Distance learning, and that which includes education online and offline, has been growing in popularity all over the globe in the past few years. In the US, e-learning courses are now advertised on primetime television, whilst certain states offer virtual courses for secondary students who wish to specialize in other areas not on offer at their schools. In the UK, The Open University is about to celebrate its 40th anniversary, after having influenced countless other British universities to offer their own distance options. In an article at Canada.com, Avi Luxemburg describes how the phenomenon is also taking off in Canada – so why is this no surprise?
Canada’s vast area and relatively small population is no doubt the first signifier of a nation that is likely to benefit from education that is not hindered by distances and geography. However, in terms of the history in the country, schooling has developed in a way that is very similar to that of the UK. Typically children attend primary school, then move on to secondary until they are 16 – and university should they wish to afterwards. However, this is not the same throughout the country, and it is up to each province to impose its own rules for education – hence in Ontario and New Brunswick students must attend school until 18.
Luxembourg has been a teacher for almost 20 years, and is frank about the benefits of distance learning techniques. She states, “As a classroom teacher, I found that no matter how dynamic I tried to make lessons, I could not reach all students. Invariably, the lessons moved along at a perfect pace for about a third of the students, while leaving another third of the students, who simply did not learn the way I was teaching, in a lost and frustrated paralysis. The other students would simply be bored because they were “getting it” far faster than I was going.”
By incorporating e-Learning that involves independently paced and flexible working times, Luxembourg realized that those who had been left behind in the past were now turning in great work. Giving students the power to conduct their own study time has been a key to helping them, as their confidence is often improved when they are in the comfort of their own homes. Also, by allowing them to decide on their best means of learning (whether that’s coursework, essays, tests, videos, etc), students have been happier – and subsequently, better achievers.
Giving students these opportunities for learning has been called “universally developed learning” – where students are taught in the manner which is best for them, and are then able to present their own work learning in the way that is best for them. Additionally, another trend is developing too. Teachers from all round the country are beginning to pool and share their materials to benefit others. Two such schools, Arden Elementary and Lake Trail Secondary, have been posting lesson plans to setbc.org for use the world over.