Western Economic Diversification Canada
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Cyber Education - Introduction

In Western Canada, Francophone colleges and universities are using the Internet to reach students across the region. They're creating online programs, or "virtual campuses," that will allow students throughout western canada — indeed across the country — to access their courses.

Western Economic Diversification Canada (WD) is a key supporter. In recent years, WD has worked with universities, colleges, the private sector and communities to develop tele-education and tele-learning programs across the West. In an agreement with Industry Canada, during the past four years WD supported distance learning pilot projects in each of the four western provinces.

The pilot projects were launched in British Columbia (Collège Éducacentre), Alberta (Campus Saint-Jean), Saskatchewan (Collège Mathieu), and Manitoba (Collège universitaire de Saint Boniface). Using existing infrastructure and capital developments, the four participating colleges are expanding their Internet capability and developing online courses that can be beamed to students wherever they may be.

The pilot projects, which were conceived after extensive consultations with official language minority communities (OLMCs) across Canada, are supporting the Government of Canada’s Action Plan for Official Languages. The plan calls for federal departments to support economic development in OLMCs. These communities are dispersed in the West, and few have ready access to post-secondary education in French. Many Francophone and bilingual students turn to English-language establishments, and risk losing their French language skills.

By putting courses online, the colleges are improving students’ education and technical skills, in turn heightening their career prospects. The pilot projects will also lead to expanding the capacity of these institutions to develop and deliver new technologies.

Based on the pilot projects, the colleges will share their experiences with other institutions, identify best practices and exchange resources. Ideally, Francophone and bilingual students will eventually be able to access a full slate of online French-language post-secondary courses from western Canadian colleges and universities.