Never Too Late: An Indigenous Online Learning Story

Friday, January 20th, 2023 6:13pm

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Priscilla moved from Arviat, Nunavut, to Ottawa in 2016 before deciding she wanted a career change. Three years later, she enrolled in the Early Childhood Education program at Algonquin College as a mature student.

“In 2018, my daughter, who is now five, was a client in the early years’ program here in the Indigenous community,” Priscilla said. “I saw the need for Inuktitut/Inuktut-speaking early childhood educators; she was my inspiration to take the program at Algonquin College.” She said there is high demand for Indigenous early childhood educators, not just in Ottawa, but across the country. But another reason is that the college offers a great support system.

During the Covid pandemic, Priscilla moved over to AC Online (the college’s online campus) to complete her program. Though she could have chosen to remain with her classmates and taken the program over Zoom, she instead chose the flexibility AC Online offered. “I decided to take Early Childhood Education through online courses at Algonquin College because my daughter was very young at the time, and I wanted to spend more time with her,” Priscilla explained. “It was a bit of a challenge in the beginning because it was my first time taking courses online,” she shared. “However, I did get the hang of things quite quickly as I received a lot of support from the facilitators. Plus, my classmates were very supportive as well as my family and
friends.”

That support was crucial as she found online learning had its unique challenges, but there were unmatched benefits. “Being a mother to a toddler and a full-time student, I had to manage my time. The facilitators are great and very helpful. They’re there for you. Any questions or concerns you may have, you’re able to reach out and they’ll get back to you in a timely manner,” she said.

Now that she’s graduated, Priscilla is humbled that at 47 years old, she is able to inspire other Indigenous people who may want to enroll in online classes. She stated that her nieces and nephews saw her taking courses and said, “‘If auntie can do it, it doesn’t matter how old you are’.” She now has a sister in college, as well as a niece taking teacher education to whom she gives a lot of advice.

Priscilla advises potential Indigenous students to be prepared. While courses may be intense, there is a lot of help available, both from facilitators and classmates. “Algonquin has a great support system such as the Mamidosewin Centre. We had weekly sessions virtually, things like tea talks,” she said. Algonquin’s Mamidosewin Centre provides academic, career, and personal support to all Indigenous students, as well as on-campus amenities and a smudging location that even online students can visit should they wish to.

AC Online offers more than 80 full-time and part-time program options and more than 800 courses. Our learner-driven focus has led Algonquin College to provide students with an online learning experience like no other: a complete post-secondary education, in a virtual campus format, with the staff support they would get on a physical campus.