora J. (2001). Ready, Willing and Able: Prospects for Distance Learning in Canada’s First Nations Community; Journal of Distance Education, 16(1), 102-112.

Wotherspoon, T. & J. Butler. (1999) Informal learning: Cultural experiences and entrepreneurship among Aboriginal people, NALL Working Paper #04 -1999. Retrieved November 15, 2008 from, http://www.oise.utoronto.ca/depts/sese/csew/nall/res/04informallearning.pdf

7 comments


1 Susan Wilson { 11.23.08 at 7:20 pm }

Use the little * beside the “add media” at the top right corner of your window when posting.


2 Gillian Gunderson { 11.26.08 at 3:18 pm }

Hello, Ken:

You have clearly described the problem with Aboriginal youth not having the support in place to be successful at graduating. In addition, you have laid out the solution in general terms by mention the use of an online program, and showing how it could benefit the students and communities that would be involved. I get the sense that you have a passion about, and a deep understanding of, the issues.

The market is described in your pitch. I wonder whether there are other markets (perhaps worldwide?) that could benefit from a program that is developed in the same manner. In many niche areas, top-down models don’t work as there is a lack of awareness of what is happening in the “reality” of the situation. Other markets would create increased incentive to get involved. You have detailed the possible barriers (Internet access, technology support, etc.), showing that you have a very good understanding of what could prevent the program from being successful.

On the other hand, it is unclear what your role is in the venture. Are you trying to get a company involved in the development of courses but then to back out of the actual development? Your understanding of the issues is important for success of the program, but if you’re not involved how would this aspect be assured?

I’m not sure that I see evidence of an actual business model. You state that the courses should be developed, but there is no sense of the associated costs for development. You do note three possible partners for the program, but you mention “the company” at the end of your pitch without giving further details about what the expectations for possible returns for the company would be.

Overall, you have an interesting idea in an area of need. I would like to hear more details about the costs of getting involved with this venture. As a company that may be interested in developing courses, I would want to know more information about potential returns.

Thanks for letting me view your venture.

Gillian


3 Joe Dobson { 11.26.08 at 10:05 pm }

Hi Ken,

You clearly identify a gap in the existing education market – and one that is critical to fill from many perspectives. Some of the key aspects of GOAL you describe such as the flexibility of finishing dates and tailoring the program make a lot of sense.

When you discuss some of the issues, you note IT as one and this is a tricky aspect. Cost, support and related issues are not easily answered in this and this creates some questions from an EVA perspective. Perhaps other options such as satellite internet exist. Also, as a DE program it would be helpful if you discussed some of the platforms that would be used to deliver courses online. That would make it clearer in terms of degree of interactivity and support possible. I also wonder about the dropout rate – having students study in their home communities is logical, but as they’re in the K-12 system how would other critical support be provided (e.g. counseling)?

As a concept this makes a lot of sense, and with more details in terms of timelines, and delivery methods it would be strengthened.

Good luck,
Joe


4 Bryan Funk { 11.26.08 at 11:33 pm }

Hi Ken.

You have clearly identified the market as Joe and Gillian have also mentioned, you have identified the problems within the market that your company is addressing and have done a good job of explaining your solution to the problem.

I am left wondering how how much investment/funding that you are looking to secure. You have identified one specific community that would work as an area to pilot this idea but what stage are you in this development. It does not seem as though you will need to reinvent the wheel completely as you will be building on the existing B.C. curriculum for the courses but there will be time and manpower required to find out what the community needs are and then building that into existing and new courses.
You also mentioned that an area of concern would be the infrastructure and support of the program within the community. One of the big challenges that public education already has is finding staff that understand aboriginal education and keeping those qualified staff working in remote communities for extended periods of time.

I think that there is great merit in what you propose and perhaps by targeting one small community and securing government funding to fund a pilot in this community might not be so far off. The aboriginal community is becoming skeptical of investing their own money into programs that continue to be ineffective so a successful trial run would go a long way to securing revenue from sources other that the government. There is incredible incentive and will within the government to start to produce significant progress in aboriginal education and as an educator I think you have hit the perverbial “nail on the head” with GOAL.


5 Joey Dabell { 11.28.08 at 10:24 am }

Your paper has done a great job of identifying your market, the problem, and how you propose to provide a solution. You’ve also clearly identified the challenges the project would face, especially the access and infrastructure issues. I would like to better understand where this project is positioned in the marketplace – for example what distinguishes it from existing programs. One of the key issues you have identified is ensuring that you are able to provide a balance of content that meets government requirements while respecting diverse cultural needs. You have also identified that one of your biggest challenges will be justifying funding. It could be that Band and School Districts buy-in may end up being a little uneven as far as which groups you attract. Some bands/districts will have more or less money and some are going to be more or less willing to spend on your venture. Perhaps industry sponsorship might help to get your project a more even coverage? Maybe one of the infrastructure or service providers, or perhaps including some government grant funding might also help? You have clearly put a lot of thought into your venture and there is great potential here for an important project.

Best in going forward with things.


6 nancy castonguay { 11.29.08 at 11:45 pm }

Hi Ken. Seems like a great idea and well worthwhile. I think the most significant part of GOAL is participatory nature of curriculum development. This would surely poke the interest of both governments and First Nations’ groups.


7 Kenneth Heales { 11.30.08 at 5:00 pm }

Hi Folks,
Thanks for all of the comments. Your criticisms were certainly valid and appreciated. The issue of First Nations graduation rates is something that I have been concerned about for awhile now as I have spent many years working with First Nations students and I have seen firsthand the obstacles they have faced to be successful in school. I think something like this could be successful but they are definitely areas of the proposal that would have to be revised and expanded upon. Once again, thanks for the feedback. All the best in your future courses.
Cheers,
Ken

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