Greetings from day 2 of CCA-EDUCAUSE Australasia 2011 in Sydney. Dennis Sharpe, Memorial University of Newfoundland discussed a study of "E-learning in Small Remote Aboriginal Communities". They found that web based learning was accepted as a viable option for remote locations, using both asynchronous and synchronous. Some students use the e-learning as a supplement to a face to face program, others have it for all schooling. Some of the students are adults returning to education. Pre and in service training for teachers was considered essential.
Dennis commented web based learning was not a cheap option. Also he pointed out that aboriginal students will miss weeks or months of schooling due to the need to go on hunting trips and courses need to accommodate this.
Pre-service (B.Ed.) courses were found to lack on-line pedagogy, web based technology and aboriginal cultural perspective. Provinces do not require on-line teacher education. Dennis pointed out that some of the school systems had vocational higher education articulated programs which were useful.
I asked Dennis if the same web based system used by the students could be used for teacher in-service training. He said this worked very well, with teachers forming on-line support groups.
This is all very relevant to Australia, which in addition to remote aboriginal communities, have itinerant communities which conventional schools do not cater for. One example are the travelling show people, for whom the Queensland government provided mobile schools. While this is not my area of expertise, my suggestion would be rather than treat these students as a special case, the curriculum should be available online to all students, so they all have this option.