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Post-secondary education and distance learning options including over the internet

On Wednesday May 9, I asked the Minister of Education and Training in Estimates the government's approach to tele-education and learning over the internet. 
Mr. Gerrard: 
      My next question has to do with the minister's view on the use of the Internet, tele‑education, distance learning, where we are and what the minister is doing in this area. [interjection] Specifically with regard to post-secondary education, but if you can talk about earlier areas as well.
Mr. Wishart: Well, and thank you very much for the question, to the member from River Heights, because it is a very good one.
      There's great potential in this area, and one of the things we're certainly looking forward to is better Internet access, especially in northern Manitoba and, in fact, rural Manitoba. Very–a number of the school divisions are already working to get better Internet access to their schools, ongoing basis. It comes at a cost. It's one of the more expensive items. A number of school divisions look at if they were bringing in, you know, high-speed Internet service, so often they try and spread that cost over the whole community. And in some of the rural settings that's actually worked out reasonably well.
      I know that over the–since the 1990s, the Hutterite schools have in–had in place a TV system, which is not interactive, but it does provide them with the opportunity to teach different courses from one site. And it's–though it's aging because of technology moving forward, it has actually proven to provide them with a very good system in terms of offering a full range of courses through their high school system which they were not able to do before because they only have–in a lot of the colonies, they only would have a handful of teachers there, and certainly having that level or range of expertise was never possible. And I know I've been on site a number of times when they were demonstrating that, and it seems to work particularly well. They're very proud of it. It's something that they pretty much put together on their own, frankly, and has offered their students a wider range of education.
      Though that is older technology, I think it's not a bad example of what can be done in some of the northern and remote communities. So we certainly look for opportunities to do that as Internet becomes available. We've had this discussion with Frontier as to what–and they're certainly open, who run most of those more remote schools, looking at opportunities in that area as well. So we're keen to work with them on that.
      It ties a bit, actually, into some of our post‑secondary plans, too, to offer more at least introductory level. One of the things we hear all the time from post-secondary institutions is that there's quite a substantial difference from children that come from rural and remote communities and whether they're ready for the post-secondary institution. And by offering some of these transitional programs or programs to make sure that they have the basics in place, we would get better results.
      It's a challenge for a student to come in from a rural and remote area and make that transition to schools. We certainly would like to offer as much as we can in many of these areas. We–in terms of post‑secondary, there's some opportunity to move further down that road, but full diplomas or degree courses in rural communities are still a number of years away, I'm afraid. But we're working as quickly as we can in that area. It's certainly a good idea; leaving a student in the community, their success rate's much better.
Mr. Gerrard: It's interesting that the minister references the education in the Hutterite colonies. I was fortunate and privileged to have the opportunity to provide the–some of the initial funding for the–in  the early 1990s or mid-1990s for the set-up in Elie, which started the distance education unit in which the Hutterite colonies played a major role in developing from that point on. And, as you mentioned–as the minister's mentioned, it's actually been remarkably successful in a whole lot of ways, and with students graduating in colonies where they have not had graduates before.
      The post-secondary situation, seems to me that  at one point, with Campus Manitoba being–sort  of funnelling courses from all post-secondary education institutions to rural areas, that there was an opportunity to build that in a much more effective way into a one-window access for students in rural  areas, and, you know, people who are, for a variety of reasons, working part-time, only able to go part‑time to take courses, that there's major advantages in being able to have Internet access to courses.
      So we'll be looking forward to more comments from the minister with regard to the potential in   post‑secondary education, but I think we–compared  with other jurisdictions, we've not really come to the table adequately.  


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