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Algonquin College is building on its leadership role in online learning with a new online campus and learner-driven education plan.Supplied

A new initiative in Ontario education means that “distance learning” is no longer a compromise.

Algonquin College’s recently launched online campus is part of the college’s new, learner-driven education plan, says Sara Munroe, acting dean at Algonquin College. “It is a strategic, holistic approach that places learners at the centre of everything we do here.

“Online learning has traditionally been about access and flexibility, but as we’ve become more sophisticated in the ways we design, develop and deliver programs and courses, we wanted to take it to the next level.”

“We are already a leader in digital learning – last year, for example, Algonquin College was ranked first in the number of online enrolments among all colleges and CEGEPS in Canada,” says Claude Brulé, president and CEO. “Our learners need and expect flexibility, and we are here to serve them. One way we can do that is by offering even more online options that fit with their lifestyles and their career objectives.”

The key advantage of the new initiative is that it provides educational options customized to each learner’s needs, he says. “When you become a part of our online campus, you are not working in isolation – we are providing full support. We’ll be using new technology, more interactive elements and custom video content to enrich our offerings and give our online learners all the tools they need to launch or enhance their careers.”

AC Online serves all demographics, from students right out of high school to working professionals who want additional qualifications or training, Ms. Munroe adds. Students choose from more than 65 programs and 800 courses, ranging from interest courses to credentialed offerings such as certificates, diplomas and even graduate certificates.

“Our courses provide unprecedented flexibility,” Mr. Brulé stresses. “Learners will be able to get their education anytime, anywhere – in the morning or night, in Ottawa or from the other side of the world. They’ll also receive specialized support, whether they’re learning forensic accounting, early childhood education, or fitness and health promotion, they’ll have a whole team behind them to ensure they are successful.”

Most unique about Algonquin’s vision and this launch is the support system that “we’re wrapping around each learner,” says Ms. Munroe. “Just as you would have on a traditional campus, we have student services where learners might have an advisor and someone to help navigate financial aid. There is a variety of supports that enhance the learner experience.”

Student Success Specialists provide accommodation and assistance in learning strategies. Online “Pathway Advisors” help students map out their programs of study from enrolment to the point of completion or graduation.

“We also have Instructional Designers and Media Specialists who create the actual courses alongside industry experts,” says Ms. Munroe. “Our courses are professionally designed and intuitive. Together, all of these elements take us to the next level of learner experience in an online environment.”

Surveys show that 90 per cent of Algonquin’s online students are employed within six months of graduation, and 96 per cent of graduates recommend the college to others; 92 per cent of employers report being satisfied with the quality of courses.

The new campus will build on these successes with a new focus on the learner experience that leverages the latest in technology, says Ms. Munroe. “This new campus has been designed to provide all the services and supports of a traditional campus – to provide everything our online learners need to be successful. If you have a goal; we can help you make it a reality.”

Produced by Randall Anthony Communications. The Globe’s Editorial Department was not involved in its creation.

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