Last week all across Quebec, students went back to school.  When we think of “back to school”, some of us (even teachers!) picture the advertisement where the happy parents sing, “It’s the most wonderful time of the year” while morose/sullen children drag behind them as if they are walking toward the worst fate imaginable.  However, I have to say that the students I had the pleasure to work with this week were seemed excited to get back to school.  Mind you, these students may have been excited because they were going to be learning in a way new to most of them, through online classes.

When I asked these students what they most looked forward to about learning online, their answers were varied.  Some commented on learning using new technology.  They seemed to really enjoy working with LEARN’s new interactive teaching/learning platform Zenlive.  We talked, too, about how other web resources like blogs, discussion forums, Voicethread, google docs, etc would be integrated into their classes.

Some commented on how they hoped learning online would help them to become more independent learners.  Although our online courses are taught live and they interact with their teachers every day, the teacher cannot see the students.  Students must develop responsibility and work independently even though not under the watchful eyes of the teacher.  Former students write to us about how the skills they developed as independent learners have served them well when they went from their small schools to large CEGEPS.

Others just were looking forward to simple things like having other students the same age or in the same grade in their classes.  The reality of small English schools across Quebec is that all classes are multi-level. Those teachers and students must be amazing multi-taskers!   Taking courses online means that students get to enjoy the luxury of being in a class with only students in their grade all taking the same course.  Imagine!

We have some teen moms in online classes this year, and what they were most looking forward to was graduating.  While LEARN does offer some high level math and science options, we also offer history and science courses that are basic graduation requirements.   We hope to help these students meet their goals with online courses.

I don’t know what it is about September, but as soon as I get back to school and start meeting new online students, I get very energized.  There was so much excitement and hope in their comments during our initial online training sessions.   For me, it is truly “the most wonderful time of the year.”  All the best for the 2011-2012 school year!

What has made you (or your students/children) excited to get back to school this year?  Share your own back to school experiences with great teachers, welcoming classrooms, new school supplies, shining hallways or new technology in your school.

Dianne Conrod

Principal – Online Learning