People who have lived in the area for a while probably know of the big glass building at the north end of Barrhead as the Alberta Distance Learning Centre (ADLC). Many people still think of it as the “correspondence school.” Pembina Hills staff may think of it as the building where they attended meetings and professional development sessions. Some might recall how over the last 18 months or so, ADLC centralized its staff in Barrhead and closed offices in Calgary, Lethbridge and Edmonton. So what really happens in that big glass building?
ADLC provides resources and instruction for Alberta’s teachers and students
In many ways, ADLC operates like a school. It has a principal, teachers and support staff who work together to teach students. ADLC teachers do what all teachers do — they present lessons, mark student work, give feedback and help students along their learning journey. Alberta students interact with their ADLC teachers from a distance — they talk on the phone, by email, or on live chats.
ADLC also provides resources for Alberta’s teachers. All of the courseware that ADLC teachers created is available to every teacher in Alberta. Because courses have to be completely aligned to Alberta curriculum, and because these courses include instruction, references, assignments and tests, many teachers choose to use these courses in their own classrooms.
Who uses ADLC?
ADLC’s motto is “Supporting Your Students in Your Schools.” All of the teachers and students who use ADLC services ‘belong’ to their resident school division. ADLC simply provides a service. In 2018-19, over 22,000 students registered for courses — many students take just one course while others take several. All these students continue to be enrolled in their community schools.
Most teachers have areas of expertise and usually schools try to assign teachers to those areas. Often, teachers will need to teach something less familiar to them. Since ADLC courses are completely built, teachers can choose to use parts or all of the ADLC course materials in their own classrooms. And since these resources are free, they are an attractive solution. Many novice teachers choose to use these courses as a foundation for their planning, instruction and assessment.
All schools, regardless of their size, try to offer Alberta’s entire program of studies to students. Small communities obviously have relatively small schools. It is difficult for them to offer all of the available courses because they aren’t able to put enough students together to form a class. These schools look to ADLC to fill gaps for courses that they can’t offer. ADLC does not charge a fee for this service.
All schools create timetables and schedules for students. Sometimes, students want to take a course offered at a certain time but they are already booked for another necessary course. Schools (small and large) often look to ADLC to provide flexibility for students when these timetable conflicts arise.
No longer the ‘correspondence school’
Alberta Distance Learning Centre has been part of Alberta’s education system for nearly 100 years! It was originally a department within Alberta Education and was operated out of Edmonton. During the early 1980’s, it moved to Barrhead as part of a decentralization of government services. Then in 1997, the governance of the department was passed to the Pembina Hills School Board. In the last twenty years, student registrations skyrocketed and the branch offices were opened in Calgary, Edmonton and Lethbridge.
As digital communication systems evolved, the demand for distance education changed. This demand and the high rate of online use prompted leaders to closely review the purpose of ADLC in Alberta. The Pembina Hills Board of Trustees decided to refocus on two main roles: Teacher Support and Student Instruction.
2018-19 marked a turning point in ADLC’s history. Closing the branch offices brought all their the teachers to a single location. A single site means improved teacher-teacher collaboration as well as reduced operating costs and greater efficiencies. Also, the return to a traditional school year (September to June) lines up with school calendars which reinforces ADLC’s core purpose.
Currently hundreds of schools across Alberta are setting up and adjusting timetables for students. In Barrhead, over 85 ADLC teachers are ready to provide Alberta students with instruction in about 300 different courses in all subject areas. Nearly 40 support staff are answering calls from schools, distributing materials and information, and maintaining the digital systems needed to serve upwards of 22,000 students.
With the new school year underway, that big glass building at the north end of Barrhead is truly alive with activity.
Information for teachers, students and others
Teachers who would like to access ADLC courses can contact Partner Support at 780.674.5333. Schools wishing to register students can also contact Partner Support at 780.674.5333. Visit www.adlc.ca for more information.