‘Being able to study from my home community made all the difference for me.’

Nicole Morningstar Tom and Meg Walker

Distance delivery options mean more opportunities for Yukon learners

WHEN NICOLE MORNINGSTAR Tom had her third child, she found herself spending a lot of time at home.

She was thinking about continuing her education, and after getting some experience in politics as an assistant to the executive director of her First Nation, she had the bug.

Nicole, a Little Salmon Carmacks First Nation citizen, wanted to learn more, but she didn’t want to leave her family or her traditional territory.

“I am tied to the land,” she says. “It’s important to me to stay in my community because this is where my children can learn their culture and their language. I am driven by my children and uprooting them wasn’t an option.”

Nicole registered for Yukon College’s First Nations Governance and Public Administration (FNGPA) program and was able to take her coursework from Carmacks. She could study from home or go into the College campus and login to a computer there.

Studying in Carmacks allowed Nicole to learn in a familiar environment, surrounded by the people and the land she loves.

“Going out on the land is part of my solace,” she says. “If I didn’t have that, it would be difficult to continue with all of the stressors that come with studying. I could go out on the land in Whitehorse or somewhere else, but there’s something different about the connection I have to my own land.”

Nicole is one of many students studying in certificate, diploma, and degree programs at Yukon College campuses outside of Whitehorse. There are 11 located in communities, from Watson Lake to Old Crow.

Each campus offers its own programming tailored to the needs of the community. For example, in 2017-18, the Ross River Dene Cho Kê’endį campus ran a hairdressing program, and the Teslin campus offered a course on climate change.

In addition to focused programming, each campus also has computers with internet connections, so students can tap in to a range of distance education courses offered from other locations.

Many of those courses come from Whitehorse, but some upgrading courses are offered from instructors at the Watson Lake campus, and some courses in the Office Administration program originate from the Tr’odëk Hätr’unohtän Zho campus in Dawson City.

In fact, in the last school year, the Office Administration program was fully offered in Dawson, and the first cohort of grads are now all working in their field. Now, the program has been expanded into distance delivery, so students in all communities can earn their certification from home.

“When we’re online I get to interact with students all over the Yukon, which is very cool,” says Dawson-based Office Administration Instructor Meg Walker. “We’re all connected in the same virtual room where anyone can chat at any time and can choose to turn cameras and mics on or off.”

The distance learning platform also allows students to break out from the class for group work, so people from different locations can work together on projects and learn from each other as well as from the instructor.

More than 31 students throughout the Yukon have signed up for the distance Office Administration program in Haines Junction, Teslin, Faro, Whitehorse, Pelly, Carmacks, Dawson, and Watson Lake.

Those who can’t make it to the scheduled class time can access the recordings on their own schedule through each course’s web page.

“Online delivery means that students can live in their communities and continue being a parent or working at jobs, which many of them are,” she says. “They don’t have to rearrange their entire lives; they don’t have to uproot their families; and this allows students to put their energy into focusing on their coursework.”

Teaching from the Dawson campus has also been a huge benefit for Meg, as she – like her students – is able to remain in the community where she has lived for several years.

Meanwhile back in Carmacks, Nicole has progressed from the FNGPA program into the Bachelor of Arts in Indigenous Governance degree program. She is taking second-year coursework and plans to be part of one of the first cohorts to earn the first fully made-in-Yukon degree.

“There’s a sense of pride that comes with studying in this degree program,” says Nicole.

“The coursework was put in place with direction from Elders and past negotiators.

They have the wisdom and the foresight to see what is needed in the Yukon, and they want educated people managing administration and governance in our communities.”

And she will be able to complete her studies in the degree program from home.