SCHOOL District 82 in northwestern B.C. is considering holding classes via video conferencing.

Northwestern B.C. school district ponders video conferencing

But staffers leery of the concept, cite past experiences

By Jackie Lieuwen

THE Coast Mountains School District is looking at video conferencing as a possible option to increase course opportunities for students.

Prompted by the recent controversy over continuing high school French Immersion, school district staff studied and reported on video conferencing to trustees when they met in Stewart.

Running classes via video is an option being considered for all students, not just those in French Immersion, clarified school district superintendent Katherine McIntosh in an email.

However, school district staff did not seem favourable to the idea, based on the report provided by McIntosh and school district director of instruction Janet Meyer.

They raised issues such as cost, staffing, training and the challenge of coordinating schedules between schools which would be involved in doing video conference courses. Staff also urged trustees to consider whether video conferencing is an effective way for students to learn.

“When we compare [typical learning environments] to the proposed learning experience of video conferencing, which of these provides a more engaging and interactive learning experience?” staff asked at the end of the report.

The report also had a slim amount of feedback, including comments from five French Immersion students who took a class via video conferencing in 2011-2012. The course was based in Hazelton, with supervisors overseeing participating students from Caledonia Secondary and Mount Elizabeth Secondary in Kitimat. Three of the students seemed somewhat positive, calling the course “somewhat engaging.” One said it was “highly engaging,” and one answered “disengaging.”

Five administrators also weighed in based on prior experiences, and none recommended video conferencing, saying students were disengaged, distracted on iPads, and difficult to manage.

Trustees will hear more on video conferencing at their December meeting, and will decide then how to proceed.

Video conferencing is growing in popularity at post-secondary institutions.

For more details, find the report on page 11 of the school district agenda here.