A study of the learning preferences of four
remote communities in Northern Alberta
Patrick J. Fahy, Nancy Steel
Athabasca University
CNIE
Ottawa
11 May, 2009
Athabasca University
Research in Northern Alberta
Learning Communities project (June 2007 –
present):
– Investigate and facilitate learning interests of
workers in CNRL camp residences, and of
residents of rural, remote, and aboriginal
communities throughout Alberta
AU on CNRL Horizon site
2007-2008
•
•
•
•
•
Information sessions in camps (6)
Recorded inquiries, replied with detailed information
Responded to personal requests for advisement
Followed up by e-mail re decision to enroll (or not)
Organized Speaker Series (presentations on various
topics: health and wellness, nutrition, financial
management, information on Athabasca University, etc.)
Fahy, P. J. & Steel, N. (2008, September). Post-secondary learning priorities of workers
in an oil sands camp in Northern Alberta. Journal of Vocational Education & Training,
60(3), pp. 273 – 295.
Focus of this study
Questions:
• Post-secondary resources available in remote
northern communities?
• Predominant learning interests?
• Issues affecting participation/non-participation in
programming?
– How satisfied are residents with current provisions,
content and delivery?
• Technical resources, attitudes
Four Northern communities
•
•
•
•
Wabasca
Fort Chipewyan
Fort McKay
Fox Lake
(Plus remote hamlets “back lakes” regions, where
possible.)
1. Fox Lake
2. Fort Chipewyan
3. Fort MacKay
4. Wabasca
Research methods & timelines
• Field test, paper survey, Wabasca (August 2008).
• Interviews and surveys, Fox Lake (September
2008).
• Interviews and surveys, Wabasca (October 2008).
• Fort Chipewyan & Fort McKay (2007 & 2008).
Reports of all community visits were reviewed by
community members.
Community contacts
Learning preferences survey, and interviews:
• Band Council members
• Local private citizens
• College/education administrators, instructors
• Municipal, provincial, and federal workers
• Community groups, committees, representatives
• School administrators, staff
Research considerations
• Broad range of contacts (more important than
numbers)
• One-to-one contact offered
• Researchers invited guests at meetings
• Two researchers available:
• Better ability to capture information
• Ability to compare observations and interpretations
• More flexible in responding to invitations for visits,
conversations
• Assisted by reading questions and recording
responses, as required.
Community Research in Canada
Canada a “land of mediocrity”
– low level of worker literacy,
– failure to take advantage of the potentials of
proven training technologies,
– falling levels of professional creativity (Scoffield, H.
(2007, June 13). Canada: Land of mediocrity. Globe & Mail (globe&mail.com).
(Downloaded 14 June 2007 from:
http://license.icopyright.net/user/viewFreeUse.act?fuid=Mzc0ODUz).
Community research in Canada
(con’t)
OECD Education at a Glance, 2007:
– Canada unable to provide information on 57
of 96 indicators (almost 60%); worst
performance of any member country.
– 2008: Director General, Council of Ministers
of Education Canada, began consultations
with Statistics Canada to develop a strategy
for better collection and reporting of data for
all education sectors. (Charbonneau, L. (2008, March.)
Two new projects aim to fill gap in PSE [post-secondary education]
data. University Affairs, pp. 31-32.).
Enrolments, Alberta Institutions, 2002 to 2007
80000
70000
60000
50000
Colleges
40000
Technical
Universities
30000
20000
10000
0
2001-02
2002-03
2003-04
2004-05
2005-06
2006-07
Statistics: Northern Residents
N. Comms.
HS diploma
11-37%
Apprentice/trade cert.
1-7
Unemployed
15-20
Labour market participation 35-62
Median family income
$22-52K
Median fulltime employed
$24-44.3k*
Median married couples
$41-72k
Median lone parent
$11-36k
*Fox Lake
AB
80%
11
4.3
74
$74k
$43.9k
$83k
$40k
Alberta 2001-2002 to 2006-2007 post-secondary
enrolments
• Overall, up 10.6%
–
–
–
–
colleges up 0.6%
University enrollments up 13.9%
IT enrollments up 15.7%
Northern enrolments down 11% (27% in one
region);
• Athabasca University (distance) enrollments
up about 39%.
– (From 2001, AU’s growth 3 to 57 times higher
than other three universities.)
Main learning interests
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•
•
•
•
•
•
Adult upgrading, GED (39%)
Business, office administration (30%)
Trades, technologies (passim)
Safety, First Aid, WHMIS, H²S, CPR (15%)
Life skills (9%)
Parenting (6%)
Variety of non-credit language, arts & crafts
courses (sports, music, languages, crafts & culture, etc.)
Computer readiness
Can use a computer?
Access to a computer?
Computer in home?
Computer access convenient?
Have taken a college course?
Taken a course on computer?
92%
88%
86%
82%
49%
44%
Delivery/Access preferences
Teacher
Computer-based
Video, TV
66%
42%
20%
Barriers
Job
Family
Training timing,
location
59%
36%
48%
Reasons for non-enrolment
•
•
•
•
Course not at convenient time
Desired course not offered
Required technology lacking
Cost
26%
20%
5%
4%
Issues affecting participation
• Stay in community
• Uncertain about distance learning – how it
works, fear of learning alone, equipment access
• Concern about stress of learning while working,
raising family
• Confusion about funding: Who pays for what?
Who is eligible? How do you apply?
Other reported issues …
• Concern about travel/commute
• Concern about lack of adequate literacy skills
– Conferenece Board of Canada (2006): Out of six predictor
variables to determine earnings variance, respondents’ literacy
proficiency was most significant (p. 5).
• Programs not available
– Trades training
• Program continuity unpredictable
– Reports of year 2 not always available immediately
after year 1, in same locations, under same
conditions.
Canadian Council on Learning
report, 2009
Identifies additional barriers to Aboriginal
PSE participation:
– Distrust of mainstream education institutions
– Parental lack of experience with PSE
– Lack of knowledge of funding supports
– Uncertainly about incurring debt – recoup the
investment
Taylor, A., Friedel, T. L., & Edge, L. (2009). Pathways for First Nation and
Metis youth in the oil sands. Canadian Policy Research Networks Research
Report, April 2009. Available from:
http://www.cprn.org/documents/51241_EN.pdf
Factors seen as contributing to the poor quality of education for First Nation
and Métis students in rural schools (p. vii):
– Low expectations, lack of discipline/structure in schools
– Staff turnover; insufficient preparation of staff to teach in the province’s
small, northern schools
– Low levels of parental involvement at home or in the school
• Influences include legacy of residential schooling, and work
demands on parents
– Addiction issues in northern communities
– Inadequate educational facilities/resources in small communities,
especially
• declining student enrolments; underfunding of education
• few staff with the expertise to deal with students who have special
needs
– Too few Aboriginal teachers
– “Social pass” – promoting children to the next grade before they are
academically ready
– Streaming of Aboriginal high school students into non-post-secondary
courses (vii).
DE problems, failures
1.
2.
3.
4.
5.
6.
Ignoring the needs of the student;
Ignoring the salient characteristics of the environment,
and predictable barriers;
Not considering students’ learning styles and
expectations;
Failing to recognize local political expectations;
Reliance on unreliable delivery and communications
technologies;
Few Canadian educational institutions know about or
emulate the successful programs and models,
domestic and foreign, that might result in more
successes. (McMullen, B. & Rohrbach, A. (2003). Distance education in
remote aboriginal communities: Barriers, learning styles and best practices.
Prince George BC: College of New Caledonia press. (Available from
http://www.cnc.bc.ca/mackenzie.)
Canadian Council on Learning
report, 2009
Identifies additional barriers to Aboriginal
participation in PSE:
• Distrust of mainstream education
institutions
• Parental lack of experience with PSE
• Lack of knowledge of funding supports
• Uncertainly about incurring debt – recoup
the investment
Benefits of PSE
• Both male and female Aboriginal people earn
significantly more than other minorities when they
possess post-secondary credentials;
• Male Aboriginals are at the top of the earnings hierarchy,
compared with all post-secondary graduates;
• Aboriginals, both males and females, have better
employment prospects if they have graduated from a
trades or college program than from a university
program, if they do not return to reserves where there
are (usually) fewer employment opportunities (Walters, D.,
White, J., & Maxim, P. (2004). Does post-secondary education benefit Aboriginal Canadians?
An examination of earnings and employment outcomes for recent Aboriginal graduates. Available
from http://economics.ca/cgi/jab?journal=cpp&view=v30n3/CPPv30n3p283.pdf ).
Potential
Statistics Canada (2008):
• While the participation rate of Aboriginals in universitylevel programs was significantly lower than for nonAboriginals, “... differences between the Aboriginal and
non-Aboriginal population participation rates were non
significant for college and for other types of institution”
(Table3, ¶1).
• As noted by others (Malatest and Associates, 2004):
“Aboriginal student [post-secondary] enrolment rates are
growing substantially faster than those of other
demographic groups, albeit from a very low base” (p. 5).
Thank you
Pat Fahy
Nancy Steel
[email protected]
[email protected]
Solutions? Comments?
What has been your experience?
• … about reluctance to leave community?
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
… about uncertainty about distance delivery?
… about managing home/life/work balance?
… about funding confusion?
… about lack of foundation literacy skills?
… about lack of availability of preferred courses?
… about ensuring continuing availability of courses?
… about barriers specific to Aboriginal PSE
participation?
On a final note …
• Alberta North research project entitled “Best
Practices for Attracting and Retaining Learners
from Under-represented Populations ”
• Paper: “Preferences of Residents in Four
Remote Alberta Communities Regarding Local
Post-Secondary Programming” (In review)
Where are the students?
• Given the presence of education providers in
these communities, the education resources in
the community, internet connectivity, and the
expressed learning interests …where are the
students?
(We know that enrollments at the colleges that serve
Alberta’s northern regions fell an average of over 11% in one northern institution, the decline was almost 27%)
College campuses in Northern communities
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•
•
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Fox Lake: Kayas Cultural College
Fort Chipewyan: Keyano College
Fort McKay: Keyano College
Wabasca: Northern Lakes College
Adult education resources
• Each community has an Alberta North
Community Access (CAP) Site (Except Fort McKay, under
development)
• Each has Community Education Committees
But:
• No Community Adult Learning Councils
• No Volunteer Tutor Adult Literacy Programs
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Programming available vs. programming requested in …