A grade 5 student and his ADLC teacher in a video call.
ADLC has a role to play in building understanding about distance learning in Alberta. This story is part of a series intended to highlight the unique characteristics and opportunities of distance learning. We will start with a look at teaching from a distance, from the perspective of the teacher.
Ask teachers everywhere why they teach, and the answers will be similar:
“I love learning.”
“I love kids.”
“Because children are the future, and I want to help them grow.”
“I want to share my passion.”
“I want to help young people along their journey.”
“I want to change lives.”
The teachers who have chosen to work at ADLC have the same reasons; they just act on their passions by using technology to overcome the time and space that separates them from their students. One thing that best defines both the similarities and differences is the way teachers form relationships with their students. In the end, all teaching requires connections between people.
In a traditional classroom, teachers and students interact continuously. They get to know one another through casual conversations as well as through structured learning activities. The students’ assignments deepen the teacher’s understanding about students’ learning needs. In a distance learning setting, the opportunity for casual interaction is obviously very limited. While there are opportunities to talk on the phone, through video-calls, and sometimes face-to-face, most of the communication between the student and teacher is written. The students and teachers get to know one another by the written messages they share. This amplifies the need for distance learning teachers to have excellent written communication skills. The students’ perceptions of their teacher are created and defined by the teachers’ written words.
One might presume that this reliance on written communication may hinder relationships, but ADLC teachers know that many of their students thrive in this setting because of who they are and why they chose ADLC courses in the first place. Not every student can thrive in the traditional classroom. Not every student’s life is well suited to a traditional school setting. The students served by ADLC include a whole host of typical students and may also include the chess champion who is accelerating her high school courses, the athlete who needs to practice gymnastics for 6 hours a day, the student on a Hutterite colony, the student with physical health issues, or the student with anxiety issues. Of course, many students are taking ADLC courses amidst a schedule of traditional courses in a bricks and mortar school. Students choose to take distance courses because they prefer or need this flexible delivery method. ADLC teachers know this and build relationships with their students, one student at a time.
ADLC teachers know that the relationships they build require much more purpose and focus than in a traditional setting. They have to maintain high standards of written communication. A typical day could include 1200 words of feedback: composed, reviewed, grammar checked, edited, and re-read prior to sending. This feedback is specific to the students and their work. The added value for students is that the written feedback is stored with the assignment so they can check and recheck it as they process their learning.
An ADLC senior high English teacher reviewing a student’s work
ADLC teachers have a range of experience. Some have worked the majority of their careers in a distance setting, others have transitioned from traditional schools, and others are beginning their teaching careers in the distance setting. ADLC teachers choose to teach this way because it matches their passion. They also told us that to be a great distance education teacher, it’s very important to have experience learning from a distance. The teachers we talked to have that experience. One actually took ADLC courses when she was in high school. Another continues to take distance courses as part of her post graduate studies. Many attend online seminars to access knowledge and information from experts around the world.
ADLC’s priority is to serve your students in your schools. ADLC teachers take great pride in the quality of the relationships they have with students at a distance and strive to leverage the connections they make for the success of every student. Like teachers across the province, they chose the profession because teaching changes lives, and through ADLC, teachers do that one student at a time.
In the next story of this series, we plan to talk with students and tell the story of distance learning from their perspective. Stay tuned!
View all our news at Alberta Distance Learning Centre