College of New Caledonia (CNC) highlighted its ability to connect students and instructors throughout northern B.C. with Digital Delivery Instruction (DDI) last week during Science and Technology Day.
DDI allows instructors at one of CNC’s campuses to teach students at all six campuses, and many people got to learn about the technology during interactive open houses held Feb. 21 as part of Science and Technology Day.
Throughout the day, more than 50 students showcased projects during the Community Science Fair as well, and there were campus tours, lab activities and open houses.
During the DDI presentations, Shannon Bezo, director of digital delivery (DD) and principal for the Mackenzie Campus, explained how the system works and gave those attending the presentations a chance to try it out by participating in a quiz.
“To be able to have DD, we need three things: we need an instructor, we need students and we need the technology which connects all of us,” she said, speaking from Mackenzie.
Bees believes one of the big benefits of DDI is it gives students a chance to take classes locally, saving time because they don’t have to commute and saving money on gas and accommodations.
“You can learn all of that at home and not have any of that extra driving to do,” said Bezo. “One of the other advantages is you get live instruction. Even though I’m not with you, I’m with you.”
CNC has seven divisions, and four of them are delivering online right now: business management, health sciences, human services and university studies.
Continuing education, trades and technology are not being taught by DDI, but many of the prerequisites are. Examples of some of the courses CNC has offered through DDI are English, history, leadership, physics and psychology.
“The instructors can be on any campus and be able to teach to any campus, which is great,” said Bezo. “If you are wanting to take courses locally, if you had a program you couldn’t take in Quesnel, you would likely be able to take prerequisite course. You should be able to take the prerequisites locally and possibly through DDI. You can also take electives.”
Bezo says CNC is working on school district agreements with School District 28 to make it easier for high school students to be able to dual-credit programs and courses that can transfer to post-secondary education.
Bezo says the range for DDI is “anywhere we have good Internet connectivity.” She says they are not looking at using DDI on cellphones right now, but they are looking to make it more remote in the next five years.
Bezo says this is CNC’s third year doing DDI at this high level.
Bezo says CNC has probably spent half a million dollars in total for DDI at all six campuses, but they have also received grants and donations for the service.
Bezo says the class size for DDI typically ranges from 20 to 42 between all the campuses, with the most students tending to come from Quesnel and Prince George.
Biology instructor Jennifer Catherall has taught biology through DDI, and she gave visitors a tour of CNC’s biology lab and watched students try different biology-related activities.
Catherall sees a lot of benefit in DDI being able to give students in remote communities opportunities they might not have even known are out there.
“I think that DDI, its applications, I think we’re just at the beginning, especially with remote communities,” she said. “I really see its application in remote communities who had much less to start with.
“I think when used correctly, especially with remote communities, it opens up doors, especially with students who had no doors to being with.”
Along with its nursing lab, CNC has a biology and physics lab and a chemistry and biohazards lab.
“This [biology] lab is especially multi-purpose,” said Catherall. “Students can take the full range of first-year sciences here, as well as upgrades That’s a big component of this campus, the academic upgrades.”
Catherall is a firm believer in the importance of a community college as a place for all students.
“All of these pieces together, I think of as puzzle pieces that all seem to fit together,” she says of the college’s different labs and classrooms “It has something for everybody. It gets you started. You have one-on-one instruction, practically. I do view it as a stepping stone that’s not as intimidating as university and is accessible to everybody. I went to college for upgrades and started at a college like this.”
Catherall sees a lot of health care aides coming to CNC who want to become nurses and a lot of mature students who come to the college for academic upgrades.
“They’re ready for something else,” she said. “They are so receptive, and they bring their experience. It’s neat to see the diversity of students that I get.”