Online Learning

2015-2016 Issue 1

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The School is above all else a learning institution whose mission is to respond to the educational needs of its students. To increase accessibility and flexibility, the School has placed a focus on innovative online programming. Two such offerings have launched this fall: a program in Information Systems for Indigenous People in Northern Quebec, and language courses for Quebec health care professionals. Both offerings make the School’s learning opportunities available to those living throughout the province of Quebec.

“We wanted to offer a learning solution that was flexible and accessible to everyone,” says Effie Dracopoulos, Associate Director of Language and Intercultural Communication. “That’s why we turned to online learning. Our clientele includes nurses, social workers and frontline health care administrators, and they don’t have much time.”

As a result, Language and Intercultural Communication, in partnership with the School’s Instructor Services and Educational Technologies unit, created customized online courses and virtual classes to meet the needs of their clientele. These courses allow students from across the province to attend classes that were tailored to both their profession and their language level. “Teaching virtual classes was a first for us, so we had to adapt our teaching methods” says Dracopoulos. “We wanted to make sure our virtual classes were as dynamic and collaborative as our in-class courses, and that students had the opportunity to participate in group discussions. We also recorded our lessons, so we could review and modify our techniques. And it worked!”

Feedback from the program’s pilot phase reported that 97 per cent of participants said they would definitely recommend it to their colleagues. “We are so happy. We were able to deliver what we had promised and create a program that met their needs head on.” As a result, Dracopoulos is confident that the School has “developed expertise in the design, development and delivery of customized online language programming. We’ve broken new ground in offering virtual face-to-face classes.”

Meanwhile, the School recently launched the Online Courses for Northern Aboriginals in Canada project, which has received equally positive reviews. The School has offered online business courses for some time. After receiving a multi-year grant from Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada (AANDC), the School was able to expand its offerings to include courses in information technology. The new program covers information systems and data processing technology, focusing on skills that are in high demand across northern Quebec. Topics include operating systems administration, system security, and mobile application development.

The first course offered was Introduction to Computer Information Systems, taught by instructor Graham Thorpe. “This course touches on both theory and practical applications,” says Thorpe, who has over 20 years of teaching experience. “We cover things such as data and knowledge management, networking, relational database operations, business intelligence, and social computing.” Thorpe worked to ensure that the material was tailored to the various communities in which the students live and work. “I find it exciting that McGill is offering this course to remote learners,” says Thorpe, “and it’s interesting for me personally to deliver it online. It’s challenging, but it’s working well.”

One of his students is Eugene Nicholas, a member of the Kanesatake Mohawk community in Kanesatake, Que., who is currently living in St-Mathias-sur-Richelieu, Que. “I’m a graduate from another institution, and I enrolled because I wanted to refresh my knowledge,” says Nicholas. So far the online course has been “an awesome experience. It’s a convenient way of learning, and a great way to meet my needs for education, work and family life. You can learn and participate with an instructor in the comfort of your home – you can never be late for class, and it eliminates travel issues.” Nicholas has already had the opportunity to apply what he’s learned in class, and would strongly recommend the course to others. “It’s an awesome experience, and the convenient technology brings classes to your residence.”

Whether in class or online, the School is empowering people near and far to learn practical skills, make new connections, and elevate their lives.

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