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
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
High Schools (5) Sub-System
Holy Cross High School
Saskatoon Catholic Cyber School
Administration Principal Assistant Principal
Assistant Principals Staff Meetings
(2) Students Students
Staff, Advisor council and Department Meetings
Other School Based Administration
Staff, Advisor Council and
Schools Department Meetings
Vice and Assistant Principal
Associate Schools (2) School Based Administration (4) Teachers Students
Staff, Advisory Council and Department Meetings
Elementary Schools (34)
School Based Administration Teachers Students
Staff, Advisory Council and Department
Meetings (feedback system) Teachers
Schools (Sub-system) Students
School Based Administration Board Office Administration
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
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
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‖ (¶
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
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
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:
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.
Title Image Points
Out of division
Feeling pressure by students
entering higher education to
have online course
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
Concerned about out of
May act as course broker for
different agency providing
Struggling May become the sole provider
of distance education courses.
Education Student proximate policies
online as becoming a challenge.
well as Difficult to track the modern
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
Supports needed for online
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
Likes the program.
Director of See it as a place to test out
Education Likes it new educational approaches
Very Very 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
Superintendent in charge of cyber
Open to the challenge and the
Staffing is a stress area
Aware that the present
Learning Administration structure does
More questions than answers.
Division Supportive, Not run of the mill questions,
like it and answers require long process
willing to of administration.
work to make Still working out roles
(5) Huge learning curve
Rapid growth makes it a
difficult stressful part of
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
Very supportive of the
Likes the program
Sees the potential as a money
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
Not sure how they fit into the
Tend not to see the benefits
Not sure Directly and greatly affects
the computer consultant
Beginning to see the benefits.
Ruins the autonomy of their
Loss of control
Relieves class size and
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
Tracking students is a
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
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
Questioning Loss of control
Hard to stay ahead of the
information in the program.
Feel threatened; feel the
Cyber School might replace
Feel their chosen subject
Teachers Threatened cannot be taught effectively
Slow to Comparison of their F2F
change course with the online course.
Teachers are slow to change
Stressed out with the amount
Like it of work
Cyber Teachers Revitalize their F2F teaching.
Revitalizing Working in two places is
A lot of Unsure of role in each of the
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
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.
Holy Cross and Cyber
Assistant Principals (2)
Principal Meetings Assistant Principal Meetings
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
Superintendent of Education Agencies Superintendent of Education (5)
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.‖
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
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
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,
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
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
The goal of this active entity is the registration of students within the cyber school
Cyber School Student Registration Flow Chart
High Schools Associate Schools
Out of Division Holy Cross
Students Phase 1.Referring
School Based Counsellors
Phase 2 Informing
Intent to Register Phase 3 Registering
Phase 3 Counsellors
Cyber School Cyber School
Processing Assistant Principal
Preparation Course Preparation Course
Achieve below 70% Achieve above 70%
MAT Student System
Phase 4 Accepting
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
The most critical ten competencies in order of importance for an online instructor are as
2.) Lifelong learners
3.) Guide on the side
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
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
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
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
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.
“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
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
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
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
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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