The College of New Caledonia should roll out a new online learning program in the next three years, thanks to a $250,000 donation from Northern Gateway.
The idea is to give greater access to college courses to people in rural communities - and give the college more access to tuition-paying students.
The Digital Delivery Initiative is different from traditional forms of online learning, said Henry Reiser, college president at Monday's announcement. The latter requires an "independent learning" approach, where the student must be highly motivated. In the new model, the student may be physically - or virtually - in the classroom, with the same course expectations.
"The idea of digital delivery is that it is not online learning," Reiser said. "It is synchronous, instructor-led instruction where groups of students can be cobbled together and form a class anywhere in our region and anywhere in the province, anywhere in the north, anywhere in the world."
Reiser, who recently visited learning institutions in India, said interaction with the format there prompted him to solve a problem here.
Two single mothers in Fraser Lake asked how they could still access post-secondary classes after the college downsized its learning centre in the small village.
Reiser said the quarter million tab should cover the cost of one of the digital classrooms in the Prince George campus, with a goal of having six classrooms at all college's satellite campuses. First, the college plans to pilot university transfer business courses.
"There's a bunch of engineering costs and design cost up front. There's the cost of consultants that are going to be necessary to make sure we have a successful launch," said Reiser, noting this approach is not new and pointing to UNBC's medical program as an example.
"This donation will go a long way in moving the project forward."
Northern Gateway's Catherine Pennington said education is a key part of northern development, a vision she said the company shares with CNC.
"Providing skills training opportunities in northern communities is key to fulfilling that vision," said Pennington, the senior manager of community benefits. "We believe that our project is much more than moving oil from point A to point B. It's about everything that happens in between.
"It's about leveraging economic development, lasting economic opportunities for communities in the north."