Nunavut tests online learning platform in case COVID-19 closes schools
Teachers across the territory are being trained to use the software, called Edsby
Nunavut’s education minister says schools are one step closer to being prepared to teach students remotely, should a community get an active case of COVID-19.
David Joanasie announced yesterday in the legislative assembly that the Government of Nunavut has procured Edsby, an online learning platform that will allow students to learn from home.
“We are very much more prepared compared to the spring time when the initial school closures happened.” Joanasie said in an interview during a break.
Preparations to send students home again is “an ongoing thing,” Joanasie said.
“Right now I feel like we’re as prepared as can be.”
The territory received federal money for education during the pandemic. It got $2.6 million, plus $5.75 million that is being allocated in phases.
This funding is being used to train custodial staff and buy personal protective equipment, digital devices like laptops and tablets, as well as internet access, so students can get onto the online platform from home.
A portion of that money was also used to buy Edsby, although Joanasie didn’t know exactly how much the digital learning interface cost.
Each school in the territory has a team, called “tech champions,” Joanasie said, who will train school staff to use Edsby.
“Right now we’re checking the functionality of the software and making sure everything aligns well,” Joanasie said.
The training will run until the end of November, he said.
All three of Nunavut’s official languages can be used on Edsby, and the platform is similar to social media sites, Joanasie said, meaning it should be accessible to teachers, parents and students.
Joanasie said yesterday in the legislature that the Department of Education plans to buy a total of 3,000 devices, consisting of laptops or tablets, in case students need to learn from home.
He said that they have purchased 700 or 800 tablets in the last few days.
Edsby is being used in jurisdictions across Canada, Joanasie said. Prior to the pandemic, it had been the intention of Nunavut’s education policy-makers to have an online learning platform such as this one available anyway, Joanasie added.
“The pandemic really pushed things forward in that regard,” he said.
“This is something we can be proud of and be ready for when COVID hits any of the communities. We know our students will be well supported and ready to learn in any situation.”
Joanasie has said in the past that teachers are creating learning packages for students to take home in case schools shut down, which can be adapted to wherever students are in the curriculum.
He’s also said that teachers and learning assistants are working to ensure that students who need it will get support to learn from home.
Nunavut’s public health office worked with the Department of Education to create a four-phased plan in case COVID-19 becomes active in the territory’s communities. Since there are currently no confirmed cases, Nunavut is in phase one. The higher the number of the phase, the greater degree of lockdown.