When the provincial government shut down schools in March due to COVID-19, students and teachers alike were thrown into virtual classrooms with mixed results.
But when done right, online learning can meet students’ needs for interaction, conversation, teamwork, and communication in a supportive environment that offers professional enrichment.
“There is a difference between emergency online learning and quality online learning,” says Dr. Annie Prud'homme-Généreux, the director of Continuing Studies at Capilano University.
“This is not your kid’s Zoom class. This is not your mother’s online PDF course experience.”
Continuing Studies at Capilano University is proud to launch 50 brand new online courses that were designed specifically for adult learners who need flexibility.
Prud'homme-Généreux’s background is in distance education. When she assumed the director position last year, her goal was to transition Capilano to more online learning within two years. The COVID-19 pandemic inspired the school to fast-track its plans, pivoting from in-person classes to totally online.
“We put everything on pause while we developed an entirely new suite of courses,” Prud'homme-Généreux says.
“We are now more focused on career upskilling and helping people retool to get the skills they need to advance in their careers.”
Offerings include courses in online entrepreneurship for small business, data analysis and visualization, digital marketing, and project management. For leadership training, Capilano offers a series of 10 courses that coach emerging leaders and help them network with peers from other organizations.
“We’re focusing on the early to mid-career professional, as well as the small business community,” Prud'homme-Généreux says.
Quality online learning is not about sitting quietly during a Zoom lecture or just watching a Powerpoint presentation. Today’s cutting edge online learning is not a static experience. It allows for a wide variety of learning mechanisms and can be fun and social.
Continuing Education students have several options for the type of online learning they would like to pursue. Cohort-based classes are taken with other students with the goal of cooperative learning. For students who want more flexibility, Capilano offers self-paced courses, where students work through the courses on their own schedule while still being coached by an expert in the field.
Courses are open enrollment with few prerequisites, and all are assessed with hands-on assignments.
“As long as you’re willing to participate and do the work, you will pass,” Prud'homme-Généreux says.
Completing assignments helps students to apply what they have learned and provides them with the opportunity to measure their progress with expert feedback.
“We recognize that adult learners are not blank slates. Whatever experiences they bring to the course, the assignments can be linked to their real-world jobs, whether that’s creating a strategic plan or developing a marketing plan for their small business,” Prud'homme-Généreux says.
“The courses are very tangible and applicable to what they’re already doing.”
The practical learning starts with the instructors who teach Capilano’s Continuing Studies courses.
“We look at our instructors as being a coach to students,” Prud'homme-Généreux says.
“Instead of a sage on a stage, our instructors are a guide on the side.”
Capilano’s Continuing Education instructors are working professionals who are leaders in their fields and passionate about what they do. They’re able to bring real-world insight to the classroom and reinforce the practical nature of the school’s courses.
“They truly are passionate about sharing what they love,” Prud'homme-Généreux says.
For those on the fence about trying out a new style of learning, Capilano is offering a free self-paced course on file management so that learners can get a sense of what online education feels like.
“It’s good for someone who wants to get comfortable in that online environment with zero risk,” Prud'homme-Généreux says.
“Don’t be afraid. Your course will be practical, interactive, and you will get feedback from an expert who will coach you through.”