Flexible distance teaching key to building stronger public service in Nunavut

The joint Carleton University-Government of Nunavut (GN) Certificate in Nunavut Public Service Studies, established in 2001, is already well respected by its northern students and partners. One of the keys to this success is the willingness of the Carleton University team, headed by Frances Abele, to continually modify its teaching and delivery practices.

“The Aboriginal world often has the impression that universities are unresponsive to the needs of indigenous cultures,” states Cam McGregor. “However, Carleton constantly adapts this program, based on the experiences of the participants. As a result, GN employees are increasingly interested in taking the courses.”

McGregor is the GN Department of Human Resources training and development consultant, and he coordinates the program with Carleton’s Christina Turnbull.

The eight-course certificate program is delivered using hybrid distance methods, i.e., a combination of off-site teaching and on-site support. Typically, lectures and assignments are delivered by an Ottawa-based instructor via the web and/or taped lectures, and Nunavut-based facilitators lead group workshops and individual study sessions in three communities: Iqaluit, Cambridge Bay and Arviat. Efforts are made in each course delivery to “Nunavutize” content, examples and case studies.

According to Abele, a professor in Carleton’s School of Public Policy and Administration (SPPA), this form of delivery reflects both geographic considerations and learners’ needs. She points out that the GN is decentralized, with public service offices in 10 Nunavut communities.

Using available technology, such as the web, to deliver course content ensures that the program is accessible for participating GN employees. And by closely monitoring every course in partnership with the students and GN staff, the Carleton team has found that students want interaction with both facilitators and the course instructor. “Most students benefit from personal contact with a facilitator or instructor as well as from a variety of supplementary materials,” says Abele. “Not every student responds to all of the measures we use, but we try to have a range so that everyone is supported.”

Given the cost of sending a Carleton instructor to Nunavut, face-to-face student-professor interaction is limited. This summer SPPA associate professor Chris Stoney spent 13 days in Iqaluit, teaching the initial components of Introduction to Organizational ehaviour. Ottawa instructor Catherine Waters delivered the web-based components.

Stoney discovered that just being in the classroom did not guarantee that participants would have a successful learning experience; he also had to modify his teaching style so that both Inuit and non-Inuit students would find the material relevant.

“While the basic organizational theories apply universally, I quickly learned to incorporate examples that not only related to industrial settings but also to how people worked together on the land,” he explains. “Plus I had to set aside more time for dialogue.”

One of the course participants, Linda Qaqqasiq, confirms that she learned more because Stoney was on site. Qaqqasiq is a staffing officer for the GN, and she says she improved her knowledge of how different organizations function when she took the course this summer.

“Having an instructor in person gave me a good start to the course,” she observes. “I felt important and comfortable to make mistakes, and not pressured by the expert. English is a second language for some of us, but we were able to communicate with each other, which made a big difference.”

Certificate in Nunavut Public Service Studies

  • Designed for Government of Nunavut (GN) employees
    Of the 2,900 current GN staff, 129 have taken at least one
    course.
  • Inuit employees currently constitute approximately 45
    per cent of GN employees and have taken certificate
    courses in proportion to their representation in the workforce.

This entry was written by Martha Attridge Bufton and posted in the issue. Tags applied to this article are: . Leave a comment, bookmark the permalink or share the following short URL for this article via social media: http://carletonnow.carleton.ca/?p=4394

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