Long-distance learning
Kakisa student among NWT online pioneers

Derek Neary
Northern News Services

Kakisa (May 05/00) - Terry Simba spends an hour each day in front of a computer taking a Northern studies course with an instructor she has never met in Norman Wells.

Since February Simba, a Grade 10 student at Kakisa Lake school, has been one of approximately a dozen NWT students involved in a pilot project that could lead to "virtual classrooms" becoming a reality in the North.

"You don't have a teacher to talk to. It's all about independence on this course," said Simba. "You don't have someone to rely on to help you."

Weekly assignments are due each Friday and when Simba has questions, she e-mails her teacher, Jill Taylor, and usually receives a response by the following day, she said. She has also met her cyber-classmates through e-mail.

"We all get along pretty good," she said.

The course has taught her a great deal about respect for the land and elders, she added.

"I've learned a lot from it. It gives you a lot of information," she said.

Software for the course was sent to Kakisa Lake school and participating schools in Hay River, Yellowknife, Norman Wells and Aklavik. Course materials and reference material, including Internet links to Web sites with information relevant to Northern studies, was then downloaded onto a school computer.

"This pilot project is the first step in developing a network which will give students access to classes which will earn them extra credits toward their high school diploma in their home community," Education Minister Jake Ootes said in a press release.

"This concept is a winning combination because both students and teachers communicate via the computer, so it no longer matters where they live."

An assessment of the pilot program is planned for June.

Simba said she would like to take similar courses in the future, on different subjects of course.