Conceptual Design for a Distance Education School for Rural Secondary Students in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba
This paper describes a distance education institution for rural secondary students in Canada’s Prairie Provinces (Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba), premised on a hypothetical collaborative initiative arising from a Canadian Association of Principals conference where the challenges facing rural education were explored. This hypothetical initiative was advanced through discussions with respective schools districts and provincial associations. A preliminary proposal garnered funding for a market assessment that confirmed a viable niche market (Simonson, Smaldino, Albright, & Zvacek, 2012).
The Open Prairie Lyceum (OPL) concept comprises a federated distance education (DE) school model to serve rural areas, where school abandonment and dwindling enrolments impede students’ learning experiences and access to quality and comprehensive education, and undermine community sustainability (Bennett, 2012; Oncescu, 2013). OPL addresses the economic needs of rural areas by enabling students to develop relationships and gain local work experience, preparing them for higher education, training and careers that may contribute to long-term rural development and revitalization and encourage students to remain in their rural homes permanently (Indiana Partnership for Statewide Education, 2000; Lemoine & Ramsay, 2011; Simonson, Smaldino, Albright, & Zvacek, 2012).