Developing a Network of Northern Learners

This blog was written by Sylvia Riessner for Recreation North. Sylvia is an educational consultant (, with a Masters in Educational Technology and a focus on online and blended learning. She has developed curriculum and taught adults in British Columbia and Yukon for more than 25 years. We have worked together on the Recreation North Pilot and the ongoing Training Program.


Sharing passions, exchanging experiences and ideas, exploring new concepts, and developing critical recreation leadership skills and knowledge – that’s what 72 individuals across the North have been doing since November last year! From Whale Cove (Tikirarjuaq) to Whitehorse, criss-crossing communities in Nunavut, NWT and Yukon, a diverse group of people interested in the potential of recreation have been engaging with each other and learning online.

Recreation North’s leadership program integrates research-based approaches to learning, a well-designed competency-based structure, and a judicious selection of technologies to offer a flexible program of linked learning events. The 2018-2019 Training Program began with an emphasis on developing community, valuing learner contributions, respecting indigenous perspectives, while exploring foundational recreation concepts, frameworks and policies.

Research has shown that taking time to develop a sense of community and connections between participants and the teacher, and among participants, can improve retention and lead to successful learning online. As well, encouraging learners to share what they already know can help the trainer to engage them and help them grasp new concepts and broaden their understanding.

Through regular teleconference sessions, the RecNorth trainer helped participants to “learn the sound of each other’s voices” and to exchange information, ideas and experiences gleaned from their communities and recreation programs. Weekly online learning activities developed comfort and familiarity with the online environment, and offered many opportunities for learners to engage with new material presented by the trainer or shared by other participants in online discussion forums. Learners often expressed their delight in sharing and developing a network of recreation leaders/learners.

“Sharing is always my favorite part. To hear what others are doing and how that might be applicable in my community.” T. Gohl

“Loved the networking and connections made. Collaborating!!! YES!” S. Whittle

Networked or “connected” learning is a powerful way to develop recreation leadership capacity across the North. The option to use online technologies makes it feasible; allowing the network to emerge and support participants even after the training is complete.

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