Hutterites, Olympians among those who learn everything from science to farm safety from this virtual teacher

Whether it's high school science, farm safety or ESL, Stephanie Krammer can teach it all: the only thing missing is a classroom.

Calgarian Stephanie Krammer is just one of those teaching about 50,000 Alberta students online

Stephanie Krammer, 36, teaches from her home office in Calgary. Her students include athletes, Canadians abroad and farmers. (Falice Chin/CBC)

Whether it's high school science, farm safety or ESL, Stephanie Krammer can teach it all. The only thing missing is a classroom.

"What does that mean? Jobs can be broken into steps?" Krammer, 36, asks one of her students through a laptop in her Calgary home office.

A few seconds later, the voice of a teenage boy comes over the computer speakers to answer the question. He's learning the steps of how to complete a job safety analysis — an important lesson for a farm boy.

There's 150 kilometres of highway between them, stretched over hectares of rolling hills and grasslands. But thanks to high-speed internet, the Hutterite boy can complete his high school diploma — a first in his family.

"We have a number of Hutterite and Mennonite students who take off two months at a time to help their families with farming," Krammer told The Calgary Eyeopener in Part 1 of the radio show's series on the new virtual workforce and how traditional jobs requiring human interaction are migrating online.

"They're also expected to provide for their communities and families so school isn't always as high of a priority."

Canadians abroad and Olympians

Hutterites and Mennonites aren't the only ones enrolled in virtual learning. Krammer's other students include Canadians living abroad and Olympians.

"There's a number of circumstances," Krammer explains.

"Some students are taking Canadian courses overseas so they can get a Grade 12 Canadian diploma, which means they can get into universities in Canada much easier because they have a Grade 12 from Alberta or BC.

High-level athletes also show up in Krammer's classes from time to time.

"Some students who are training for the Olympics don't have that time to spend five days a week in a brick-and-mortar school. They have time to train, they can take their courses online, they can contact us pretty much at any time of day."

An advertisement from the Calgary Board of Education’s e-learning program. (Calgary Board of Education)

Flexibility is what makes the program successful.

50,000 students enrolled online

According to Alberta Education, about 50,000 students enrolled in online courses and programs in 2016. Many public school boards, including the Calgary Board of Education, offers fully accredited e-learning options.

Krammer says the program has really ramped up in recent years — so much so that educators are now developing a mobile system that will allow students to interact with their teachers through the tap of a smartphone.

"When I first started teaching online 10 years ago, people would question how that's even possible," said Krammer.

"It's becoming more common now. It's quite common in the States, but in Canada, it's growing and it's something that we know is needed."

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