The distance education model is ideal for students who might not be able to attend classes at the school’s campus in Haileybury, 160 kilometres north of North Bay, said Peter MacLean, the college’s executive regional director.
“Mining companies can’t afford to send their people away for two or three months at a time. By taking advantage of the school’s distance learning programs, they won’t have to leave work. They can sit down at a computer at 9 o’clock at night or 3 in the morning.”
Students will be required to spend some time on campus for hands-on instruction, but only for a week or two at a time, depending on the number of courses they are taking.
Online course material incorporates audio, video, text, interactive quizzes and both chat and email communication with professors and students.
Members of the school’s advisory committee were somewhat skeptical at first, but warmed up to the concept after viewing some of the course material. One of the things that impressed them was the ability to “stop, go back and replay course material,” said MacLean.
Conventional classroom learning requires students to put their lives on hold for the duration of a post-secondary program and incur the expense of room and board if they are from out of town. By taking advantage of the school’s online program, they can continue to live at home, work and fulfill their family responsibilities while pursuing post-secondary studies.
Initially, the school expects to attract most of its students from northeastern Ontario, but that will likely change as word spreads, said MacLean. “As the program becomes better known, we expect to attract part-time students as far away as the diamond mines in the Northwest Territories.”
Maclean points to the success of the University of Missouri’s online mining engineering program to justify his optimism.
“They were down to five or six students before they introduced their distance education program. The next year, they had 20 students and before they knew it, they were up to 72. The dean of their mining school recently moved to the Colorado School of Mines, so I suspect they will be looking at this as well. To my knowledge we’re the first school to introduce distance education at the technician level.”
First year courses in the Mining Engineering Technician program include Communications, Surveying, Math, Introduction to Mining, Safety and Loss Control, Geology and Mineral Processing.
Students who wish to pursue their studies at the school’s campus in Haileybury will be free to do so, but they will cover the material online just as they would if they were offsite. The only difference is that they will have more access to professors, said MacLean.
The second year of the program will be offered online beginning in September 2008.
The Haileybury School of Mines has seen more than 2,000 mining technicians pass through its doors since it was founded in 1912. Many of them have gone on to senior positions in the mining industry in Canada and around the world.