TRU puts new focus on technology

To survive, Thompson Rivers University in Williams Lake will have to become more viable and one of those ways involves using more technology, campus director Ray Sanders said.

“We are looking at a block blended approach which uses technology in a very interactive way,” Sanders said.

“I’m not in favour of just saying courses are online because I don’t think that’s interactive enough.”

With a learning management system it’s a distributed model so that students enrolled have to respond to deadlines and two classmates, for example.

Students are still in courses and will sometimes connect with instructors through live streaming, but may only come to the campus for a week at a time.

“It gives us the ability to tap into the faculty at Kamloops,” Sanders explained.

“I’ve grappled with this for years, how we can be sustainable and sufficient and meet the needs of the community. This is a mechanism to do this.”

If a student misses some classes because of a death in the family or other commitments, they will be able to catch up easily in the block blended programming, he added.

“I feel good about being able to serve people who work full time and people from our First Nations communities. The model needed to be flexible but also needs to meet the needs of our population.”

According to Stats Canada, less than nine per cent of people in the Cariboo-Chilcotin have a Bachelor’s Degree, he said.

In November, TRU will participate in an independent review of its programming, bringing on a three-person team to interview stakeholders.

“We are taking the whole year to teach faculty new learning management systems that we’ll use to combine the online with the face to face,” Sanders said.

“It’s not something you know automatically but whatever we do we want it to be pedagogically sound and do it right or we’re not going to do it.”

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