Google map showing where the 23,000 students were logging into the Aboriginal Worldview course from.

Google map showing where the 23,000 students were logging into the Aboriginal Worldview course from.

By Marci Becking

TORONTO – Nearly 23,000 people from all over the world registered for the free University of Toronto online Aboriginal Worldviews course taught by Professor Jean-Paul Restoule.

“This was my first time doing an online course at all, never mind a Massive Open Online Course or MOOC,” says Restoule, citizen of Dokis First Nation who believes that this course changed some people’s perception of Canada. 

“Especially people outside of Canada,” he says. “But definitely a number of people who are proud Canadians learned about some dark corners of our not-so-distant history, from residential schools and their impact, to the treaties, to the inequities in the control and delivery of education options to Aboriginal people.”

The course offered video resources, lectures, reading material, a forum to ask questions and talk with other students, and a popular screen-side chat that Professor Restoule did after each segment to discuss issues raised in the forums.

One student wrote:  “Loved the screen-side chat, especially because it is such a good model for educators. A lot of educators forget to ‘tie the bow on the package’ so the content of the learning is given as a sum of the whole and not just a collection of pieces.”

Restoule thinks his course may have motivated some participants to take an active role in supporting First Nations issues. 

“A number of people feel better informed and many have declared their solidarity with Aboriginal peoples and what they are doing to take action. All across the world people in the course have been moved to meet up with the local Idle No More group or to found one of their own.”

Restoule also says that Canadians need to access better and more informed curriculum about Aboriginal topics.

“That, plus teaching at a younger age and throughout their education experiences, but it doesn’t necessarily require huge changes.  It just requires willing teachers who take the effort and the risk of bringing Aboriginal perspectives into their teaching,” he says.  “We can cover the curriculum and do so with Aboriginal examples, perspectives, knowledge, authors, artists, etc.  Teachers just need to feel confident enough to do it. The resources are there. One example is www.oise.utoronto.ca/deepeningknowledge. And they can use the materials in the MOOC, too.” 

Professor Restoule  believes that it’s every citizen’s responsibility to learn about Indian Residential Schools. 

“They don’t need to wait for the government to do it,” he says. “Teachers have a special responsibility to convey this information to our next generation. I’m glad that so many are taking this up and I only hope they can encourage others in the profession to do so as well.”

Restoule says that previously-enrolled students will receive notice of other similar courses in the future offered through Coursera.