Distance education in rural indigenous communities in Canada – Chris Cramer

For my final weblog, I collected resources that focus on the core of my topic: distance education in rural indigenous communities in Canada.

Research on Distance Education for First Nations/aboriginals

IRRODL (International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning), Volume 15, Number 1 is now available, for free downloading as open educational resources.

Once again, this is an invaluable resource on the latest research in open and distance learning from authors in 15 countries/regions, covering the following topics (thanks to Diane Conrad, the co-editor, for this classification of otherwise disparate articles):

  • cultural aspects (impact of DE on First Nations/aboriginal communities in Canada; community and identity in MOOCs; DE and gender in Saudi Arabia; and cultural issues affecting DE in South Korea)
  • MOOCs and OERs
  • evaluation of different technologies used in DE
  • effective teaching approaches or factors influencing this.

Altogether this journal consists of 15 articles. I will in later posts review at least some of the articles, but I want to focus this post on one paper in particular, because it deals with a particular important issue here in Canada.



The State of Aboriginal Learning in Canada: A Holistic Approach To Measuring Success

Aboriginal people in Canada have long understood the role that learning plays in building healthy, thriving communities. Despite significant cultural and historical differences, Canada’s First Nations, Inuit and Métis people share a vision of learning as a holistic, lifelong process.

Increasingly, governments, Aboriginal organizations and communities are making decisions and developing policies that reflect a better understanding and awareness of an Aboriginal perspective on learning. However, the effectiveness of these decisions still typically rely on conventional measurement approaches that offer a limited—and indeed incomplete— view of the state of Aboriginal learning in Canada.

Current measurement approaches typically focus on the discrepancies in educational attainment between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal youth (in particular, high-school completion rates) and often overlook the many aspects of learning that are integral to an Aboriginal perspective on learning. As a result, conventional measurement approaches rarely reflect the specific needs and aspirations of Aboriginal people.

This situation is not unique to Canada. In a recent report, the United Nations stated “it is of utmost importance that Governments, indigenous peoples, donors and civil society organizations work together to ensure that special [measurement] approaches are devised to coincide with the aspirations of indigenous peoples.”

Without a comprehensive understanding of Aboriginal people’s perspective on learning and a culturally appropriate framework for measuring it, the diverse aspirations and needs of First Nations, Inuit and Métis across Canada will continue to be misinterpreted and misunderstood.



Lessons Learned: Effectiveness of Courses Developed for Aboriginal Teacher Candidates Delivered at a Distance

Recent Ontario provincial and federal education policy developments propose to increase the academic success of an ever increasing number of First Nation children attending urban and First Nation schools. Key to achieving that goal is increasing the number of Aboriginal educators who are skilled in teaching that is grounded in culturally responsive and relational pedagogy. In many instances, those interested in pursuing such a career in education are limited in their ability to attend conventional teacher education programs because they live in remote communities, have familial responsibilities, and/or have limitations related to their employment. Creating and resourcing teacher education programs that consider the realities of First Nation peoples will be fundamental to achieving the goals set out by the Ontario and federal governments. This paper highlights factors that limit access to university education for First Nation peoples and presents the results of a pilot study that evaluated a unique teacher education program for Aboriginal students delivered at a distance from their home communities. The paper also discusses the opportunities and pitfalls associated with technology-mediated Aboriginal teacher education.



Digital Technology Innovations in Education in Remote First Nation

Students in many remote First Nations in Northwestern Ontario and other regions across Canada now have a choice for their education: to remain in their community with their family, close to their traditional lands and teachings, or to travel to a far-away urban environment to access an education. The choice is made possible with digital technologies that support new formal and informal educational opportunities in remote First Nations. The use of digital technologies in these special geographic environments is changing how people create and share their experiences and teachings with others (McMullen & Rorhbach, 2003; Molyneaux et al., 2014; Simon, Burton, Lockhart, & O’Donnell, 2014). This study explores how digital technology is supporting the decolonization of education in remote First Nations in Northwestern Ontario.



Post-Secondary Distance Education: Experiences of Elsipogtog First Nation Community Members

Post-secondary distance education is an option for community members living in many Atlantic First Nations. Currently several universities in New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and further afield offer distance education to community members in Elsipogtog First Nation. The course delivery is offered through videoconferencing or the web for individuals and groups in community classrooms. These courses and technologies offer both opportunities and challenges for students who choose to study in the community where they live and work.

This exploratory paper considers some of these opportunities and challenges. The discussion includes preliminary results from research based on interviews with community members of Elsipogtog First Nation in New Brunswick. Most community members interviewed had taken post-secondary courses by distance education while living and working in their community. This paper is based on an initial analysis of these interviews. The focus is their experiences of distance education, in particular with videoconferencing and online web-based course delivery systems.




Beaton, B., & Carpenter, P. (2016). Digital Technology Innovations in Education in Remote First Nations. Retrieved November 26, 2017, from http://ineducation.ca/ineducation/article/view/266/847

Lessons Learned: Effectiveness of Courses Developed for Aboriginal Teacher Candidates Delivered at a Distance (2014). Retrieved November 26, 2017, from http://www.ijede.ca/index.php/jde/article/view/798/1552

Research on Distance Education for First Nations/aboriginals, from IRRODL, Vol. 15, No. 1. (2014). Retrieved November 26, 2017, from https://www.tonybates.ca/2014/02/25/research-on-distance-education-for-first-nationsaboriginals-from-irrodl-vol-15-no-1/

Simon, J., Burton, K., Lockhart, E. & O’Donnell, S. (2012) Post-Secondary Distance Education: Experiences of Elsipogtog First Nation Community Members. Presented at the Atlantic Native Teachers Education Conference (ANTEC), Cape Breton, Nova Scotia. Retrieved November 26, 2017, from http://firstmile.ca/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/2012-Elsipogtog-ANTEC.pdf

The State of Aboriginal Learning in Canada: A Holistic Approach to Measuring Success. (2009). Retrieved November 26, 2017, from https://www.eboulearning.com/bkp-for-teachers/canadian-council-on-learning/



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