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									             A not so quick look at the cyber school.




Darren Cannell B.Phed. H.B.Phed. B.Ed. M.D.Ed. Doctoral Cadidate
It‘s nine o‘clock, the bell rings; students enter the classroom filled with rows of computers.

They sit and take out their paper notebook; they are not allowed to turn on the computers until

they have completed the note taking. The notes are displayed on the overhead in a large black

and white font. A few years ago, the Sage on the stage created the overhead notes for this

introduction to computing called Information Processing. The resources for the daily content

are products of the teacher‘s brain and a textbook. The students tend to ask the all too

common single question ―Will this be on the test?‖ The students do rote memorization of the

facts from their notes to pass the weekly tests. According to Fulton (1989, pg. 12),

"Classrooms of today resemble their ancestors of 50 and 100 years ago much more closely

than do today's hospitals operating rooms, business offices, manufacturing plants, or scientific

labs." ―If you put a doctor of 100 years ago in today's operating room, she would be lost, yet

if you placed a teacher of 100 years ago into one of today's classrooms she wouldn't skip a

beat. ― (Molebash 1999) This class is not an exception even though it is a computer

classroom; the transfer of information was still done in the traditional fashion.


      One Friday the teacher entered the classroom early to prepare for the upcoming class.

The information processing class was scheduled to begin in about thirty minutes. Putting the

overhead on the projector, the teacher attempted to turn it on only to discover the bulb was

burnt out. As he prepared to venture to the office to get another bulb he started to think about

the classroom, his ability to make web pages and how the computer might be a better way to

give the student their notes. So, in the remaining thirty minutes before the class began, he

quickly took the day‘s notes and placed them into a website. He wrote the URL for the daily
notes on the board and when the class entered they were told to turn on their computers and

go to the URL and copy down the notes. This was the beginning of the first online course in

the division. Over the next couple of weeks, the teacher created notes, then tried a test online

and in time transferred his approach to teaching and a complete course was created.


      Education needs to reflect the reality of the students living in the information age.

That burnt out overhead was the catalyst for the creation of the first online course and a

proposal to develop other courses and in time has grown into the largest Cyber School in

Saskatchewan. The Saskatoon Catholic Cyber School (SCCS) is an attempt to answer the

challenge of transforming education to welcome the Digital Natives and information age.

This attempt requires the ‗Sage on the Stage‘ approach be transformed into Guide on the Side.

(McKenzie, 1998) ‗Digital Immigrant‘ teachers can continue to think that it is possible with a

dated system of education to compete within the four walls of our face to face school with the

information age which is a reality to the ―Digital Natives‖. An information age with

connected students having instant information, communication, multimedia and entertainment

and social networking tools is a new era that no teacher can realistically compete with using

the current education approaches. In the past technology has been used as a supplement to

education. As teachers get more comfortable with technology it becomes a support for

education but until it becomes integrated with education we will not be preparing the students

for their world. We need to connect to our students and connect them to their world.


      Levin and Arafeh (2002) best describe the catalyst for this progressive initiative:

"Nonetheless, students themselves are changing because of their use of and reliance on the

Internet. They are coming to school with different expectations, different skills, and different
resources. In fact, our most Internet-savvy students told us their schools, teachers and peers

are at times frustratingly illiterate, naïve, and even afraid of the online world. Indeed, students

who rely on the Internet for school--who cannot conceive of not using it for their schoolwork-

-may ultimately force schools to change to better accommodate them" (p. 25).


      Levin and Arafeh (2002) point out ‖Many schools and teachers have not yet recognized

- much less responded to - the new ways students communicate and access information over

the Internet‖ (p. iii). They are the wired world children. They have grown up surrounded by

TV, mobile phones, computers and the Internet. ―These children have new needs, new

capabilities, new capacities; they are significantly different in nature from children born

before the existence of the 'wired' world‖ (Dudfield, 2003 (Ottenberg, 1994) ¶ 1). The Media

Awareness Group (2000) found that ―Of the Canadian families surveyed, 82% say they have

used the Internet, and 73% report they have Internet access in the home‖ (p.8). The business

community had started to recognize the need for students to acquire Internet skills as stated in

the Report of the Canadian E-business Opportunities Roundtable (2001). ―Much of our

attention today is focused on attracting and retaining the existing pool of e-talent, while not

enough focus on cultivating the next generation of e-talent. Internet literacy - the foundation

skill for e-business acumen - must be laid in elementary, secondary and post-secondary

institutions across Canada‖ (p.20).


      The Greater Saskatoon Catholic Schools is the environment in which the largest and

most successful Cyber School in the province was developed. The Greater Saskatoon

Catholic School System is an urban, publicly funded school division in the largest city in

Saskatchewan, Canada
       The SCCS is a sub-system of the Greater Saskatoon Catholic School System. ―every

part's worth does not simply depend upon its role in its localized subsystem; it also depends upon

its relationships with the rest of the parts, subsystems, and the entire system as well as its

relationships with potential parts that are not yet (but could be) part of the system as well as the

past history and relationships of the system!‖ (Ottenberg 1994)


      The Greater Saskatoon Catholic System‘s executive council is comprised of five

superintendents, each responsible for the programming and personnel in his or her geographic

area of the city, and the assistant director and director of education.   In 1999 this council

recognized the change in their students‘ world and the pressure to meet the demand for this

change. Recognition fuelled action so began the development of the SCCS.
Out Side Division                                    Students              Parents        Higher Education         Saskatchewan Education

 Saskatoon Catholic School Division
                                                                                         Board of Education                System
                                        Director of Education
                                                                                         Executive Council Meetings
        Human Resource Division
        Superintendent of Education                                                          Administrative Forum Meetings
        Learning Services Division
           Superintendents of Education (5)
        Administrative Services Division                                                    Coordinators
        Superintendent                                                                             Consultants

                                            High Schools (5)                                                            Sub-System
                                              Holy Cross High School
                                                                                                   Saskatoon Catholic Cyber School
                   Principal Meetings




                                              School Based
                                              Administration Principal                              Assistant Principal
                                              Assistant Principals                                  Staff Meetings
                                              (2)               Students                            Students
                                              Teachers
                                                        Staff, Advisor council and Department Meetings
                                                                                                 Other      School Based Administration
                                                                                                                Teachers           Students
                                                                                                  High
                                                                                                              Staff, Advisor Council and
                                                                                                  Schools       Department Meetings
   Vice and Assistant Principal




                                            Associate Schools (2)   School Based Administration (4) Teachers            Students
            Meetings




                                                                Staff, Advisory Council and Department Meetings


                                            Elementary Schools (34)
                                            School Based Administration              Teachers      Students
                                                Staff, Advisory Council and Department
                                                               Meetings



  Key
                                            Meetings (feedback system)                       Teachers
                                            Schools (Sub-system)                             Students
                                            School Based Administration                      Board Office Administration

                                            (Sub-system)                                     (Sub-system)
           Approximately 85% of students registered in the SCCS are taking one or two online

   courses, pursuing the remainder of their courses in a ―face to face‖ school within the Greater

   Saskatoon Catholic School Division. Ten percent of students are recent high school graduates

   who are upgrading their marks or taking the remaining classes needed to fulfill their grade 12-

   graduation requirements. The remaining 5% of students are from out of division, or out of

   country.




         The education system shown above displays the components which directly impact the

sub-system, SCCS. The Director of Education is appointed by the Board of Education. As the

Chief Executive Officer, the director is the senior advisor to the board in all aspects of the

division‘s operations. Below him, there are three major divisions: Learning Services, Human
Resource Services and Administrative Services. The Learning Services division is headed by

five superintendents who report directly to the Director of Education. Each superintendent is

responsible for the day to day operations of all schools in one of the five administrative units.

These operations involve facilitating the development, implementation and maintenance of

school programs, student services, curricula and teaching and learning practices with each

administrative unit. Each unit is made up of a main stream high school and a number of

elementary schools.


      The Human Resource Services Division is headed by a Superintendent of Education who

is responsible for personnel support functions, staff professional development and occupational

health and safety. This superintendent reports directly to the Director of Education.


      The Administrative Services Division is headed by a Superintendent who is responsible for

directing the financial affairs of the Board of Education and the provision of facilities. This

superintendent also reports directly to the Director of Education.


      Decisions are made within this administration structure by an executive council. This

council is responsible for the day to day Board of Education operations. The council consists of

the six directors of education, the director of administrative services and the director of

education, who is also the chair of the council.


      There is also an administrative forum which provides for consultation, communication and

integration of effort in planning and management. The forum is made up of the senior

administration of the division. Superintendents, Consultants, Principals, Assistant Principals

and the Director of Education can all be members of the forum. This forum is chaired by the
Director of Education and members may differ from meeting to meeting. The members for each

meeting are designated by the Director of Education.


      The Principal meetings are system wide and provide opportunity for large group identity,

communication and direct involvement in school division development. The principals then

meet with their in-school administration team which normally consists of an assistant principal

and a principal in the elementary schools and two assistant principals and a principal in the high

schools. Teaching and support staff meetings are conducted with each of the schools on a

monthly basis. At the elementary school level these are chaired by the principal while at the high

school level they are chaired by an elected staff president.


      For communication to be effective in the larger mainstream high schools it is necessary to

have an advisory council. It is made up of department heads who are appointed by the principal

of the school.   Each department has weekly meetings to assist in the communication.


      SCCS started as project which was placed within a mainstream high school. It was placed

within this high school because they had physical space to house the ―pod‖. At the beginning the

project was run by a teacher who was appointed as project leader. This project leader at the time

was involved in the organizational structure of the division by being a staff member of Holy

Cross High School. As the project grew and the demand for policy making and future planning

expanded, the project leader became an assistant principal at the hosting high school. During

this growth period, two superintendents and the principal of the hosting high school were all

involved in the decision making for the SCCS. At this time, the administration structure for

decision making has shifted to one superintendent and the assistant principal in charge of the

program and has more students than the hosting high school.
      The teaching staff for the online school was recruited because of their content expertise

within courses rather than their facility with technology. All teaching staff was and is part-

time and has taught conventional classes in the school division. Tunison and Noonan (2001)

explained it best, ―a course development model in which teachers developed empathy for

students‘ frustrations as they worked on-line, each teacher was required to develop both the

content and the technological aspects of the courses‖ (p. 4).


      By August of 2000 the first four courses were ready to be delivered to students. During

this first year of online course offerings, a total of 156 students took advantage of this

educational opportunity. "The revolution has begun… …it can't be stopped. So rather than

being beaten down by the technology, teachers must use it, use it, use it, and use it again to do

what school is supposed to be about - learning about life and the world around us" (Regan,

2002 ¶ 13).


      With very little advertising the school grew rapidly. The students were sharing their

cyber experiences with their peers and by August 2001, 8 courses were ready and 310

students enrolled. The 2002-2003 school year offered 16 courses and had an enrolment of 559

students. In 2003-2004, 19 courses were offered with an enrolment of over 800 students and

21 courses and an enrolment of over 1000 students in the year of 2004-2005. This trend of

growth continues to this day as shown in the 2006-2007 school which had an enrolment of

over 1500 students and 24 courses. Hoffman (2007) states in her media releases and on the

Greater Saskatoon Catholic Schools website: ―Greater Saskatoon Catholic Schools have

more than 15,200 students in 44 schools located in Saskatoon, Humboldt, Biggar and

Viscount. The division employs approximately 1,800 people who work as teaching, service
and support staff. The purpose of Greater Saskatoon Catholic Schools is to assist parents and

the local church community in the formation of students in heart, mind, body and spirit‖ (¶

3).


      The demographics of students were studied by Tunison and Noonan (2001) and have

not changed since their study. Only the number of students has increased. Approximately

85% of students registered are taking one or two online courses, pursuing the remainder of

their courses in a ―face to face‖ school within the Greater Saskatoon Catholic School

Division. Ten percent of students are recent high school graduates who are upgrading their

marks or taking the remaining classes needed to fulfill their grade 12-graduation

requirements. The remaining 5% of students are from out of division, or out of country (p.4).


      The SCCS according to Berhardt (2001) is a "hit with students" (¶ 1) and according to

Boklaschuk (2003) "the school, which has been honoured with several international awards is

a source of pride for the Catholic Board of Education" (¶ 13). Knowles (2005) terms the

school as a "quantum leap in terms of teachers recognizing the need to forsake some

traditional methods of teaching while "getting to where the kids are and that makes it very

empowering for them" (p. 2).    By almost all measurements the school has been considered a

success. Since the school inception, Darren Cannell has been the project leader, assistant

principal and administrator. The Greater Saskatoon Catholic School chose him as the person

who would design, implement, administer and grow the initiative.


      In comparison to the traditional form of education ―Distance education‖ is a child. This

child is trying to be accepted by a threatened adult, the traditional form of education. Most of

the research being done on the child is done by the adult who has been unchanged for close to
two hundred years and is worried about its autonomy within its ivory towers.       Education

Policy Institute (1998) states ―Distance learning has been around for more than a century.

Until recent years, however, it was comprised almost entirely of traditional correspondence

courses which typically offered low-cost education to working people‖ (¶ 2). With the advent

of computers and the dawn of the information age, distance education has moved into the

mainstream and this alternative mode of education is beginning to influence the education

status quo. Society is ready for a change to education but the stakeholders are not so willing

to let go of a system that has served us well for two plus centuries. Education needs to reflect

the reality of the students living in the information age. Prensky (2001) proposes that

―Today‘s students are no longer the people our educational system was designed to teach‖ (¶

1). A couple of quotes from high school students clarify how they feel about the current

educational system. ―We have learned to 'play school'. ―We study the right facts the night

before the test so we achieve a passing grade and thus become a successful student." ―It‘s not

attention deficit – I‘m just not listening!‖ ―When I go to school, I have to ‗power

down.‘‖(District, 2007)


      According to Prensky (2001), Digital Immigrants are attempting to teach the Digital

Natives with methods that are no longer valid. The only choice may be for educators to

change the way they teach. "Unfortunately," he says, "no matter how much the Immigrants

may wish it; it is highly unlikely the Digital Natives will go backwards. In the first place, it

may be impossible—their brains may already be different"(¶ 16). Further to this point

Furdyk (2007) states ―teachers need to exist in the spaces the students exist, understand their

culture. You have no credibility if you are not where they are‖ (taken from a keynote). They

are according to Prensky (2001) ―using computers, videogames, digital music players, video
cams, cell phones, and all the other toys and tools of the digital age. Today‘s average college

grads have spent less than 5,000 hours of their lives reading, over 10,000 hours talking on cell

phones but over 10,000 hours playing video games (not to mention 20,000 hours watching

TV)‖ (¶ 3) and send 200,000 emails or instant messages. The current approach to education

has resulted in a dropout rate of nine point four percent (2005) and only twenty-eight percent

of twelfth grade high school students believe that school work is meaningful. Twenty one

percent believe that their courses are interesting and a mere thirty-nine percent believe that

school work will have any bearing on their success in later life (Wirt, Choy, Gerald,

Provasnik, Rooney, and Watanabe, 2002 p.72). Since the partnership between personal

computers, the internet and education it has become less clear what defines the traditional

form of education. Heller (2005) statement reinforces this ―the matrimony of education and

computer – truly a marriage made in heaven, because the computer has become the ultimate

bridge of communication, bringing tutors and students together, no matter the time, no matter

the place, no matter the distance.‖ To further muddy the waters, Bagi and Crooks (2001) state

―The idealism that distance education and real-time classroom activity are antipodal concepts

has become an outdated assumption‖ (¶ 1). The use of technology in traditional and

alternative education continues to increase which has resulted in a less true form of traditional

education and a fusing of the line between tradition and alternative. The greatest spin-off of

alternative modes of education is not that they will ultimately take over the traditional face to

face education or weaken it but that they provided a revised perspective on how it is currently

being done better.
      We are in a time of trial and error and if we expect online education to evolve we have to

have an open mind and try different things. Change is never easy which is best illustrated in the

following statements made in a PowerPoint in the Garden Valley School Division (2006).


       "Students today depend on paper too much. They don't know how to write on a

       slate without getting chalk dust all over themselves. They can't clean a slate

       properly. What will they do when they run out of paper" (Principal Association

       Conference, 1915 ¶ 6)? "Students today depend upon store bought ink. They

       don't know how to make their own. When they run out of ink they will be unable

       to write words or ciphers until their next trip to the settlement. This is a sad

       commentary on modern education" (The Rural American Teacher, 1928 ¶ 8).

       ―Students today depend on these expensive fountain pens. They can no longer

       write with a straight pen and nib. We parents must not allow them to wallow in

       such luxury..." (Parent Teacher Association Gazette, 1941 ¶ 10) "Ballpoint pens

       will be the ruin of education in our country. Students use these devices and then

       throw them away. The American values of thrift and frugality are being

       discarded. Business and banks will never allow such expensive luxuries" (Federal

       Teachers, 1950 ¶12). "Why would you ever want the Internet for student use?

       It's just the latest fad - have them use the library" (District Employee, 1995 ¶ 20).

       "What can you do with an LCD Projector that you can't do with an overhead

       projector" (Member of School Accountability Committee, 1999 ¶28)?


   "Change is never easy or quickly accepted" (Cannell, 2008 while writing this essay).
As part of the Catholic Education Plan, the Catholic Board of Education committed to review the

future utility, growth, community participation and cost effectiveness of Saskatoon Catholic

Cyber School. A committee consisting of the Cyber School principal, assistant principal, the

computer consultant, the extended learning consultant and the superintendent in charge of the

program began this review.


The following is the result of the review:


Recommendations for the Future


1.)     The Saskatoon Catholic Cyber School continues to serve the needs for students currently

registered in Saskatoon Catholic Schools by:


        1.1) providing programming options for students in Grade 9-12


        1.2) providing enhanced on-line learning resources for elementary school students


Further it is recommended that a steering committee be established to make recommendations

for course and content, delivery and development.


2.)     The Saskatoon Catholic Cyber School will seek to enhance partnerships with

Saskatchewan Learning for the development and delivery of courses and content.




3.)     The Saskatoon Catholic Cyber School should seek to expand our partnership with the

Diocese of Saskatoon and the Bishops of Saskatchewan to ensure Catholic education is available

to all, regardless of residence.
4.)    The Saskatoon Catholic Cyber School should seek to expand by an increasing effort to

deliver programs to mature students who have chosen to leave traditional schooling prior to

graduation.


5.)    The Saskatoon Catholic Cyber School should seek to expand into the area of adult

education by pursuing partnerships with SIAST - Kelsey Campus.


6.)    The Saskatoon Catholic Cyber School should seek to expand by increasing our effort

towards attracting foreign students wishing to learn to speak English by actively marketing our

on-line E.S.L. course.


7.)    The Saskatoon Catholic Cyber School should be open to establish partnerships with First

Nation School communities. The partnerships could include:


                          Course Delivery


                          Teacher Development


                          Course Development


8)     The Saskatoon Catholic Cyber School should continue to strive towards the principle of

equality in providing diverse learning opportunities to all that seek them.


9)     The Saskatoon Catholic Schools should seek to enhance Professional Development

opportunities for teachers of Saskatoon Catholic Schools.


10)    Saskatoon Catholic Cyber School should be open to establish partnerships with other

organizations and groups where such partnerships can be deemed to be mutually beneficial.
       These ten recommendations have been a challenge to actualize. The challenge has been

to find the appropriate components of the Saskatoon Catholic School Division to take ownership

for each of the different recommendations and how the communication of information occurs

within the existing structure. Each of these recommendations is used to assist in the Cyber

School development. The Cyber School is a sub-system of Holy Cross High School, which in

turn is sub-system of the division. The division also has a number of outside systems which

impact the way business is done. By using Checkland‘s soft system analysis of the Saskatoon

Catholic School Division and the Cyber School it is possible to understand where challenges and

supports might exist.


       The following rich picture gives an illustration of these challenges and supports by all

parties who are part of the system which contains the Saskatoon Catholic Cyber School.




                                       Feelings
                                        about

                                        SCCS

      Title             Image                                        Points




                                      Out of division

                                                            Feeling pressure by students
                                                             entering higher education to
     Higher
                                                             have online course
    Education                                                experience.
                                      indifferent           Working towards creating
                                                             own online presence.
                                   History of being the only
                                    distance education providers
                                    in the province.
                                   Still struggling with policy
                                    and procedures for online
                                    courses.
                                   Concerned about out of
                                    province competition.
                                   May act as course broker for
                                    different agency providing
                                    online education.
                Struggling         May become the sole provider
Saskatchewan
                                    of distance education courses.
  Education                        Student proximate policies
                With own
                online as           becoming a challenge.
                 well as           Difficult to track the modern
                                    mobile student.
                 SCCS.
                                   Needs to set quality control of
                                    own online courses.
                                   In the process of evaluating
                                    present online course pilots.
                                   Curriculum guides need to
                                    reflect and acknowledge the
                                    online courses.
                                   Supports needed for online
                                    teachers.

                                   Very supportive of initiative.
                                   Open to the possibilities a
                                    cyber schools offers.
 Board of       Supportive         Like being on the cutting edge
 Education                          of the movement.
                   Not             See it as a method of building
                completely          partnerships with out of
                  aware.            division communities.

                                   Not sure about the program.
                                   Age gap between student‘s
                                    acceptance of the internet and
  Parents                           their own.
                 Like it but       Like the flexibility the
                don‘t totally       program offers
               understand it.      Not totally aware of the
                                    supports needed for their
                                        child.
                   Board Office



                                       Likes the program.
 Director of                           See it as a place to test out
 Education         Likes it             new educational approaches
                                        and ideas.
                     Very              Very supportive.
                  supportive.

                                      Causes challenges in
  Human                                computer supports and
 Resources                             support staff.
  Division                           Main stream school policies
                  Policy and           do not apply in some
Superintendent     staffing            situations. This causes stress.
 of Education       stress.          Rapid growth makes it
                  Supportive.          difficult to stay ahead of
                                       necessary support.
                                  Superintendent in charge of cyber
                                                school

                                     Very supportive
                                     Open to the challenge and the
                                      new ideas.
                                   Staffing is a stress area
                                   Aware that the present
  Learning                            Administration structure does
                                      not work.
  Services
                                   More questions than answers.
  Division        Supportive,         Not run of the mill questions,
                   like it and        answers require long process
Superintendent
                   willing to         of administration.
 of Education
                 work to make      Still working out roles
      (5)                          Huge learning curve
                   it happen.
                                   Rapid growth makes it a
                                      difficult stressful part of
                                      portfolio.
                               Other four Superintendents

                                       Cyber School activities
                                        directly affect their portfolios
                                       Decisions are being made
                                        without their input.
                                Staff of Cyber School taken
                                 from schools within their
                                 portfolio schools.
                                Very supportive of the
                                 program.
                                Likes the program
                                Sees the potential as a money
                                 maker.
Administrative                  Causes issues of invoicing
  Services                       because of the large number
  Division       Like the        of different students.
                 program,       Budget requirements are
Superintendent    sees the       different.
                 potential      Many policies made for main
                                 stream high school budgeting
                                 do not apply to the cyber
                                 school.
                                Not sure how they fit into the
                                 program.
 Consultants
                                Tend not to see the benefits
                 Not sure       Directly and greatly affects
                                 the computer consultant
                   Schools

                                Beginning to see the benefits.
                                Ruins the autonomy of their
                                 schools
                                Loss of control
                                Relieves class size and
                                 scheduling stress.
                                Christian Ethic courses cause
                                 large amount of stress. Not
                                 sure if they should be taught
School Based                     online.
Administration                  Grade nines having spares due
                 Loss of         to online courses goes against
                 control         school policies.
                                Grade nines in grade ten
                                 courses against school
                                 policies.
                                Tracking students is a
                                 challenge.
                                Attendance policies
                                Grad requirement issues.
                                Honour roll issues, do they
                                  include cyber courses?
                                 Stress for both school and
                                  teachers as part-time Staff
                                  working in both the home
                                  school and Cyber School.
                                 Extra curricular for part-time
                                  staff is a stress.
                                 Growth of Cyber School has
                                  made it impossible for Holy
                                  Cross Principal to also be the
                                  principal of the Cyber School.
                                 Difficult for HC principal to
                                  be a spokesperson for both
                                  Holy Cross and Cyber School.
                                  Conflict of interest at times.


                                 Unsure of role
                                 Administrator for Holy Cross
                                  and Cyber School. Cannot do
                                  both.
Cyber School     Love it.        Out of the communication
 Assistant                        structure of the systems.
  Principal     Stress with      Spokesperson for the school.
               the decision      Making policy and procedure
                  making          decisions unilaterally.
                 process.        Rapid growth makes it
                                  difficult to track students and
                                  stay ahead of issues.
                                 Home school counsellors
                                  uninformed thereby causing
                                  discrepancy of information at
Counsellors                       times.
               Questioning       Loss of control
                                 Hard to stay ahead of the
                                  information in the program.
                                 Feel threatened; feel the
                                  Cyber School might replace
                                  them.
                                 Feel their chosen subject
  Teachers     Threatened         cannot be taught effectively
                                  online.
                 Slow to         Comparison of their F2F
                 change           course with the online course.
                                 Teachers are slow to change
                                                             Like it
                                                             Stressed out with the amount
                                            Like it           of work
 Cyber Teachers                                              Revitalize their F2F teaching.
                                       Revitalizing          Working in two places is
                                                              difficult.
                                         A lot of            Unsure of role in each of the
                                          work.               buildings.

                                                             It is not for everyone but the
                                                              ones involved love it.
                                                             The students are the reason
      High School                                             for the rapid growth.
       Students                             Love it          Shock at how much work an
                                                              online course can be.
                                       Promoting it          Want more online courses
                                                             Find the communication
                                                              online is not new to them.

                                                             Hybrid courses are good but
      Elementary                                              cause some issues for the
        School                                                students.
       Students                             Like it          The newness of the program
                                                              is causing stress
                                         Maybe.              Want more online courses




The bulk of the activity, questions and problems that cannot be handled within the Cyber School

are a result of the first recommendation:




1.)       The Saskatoon Catholic Cyber School continues to serve the needs for students currently

registered in Saskatoon Catholic Schools by:


          1.1) providing programming options for students in Grade 9-12
       1.2) providing enhanced on-line learning resources for elementary school students


Further it is recommended that a steering committee be established to make recommendations

for course and content, delivery and development.




Communication Path within the division as they apply to Recommendation 1.
                                                                                         Executive Council Meeting
                    Other Four Superintendents


                    Superintendent of Education In
                    Charge of Holy Cross.




                                                                       Meeting
                                                                       Administrative Forum
                    Principal

                    Holy Cross and Cyber
                    School
                    Assistant Principals (2)

                    Holy Cross
                    Assistant Principal




                                                                                            Principal Meetings Assistant Principal Meetings
                    Cyber School


                    School Based
                    Administration

                    Total (82 )



                    4 High schools (11)

                    2 Associate (4)

                    34 Elementary (68)




       The communication paths within the existing structure of the Saskatoon Catholic School

Division were designed to allow a forum for Principals to speak on behalf of their schools.

Principals collect information from their school based administration teams which is then shared
during two main meeting structures. These two main meeting structures are the administration

forum meeting and the principals‘ meetings. If the information needs to be shared with

Superintendents and Executive Directors it would be brought to the Administration Forum. If it

needs to be shared with the other schools it would be brought to the principals‘ meeting. This

system works because each principal is speaking on behalf of his/her school. The issue with

trying to use this system for the Cyber School means that the principal for Holy Cross High

School needs to speak both on behalf of his school as well as the Cyber School. This is difficult

because at times the goals will differ for each school and at times will be in conflict. Decisions

for the Cyber School cannot be made based on a Holy Cross View because it provides services to

all the high schools. The rapid growth of the Cyber School has resulted in more students taking

classes from the Cyber School than attend Holy Cross High School.       A steering committee can

work for course selection but not for the development of policy and procedures. Ownership is

needed for this to be successful.


       Since its inception, the Saskatoon Catholic Cyber School was designed to provide

services system wide. Placing a program that provides system wide services into the

administration structure of a high school was not a new or unique approach and it continues to

work well for a small program. The growth of the Cyber School and it being named an actual

school by Saskatchewan Learning was what has caused some of the issues.
Recommendation 2 3 4 5 6 and 7


       The following recommendations all deal with outside agencies. Saskatchewan Learning,

Diocese of Saskatchewan, Bishop of Saskatchewan, SIAST Campus, First Nations Agencies,

foreign students and mature students are all groups with which the Saskatoon Catholic Cyber

School will be trying to build partnerships. The senior administration at the Saskatoon Catholic

School Division will need to make first contact with each of these agencies. Contact should be

based on the issue and the question of the best fit for which portfolio. The Superintendent in

charge of the Cyber School would need to take ownership to coordinate the contact. Once

contact has been made, delegation to the appropriate parties within our division to develop the

partnership would be the best approach.
                              Director of Education




Human Resource Division                Out of         Learning Services Division
                                      Division
Superintendent of Education           Agencies        Superintendent of Education (5)




                                Administrative Services
                                Division Superintendent

                             Superintendent
        Out of Division Agencies include: Saskatchewan Learning, Diocese of
        Saskatchewan, Bishops of Saskatchewan, Siast Campus, First Nations
                   Agencies, foreign students and mature students.
       Recommendation 8 and 10 are more guidelines than recommendations and do not require

any action at this time. Recommendation 9 is very specific and deals with professional

development for teachers. It directly ties into the Human Resources Superintendent of Education

portfolio and would be a recommendation with which he would be involved. Coordination with

the superintendent of education who is in charge of the Cyber School and the Human Resources

superintendent would be the team approach to deal with this recommendation.


       The Saskatoon Catholic School Division has been a learning organization for many years.

During these years, the structure of communication, division and meetings has changed. Each

time the change has been made to meet the needs of the division at that time. The introduction of

the Cyber School into the structure might be the catalyst for change, major or minor. At its

present rate of growth the Cyber School will be dealing with over two thousand students in three

years. That size alone warrants a revisiting to the structure or its placement within the existing

structure. A voice and ownership at a higher level than assistant principal is needed. This voice,

because of the system wide nature of the program, cannot be one that is attached to another high

school. This is necessary to insure that development continues in a system wide approach and is

not coloured towards one high school or another.


       The uniqueness of the development and delivery of online course material requires a

team approach from the board office level to ensure the questions are answered to allow the

program to grow. The team approach will also be of assistance, as the program continues to

draw more and more students from outside the division. These new Saskatoon Catholic School
Division students will make it will be necessary to develop policy and procedures to allow them

easy access to the program.


       ―This problem's significance lies in the fact that social systems and their environments

change with time, and that in our society, this change is accelerating. That is, major problems

with today's education system stem from the lack of realization of the ever-widening

developmental gap between the current state of education and our rapidly changing society.‖

(Ottenberg, 1994)


The Saskatoon Catholic Cyber School has developed a replacement system for the timing of

student entry and exit known as the 150 day timing system.. Each stage of this system will be

explained, problems will be identified and comments will be made on how these could have been

prevented, alleviated and resolved.


Stage one: Analyze

       The ―Entry and Exit‖ system is a subsystem of the Greater Saskatoon Catholic Cyber

School (SCCS). The Cyber School itself is a sub-system of the Greater Saskatoon Catholic

School System. This in turn is a sub-system of Saskatchewan Learning.
       The following statements describe the mandate of Saskatchewan Learning:


       ―The mandate of the Department is to advance the social, economic and personal

       well-being of Saskatchewan people. This is accomplished through leadership and

       support programs from Early Childhood Development, through Pre-Kindergarten

       to Grade 12, to technical training and post-secondary education, and public library

       services. The Department provides responsive leadership to meet the learning and

       development needs of Saskatchewan children, youth and adults, and to meet the

       employment needs of the Provincial labour market. ―(Saskatchewan Learning

       2008 ¶1)




       The second level of the system, the Greater Saskatoon Catholic Schools (GSCS) is an

urban, publicly funded school division in the largest city in Saskatchewan, Canada. Working

with the Greater Saskatoon Catholic Schools system (GSCS) is the Saskatoon Catholic Cyber

School (SCCS) which is described below:

―The World Wide Web continues to gain popularity as an instructional medium for high school
students. Recognizing this, Saskatoon Catholic Cyber School offers cyber courses taught by

teachers in our Catholic high schools. Cyber classes create an environment which will motivate

and inspire students to become knowledge builders. Through the use of technology and the

internet, the student will inquire, encourage, discourse, collaborate and engage in active learning

with their peers and their instructors.‖ (Miller 2000 ¶1)

        The Exit and Entry is a sub-system used by the students with the SCCS and has replaced

the normal semester system which is used within the SCS. The semester system, which divides

the school year into two equal semesters, was used by the Cyber School for the first years of

operation. Each semester consists of between 90 and 100 hours of classroom instruction. The

students attend the face to face classroom for an hour a day for approximately 100 school days.

The flexibility of seven days a week, twenty four hours a day availability offered through the

Cyber School did not match a system which was designed for an hour a day, 100 school day

system.

        The second reason the 150 day calendar system was devised was to solve the issue of low

student success with the Saskatoon Catholic Cyber School students who started the courses after

the semester had begun. The success rate of students who started their courses at the beginning

of the school year or at the beginning of the second semester was 86%. (Climenhaga, 2004) so

these students were not the issue. However, the majority of our students were beginning their

courses a week or longer into the semester. As shown in the diagram below, the first semester

began on August 26th and the largest registration spike is shown two weeks later. Second

semester started Feb 2nd and largest registration spike is again shown two weeks later. Also what

is shown in this diagram is that there was never any time during the year in which students were

not registering for classes.
The students registering late had a disengagement rate of 40 percent, largely due to the student‘s

feeling of not being able to complete the course in the time allotted. A student who started the

course online three weeks into a semester was still required to complete the course by the end of

the semester. ―This was setting the students up to fail.‖ (Tunison 2001 p.7) By eliminating the

end of the semester barrier, the main reason for students disengaging would be removed.



Stage two: Design

       Based on this research we started to look at different approaches to course pacing,

including:


Course operates on one timetable with a set of beginning and end dates

Course is completely self-paced

Instructor makes a recommendation after specified trial period and invites/assigns students to

join appropriate timetable for completing coursework.

Student picks a timetable at the beginning of the course and may be allowed one switch within

prescribed time period.‖ (Freedman, Darrow and Watson, 2002 p. 48)
It was not so much the pacing of the courses; it was the beginning and end dates that were

causing the disengagement. The result of the studies and research was a decision to attempt a

150 day system. It was known that even by changing the course pacing as stated by Grace and

Smith (2001) where students are self-directed learners; there are still many issues that can

present barriers to their success in flexible delivery. The 150 days system will at least remove the

time barrier created by the semester system and give the students adequate time to complete the

100 hours of course material. Courses would still be based on the curriculum standard of 100

hours set forth by Saskatchewan Learning.



Stage three: Develop

       A student could register at anytime of the year and would have 150 calendar days from

that time to complete the course. One hundred and fifty calendar days is approximately the same

number of days a standard school dual semester system gives for a student to finish a course.

Keough, E.M. and MacKinnon (1995) states ―Education that is flexible, effective, responsive to

learner needs, and sensitive to time, distance, and location-these characteristics are the important

basic ingredients that distance education can offer schools interested in changing and improving

their quality of education.‖ (¶ 1)

The 150 day system allows flexibility for the students by allowing them to register at any time of

year. A student will be given 150 calendar days to complete the course. This means weekends

and holidays are included in the 150 days. There will be no semesters recognized within this

system. Each teacher in the Cyber School will teach 30 students at any given time. Once a course

is filled, a waiting list will be created and when a spot opens, the next student will be placed into

the course. Midterm grades will be submitted 75 days from the day the student started or the
closest work day to that date. Final grades will be submitted 150 days from the day the student

started or the closest work day to that date. The Cyber School teachers will not be working

during the summer months of July and August. During this time no access by students will be

allowed. Any students who register later in the school year and their 150 days would normally

include time during July and August will have 60 days or a portion thereof added to their active

course time after the summer. The students will not be placed in the course or on the waiting list

until they have finished the preparation course and get the email with their start date and a

welcome email to the Cyber School. The preparation course is a two to three hour course that

explains the workings of the Cyber School. Each and every student is required to complete and

show mastery within the preparation course to gain access to their requested courses. The

Preparation course will not be counted in the 150 days.



Stage four: Implement

       This was the stage of the process that caused the most problems. Once analyzing, design

and development of the process was done, implementation needed to be done on three levels, as

follows:

Implementation from the students‘ point of view

Implementation from the teachers‘ point of view

Implementation from the home schools‘ point of view.

The implementation from the students‘ point of view was done via the communication tools that

had already been developed for the Cyber School. Since the main method of dispersing

information is the website, the result was a bold, strategically placed notice indicating the change

in entry and exit into cyber school courses. This was then supported by a change in the
registration process, highlighting the change to the entry and exit system as well as information

sharing via the phone when interested students contacted the Cyber School.

       The implementation for the teachers of the new system was the most difficult and

problematic. To support the change for the semester to the 150 day system a couple of

applications were developed. The standard calendar application which was used for the semester

system to inform students where they should be in the course on any given day would not work

for the 150 days systems because each student requires a personalized schedule. The application

that was designed allowed the teachers to create a schedule that was based one day into the

course. This in turn would allow a student to log into the application, enter their start date and it

would generate a personalized schedule. The second application was a tool that would assist in

the tracking of students. It allows a teacher to keep track of students within the course, giving the

teacher a calendar that contains information with all their students‘ progress through the course.

The problems that stemmed from the implementation of the system for teachers was the testing

of new applications and is very well explained by Fullan (2002) ―appreciate early difficulties of

trying something new — what I call the implementation dip. It is important to know, for

example, that no matter how much pre-implementation preparation, the first six months or so of

implementation will be bumpy;(p.7)‖

The implementation from the Home School‘s point of view resulted in some issues due to the

lack of communication of the new system. Many of the issues that did arise came from students

being involved in both the semester system as well as the 150 day system. Due to the fact the two

systems do not match, important dates like honour roll calculation, university entrance marks,

grad requirements, pre-requisites for in school courses were problematic because of the variation

of end dates.
Stage five: Evaluation

       Evaluation has been ongoing throughout the entire process of changing from the one

system to the other as well as all levels, home schools, administration, teachers, students and

parents. The early evaluation has shown that the change has been the most positive in succession

to the least positive in the following order: for students, parents, administration, home schools

and teachers. Least positive for the teachers because of the amount of work necessary to

implement the new system, lack of release time and hiccups in the new application needed for

the system to be successful.

       By following the steps, it allowed for a sound decision making process which justified

the need for change. The time needed to design a system which would answer the problems was

identified in the analysis stage. The development of a system using the outputs learned in the

analysis and design stage and the implementation stage, although the weakest of the stages, gave

a template to make the change happen. The evaluation stage which is still ongoing is starting to

show the value of the change. The ISD process was a concrete approach to change and is best

said by Fullan (2002) ―the goal is not to innovate the most, but rather to innovate selectively with

coherence; (2) it is not enough to have the best ideas, you must work through a process where
others assess and come to find collective meaning and commitment to new ways; (p.7)‖




        The process which will be described using one of Bethany‘s lenses will be the

registration of students within the cyber school sub-system. The Bethany lens used will be the

‗Moving Picture Model process.      It will help to do a direct enquiry of the registration system

process which results in how a student accesses online education courses.


        The diagram below charts an individual student‘s contact with the cyber school sub-

system. The path flows through a series of phases; referring, informing, registering, processing,

and accepting. This diagram is a sub-system (registration process) of the sub-system (Cyber

School) which is the sub-system of the system. (School division) This model will assist in the

understanding of the sub-system which in turn will achieve an understanding of the system as an

active entity.


        The goal of this active entity is the registration of students within the cyber school

courses.
Cyber School Student Registration Flow Chart


                             High Schools                                       Associate Schools
    Out of Division                                    Holy Cross
                                 Students                                           Students
        Students                                         Students

                                                                                   Cyber School
   Elementary Schools
                                                                                     Students
        Students                                 Phase 1.Referring

                                                                                   Cyber School
                   School Based                                                     Counsellors
                   Administration



                                                                            Phase 2 Informing
                                                  Cyber School
                                                   WebPage

           School Based
                                                    General
            Counsellors
                                                  Information                               Parents


                                                Intent to Register          Phase 3 Registering
                                                      Form



                                                Temporary Buffer

                                                                                      Cyber School
      Phase 3                                                                          Counsellors
                            Cyber School                         Cyber School
                                                                  Secretary
     Processing           Assistant Principal

                   Preparation Course                                  Preparation Course

                   Achieve below 70%                                   Achieve above 70%

                                        MAT Student System
      Phase 4 Accepting

                                                                                       Wait List
                                        Cyber School Courses
Phase 1: Referring


       This phase of the system starts with a student‘s desire to become involved in the Cyber

School. School administrators, school and cyber school counsellors might do some schedule

planning with a student and recognize the best way to meet the student‘s needs is the cyber

school. According to student surveys 66.5 percent of the students find out about the Cyber

School via their home school. Their friends are the second most common source of information

according to the survey at 15.4 percent.


Phase 2: Informing


       Once the students have been told about the Cyber School they are sent to the website to

find out the latest news and information about it. The Cyber School website

(http://www.scs.sk.ca/cyber/) is the main method of making information available to interested

students. The statistics for the site confirm this by having approximately 60,000 visitors a year,

with over 14,000 of those being unique hits. The student‘s parents tend to become involved at

this stage by reviewing the website and discussing the child‘s educational plan.


Phase 3: Registering


       After reviewing the information, students complete the intent to register page. The intent

to register form is one, which is compiled from a database and collects demographics and
requested course information from each of the students. The completed form is placed within a

temporary buffer to await the next phase.


Phase 4: Processing


        This form is then used by the Cyber School registration staff to decide the best options

for the student. The registration staff is made up of the secretary, who checks the student‘s

demographic information against already existing data, email address for validity, username and

password selection for appropriateness and complete data in all fields. The cyber school

guidance counsellor checks the data for appropriate course selection and prerequisite

requirements. The assistant principal deals with any registration which does not fit into the

norm.


        Once approved the students are placed into a student readiness and preparation course.

This course should take the students approximately two hours to complete and will prepare them

for the use of the learning platform tools and being an online student. A certain level of mastery

is needed for the students to be able to enter into the next phase of the registration process.


Phase 5: Acceptance


        The last step is the student being placed within the courses or on the waitlist. A waitlist

is necessary to maintain educational quality within the courses. Each course is considered full

with thirty students. Every student who registers for the class after that is placed on the waitlist

until an opening occurs. The student tracking system used by Saskatoon Catholic Cyber School

is the MAT student tracking system. This system is used to store student‘s demographic

information, course information and achievement records.
The ever-changing entity described in this paper is the registration of students into the Saskatoon

Catholic Cyber School. It is the latest of seven major designs attempted to achieve the same end

goal.


Online learning is different and therefore requires a different set of skills for students and

parents. Lorenzi, MacKeogh and Fox (2004) state that there is a crucial need to ensure that

students are ready to learn through e-learning. "The skills for learning are not necessarily innate,

and in particular, the skills for learning with technology need to be recognized and made more

explicit (¶ 1)‖.


        With the above motivation in mind, the main goal of a student orientation program

through good instructional design is to provide for the students the necessary skills and tools to

allow them to utilize the online learning experience to its fullest.


        The instructional problem which will be solved by the parental portal course is going to

be the design, creation and implementation of instructional material that will be used by parents

to prepare themselves in the challenges of assisting their child in online learning. It has been

found according to Digital Bridges (2005) that parents can ―play a significant role in their child's

success‖ (¶ 3). Bryne (2004) states in this type of program, ―parental involvement is essential to

student success. This level of involvement may vary, depending on the student's personal

characteristics, and their grade level‖ (¶ 5). This added responsibility upon parents of online

students has caused the need for additional skills not required before. As displayed by the

following, not uncommon statement found on the Learning Center (2002) ―Your involvement

can play a big part in helping your child achieve success in their online courses" (¶ 4) and Byer

(2004) states "Parents/Guardians are encouraged to take an active role in learning about the
activities that will be required for course completion‖ (¶ 4). Most online schools have

recognized the parents as a source of motivation and a large part of the student‘s educational

team. Next to the online teacher, the amount of parental involvement and support is the factor

that can greatly increase the student‘s chance for success. Hunter and Smith (2001) state

―parents need to be actively monitoring their child‘s work and engaging with them as they work

their way through new materials....and be responsible for informal assessments of progress, for

frequent encouragement, and for supervision to ensure that work is done in a timely manner‖ (¶

19). The cause of the problem, according to McDaniel-Browning (2004) is that as the numbers

of online students increase so do the number of involved parents. The reason the numbers are

increasing as stated by Hunter and Smith (2001) is that parents view the virtual school as


       ―a choice that offers them direct control over their child‘s affective and cognitive

       growth while permitting guided learning by certified teachers. These parents feel

       that the conventional school context is not appropriate and that the virtual school

       offers a choice which provides them assistance with the day-to-day learning

       requirements, without the parent-perceived negative factors of conventional

       school settings (Mayberry, 1991). These perceived negative factors include

       inappropriate peer relationships and behaviour that may be distracting and may

       negatively influence their child‘s behaviour‖ (¶ 12).


With all the students and parents who are choosing online education as a viable alternative to

normal face to face school, the learning curve for both students and parents grows.


               "Instructional Design is the systematic development of instructional

       specifications using learning and instructional theory to ensure the quality of
        instruction. It is the entire process of analysis of learning needs and goals and the

        development of a delivery system to meet those needs. It includes development of

        instructional materials and activities; and tryout and evaluation of all instruction

        and learner activities" (Srinivas, 2006, p. 1).


        A fair amount of consideration is needed in determining the length and level of both the

student and parent's program. It is important to make sure they are both not too long, not too

advanced and at the same time recognizing that the majority of the students will have the basic

confidence on computers that their parents may not. (Lauman 2002, p6) Although a large

number of the students are computer users they might be first time online learners. It will be

necessary to boost student and parent's computer skills, as well as recognition that the lowest

skill level might be a total lack of any computer skill at all.   Although many of the students may

seem to have a comfort level in reading material on a computer screen, it is still necessary to

have the ―Log on" instructions for the orientation program as well as each of the units designed

in such a fashion that the information can be printed and used as a hard copy. The need for a

printed version of the program is a characteristic that is common to the age group of the parents

but will also be of use to the students who are new to computers.


        The parents‘ portal program shares the same information in a similar format as the

students‘ orientation program. The motivation behind the need for a parents‘ portal program can

best be described as parent‘s computer skills and knowledge of the WebCT learning platform are

of a level which is not high enough to allow them to adequately supervise and assist their child as

they take online courses. As explained by Lauman (2002) ―Many parents have a reasonable

level of computer expertise. However, they believe that their children know more than they do

when it comes to the Internet‖ (p.8). For this reason some of the parents of online students
require some skills in order for them to become effective motivators, facilitators and educators of

their children while they are in their online courses.


       A secondary finding by Lauman (2002) is that ―parents believe that they need more

training and information in order to help their children utilize the home computer and Internet in

a safe, appropriate manner‖ (p. 8).


       After identifying the needs of the students and parents, and specifying the goals for

designing the orientation program the same learning platform (WebCT) will be used to attempt

to satisfy the goals of both programs. The student orientation program, as well as the parent

program should be an interactive, activity-based student-centered system rather than a teacher-

centred environment. The password protected environment called WebCT has a built in

structure and flow which is very conducive to instructional design.


               ―An e-Learning environment such as WebCT supplements the ISD

       approach, adding the ability to track and account for what the learners have

       learned. The basic learning material presented in WebCT can be further

       supported by course management tools such as announcements, calendaring and

       grade books. There is also the possibility of encouraging learners to engage in

       collaborative learning and peer review. The communication tools such as email

       and discussion boards can be used to enrich the learning and support the learner at

       a distance‖ (Barry, 2004, p.3)


        An "image intensive approach" will make for a visually appealing course and is easier

for a visual learner to use. (Folkestad and Miranda, 2002, p. 6) Many activities and extras will
be added to the course via page links to enhance interactivity, fun and interest. Unit end quizzes

will allow the users to test their mastery of the program‘s content.


       For both programs, unit one of the instruction is an introduction to online learning

because it has been found that most of the "students and parents have a limited understanding of

online learning". (DeFerrari, 1998, p22) According to ―Build your own PC‖ (2004) the

"windows-based operating system is the most popular" (p. 1). For this reason, the second unit of

instruction is a basic instruction in the use of the windows operating system. Unit three touches

on the basics computers, while unit four and five focus on the internet and internet searching

respectively. Each of these units has been designed, and sequenced to meet the needs identified

by the students and parents in past needs analyses. The greatest of which will be to increase the

students‘ and parents' ability to use the computer, internet and search tools. (See appendix for

Unit design)


       A student‘s computer skills and knowledge of the WebCT learning platform are of a level

which may not be high enough to allow them to adequately take online courses without a

comprehensive orientation program. By requiring each student to complete the orientation

course and achieve a predetermined mastery level, it will set a standard of competency of

students‘ knowledge of computer, internet and WebCT before they enter courses.


       The course design and structure will have to be done is such a fashion that it meets the

needs of the end users but is flexible enough to accommodate all the different skill levels. The

lack of skills demonstrated by some of the students and parents will make it necessary to have a

paper copy of the step to step instruction to assist them in achieving the log on to even the most

basic of computer instruction Once the log on has been achieved, the majority of the
instructions will be computer based and will be constructed within the learning platform called

WebCT. The learning platform WebCT is going to be used because it is the same one used for

their courses. The structure, content and delivery system used will all be done with this context

in mind.


       The courses will be broken into three components. Each component will not try to

develop complete literacy in the students or the parents but should achieve a good working

knowledge. The first unit will be basic computer skills, an introduction to computer with the

learning objective of knowing the basic computer operation, terminology and instruction on how

to contact the teacher via the online communication tools. The second unit will be an

introduction to information seeking strategies on the internet. The basics of search engines and

their uses will be covered. This unit will assist the students and parents in the use of the internet

as a resource. The third and final unit will be specifically designed to instruct in the use of the

two WebCT tools, tracking and Mygrades tools, which will be used by the students and parents

while taking the courses. Also included in this unit will be the explanation of the SCCS calendar

tool. It will instruct the students and parents on the use of the WebCT student tracking tool,

which as described by Young (2004) ―Allows students to view a history of pages they have

visited and the number of times visited‖ (¶ 2). A more in-depth description is given by Edu

Tools (2008) and states


       ― can get reports showing the number of times, time and date on which, and

       frequency with which each student or all students in a course access the material...

       showing the duration of time each student spent on course content, specific course

       units and discussion forums." (¶ 8)
       The other WebCT tool explained in this unit will be the student‘s grade book. This will

allow the student or parents to view grades as entered by the teacher on each of the students'

assignments. The third and final tool that will be used by the students to ascertain their progress

will be the course calendar. This tool is unique to Saskatoon Catholic Cyber School and

generates a personalized calendar for each student based on their start date. Although easy to

use, an instructional tutorial will be designed to assist the students and parents in its use.


       Many student orientation programs tend to focus on the learning style of the students and

their readiness to be an online student. These programs survey the students with a range of

questions such as "are you an independent learner?" Although a good tool for getting the

students to think about the mindset that is necessary to be successful, it is not a good screening

tool. Programs that use said surveys as a method of screening underestimate the student‘s ability

to understand the question and what would be the most appropriate answer. This, in turn, totally

eliminates this type of question as a tool for screening. Students who wish to take online

learning will answer the questions in the way they think they should be answered in order to

achieve their goal of getting into the online course and not with deep thought into their learning

style or approach to learning.


The student orientation program and the parent portal program, through good instructional

design, provides for the students and the parents the necessary skills and tools to allow them to

utilize the online learning experience and prepare parents in the challenges of assisting their child

in online learning.


       "Each student needs a quality teacher. That means someone who knows how to

       teach — and can show it. It also means someone who knows the subject matter
       well — and can prove it. Most of all, it means someone who is successful in

       raising student achievement." (SREB Goals for Education, 2002¶ 1)

       In the past, our cyber teachers have all been hired from within the school division so they

have a history and have already shown what they are capable of doing. Many are referred by

other principals as being leaders in technology and content experts. These references make it

very easy to choose the most appropriate person for the job. But, as stated above, the popularity

of the Cyber School has created a growth scenario that has surpassed the referred and available

teachers within our division.


       The two step process that I will be using at the Cyber School to achieve the goal of

identifying possible candidates will be an online quiz as well as a synchronous audio interview.

The quiz will be administered to interested candidates via WebCT. The audio interview can be

done face to face, by phone or via web conference using a webcam.


       The audio interview question will be a series of ten questions which will be very difficult

for the candidate to answer. These are the type of questions which will not be answered through

a resume, cover letter or the online quiz. The ten have been chosen carefully and identified as

questions which will only work in the audio fashion and best in a face to face format. The face

to face and webcam method are a better method than the phone because body language will

assist in understanding the candidates‘ feelings about the question. Although there will be some

clues given via voice and language used on the phone they will not be as clear or as easy to read

as the body language. As confirmed by McKenzie (2007) ―Communicating effectively means

more than knowing what to say and when to say it. Communication involves the subtle signals

your body language sends to those listening" (¶ 1). Body language such as a lack of eye contact,

fiddling, tapping, crossed legs and arms, hands in front of face all say something about the
candidate and their unconscious messages. The strength of face to face is the ability to see how

candidates present themselves and how they are dressed. Although the Cyber School is not a

formal dress work environment the way a candidate is dressed and portrays himself/herself says

a lot about how they view the position. Doyle (2008) states


          "Reeking of cigarette smoke or chewing gum, you will already have one strike

          against you. Too much perfume or not enough deodorant won't help either. Not

          being dressed appropriately or having scuffed shoes will give you a second strike.

          Talking on your cell phone or listening to an IPod while waiting to be called for

          the interview may be your final strike" (¶ 4).


          Many candidates will have a misunderstanding of what the Cyber School is, what it

offers, and what is involved in an online teaching position. Many of the questions are designed

to identify what the candidates understand, possess and bring to the position. The ten questions

are:


       1. What do you think it takes for a person to be a successful online teacher?


       2. What would you change about your current or last job?


       3. Why do you want to be an online teacher?


       4. What do you like most about face to face teaching?


       5. What do you like the least about face to face teaching?


       6. What is the most recent computer skill that you have learnt?


       7. If I typed your name into the internet what would I find?
    8. What is the most useful criticism you have ever experienced in your teaching career?


    9. What can you tell me about the activities of the Cyber School?


    10. What one personality trait do you possess that will make you a good online teacher?


        Question one: What do you think it takes for a person to be a successful online teacher?

This question will show the candidates‘ understanding of online teaching and what it takes to be

successful. Listing the traits necessary for success shows that some thought was given to the

needs of the job and how the candidates possess the necessary skills and personality for the

position. Thomas (2003) states "Classroom teachers and online teachers alike need to know their

subjects and how to teach them. They also must know their students, stay up-to-date in the

subject areas, and manage and monitor students‘ academic progress to ensure success." (¶ 3)


        Question two: What would you change about your current or last job?


This question shows that the candidates have reflected about their professional life and the

change that they identify will give some insight into their approach to said life. This is one of the

more difficult questions because although there is no right answer, it is hard to answer without

the interviewer asking what the candidate did to actualize the identified change. According to

Stevenson University (2008) if the candidates have done their research they can use it as an

"opportunity to state a quality that might have been lacking at your (their) last job but would be

available in this position" (¶ 8).


        Question three: Why do you want to be an online teacher?


The candidate has the ability, through this question, to identify what is attractive about online

teaching. The answer will give insight into what the candidate sees as important in teaching.
Any teaching position be it face to face or be it online takes time to learn and more time to

perfect.   The more learning and research a perspective online teacher can do, the better

equipped one would be to tackle the challenges of said position. A good answer to this question

will help identify the teacher as a lifelong learner.


       Question four: What do you like most about face to face teaching?


The answer to this question will help the interviewer label a candidate as a sage on the stage or a

guide on the side type of teacher. In the past, the teachers who found online teaching the most

difficult are the ones who gained job satisfaction from the enthusiasm and eureka response of the

face to face students.


       Question five: What do you like least about face to face teaching?


If the answer to this question is students or teaching it can be a deal breaker. Online teaching has

many similar qualities to face to face teaching and this question can be a very difficult one.

Identifying something which is a major part of online teaching can hurt a candidate's chances but

if they do not identify something it will be viewed as a lack of insight and reflection on their

current teaching role.


       Question six: What is the most recent computer skill you have learnt?


In a single question it will be possible to identify the computer skills of the candidate. If turning

on the computer was the skill, the candidate has a low skill level but if the skill was the

programming of the new artificial intelligence program, the skill level might be high.


       Question seven: If I typed your name into the internet, what would I find?
A candidate who has a comfort level with the internet will have accounts in many of the

available social networking sites. Some might even possess their own website. Many of our

successful teachers at the Cyber School are comfortable with their name on the net and a web

presence. This can be one way to tell if the candidate is a "digital native" or "digital immigrant"

as described by Prensky (2001 ¶ 4).


       Question eight: What is the most useful criticism you have ever experienced in your

teaching career?


The candidate‘s response will give an insight into the response and value placed upon criticism.

The source of the criticism might give the interviewer some insight as well.


       Question nine: What can you tell me about the activities of the Cyber School?


The online teaching role will occur within the Cyber School. A previous knowledge of the

Cyber School will show that research was done before the interview. If certain knowledge is

revealed it would also show that the candidate has the ability to search the web and access

information which is a skill necessary for an online teacher.


       Question ten: What one personality trait do you possess that will make you a good online

teacher?


Like many of the other questions, this will show that a fair amount of reflection has occurred so

that a single personality trait can be identified. Which personality trait was chosen will also give

some insight.


       There are a set of skills found in the successful teachers currently working at the Cyber

School. However, this large set of skills cannot be found in any one single teacher. What makes
the Cyber School work is the team of teachers and how they each lend their skills towards the

advancement of the program.


       The online teacher's competencies differ only slightly from the face to face environment.

It is well known that finding these super humans who have the personality, dedication and skills

to teach is a daunting task because they are not a dime a dozen.   However, it is necessary to set

the bar high because in any classroom, be it online or face to face, the ―highly qualified and

competent teacher is the most important resource‖. (Department of Education and Science, 2005

p.1)


       The most critical ten competencies in order of importance for an online instructor are as

follows:


1.) Humour


2.) Lifelong learners


3.) Guide on the side


4.) Worldly


5.) With-it-ness


6.) Adaptability


7.) Computer Skills


8.) Subject level mastery and confidence


9.) Team-oriented philosophy
10.) Recognized leadership in current school setting


        The top four, after humour, were chosen because; lifelong learner speaks to the teacher‘s

commitment to personal learning, guide on the side relates to the teaching style. Worldly speaks

to the teacher‘s ability to relate to the global nature of their students and the fourth is with-it-

ness, which applies to a mastery of all competencies and speaks to a teacher‘s ability to cope and

function in the stressful environment we call the classroom of the twenty first century.


        The top competency is humour. One's ability to see humour in situations, and in oneself

makes it much easier to handle this stressful environment. "A good teacher must be flexible,

have a good sense of humour and be open enough to admit they make mistakes too. Don't be

afraid to laugh and have a good time" (Baird, 2002 ¶ 5). The online teacher spends a large

amount of time sitting and being online which is not conducive to good health. Laughter has

been shown to be good medicine and will assist one to conquer the challenges that online

teaching has been known to cause. Experts, according to Pawlik-Kienlen (2008) state that

"laughter increases endorphins, strengthens your immune system, and sends extra oxygen

coursing through your veins" (¶ 1). This is all good but the biggest benefit of humour is the

ability to laugh at oneself.


        In comparison to the traditional form of education, online education is a child. This child

is trying to be accepted by a threatened adult, the traditional form of education. Most of the

research being done on the child is done by the adult who has been unchanged for close to two

hundred years and is worried about its autonomy within its ivory towers.        Education Policy

Institute (1998) states ―Distance learning has been around for more than a century. Until recent

years, however, it was comprised almost entirely of traditional correspondence courses which
typically offered low-cost education to working people‖ (¶ 2). With the advent of computers and

the dawn of the information age, distance education has moved into the mainstream and this

alternative mode of education is beginning to influence the education status quo. Society is

ready for a change to education but the stakeholders are not so willing to let go of a system that

has served us well for two plus centuries.   Humour is necessary for an online teacher to deal

with this pressure which is placed upon them by their face to face counterparts.


        Creating a lifelong learner is the new goal of twenty first century education and can only

be achieved by an educator who shares the lifelong learner characteristic. Bearisto (2000) states

"we must all develop the aptitudes and dispositions of lifelong learning if we are to thrive in our

dynamic and pluralistic age" (p. 1). He further explains that being a lifelong learner will allow

one ―to thrive as a knowledge worker who surfs the wave of change in our information age" (p.

6).   According to Beristo (2000) most face to face classroom presentation styles tend to reflect

"teaching as telling and listening as learning, is very much like training" (p. 11). A teacher, as a

lifelong learner, must be "committed to personal and professional development and innovation to

maintain professionalism and currency for self and his community" (Institute of Technical

Education, 2007 ¶ 1). This commitment allows the teacher to handle the learning curve

necessary to becoming a good online educator as well as creating an environment which will

foster lifelong learning in the students. This environment will allow the students to move from

students to learners. Anderson (2007) clarifies by stating "students are individuals who get

taught. But learners are more actively involved in the learning process. Learners have active

curiosities and take initiative" (¶ 5).


        The third competency which will be looked for in the cyber teacher is a guide on the side.

Teaching online is akin to teaching in the largest library in the world. The internet is just a click
of the mouse away. The sage on the stage pales next to this resource. It allows teachers to

remove themselves from being the focus of the education and allows the students (learners) to be

the center of the process. According to King (1993) it allows learners to actively participate in

thinking and discussing ideas while making meaning for themselves. (¶ 4) McKenzie (1998)

states ―student-centered learning can be time-consuming and messy, efficiency will sometimes

argue for the Sage"(¶ 13). The face to face environment is more suited to this formal

authoritarian teaching style. The focus is on the content. "The style is generally teacher-

centered, where the teacher feels responsible for providing and controlling the flow of the

content‖. (Stein, Steeves, and Smith-Mitsuhashi, 2002 ¶ 1) The online method of course content

delivery is perfectly suited to allow the instructor to be more of a guide. The content, instruction

and assignments are delivered via the computer so the teacher‘s role is naturally more of a guide.

―The best teacher is the one who suggests rather than dogmatizes, and inspires his listener with

the wish to teach himself.‖ (Bulwer-Lytton, 2007 ¶ 4) and Carruthers (2007) further defines a

teacher as "one who makes himself progressively unnecessary" (¶ 5)


       Competency four speaks to a teacher's need to be worldly. Awareness of the global

dimension needed to prepare students for the world in which they live. This type of education is

sometimes referred to as citizenship education. The Center for Intercultural Education and

International Understanding (1998) further clarifies it as "Citizenship education with a global

perspective relates to a global trend toward the redefinition of relationships amongst citizens and

also of relationships between citizens, the community and the State" (p.8) and "School must

reinforce social cohesion within a pluralist society. It must work to define common values based

on common goals and prepare students to exercise their citizenship" (p. 1). Kirkwood (2001)

describes globally educated people as "those who possess high-tech skills, broad
interdisciplinary knowledge about the contemporary world, and adaptability, flexibility, and

world mindedness to participate effectively in the globalized world" (p. 11). "Therefore, the

teacher needs to strive for and possess the above characteristics in order to validate her/himself

as an educated person of the 21st century" (Burnouf, 2004 ¶ 4).

       The fifth competency is 'with-it-ness', which is a term created by Kounin to describe the

teacher's awareness of what is going on in all parts of the classroom at all times. We commonly

refer to this as 'having eyes in the back of the head.' ―(Wuest, 1999 ¶ 4) Although the term is

normally used in reference to a face to face classroom it can also be referred to the online

environment. With-it-ness is something that can be learned but being able to pick up the signs of

a student in need will assist the teacher in being a guide on the side. Luvic (2001) states

"develop...with-it-ness....Be aware of everything that is going on in the classroom, at all times,

monitoring students for signs of restlessness, frustration, anxiety, and off-task behaviours. Be

ready to reassign individual learners to different activities as the situation warrants" (p.47).

       The sixth and seventh competencies of online teachers are adaptability and computer

skills. Online education uses technology, which is changing at a rate that is hard to follow and

even harder to master. The online teacher, according to Prensky, (2001) is referred to as a

digital immigrant who differs from their digital native students. The social networking tools that

have come with Web2.0 bring a completely different set of tools into the hands of the digital

natives. The popularity of these tools has surprised and frightened the ‗Digital Immigrants‘ to

the state where most schools, rather than embracing these tools, have banned them. The banning

of facebook, instant messaging, blogs, wikis, RSS feeds, myspace, social bookmarking, podcasts,

youtube, and flicker, just to mention a few, has made a huge statement that education systems

are not willing to join the ‗Digital Natives‘ in their world. We could use the web2.0 tools to
help educate students. Hokanson (2007) states ―if we teach it and believe in the power of

education, technology is our friend. Ignorance is our enemy. Instead we should fear more the

releasing of millions of ignorant students into the shark infested waters of the internet. They are

but guppies in an ocean full of sharks. ―


        ‗Digital Immigrant‘ teachers can continue to think that it is possible with a dated system

of education to compete within the four walls of our face to face school with the information age

which is a reality to the ―Digital Natives‖ but an information age with connected students having

instant information, communication, multimedia and entertainment and social networking tools

is a new era that no teacher can realistically compete with using the current education

approaches. In the past, technology has been used as a supplement to education. As teachers get

more comfortable with technology it becomes a support for education but until it becomes

integrated with education we will not be preparing the students for their world. Online teachers

need to connect to their students and connect them to their world.


        Confidence and subject level mastery is the eighth competency of an online teacher. In

time a failure within the Cyber School, or in a face to face school, will not be looked at as a

failure of the system or the educator. It is okay to allow a student the flexibility to fail. A student

failing is sometimes the best education that person can receive. When a student fails within a

course the instructor tends to see that as a failure in his or her ability as an educator or in the

system as a whole. Many of the students that are referred from the face to face school to the

Cyber School are the students who have not been successful in the face to face learning

environment. A percentage of those referrals find the online environment is a better match for

their learning style and excel. However, some of those referred students are not successful online

for the same reasons they were not successful in the face to face. They are not taking ownership
for their education. A student's failure sparks many discussions. As educators, our goal is to do

everything we can to make a student successful. Keeping this in mind, it is possible that the

challenges we have in K-12 education have nothing to do with the delivery system. Maybe it has

to do with our lack of willingness to let students fail. Perhaps we need to make the students more

responsible for themselves. As a student gets closer to grade 12 this responsibility increases.

Education should be viewed as a privilege rather than a right. The time has come when we

should let the students decide how and when they access this privilege. That does not in any way

mean that good teachers, administrators and schools do not do everything they can to assist

students when they ask. A percentage of an online teacher's time is spent trying to assist the

students who never asked or do not want the help. Online schooling, home schooling and face to

face schooling are all options for today's student. This new environment of options might mean

we can allow the student to meet education on their terms, returning the responsibility for a

student's education back to the student. It can allow them to pick and choose how and what they

want; it can allow them to tailor their consumption of education. We, as educators, can go back

to offering the education to those who want it and spend less time forcing it upon those who do

not. Online teachers need to be confident in their ability to teach their subject matter and in their

ability as a teacher. This confidence will go a long way to them being able to make the

necessary distinction between a student's failure and their own failure.


       The ninth competency is a team-oriented philosophy towards the online teaching and the

online school. Rosenberg (2001) in Table 9.1 (p.242-243) compares a Traditional View to a

new E-Learning Business Model and explains the organizational requirements needed for e-

learning. The first change is making sure that all the parties involved realize that change is

actually necessary. E-Learning does have some history, although brief. A good strategy for one
to follow before starting is to research the organizations who have ventured down this path

before. One can learn from others‘ failures and successes. Take the best of each and make them

fit your specific demographics, technical infrastructures, personnel and money available. After

the research, it is necessary to get all vested parties to create a common shared vision.


       Allowing the parties to be part of the vision will empower the people involved to also

become part of the process, letting e-learning be all it can be and then building the organizational

supports for it to function. A wise man once said that the administration‘s job is to support and

adapt to the needs of the school, teachers and students and in the e-learning model it definitely

applies. It is essential to have faith in the team that is given the task of developing the model.

The online teacher needs to feel he/she is part of the decision making team. It is necessary to

have a group of people who will try to predict the problems and solve them as they come up. If

most of your planning and decision making is governed by making sure that the impact will not

be too great if the project fails, then you are planning for failure. You must plan for success and

create an environment which allows the online teacher to try new approaches. The first run will

not be perfect but it will get better because of empowered people. On-line teaching is very

similar to being a first year teacher. Mistakes will be made and the teachers will learn from them

and improve their skills. But they must be given the freedom to make those mistakes and learn

from them.


       The tenth competency is a recognized leadership in the online teacher's current face to

face setting. This leadership will go a long ways in the "selling" of online education as a viable

alternative to face to face education. The acceptance of online K-12 education needs to be very

important to the online teacher. A portion of their day will be spent educating adults, teachers,
parents, and administration about online education. Many days they will feel more like a

salesman than an educator. Online education, more than any educational movement, has been

deemed as a threat to tradition by so many who are ignorant of all that it entails. The online

education is unique in the fact that it is being evaluated by adults who have no point of reference

because, unlike the students, they have not been raised in the information era. This accounts for

the gap between the differences in the acceptance that is being seen between adults and students.

The selling of online education to the students has been much easier than it has been to the

adults.


          The adult naysayers of online education in the past have outrightly denied the fact that it

was possible to use something other than face to face to educate students. Acceptability has

started to grow as online education becomes more common. It is almost to the stage where most

teachers are willing to concede that some students can be educated using the internet as a

vehicle.


          Less and less English teachers are stating that it is possible to teach every other subject in

an online environment, but not English! The explanation given is that English is different; it

needs to have the teachers in the face to face environment to do a good job. English teachers

were chosen only as an example. English can be replaced with any other subject. To students,

an online course in one's schedule is not a novelty, it is just another option. We are entering a

time where a mixture of face to face and e-learning in a student's high school career will be the

norm.

          This list of ten competencies is by no means a complete list. Many would place typing

speed in the top ten, or passion or enthusiasm or flexibility. The list goes on and on. A good

competent online teacher is a rare person, but they are out there.
(Miller, 2000)


“We cannot become what we need to be by remaining what we are.” Max DePree



This essay will present the advantages of synchronous and asynchronous delivery technologies in

the Saskatoon Catholic Cyber School's e-learning strategies. Synchronous is ―where the

instructor and participants are involved in the course, class or lesson at the same time.‖ While

asynchronous is ―where the instructor and participants are involved in the course, class or lesson

at different times‖ (Wikipedia, 2006 ¶ 1).

In 1999, the Saskatoon Catholic Cyber School was designed as an educational option for the

students of the Greater Saskatoon Catholic Schools. Since its inception, flexibility was one of

the guiding factors in the decision making process. Many of the challenges that were expressed

by the face to face schools in the division was their inability to venture from the rigid structure of

their scheduling within the 5 day school week, the school day and in the one hour period

systems. In order to create a program which would complement the status quo it was deemed

necessary to try to promote flexibility. This would then allow the cyber school model to fit the

largest number of interested students‘ timetables and learning styles. When developing the

Cyber School it was necessary to choose a learning management system, delivery mode and

communication tools which would allow for this flexibility. In 2007 the Cyber School provided

courses to 24 percent of the grade 9-12 students in the Greater Saskatoon Catholic Schools. The

chosen learning management system was WebCT. The deciding factor in choosing this system

was the ability for the system to be adapted to fit any approach that we deemed necessary for us

to complete our mandate. WebCT, at first glance, seemed to be rigid and dictated the

educational approach by its design. But upon further exploration and training it was found that it
could be changed and adapted to work in most scenarios and was very flexible when used in a

creative fashion.


The delivery mode and communication tools made it necessary to select a synchronous or

asynchronous approach. The Cyber School courses were designed to be an option for students in

all eight of the face to face high schools. Students would take some of their courses face to face

and then one or two courses with the Cyber School. This approach meant that geography is the

first barrier that needed to be breached. Both synchronous and asynchronous approaches have

the ability to breach the geographic barrier. The students being slotted into the rigid schedules in

the face to face school create a temporal barrier which can only be breached by asynchronous.

For this reason most approaches used in the Cyber School are asynchronous but this status is

ever changing and driven by education‘s need to reflect the reality of the students living in the

information age. An information age with connected students having instant information,

communication, multimedia and entertainment and social networking tools is a new era that no

teacher can realistically compete with using the current education approaches. In the past,

technology has been used as a supplement to education. As teachers get more comfortable with

technology it becomes a support for education but until it becomes integrated with education we

will not be preparing the students for their world. We need to connect to our students and

connect them to their world by using both synchronous and asynchronous tools.


The semester system was used by the SCCS for the first years of operation. The flexibility of

seven days a week, twenty four hours a day availability offered through the Cyber School did not

match a system which was designed for an hour a day, 100 school day system. So it was

necessary to design a unique system of course delivery which would better fit the flexibility of

the Cyber School. The 150 day calendar system was devised to solve the issue of low student
success with the Saskatoon Catholic Cyber School students who started the courses after the

semester had begun. This asynchronous 150 day system created individual course timing for

each student which breaks both the temporal and geographic barriers as well as improves their

success rate.


Overall, the Saskatoon Catholic Cyber School has been recognized as a success on a variety of

different levels. Since its inception, enrolments have doubled each year. Staff reports

satisfaction and professional pride in the work they are doing, ―I love the flexibility of being on

the ‗cutting edge‘ of developments in education‖ (Cyber School, 2008). Students surveyed show

that real learning is taking place in an atmosphere of positive and meaningful communication

and interaction. According to Tunison and Noonan (2001), online education ―had a positive

impact on student‘s perceptions of their own abilities to learn and encouraged them to take

responsibility for their own learning‖ (p. 15). These positive results, however, serve more as a

challenge to take a critical look at the past, and set a course for the future which encompasses

positive system, institutional and personal professional growth, than as permission to accept

limitations or grow stagnant.


Studies such as "Interactive or Non-interactive: That is the Question!!!" by Zirkin and Sumler

(1994) have shown that success in the online courses can be attributed to a learner‘s ability to be

an active learner rather than a passive learner. Interactivity within an online course is

characterized by Moore (1991) as


       "learner-to-interface (access to and competency with the specific technology

       employed), learner-to-content (appropriateness of the course material and delivery

       vehicle considering the objectives and learners), learner-to-instructor (types of
       communication and feedback, access and support, etc.), and learner-to-learner

       (types of communication and feedback, support systems, and procedures for

       dialogue, etc.) (¶ 1)."


Most online courses are presented to the learner via the internet bandwidth within a computer

operating system and a learning management system. This "Learner-to-interface" can be greatly

enhanced or can hinder interactivity according to the learner's knowledge of the operating

system, the management system and their access to internet bandwidth. Some learning

management systems are very good at content management and student tracking while others

might have their strength in the communication tools. An evaluation of the learning

management system‘s strengths and weaknesses will make it easier to determine what system to

use to assist learners in their access, competency and interactivity with the technology.


Learner to content interactivity has two major elements; the learner and the content. A student‘s

learning style, interest in the course, personality and background are all factors in how enjoyable,

meaningful and interactive an educational experience might be for the individual. Hatfield

(2004) states "in student-centered learning, used in distance learning courses, instructors

understand that every student learner is unique in personality and background. Each student also

has a unique way he or she learns best - a unique 'learning style'. However despite our individual

preferences, any student can learn in all three of the styles" (p.2) A rich online experience should

contain visual, auditory and kinaesthetic learning objects. The responsibility of a successful

online education experience rests more upon the shoulders of the learner than the face to face

experience.
Creating a lifelong learner is the new goal of twenty first century education and this can only be

achieved by building learner-to-instructor interactivity through an instructor who shares the

lifelong learner characteristic. Bearisto (2000) states "we must all develop the aptitudes and

dispositions of lifelong learning if we are to thrive in our dynamic and pluralistic age" (p. 1). He

further explains that being a lifelong learner will allow one ―to thrive as a knowledge worker

who surfs the wave of change in our information age" (p. 6).     According to Beristo (2000) most

face to face classroom presentation styles tend to reflect "teaching as telling and listening as

learning is very much like training" (p. 11). A teacher, as a lifelong learner, must be "committed

to personal and professional development and innovation to maintain professionalism and

currency for self and his community" (Institute of Technical Education, 2007 ¶ 1). This

commitment allows the teacher to handle the learning curve necessary to becoming a good online

educator as well as creating an environment which will foster lifelong learning and interactivity

between learner and content, learner and instructor, and learner to learner. An interactive

environment will allow the students to move from being students to becoming learners.

Anderson (2007) clarifies by stating "students are individuals who get taught. But learners are

more actively involved in the learning process. Learners have active curiosities and take

initiative" (¶ 5).


It allows teachers to remove themselves from being the focus of the education and allows the

students (learners) to be the center of the process. The face to face environment is suited more to

this formal authoritarian teaching style. The focus is on the content. "The style is generally

teacher-centered, where the teacher feels responsible for providing and controlling the flow of

the content‖. (Stein, Steeves, & Smith-Mitsuhashi, 2002 ¶ 1) The online method of course

content delivery is perfectly suited to allow the instructor to be more of a guide. The content,
instruction and assignments are delivered via the computer so the teacher‘s role is naturally more

of a guide. ―The best teacher is the one who suggests rather than dogmatizes, and inspires his

listener with the wish to teach himself.‖ (Bulwer-Lytton, 2007 ¶ 4) and Carruthers (2007) further

defines a teacher as "one who makes himself progressively unnecessary" (¶ 5)


Learner-centered education is a mode of education that tends to value the needs and interests of

the learner in contrast to the needs and interests of the teacher. It is often referred to in North

America as student-centered education. Bransford, Brown, and Cooking (1999) refer to Learner-

Centered as ―environments that pay careful attention to the knowledge, skills, attitudes, and

beliefs that learners bring to the educational setting.…Teachers who are learner centered

recognize the importance of building on the conceptual and cultural knowledge that students

bring with them to the classroom…―




Graf and Caines (2003) state interaction and collaboration can take many forms. The course

criteria places emphasis on the type and amount of interaction and collaboration within an online

environment. In exemplary courses, learner-to-instructor interaction and collaboration are

exemplified through clearly stated expectations defining minimal levels of student participation,

" (¶ 5) the degree to which students interact with each other and the instructor and synchronous

and asynchronous communication tools are used. Instructors help by taking an active role in

moderating discussions, and creating community.


The communication tools used within a course are the way students communicate with each

other and with their instructor. Of the four e-learning communication tools provided within the

WebCT learning management system the most used is the asynchronous discussion board
because it matches the delivery system closer than the others while still creating community. It

is used as a private journal system, a group discussion tool, peer counselling, and sharing of

current events. The asynchronous ability to remove the temporal barrier means the students have

the time to consider the posed question, research, check spelling and form an argument which in

turn tends to elevate the quality of one's responses.


Course mail is the other asynchronous system which is used quite extensively because it is more

of a private one-to-one communication tool than the group nature of the discussion board.


The chat and whiteboard are the two of the synchronous e-learning communication tools which

are also used by the teachers. The chat is more widely used than the whiteboard because of the

strength of each of the designs. The student to student‘s dialogue tends to be the communication

which occurs within these systems more than teacher to student. However some teachers do use

the chat tool as a method of being available for ―office hours‖ where the teacher will be available

for synchronous chat. The white board although weak in design is used by some of the math

teachers because of its graphic nature.


The telephone is another electronic synchronous tool which is used by the teachers in the Cyber

School when it is necessary to contact students outside of WebCT. When used, the phone

connects the teacher with the students in their busy lives but often it becomes asynchronous

when the answering machine clicks on. This just reinforces the need for a flexible e-learning

system which allows these busy students‘ access.


An instructor‘s most powerful tool to get learners to interact is marks. It is one of the techniques

to help a student become more of an active learner in choosing appropriate easy to use tools, and

creating interactive content. Marks should not play such an important role in how valuable an
educational experience is to a student, but they do. So, assessments within a course should cause

students to work at the higher level of bloom's taxonomy, employ critical thinking strategies,

aligned with assignments, stated objectives and interaction.


       "Making the online learning experience more interactive for students can only

       help to create a classroom environment where students are more likely to succeed.

       Taking into consideration how students interact with the instructor, their

       classmates, and the course content is a step in the right direction, one that

       promotes a rewarding learning experience. The more opportunities the instructor

       can create for interaction, the more likely active learning will occur (Mabrito

       2005, ¶ 8)."




Student tracking and communication is an essential component of an e-learning environment at

the Saskatoon Catholic Cyber School as it is for most on-line universities and e-learning in

general. E-Learning success is not only measured by student academic achievement but also by

the ability to track student participation and instructor involvement their course.




The cyber tracker program was designed to fill the tracking holes left by the built in tracking

tools found in WebCT, Outlook and the Student Attendance System. Tracking the students

throughout the 150 days rather than the standard semester system is a confusing and time

consuming task. Web CT tracking is designed for post-secondary institutions that run on a

semester system and does not answer the needs of the K-12 e-learning facility. Instructors at the

K-12 level are required to keep in close contact with their students as well as collect statistics.
Post-secondary instructors are not required to track and communicate with students on a

regulated basis.




This program was conceptualized as a result of a need at the Saskatoon Catholic Cyber School.

The main requirement involved streamlining all communication and preventing students from

―falling through the cracks‖. SCCS instructors are allotted one hour of time per course per day to

teach. This includes tracking and grading. The Cyber School runs on a 150 days schedule. This

150 day process arose through the need to accommodate as many students as possible. Removing

the semester system involves tracking students at varying places in a course. This program

enables instructors, administration and counsellors to view where a student is at all times during

the course and easily communicate concerns or accolades that arise.




This program is innovative and unique for many reasons. First and foremost, the program is

unique because it will be web-based. This program enhances the student experience in various

ways, most importantly by allowing instructors and administration more time to spend

interacting with students instead of tracking progress. Like any program there will be updates

and new versions produced as a result of feedback. The program, in its current design allows for

an infinite number of communication components to be developed. The ability to customize the

program to each individual educational facility by simply using their registration database or by

using the registration database developed inside the program makes this program absolutely

universal and global. This initiative will impact everyone involved with an educational institute
from students through to administration. The communication and record keeping is streamlined

and easily accessible not to mention current.


The impact this program will have on the e-Learning technology is substantial. This program

incorporates all aspects of e-Learning technology and utilizes them in a clear and user-friendly

way. This simply means that all technologies used to track in e-Learning whether it be

registration, student activity tracking, student/instructor communication, course tracking, grade

tracking as well as a multitude of other administrative tracking components are all integrated into

one program. The integration of voice over IP phones incorporates another significant e-learning

technology. The program connects directly to the VOIP phone and will dial the student without

having to search for a phone number. This technology can also record a phone call for further

record keeping and tracking of students. Additionally, students will be kept up-to-date with their

course requirements and due dates. This component is essential in post-secondary e-learning

facilities as instructors are not apt to be chasing their students. This is also essential in the K-12

area where instructors are required to track students on a closer level. This program auto-

generates the information the instructor needs thus saving endless hours of tracking.
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