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Researching Barriers to Online Learning

Dr. Paula Hayden set out to engage a community through teaching and learning, but her research took her to new and interesting spaces that challenged her beliefs and shifted her perspective.

Post by BCcampus’ editorial team

Earlier this year, Dr. Paula Hayden, Director, Centre for Teaching & Learning at the College of New Caledonia (CNC), shared the research project she was conducting through a diversity, equity, and inclusion grant from BCcampus. Now that her research project has concluded, we caught up with her to hear about her findings.

The report explains, “on the surface, a research project focused on how to better support Indigenous learners in rural and remote communities may be perceived as a simple and appropriate inquiry. Access to education should be part of the social contract that all persons living in Canada can expect, regardless of their location in the country. We know, however, this is not necessarily the case, especially for Indigenous populations.”

What would you like readers to learn from your research?

“It’s important to learn how to engage, even if that means trying new ways that might be uncomfortable or unfamiliar,” said Paula. “I thought that I knew how to establish relationships and work well with people, but I discovered that I really don’t understand what developing a relationship means when introducing myself to an Indigenous community.”

“Despite the research project not being completed as anticipated,” the report continues, “the findings mirror others’ research efforts as far as identifying systemic, social, geographical, and financial barriers for Indigenous learners in rural and remote communities. The history that created the systems that led to inequalities has not changed, so the result here is simply more evidence of known truths.”

“The big learning that I took away from this project was: be authentic,” shared Paula. “To do this, look for ways to build relationships. Acknowledge that the lens you bring and the lens that others bring aren’t the same. Be willing to listen.”

If you could start over, what would you have done differently?

“I would have made a bigger attempt to meet people in the community, the leaders and members as a research population,” said Paula. “I’d like to learn how to understand the community — their history, hopes, and dreams, and how they live their lives. I would begin by establishing a credible, authentic relationship.”

“Despite the limitations of this research effort, there was value in it. The stories and experiences the participants shared reflected a deep-rooted appreciation for education and an optimism for education as an agent of change and success. There was a consistent reflection that education was encouraged by family and community elders, that it was valued and necessary. When participants spoke of their successes in education, those successes were most often tied to experiences that allowed them to not only learn information or skills that they valued, but to do so in a safe, nurturing, communal environment. Feeling valued and supported and having the opportunity to share the experience with others gave them confidence and inspired continued learning.”

Notable Quote

“Conducting this research has taken me on a journey of reflection and learning about myself. I hope it opens the door to further conversation with teaching and learning peers, Indigenous colleagues, and Indigenous communities.”


Dr. Paula Hayden, Director, Centre for Teaching & Learning at the College of New Caledonia

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