When back to school means turning on your laptop…

The year for me starts in September. When the leaves start to turn, I get an inescapable urge to buy new office supplies and to brace myself for the influx of students filling the halls for another academic year. But things have changed.

As a student, I remember the long lines on registration day to get into my required courses hoping against hope that I was able to register for anything but the 8:30 option.  Next, wrestling through the absolute chaos finding and paying for my textbooks at the campus bookstore. Then on the first day of class, struggling though that 8:30 session…

No new headlines here, all this can be avoided with online registration, Amazon and online courses. However the trends in the latter are interesting.  Participation in distance and online courses is growing exponentially. According to Vicky Busch, executive director of the Canadian Virtual University (CVU), registrations in degree studies online courses surpassed the 200,000 mark in 2012 at the 11 Canadian universities belonging to the CVU consortium. This represents an increase of 70% since 2000. At the University of Manitoba, enrollment in distance degree studies courses has been growing at an average rate of 7-8% per year for the past three years. This growth however is not coming from distance students.  While enrollment is up in the distance offerings it is declining at a similar rate for the parallel face-to-face offerings. In other words our distance courses are not being populated by their originally intended audience. That is not a bad thing; actually it’s a pretty great thing. As technology brings the mainstream to the fringe so too do the students from the fringe become more integrated in the mainstream.

So as I gear up my laptop for the new year ahead, I am excited about planning for my not so distant distance students!


post by Kathy Snow

Kathy Snow is an Instructional Designer at the University of Manitoba and also a graduate student with the University of Calgary

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