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Whistler Secondary school gets grant to introduce web learning

Whistler and Pemberton students coordinate courses

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Students at Whistler Secondary will soon be able to take previously unavailable courses through web learning thanks to a grant from the Ministry of Education.

"It is great," said Principal Bev Oakley.

"One of the things we are looking at is increasing flexibility for our students, (and) increasing the number of courses that we get into the school.

"We have got our flex-ed program in place, which has expanded this year and that enables students to do independent learning and to take courses that they normally wouldn’t take.

"This is just another tool to increase flexibility in small schools and Pemberton Secondary and ourselves, we really benefit from these kind of things."

Part of the drive to introduce web learning is to make sure university bound students in the district get access to all the courses they need for advanced placement, and simply to prepare them for the rigours of post-secondary education, said Oakley.

"We want to prepare our students as much as possible so they get a leg up on other students from around the province," she said.

The Howe Sound School Board received a $28,900 grant from the Ministry of Education to get the technology it needs for the venture. The funding will also cover the costs of the teacher, who will deliver the course from a central site to the students throughout the district by live streaming video. Students will also use other tools such as two-way audio and instant messaging on Smart Boards.

Small schools such as Whistler and Pemberton need to access this type of technology because they do not have enough students to make it financially viable to each offer some courses, such as Calculus 12.

"Our district has had great difficulty offering a comprehensive array of courses to students at Whistler and Pemberton secondary schools because they only have about 300 students each," said school superintendent Dr. Rick Erickson.

"Generally the two schools have four to eight courses that do not run each year due to insufficient enrolment. By using web conferencing technology to deliver real-time interactive courses, it will soon be much easier to provide students with the courses they need and want for graduation. Our goals are to improve student achievement, and parent and student satisfaction by offering improved course selection and flexibility."

The courses will also be archived so that any secondary student in the district will be able to access the courses using a web browser.

The project will begin with one linked class between Whistler and Pemberton from February to June 2006. In the 2006-07 school year, four linked classes will run between the schools, two in each semester.

The province is partnering with BCEd Online to provide the service. In all 91 schools received grants totalling $230,000 for web conferencing tools and to improve access to learning opportunities.

"School districts are working hard to meet the needs of students and improve student achievement," said Education Minister Shirley Bond.

"Web conferencing tools such as web tutoring will help districts provide additional resources to support students."

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