Distance Education: Learn While You Earn

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You need to work to support your family, but you have to go back to school to get Canadian credentials for a good job. How can you do both?

Many people today use distance education, especially if they have problems understanding spoken English in full-time classes. The Canadian Information Centre for International Credentials www.cicic.cawebsite, which explains the foreign qualification evaluation and recognition process in Canada, includes a complete guide to all the accredited distance education programs offered through Canadian colleges, universities and professional schools at www.cicic.ca/419/online-and-distance-education.canada.

Athabasca University in Alberta is Canada’s leading distance education university, with all of its programs offered online. Athabasca has teamed with eleven other universities across Canada including Memorial University in Newfoundland, the University of New Brunswick, Mount Royal University and TELOQ of Quebec, Carleton University, Royal Military College, Nipissing and Laurentian University of Ontario, the University of Manitoba, and Thompson Rivers and Royal Roads universities in British Columbia, to form the Canadian Virtual University / Université Virtuelle Canadienne. CVA/ UVC offer distance education programs in both English and French, with a strong focus on international students and new Canadians with foreign credentials. Visit their website at www.cvu-uvc.ca. Click on the link for International Students and the link ‘Credit for your foreign education’.

There are many advantages to distance education. It can be taken course by course over a period of years, allowing the student to keep working and manage the cost more easily. Each course counts as three university credits, so even taking just one course per semester can add up to 12 credits per year. (A bachelor’s degree is 120 credits.) The courses are presented online using videos, online forums, and course modules. Usually the required reading materials are included in the cost of the course. The students work individually on projects, and are sometimes divided into groups to work on a larger project as a team. As both Canadian and foreign students can be enrolled in the courses, it is not uncommon for a team project to be worked on by students in Europe, Canada and Asia together through email. Classes are usually asynchronous, meaning students can log into the course any time of the day or night and read comments, add a discussion point, or post an assignment.

For new Canadians, who are more confident about their reading and writing in English than listening and speaking skills, online training allows the use of a dictionary, translation program, thesaurus, grammar and spell-check programs to maximize the learning experience.

In addition to Bachelor and Master’s degrees, there are many shorter online certificate or diploma programs leading to an interesting new career that can build upon your existing skills. If you look at the list of university programs offered on the CVU/UVC website, there are certificates in Event Planning, Quality Control, Disaster and Emergency Management, Adult Education, Asthma Management Teaching, Heritage Resources Management, Non-Profit Management, Project Management, Animal Health Technology, Medical Lab Assistance, Occupational Health and Safety and many other subjects that are in demand in the workplace.

Many of these programs will look at your existing training and experience and give you credits towards the certificate, diploma or degree based on these.

As the Canadian Virtual University is open to students living in foreign countries, it is worthwhile enrolling in some of these courses while you are waiting for your immigration permit. It may open the doors to coming to Canada on a foreign student visa for a couple of semesters of full time studies at one of these universities, and exploring the job market at the same time.

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