Step by Step: Exploring Distance Education

By Susan Biagi

Learning without borders

It wasn’t so long ago that “correspondence” courses were advertised on matchbooks, or in the last few pages of comic books.

The industry has certainly come a long way since then. Today’s student has a wealth of high-quality, distance-education courses on offer. These are also known as “online courses,” since most are delivered via the Internet.

Distance-education offers many benefits to the student, the first of which is cost. Although tuition is not significantly lower than that of classroom-based courses, distance-education offers significant savings in cost of living. Students who study from home avoid the high cost of living in residence, or moving from one city to another.

Another benefit of distance-education courses is that they’re not limited to BC. The cost is comparable whether the course is delivered from Kamloops or from St. John’s, Newfoundland. Clearly, this provides students with a wider range of choices than would otherwise be available to them. The key is making sure, in advance, that potential employers recognize the course as valid training for their workplace.

One question that students may ask is, “Are distance education courses any less valid than those delivered on campus?” The answer is “no.” What counts is the quality of the institution issuing the diploma. A diploma from the BC Institute of Technology (BCIT) carries the same weight whether the training is delivered in the classroom or online.

How does one choose a distance-education course? Most colleges and universities deliver both “credit” and “non-credit” courses. Credit courses generally result in a certificate, diploma, or degree. Non-credit courses, also known as continuing-education courses, do not provide certification of any kind. They can, however, provide the student with skills that are highly valued in the workplace.

Students considering distance-education courses can now choose from a host of high-quality institutions. An early innovator in the field—the Open Learning Agency—is now a division of Thompson River University, delivering everything from individual courses to degrees. For more information, consult its website at

An easy way to access the offerings of individual institutions is to consult Career Link’s education page at On the right-hand-side of the page is a list of all publicly funded colleges and universities in BC. After choosing a specific institution’s website, simply type “distance education” into the keyword search box. For non-credit courses, type “continuing education.”

Expect to spend quite a lot of time exploring the options. Incredibly, even training as a

pharmacy technician or embalmer can be delivered online! Students enrolled in courses that require hands-on learning begin by studying theory over the Internet, then follow up with a practicum delivered at the workplace of local employers.

Students considering distance-education can also choose from a wider variety of instructional techniques than those available in the past. Thanks to changing technology, online courses are now highly interactive, offering audio, video, chat rooms, and even instructor-led courses delivered in real time.

While checking each institution’s website is an effective way to sift through courses, it can be slow and labourious. To help speed the process along, Career Link’s education page contains a number of links designed to help a student search a number of institutions at once. These links are all located under the “Distance Education” heading. Clicking on “Find a Distance Education Program or School,” for example, provides access to From there, in the box beside “Find a Program,” students can simply type in their field of interest. Typing “health care” will result in a number of offerings.

Those who require help exploring distance-education options are invited to book some one-on-one time with a Career Link employment consultant, or attend a workshop. Call us at 604.485.7958. It’s easy and it’s free!

July’s LMI Snapshot: Youth Employment

It's become a bit tougher for youth to break through that glass ceiling to employment

According to the latest statistics*, the youth (15-24 years) labour market in B.C continues to experience challenges since the economic downturn. See it as a call for increased creativity in pursuing potential employers and perhaps as a call for self-employment and further education.

The Professional, Scientific and Technical Services sector and Accommodation/Food and Beverage sectors were the only areas where employment increased over the last month. It’s worth noting that the Vancouver Island/Coastal area was the only B.C. region that showed increased unemployment (8.0%) compared to July last year (5.9%). 

The Accommodation/Food and Beverage sectors showed an increase of 8,100 jobs and actually fared well compared to the last couple of years (July 2010 showed an increase in 4,000 jobs while July 2009 showed a loss of 6,700 jobs in this sector, probably as a direct result of the economic downturn). It’s not known how the unusually cool/wet weather may have prevented an even rosier recovery in the employment  picture for this sector.

B.C. Youth Employment Statistics

  • The number of unemployed youth (aged 15 to 24) in B.C. increased by 3,800 from the last month, bringing youth unemployment up to 51,500
  • The unemployment rate for B.C. youth increased by 0.9 pct points to 13.8% from the last month
  • The 2010 youth unemployment rate in B.C. was 13.8% (or 51,800 unemployed youth), up 0.5 percentage points from 13.3% in 2009, and up 5.3 percentage points from 8.5% in 2008. Aboriginal off-reserve youth also continued to experience difficulty in 2010, with the unemployment rate at 21.4%, a moderate decrease from 24.8% in 2009, but still significantly higher than the rate of 12.5% in 2008. 
  • The unemployment rate for the prime working age group increased only by 2.9 percentage points between 2008 and 2010, increasing the gap in unemployment rate between youth and prime age workers to 7.0 percentage points by 2010

 *Note: All labour force statistics are from Statistics Canada’s Labour Force Survey. Data is seasonally adjusted, unless otherwise indicated. Read the full July 2011 B.C. Labour Market snapshot. Click here.

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