BCcampus is ten years old in 2012. To commemorate, we’re publishing a series of articles that illustrate some of our milestones and describe how we got here. This is the first article, featuring BCcampus-supported online Collaborative Programs.
David Cunningham had been out of school for the better part of 30 years, working in a variety of different fields, when the economic downturn resulted in a period of unemployment. From the early 1990s, a growing interest in computers had kept him learning on his own, but David realized that he needed more than self-training to get stable work in the IT field.
Living in Nanaimo, David found he had three options for getting the formal training and certification required for IT work: take the courses offered at a local institution, travel or move to attend another institution that offered the courses he wanted, or take online courses. And that’s where BCcampus came in.
After looking closely at the options, David chose to enroll in the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) online collaborative program, supported by BCcampus. Not only would the program provide the certification he needed, but he found that the way it works and the particular combination of courses offered were impressive, and he liked the fact that he could work from home.
The ICT program is a collaboration on the part of four colleges: College of New Caledonia, Northern Lights College, Northwest Community College and Yukon College. Students choose one of the four colleges as their Home Institution, where they register and from which they ultimately receive their certification, but their courses are with faculty from the other participating institutions as well. BCcampus serves as the virtual campus for the program, connecting the students, faculty and institutions through a variety of shared hosting and support services.
Classes are offered online in real time through Adobe Connect, a web conferencing system, with students able to participate and ask questions as though in a real classroom. Students who are unable to attend the online classes during the day are able to access recordings of the classes afterwards.
Students participate in discussion forums and do their assignments, tests, group projects and other work through the learning management system Desire2Learn (D2L), which is hosted by BCcampus. The flexible schedule and accessibility of the online courses means students can attend full-time or part-time, depending on their situation.
The ICT program offers two options:
- The certificate option requires 30 course credits, which can be completed in two terms full-time or over a longer period part-time, and prepares a student for work as a hardware technician, network technician or junior programmer in business, government, industry and other organizations.
- The diploma option requires an additional 30 credits after completion of the certificate. This part-time option is designed for the working ICT professional, providing skills in database design and data storage and transfer, and in installing and customizing Microsoft operating systems, as well as foundational knowledge in project management.
In addition, ICT courses provide the theory component of a number of global IT certifications offered by organizations such as the Computing Technology Industry Association, Microsoft, w3schools and Certified Internet Web Professionals. Once they have completed their ICT courses, students can choose to take various certification examinations.
David is currently completing the ICT certificate. As a full-time student, he spends most days at his computer, attending classes or doing coursework. “It’s a lot of work,” he says, “but I’m loving it.”
High points for David include the geographic and cultural diversity of his classmates. Many are from northern B.C. or Yukon and beyond, and since some of the older students are already working in IT and have a broad range of experience, they are able to talk about how what they are learning can actually be applied in hands-on situations.
Similarly, with the ICT program instructors coming from several institutions, there is a broader range of experience and knowledge to draw from in the courses than might be found in a single institution.
David isn’t yet sure where his ICT certificate will take him, because his own interests are so wide-ranging, and there are so many possibilities. For the moment, he is just enjoying the learning, knowing that with his ICT certificate in hand he will be well qualified for both ICT work and ongoing education and certification.
“It’s great,” David says, “a complete win-win.”