A Comparative Assessment of Four Online Learning Programs

Bale, David
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Saskatchewan Instructional Development and Research Unit

This study examines and compares four on-line learning programs to assess their suitability and potential for meeting the learning needs of First Nations high schools and for upgrading students. The following question is addressed: What types of on-line learning show potential for meeting the unique needs of First Nations Alberta and Saskatchewan learners? A mixed method (both quantitative and qualitative) research approach was used. Particular attention was paid to the appropriateness of the programs for Aboriginal students, Alberta and Saskatchewan curricula congruence, the roles of teachers and facilitators, learner supports and resources, website design features, and potential learning barriers, as well as best practices. Data were gathered while visiting each of the four sites and by telephone interviews and discussions with administrators, staff, students and teachers. Data were also derived from an on-line student questionnaire. The websites of the four schools, and other related documents, were also analyzed. The results of the analysis of the information collected show that many excellent features are built into each program. Some features show potential for meeting First Nations student needs, while others raise issues about their acceptability, some because of inflexibility in their use and others because a purported need is, itself, an issue. Other program options that were not examined in this study may contain additional features that could have the potential of meeting First Nations needs.

57 p.