Assessing northern learning communities
Athabasca University shares in their Open magazine (Fall/Winter 2008) that they are working to bring education to northern work sites in Alberta, as with the oil and gas industry. In the first phase of this project they assessed the the barriers to learning and support systems. They took this one step further and applied the same barrier analysis to the surrounding communities that were rural, remote and isolated. In short they “needed to understand the makeup of the population and create avenues of communication for support, awareness and delivery of learning opportunities” (p.28).
However, they found they could not support all the needs and have worked to collaborate with other programs in the North such as with Keyano College.
More so, “all of these initiatives will depend on having a work belt full of the technological tools that make distance learning possible, from smart software to hand-held electronic devices on up” (p.29).
This approach could be applied to learners living in ‘rural, remote and isolated’ communities who are engaged with online learning at mainstream universities. Such assessment and accommodations would be key for these learners, increasing their ability and motivation to engage in online learning. The assessment and appropriate support would be a key service for distance programs.