Rural Yukon schools going online in bid to improve learning

Three more Yukon community schools are joining Watson Laken in switching to online courses. Students still attend class but complete the material at their own pace.

Three more Yukon schools are changing the way they deliver courses, following a pilot project in Watson Lake.

Yukon Education is investing in a program called blended learning. It allows students to pursue online courses offered through Moodle: an open-source website. 

The three affected schools are Robert Service School in Dawson City, Tantalus School in Carmacks and St.Elias Community School in Haines Junction. Students at these schools must still go to class but they will have the option of taking courses online to earn credits. 

Albert Trask, the Assistant Deputy Minister for Yukon public schools says the program worked well in Watson Lake last year. The school reported better-than-average attendance and more graduates.

Trask says the online model allows for more courses to be offered in communities, and also allows students to finish work at their own pace. He describes the model as changing the dynamic between teachers and students. "The traditional model is of the teacher as a sage on the stage," he says. "Now they're a guide on the side." 

Other schools could be next. 

"There has been energy and enthusiasm and passion from all stakeholders, that yes, we certainly want to be engaged in this change, in how we deliver teaching and instruction in all of the schools throughout the territory," Trask says.

Yukon Education says the change in Dawson, Carmacks and Haines Junction was preceded by visits and consultation with parents.  

Trask nevertheless cautions the program is still in its "infancy" and says "it will take two or three more years for us to take a look at data, and have a look at the success we are having."