How Garden Valley Collegiate's online courses began
Garden Valley Collegiate
Winkler, Manitoba

By Corissa Friesen (Grade 12)

"I know that, in time, this form of learning will become a central feature of any public school that wants to survive. We live in a 'self-service' society and our schools cannot continue to be 'full-service only'," says Larry Danielson about his work wih the online courses at Garden Valley Collegiate.

The idea for an online course at Garden Valley Collegiate was conceived by Mr. Danielson in 1990. However, his idea did not become reality until 1994, when Mr. Danielson heard about a large grant available for distance-education projects. After gaining the administration's approval, he and a colleague, Lawrence Peters, applied for the grant. The school division was awarded more than $65,000, which started the online programs, both Transactional and Technical Communications.

In the beginning, there were no books available on how to teach courses online. However, one was published eight months later and Danielson and Peters gained some knowledge from magazine articles by that author. The rest of their online course material was just a translation of activities from the regular class. Both teachers and students learned as they went along.

The teachers learned, "it is very important that online teachers share materials. That way each of the teachers involved can spend more time developing imaginative and interesting materials."

They chose FirstClass software because it was the most satisfactory for their needs. At the time the course was being launched, the World Wide Web had just been introduced. In the hopes that they could use the FirstClass conferencing system for dialog and discussion and the web for hypertext delivery of materials, Danielson and Peters added a web server to the GVC equipment. So far, their dream of both Web-based and conferencing style delivery has not been realized but Mr. Danielson says that it will be by the coming summer.

Next year the online Technical Communications class will be put "on hold" due to concerns with copyright clearance for electronic media. In its place, however, will be a new English Literary online class.

Both teachers and students think that teaching and learning this way is more work than being in a regular class, but very beneficial because it allows one more flexibility and one is able to set one's own pace.

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