While online learning has fallen into the category of ‘necessary evil’ for many teachers and students, one school in Hope sees it differently.
Two Rivers Education Centre (TREC) jumped in with both feet last September with Fraser Cascade Open Learning (FCOL), knowing that while it doesn’t work for some kids, others will thrive.
“It resonates most with kids who are self-driven, and don’t require anyone outside of themselves to motivate them,” said TREC principal Margaret Smiley. “The kids that glom onto online learning have excellent work ethic, because you have to be quite disciplined and devote a certain amount of time to it daily.
“And we do see some kids like that.”
According to the FCOL website, online learning is offered to Grade 4-12 students in Fraser Cascade School District 78. Adult students who want to graduate or upgrade courses are welcome, as are students who are attending ‘brick and mortar’ schools but want to tackle additional Grade 10-12 courses online.
“There were about 12 kids on our books at the end of September, and we’re up to about 60 students now,” Smiley said. “We do have some cross-enrolling from Hope secondary and we have a few adults thrown into the mix as well. I find that very exciting because there are courses that are available online that are incredibly interesting for the kids.”
TREC recently got approval for Video Game Development 11 (see related story), curriculum that is offered through the Western Canadian Learning Network (WCLN).
Smiley said there is a course on forensics that they may pursue next.
“I would eat that up, and I’m sure the kids would as well,” she said. “What’s interesting is we’re effectively building a second school with online offerings.”
Detractors of online learning point to a lack of face-to-face interaction, and Smiley admits that can be a problem.
But not an insurmountable one.
“Even when you’re working online, you do need some personal contact, someone to question you,” she said. “It is difficult to see how things are sticking, how wheels are turning, through an email. Our teachers are Zooming with each of their kids once a week, and once a week they’re also out in their communities, so students who wish to see them in the flesh can do so.
“Zoom has its place and at the moment it is very valuable. It’s not quite the same as being mug-to-mug, but it’s better than not.”
Big picture, the question is whether online learning will endure when it’s no longer a necessity. When COVID-19 (hopefully) draws its final breath and in-person learning is no longer cause for concern, will students still want to do this?
“I believe so,” Smiley said. “There are kids and adults who would never ever have experienced anything beyond in-person learning. They’ve been exposed to this, and for some personality types, they’ve found a way to learn that’s really comfortable for them.
“Online learning may not be used as much once the pandemic is over, but I don’t think it’s ever going to fade away.”