An Inside Look at Wapaskwa
On Nov. 20, 2013, MFNERC was thrilled to announce the ground breaking accreditation of Wapaskwa Virtual Collegiate. The Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) was signed with Manitoba Education and Advanced Learning for the “Operation of a Virtual Collegiate.”
MFNERC’s Executive Director, Lorne C. Keeper stated, “I am pleased to announce that Wapaskwa Virtual Collegiate (WVC) is now Manitoba’s First Accredited Virtual High School. The staff of the WVC, along with our partners at Credenda Virtual High School and Manitoba Education, have worked collaboratively to see the creation of a learning institution worthy of the twenty-first century. Our First Nations students and their provincial counterparts will now have new educational opportunities to build strong and promising futures.”
To gain a better understanding of how this news, and WVC itself, directly impacts Manitoba’s First Nations students, I had the opportunity to visit Southeast Collegiate in Winnipeg to watch the virtual classrooms in action.
While many of Wapaskwa’s students live in remote, isolated communities in Manitoba’s northern regions, in the case of Southeast Collegiate, the students have moved to Winnipeg to live and go to school. However, the school doesn’t have a large enough student population to offer certain courses, and that’s where Wapaskwa comes in.
On this particular day there are four students taking Pre-calculus and one doing Grade 9 English. Students log into their online classroom at the appointed time and wait to hear their teacher’s voice to begin the lesson. The teacher is located at MFNERC’s office and, also online, is ready to interact with students in real time via headset, microphone, chat box and Power Point presentation.
“It was hard to get used to at first,” says Grade 11 student Roman Bee. “But [WVC teacher] Ron explains things well, he always says, ‘don’t worry if you screw up, just try’ and now I’m getting much better at it.”
Education Assistant, Josh Thompson is also on hand in Southeast Collegiate’s computer lab to answer any other questions the students might have. “WVC is the perfect solution for our school because with some courses we just don’t have the student demand, but we still want to be able to offer a class like pre-cal. Now we can.” Thompson also logs into the class and follows along so he can see what the students are learning.
Students listen and watch a problem being worked though step-by-step and then tackle one on their own. “If you have a question you can just type it into the chat box for the class to see,” explains Roman. “Or you can make your question private so only Ron will see.”
“Virtual learning is challenging,” states Resource Teacher, Dorothy Wesley. “These kids know they have to take ownership and be dedicated. That if they want the credit, this is what they need to do. It takes a lot of focus and commitment.” Things Roman seems to have in abundance. His goal is to study drafting, become a carpenter or electrician, and return to his home, God’s Lake First Nation, to help build houses. And with his high grade point average and dedication, he is well on his way.
The success rate of students who complete online courses in universities across Canada is around 85%. WVC has a success rate higher than the national average. And with the popularity of online learning only increasing, and Wapaskwa’s new accredited status, even more students will be able to graduate and, like Roman, achieve their goals.