By Dr. Jo-Anne Clarke, Dean, Continuing Studies
"COVID did not crush the future. It merely brought it forward."
– John Stackhouse, Senior VP, Royal Bank of Canada
A lot has happened in the world of education since the release of our last calendar. It's an understatement to say that things are just not the same.
I miss walking into our building, which is usually humming with students. The hustle and bustle of face-to-face classes has been replaced with hand sanitizer and reminders to physically distance.
For a destination university that prides itself on experiential learning, I applaud our students, faculty and staff for jumping into the world of online learning and remote working with both feet. It is truly amazing to see how quickly we've adopted new technology and found ways to connect online. "Let's Zoom" has become the mantra that defines us!
One of the surprising outcomes of the pandemic has been how readily many of our community learners have also shifted to online platforms for their personal and recreational learning. People who were struggling to connect with their wi-fi just a few months ago are now chatting online with others like the cast of Hollywood Squares.
Pandemic or not, people remain eager to learn. In fact, some find they have more time than ever to explore new ideas. At Continuing Studies, we are growing and changing with our learners.
In this calendar, you will see a handful of face-to-face community courses offered this fall, but the vast majority will be online. When it's safe to do so, we'll open up more face-to-face programming, but we'll remain committed to online delivery.
Online classes meet the needs of a lot of people, plus they reach a much wider audience. If, for example, you live on an island, travel often or prefer not to drive at night, our online classes are a great option. In fact, some people even prefer online learning over face-to- face. I don't know about you, but I enjoy taking a class in my stretchy pants, with my dog on my lap and a beverage in hand!
Each year, we typically welcome over 3,000 international students from around the world to study in our English Language Centre. It's one of the largest on-campus programs of its kind in Canada so you can imagine what a loss it is, on so many levels, to not have them here. We miss our international students and look forward to welcoming them back for the full Victoria experience.
In the meantime, we have developed an exciting new suite of online English language programs called ELC Connect. Thousands of students around the globe want to study with a Canadian university but cannot attend in-person. ELC Connect makes it possible for international learners to learn English without leaving their home countries, and we predict it will be part of our Continuing Studies program offering long after the pandemic is over.
Online program delivery is not new for us. Over the last 40 years, Continuing Studies has been delivering distance and online programs in areas like business, technology, public relations, occupational health and safety, cultural resource management, and more.
What has changed, however, is the recent and urgent need for reskilling and upskilling micro-credentials in our professional programs to help the workforce adapt to post-pandemic ways of working. Competencies and skills may differ depending on the industry, but you can bet that digital literacy, change management, critical thinking and project management are high on everyone's list.
We are sensitive to the needs of today's employers, some of whom may not have the same budget for training. We are working with governments, as well as private and public sector employers, to design reskilling solutions that are agile and scalable. The goal of our newly launched Custom Learning Solutions unit is to design training programs that fit the needs of any employer.
I find it life-affirming to see people use technology as a tool for building community and learning together, whether it's to improve English, upgrade professional skills, or just for the sheer joy of it. I look forward to the day when our building is back to its pre-COVID buoyancy but, in the meantime, I encourage you to take a class online with us this fall. Stay connected, learn something new, and enjoy the wonderful feeling of vitality that comes with it!