The McArthur River Mine, Northern Saskatchewan
The McArthur River Mine, Northern Saskatchewan

Sometimes, distance education really is distant. Damian Boyle is a workplace instructor from Northlands College who works with itinerant workers at the remote McArthur River mine in Northern Saskatchewan. He has noticed a steep drop in the voluntary drop-in for adult education at the mine following recent local access to Wi-Fi and the Internet. He asked me a serious of questions I can’t answer. Here are his questions:

With regards to some aspects of m-learning by adults that are informal, unstructured, and perhaps accidental rather than purposeful: I work as a Workplace Educator for Northlands College, and provide learning services to about 1000 itinerant Workers at Cameco’s McArthur River Mine Site, in northern Saskatchewan. This is a fly-in site, with camp accommodations and no other community or services.  (Further details about my work are posted on EduNorth).

I am seeking ways to drive engagement by Workers with the Workplace Education Program. To that end I am here requesting your assistance for direction to resources, organizations, and individuals that may be able to provide some suggestions about how to best do this.

Since July of 2013 I have observed a steep decline in drop-in engagement with the Workplace Education Program on un-paid time (voluntary participation).  This decline in voluntary participation has been coincidental with the provision of cellular service and Wi-Fi internet access at the Site, plus the now ubiquitous (~95%) adoption of smartphones by workers.  Has your organization experienced similar trends?

1.    With regards to adult learners, what are the statistical trends for engagement with services for assistance with developing:  Literacy, Numeracy, Workplace Essential Skills, and Adult Basic Education?

2.    What percentage of those adult Learners seeking assistance with developing Literacy, Numeracy, Workplace Essential Skills, and Adult Basic Education, own or regularly use a Smartphone or Tablet?

Any direction, suggestions, recommendations, statistics, or thoughts that you could share with me about any of this would be most appreciated. Thanks very much for your assistance with this.

 I’m wondering if anyone can help, either by posting a comment to this post or sending Damian an e-mail at



  1. Interesting observation this. There must be a link between the increase of wifi access and decrease in drop-in rates but is the causal link meaningful in terms of learning or is it just that these workers are busy doing things on their smartphone that have nothing to do with the kind of learning that they were exposed to in the drop-in programs. Access to technologies does not automatically mean the meaningful use of these for learning even if the same apps are used, for example we’ve observed that with learners and practitioners alike who use a tech tools or apps but haven’t made the leap to envision their uses in an educational context. I would think that it would be necessary to use the drop-in program in connection with the workers’ mobile devices and the now readily available wifi to make the causal link meaningful. If the drop-in program provides learning activities onsite including the authentic use of the mobile devices or using them to extend the learning activities beyond the classroom, the causal link would be meaningful in my opinion. I guess it comes down to that meaningful practice/use gap rather than the having access to tech or not gap. Supplying access to all and cheaper tech tools is as problematic as equality of opportunity.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here