N.W.T. students attend high school by videoconference

Some students in the Beaufort Delta region of the N.W.T. are taking high school courses in Inuvik from the comfort of their home communities.

Pilot program underway in Tuktoyaktuk and Fort McPherson

A pilot program is offering some high school courses through video conferencing for students in Tuktoyaktuk and Fort McPherson, N.W.T. (Chris Gilmour)

Some students in the Beaufort Delta region of the N.W.T. are taking high school courses in Inuvik from the comfort of their home communities.

It's part of a pilot program to try video conferencing for some academic courses for students in Tuktoyaktuk and Fort McPherson.

Grade 10 student Sherry Gruben is one of a handful of students taking academic courses at Mangilaluk school in Tuktoyaktuk. She said the prospect of leaving home to go to high school in Inuvik is a tough one. 

"If I go there I might be getting too distracted or not paying attention in class," she said. "I could stay here, having three or four of us in class, and pay attention."

Sherry’s English teacher is in Inuvik. Students see the class on large monitor and can ask the teacher questions.

Alex Storino, a guidance counsellor at Mangilaluk School, said using online tools in high school helps prepare students for online research and courses in college or university and those skills will help students who want to continue living in remote communities.

"Some of my students have one foot in modernity and the other in a traditional life," he said.

"I think the internet and e-learning will allow these to become whole; help these children become adults using communications technology in ways where they can help the rest of the people in their community... At the same time living on and off the land in a way their parents and grandparents may have done."

Storino uses a Facebook group to send out his assignments and generate discussions for his courses.

He said it's helpful to connect and engage students in a medium where they're already spending a great deal of time.

"Really what this is doing is trying to put all of our schools on a level playing field," said Chris Gilmour with the Beaufort Delta Education Council in Inuvik.

He said it's a challenge to offer high school courses in small communities because those classes require specific skills sets of teachers.

"What we wanted to do is to cut back on the number of split level classes at the high school and provide an opportunity for kids to stay in their home communities for part of their high school years."

The program began three years ago through teleconferencing. This year the education council began working with Northwestel to incorporate video.

Gilmour said he hopes the number of courses offered through e-learning can be expanded, and Sherry Gruben said she'll be sticking with it.

"If I want to be a choreographer, I'm going to have to have my education," she said. "If I'm going to be a lawyer or doctor or anything that comes to mind, I'm going to have to have my education."