Western Continuing Studies has seen first-hand the incredible desire for individuals to keep learning and stay connected during the COVID-19 crisis.
Last month, three free course offerings – Everyday French, Emergency Management and Design Thinking – brought in more than 2,400 participants for the e-learning opportunity, with 1,500 registered in the French course alone, the highest one-course number Continuing Studies has ever had.
“We launched these courses to help provide the community with accessible opportunities to keep learning. We had hoped to get 100 people in the courses,” said Alison Adair, Continuing Studies Communications Manager.
The team reached 100 students in less than an hour.
“It is evident that even during times of uncertainty, people want to learn – whether it’s baking bread, a jigsaw puzzle or an online course,” Adair continued. “People require mental stimulation to feed their curiosity and maybe distract them for a while from the stress of reality.”
The virtual classrooms were filled with a new mix of students, she added.
Of those who registered for the online classes, more than 70 per cent were taking their first course with Continuing Studies and half were taking their first course at Western. Beyond Canada, participants logged in from the United States, Italy, Brazil, India and the United Kingdom.
“Access to learning is always important. While people are going through hardship, cost becomes a significant barrier,” said Carolyn Young, Continuing Studies Director. “These free courses demonstrate Western’s commitment to lifelong learning is stronger than ever. We want to make the experience the very best.”
While there are no current plans to offer free courses this month, the popular Everyday French course is being offered again at a discounted rate, with registration set to open May 15. The Post-Degree Diploma program application deadline for Western students has also been extended until May 15.
Continuing Studies continues to follow the university’s lead by moving many of its courses online for the spring and summer terms. Planning for various scenarios for the fall will depend on how the COVID-19 situation evolves and how Western chooses to proceed.
“Online learning has incredible potential, offering accessibility to learning with flexibility to plan your studies around work, travel and family commitments,” Adair said. “This situation has provided us with an opportunity to look at increasing our online offering to continue to meet the needs of our learners.
“Whether we are back in our physical classrooms in September or not, we will be increasing the number of courses offered in our virtual classrooms.”