Cyber Stone growing in popularity

Lynn Little, the director of education for the South East Cornerstone Public School Division, introduced a pair of presenters to the school board members who were attending the Sept. 18 open business session in the division’s head office in Weyburn. 

Little noted how supporting roles are in place to assist classroom teachers, and other support staff members in delivering successful conclusions for about 8,300 students within the division’s 38 facilities. One of these programs, however, does not have a dedicated facility, but rather embraces a number of sites as cyber learning opportunities are being increasingly embraced by a number of students and educators for a variety of reasons. 

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The early focus was on Cyber Stone, the online learning model used by Cornerstone to expand the reach out to students engaged in various learning projects and classes. 

Jeff Walters, the co-ordinator of instructional technology, was joined by Susan Wilson, Cyber Stone’s principal, to walk the board members through an outline of what Cyber Stone offers and explore its successes and future plans. 

“We are not a rogue element,” Walters explained in his opening statement. “We follow Cornerstone’s system and adhere to their format and growth mindset while recognizing the barriers some students face and how they can overcome them.” 

Using some testimonials as examples, the two presenters noted how Cyber Stone had grown from its early beginnings in 2006 when only a few subjects were offered to a few students in an online format. It received a burst of growth with the official launch of Cyber Stone in the 2012-13 school year. The growth continued in 2016-17 to include Grade 8 and 9 classes. 

Up to that point, it had only been offered to the three more senior grades. Now students can fulfill all graduation requirements through Cyber Stone if needed. 

Currently there are 46 courses offered and a 47th to be added in the second semester this year, and that will be creative writing 20. There are 399 unique students comprising 667 course enrolments with 363 of those students currently enrolled in the first semester who are engaged in 533 courses such as accounting, agriculture production, English language, computer and environmental science, history, literature, psychology, social studies and more. 

“We have a database for every student and we are gaining success with credit recovery programs,” said Wilson, adding the withdrawal rate is only four per cent on average and some of those may start again or complete a program over the summer months. She also said students are surveyed for feedback every academic year-end. 

“Some have anxiety issues, I know, for example, we had five in Grade 9 alone last year,” she said.

Psychology and math classes are the most popular within Cyber Stone, the two educators reported and the students earned 430 credits alone in the second semester of the previous school year and 220 credits were earned in the first semester. 

A successful completion rate of 65 per cent was tabulated but only two per cent hit the “not completed” zone, they said in referencing their accompanying graphs and charts. In some instances (20 per cent) the student initiated a withdrawal while four per cent withdrew but intended to extend the opportunity to the following year while 161 students expressed interest but never started. Some entries were refused or were registered in error. In total, Wilson and Walters said the Cyber Stone overall success rate, the graduation rate, was just shy of 91 per cent while the overall student population in Cornerstone, not in Cyber Stone programs, was just slightly over 91 per cent, so the variance was less than half a per cent. 

Wilson and Walters explained there were about 28 per cent of the enrolled students who were not on track to graduation, but in many instances, it was revealed, they had latched on to employment or other opportunities elsewhere and had, therefore, postponed or cancelled Cyber Stone programming. 

Teacher and student engagement is strong within the program, said Wilson. 

“Sometimes they don’t know what they’re getting into, so we have included an introductory course they complete before they get involved.” 

The school has also introduced a communication laboratory to combat system integrity issues to ensure educational content is always accessible and to help eliminate academic dishonesty. 

“We did some transition meetings with students and, in some instances, with parents as well to establish a relationship so we would know what is needed, but we always adhere to SECPSD policies, procedure and culture,” Wilson added. 

The presenters also provided testimonials from students and instructors. 

“Students do have to interact with us,” said Wilson. Corrections are sometimes carried out through voice over applications and individualized assistance is offered when needed. Special project credits are also available once they are documented and passed. 

At the conclusion of their presentation, Walters and Wilson answered several questions regarding the Cyber Stone processes and the future plans for this growing initiative within the school division.

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