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Accessibility innovation

Multi-delivery format course building community, participation

special feature: Innovation

Part of a special feature showcasing Memorial’s innovation ecosystem, a pan-university effort focused on supporting the development and success of innovators across Newfoundland and Labrador.  

By Pamela Gill

A new multi-delivery format course at Grenfell Campus is building community and encouraging participation in university courses.

Kelly Anne Butler’s Humanities 3100 course, Contemporary Indigenous Ideas: Personal Narrative, has drawn about 40 students from across Canada and the United States. But, this is no ordinary course.

A screen shot of the Contemporary Indigenous Ideas: Personal Narrative “classroom.”
Photo: Submitted

“This is a creative experiment in moving the “classroom” around to a variety of Indigenous communities, as well as the university,” said Ms. Butler, a PhD candidate at the University of Saskatchewan.

The course meets one night per week, simultaneously at multiple locations via live stream.

Community-partner classroom

While several participants are scattered throughout Alberta, Ontario, Nova Scotia and even Wisconsin, the bulk of the students are in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Prof. Butler travels regularly to the Flat Bay Band Inc. office, which Butler refers to as the community partner classroom, where a critical mass of classmates gather from that area to participate.

“It brings mainstream university students into conversation with Indigenous peoples and communities.” — Kelly Anne Butler

She has also travelled to Happy Valley-Goose Bay to deliver course material from the Labrador Institute.

“This method of delivery enables more people to access the university,” she said. “It also brings mainstream university students into conversation with Indigenous peoples and communities.

Indigenous humanities

Prof. Butler says that while many of the participants enrolled for personal enrichment, the experience is exposing them to the university context and that a few are pursuing courses in the winter 2018 semester.

The combined live and online classroom makes education accessible to people with full-time jobs and families who live too far away to travel.

Funding from the Cross-Campus Initiatives Fund allows Prof. Butler to leave campus and get out into Indigenous communities, which is fitting, given the course topic addresses the difference between the mainstream “humanities” and “Indigenous humanities,” primarily by reading Indigenous autobiographies, but also through Indigenous music, film and more.

Another interesting facet of the course is the different participation/registration/fee levels: university credit, community participation certificate or personal enrichment. The students can either register for an academic course, a non-academic certificate or simply sit in on the course for interest.

“Embracing multiple delivery formats within one course — face-to-face, interactive live stream and online viewing — along with the varied levels of registration, help to make this course a great example in accessibility innovation,” said Prof. Butler.

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