LAKELAND – Lakeland Catholic School Division (LCSD) is ensuring students enrolled in online learning aren’t falling behind.
Deputy superintendent Pamela Guilbault gave an update to the trustees during the Sept. 16 meeting, speaking about the first couple of weeks of Lakeland Catholic Online Learning (LCOL).
The planning for LCOL began in August and officially launched on Sept. 10.
“Within the span of three weeks, our teachers and team had put together an online school for 210 students from kindergarten to Grade 12,” Guilbault explained, adding, it’s being offered in both English and French.
“I’m incredibly proud and pleased to say that having an online learning school that is a dual-track for kindergarten to Grade 12 is groundbreaking for this province.”
When the program was being developed by LCSD, Guilbault said the division reached out to other school divisions across the province to see how they were setting up online learning for students.
“Right now, where we’re at, Lakeland Catholic is about two to three weeks above our sister boards in where they are in their implementation,” she said. “Some of them haven’t even started teaching or collaborating, so we keep reaching out to them and saying ‘can we have some help and resources?’ and they’re saying ‘you’re ahead of us.’”
The emergency learning LCSD put in place when in-class learning was cancelled in March gave them the building blocks for LCOL. It had shown them what worked and what didn’t, and where they needed to improve when it became a more permanent option.
One important aspect was ensuring parents could easily access the information and resources.
“This was a delivery decision and one that they didn’t make lightly. We wanted to ensure that our teachers acknowledge, recognize, and are working with parents and to keep the resources, education, and support as simplified as possible,” Guilbault stressed.
The LCOL is conducted through the Alberta Distance Learning Centre (ADLC) website, where students log in each day to access their lesson plans and educational resources.
The day starts around 8:30 a.m. and ends at 3:30 p.m. Pupils spend time in online meetings with teachers and work independently, all while following a schedule similar to in-class learning.
Guilbault said they’re confident with the resources being offered by the ADLC. There’s research to support that students who have used them previously perform well on achievement exams and provincial diploma exams.
When the province announced that at-home students would be graded similarly to when they were in the classroom, adjustments had to be made from when LCSD offered emergency lessons from when the pandemic closed schools down.
“We also know that unlike in March, the expectations of learning aren’t (the same). What is happening in classes for in-person learning, those expectations have to be mimicked or paralleled for online learning students.”
With this in mind, Guilbault said some deliberate decisions were made during the planning.
“We decided that we needed to make all of our instruction consistent for online and in-person. We created a scope and sequence for our entire division. This means that all of the students and teachers would be following the same instruction and delivery for the curriculum. Students and teachers would be moving through the curriculum content at the same time, in the same manner. This is new for Lakeland Catholic because we’ve never mandated this in the past.”
For the time being, Guilbault said LCSD is being "fluid" when it comes to students deciding between online and in-class learning.
“Right now, people are a bit unsure of where they fit,” she said. “We may tighten that up in the next couple of weeks as people get more comfortable and secure about where they feel like they belong and where they feel more comfortable as learners and in the learning platform.”
Trustee Margaret Borders expressed her appreciation to Guilbault and LCSD staff for putting together the LCOL.
“It’s so outstanding what you guys have done so far. It’s amazing that you’ve done this much and getting it all worked out and everybody seems to have pulled together and you’ve really done such a good job.”