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Online learning made easier for students

by Archives November 7, 2001
Due to work, family and/or personal obligations, going to class can sometimes be a burden. You’ve just gotten home from work and know that your class starts in an hour. Instead of rushing to get there, picture this: rather than physically attending class, you can sit in front of your computer and take a course in the comfort of your own home. There would not be 79 other students plus you and your professor in a classroom. You would still be learning, but in a different way:
welcome to the world of e-learning.
Established in July 2001 and owned by Concordia University, eConcordia is a for-profit e-learning company that is dedicated to bringing online education to students and enabling them to experience a new dimension of learning.
“Online learning will never replace classroom education,” says Andrew McAusland, who is heading up this online venture. “It will enhance it. It enables people to access education and courses that they wouldn’t otherwise be able to access. But the heart of learning requires live interaction.”
This venture is funded by the Concordia University Foundation and operates as a separate entity from the university in the end. All profits, however, will go back to the university. Currently, eConcordia is building relationships with the John Molson School of Business and the faculty of engineering.
“The whole concept of e-learning provides flexibility,” says Kaoru Matsui, the marketing co-ordinator of eConcordia. “As long as you have a computer, you can log on and take your course.”
In today’s fast-paced and busy world filled with technological advancement and opportunities it isn’t hard to believe that 63 per cent of Canadians are now online. This in fact makes us world leaders in Internet usage.
“It’s important to keep up with today’s technology,” she points out. “If the university promotes this, people will see it as forward thinking. We at
eConcordia see ourselves as a marketing tool for Concordia. By providing a flexible education, we can bring in more students.”
McAusland is also head of Instructional and information Technology Service and the director of academic technology in the university’s arts and science faculty, where there are already about 20 online courses available in various forms.
What eConcordia is striving to do then is make both credit and non-credit
courses available not only at an academic level for undergraduate and graduate students but also for professionals who have already graduated and for corporate individuals interested in group training.
While courses such as introduction to personal finance, problem solving and academic strategies are still in the works, introduction to telecommunications networks will be available in January 2002. This will be a trial period for what is to follow in the future: more courses in the summertime.
What are the advantages of e-courses over regular in-class courses? “There are mixed reports on this,” admits Matsui. “People don’t realize that you have a lot of communication involved. There are chat boards, for people who are shy and don’t participate in class, this allows them to get involved. The main benefit I would say is flexibility and cutting down on the time and cost of traveling to an institution and leaving your home.”
Naturally, along with the positive aspects, negative ones must be foreseen as well. “Because you are dependent on the web, if people are intimidated by computers, it’s a little barrier to overcome,” says Matsui.
“The big barrier is human interaction. People are worried they can’t contact their professor. However, we are going to make it a very interactive program.
With e-learning, you miss that group interaction, but you can have group
meetings on the side.”
For students who want to take courses but do not have the time or are unable to get to the university, e-learning is a terrific option. One wonders though if students and professors will both benefit equally from e-learning. Matsui thinks so, and points out how not only can a professor be spared from commuting to class, he or she is offered another venue in which to teach.
She admits, however, that for faculty, it will mean an increased workload
because of the extra time a person needs to spend updating and upkeeping the web sites. Consequently, when one is faced with the option of staying home and teaching rather than braving a snowstorm to get to class, one cannot complain.
Where does Matsui see eConcordia’s venture going in the future?
“After a year, we’re aiming at ten courses. After three years, we’re aiming at thirty courses,” she said. “Eventually we would want to establish programs and give certificates.”
With such an alternative available, trying out at least one online class is
worth one’s while. Whereas some people are still reluctant to leave behind the traditional classroom education experience, it is important to use the options that are present.
“I think everyone should give e-learning a chance,” says Matsui. “We are taking Concordia material and presenting it in a different form. It’s good for personal growth… [and] gives you a chance to experiment. It’s a very interesting and new way to learn.”
If you are interested in e-learning, you can call eConcordia at 848-8774 or visit its offices at 1250 Guy St., suite 803. You can also visit their website at: www.econcordia.com

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