Blackfeet Students Can Take Online Classes

May 15th, 2005 | By | Category: 16-4: International Indigenous Education, Tribal College News

WEB CAT. Student Tim McKay is enrolled in Blackfeet Community College’s online statistics class. Photo by Tony Bynum

Blackfeet Community College (BCC, Browning, MT) is in its third semester of offering online courses and will offer new classes this fall. The tribal college offers core classes by distance learning in college success skills, introduction to computers, Blackfeet history, math, English, introduction to sociology, and psychology. The program offers online courses and hybrid courses with face-to-face meeting times.

The biggest challenge was raising awareness about learning online, according to Cheri Valdovino, district education coordinator. Another challenge was to raise the comfort level of faculty teaching online using WebCT. “The faculty who teach online at BCC are wonderful! Just supporting one another got us through the rough times,” Valdovino says.

The college uses a WebCT platform, which is a course management system or learning management system tool for internet-based classes. BCC classroom instructors developed the online courses. Through an agreement with Montana State University in Bozeman, MT, WebCT staff from Bozeman host training every spring covering methodologies, best practices, and technology of WebCT. A National Science Foundation grant plays a major role in the college’s ability to offer distance learning.

The program serves students in remote areas of the reservation, those working full time, and those without access to a college or university. NASA donated nine computers that will be placed in schools near Browning — Seville, Babb, and Heart Butte. “These computers are available to any students who don’t have a computer at home,” says Valdovino. Others use computers at work or BCC.

To be successful, students must be self-motivated, self-disciplined, and willing to take charge of their own learning, according to Valdovino. “Initially some students were not even using email,” she says. Although Valdovino conducts several orientations, some students still have trouble with the technicalities.

The only 4-year degree offered online is in early childhood education. “Ideally, as more students get acquainted with distance learning they can pursue a 4-year degree online without having to uproot their families to larger cities or stop working full time,” says Valdovino.

One student who moved to Hawaii was able to complete her tribal college classes online. The coordinator’s goal is to work with local 4-year institutions so students have more such opportunities at their fingertips.


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