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HomeNewsNipissing University's hands-on learning program goes virtual

Nipissing University’s hands-on learning program goes virtual

The third year of Nipissing University’s Experiential Learning Program for Arts and Sciences (ELAS) will look a little different.

With the university’s classes being online, the school has had to adapt its hands-on learning programs too. Dr. Casey Phillips, Nipissing’s Assistant Vice President of Students, says that students should not shy away from the program despite it operating differently.

“That’s one of the concerns that we’re trying to dismay for students and help put to rest and help them understand. This is the reality for us; this is the new normal that we’re working with,” Phillips explained. “The defined learning objectives and goals will still be related to the professional goals of the student’s academic course work, it’s just happening in a different environment.”

Normally, the ELAS program connects Nipissing students who don’t have mandated practical training within their program with work placements through the North Bay and District Chamber of Commerce (NBDCC).

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Phillips says that the partnership with the chamber of commerce provides more options for students.

“When you’re in Toronto, you can partner maybe with one firm that could provide you with a lot of placements. But in North Bay, partnering with the chamber allows us to tap into those 800-plus members that they have in order to provide those hands-on learning experiences,” he said.

Phillips says the new model of virtual placements could provide more opportunities for students this year.

“It’s providing, in some cases, more flexibility for students. This actually opens the door for more students to participate,” he explains.

And the businesses where students get placed could also see some new benefits, according to Phillips.

“As businesses have had to make adaptations to their work environment, this is adding into that. This is helping them understand how they can do things virtually and continue to augment their current realities. This reinforces the work that some of the chamber members have done and maybe can assist them in finding gaps in the ways they do things moving forward,” he said.

The ELAS program was originally funded through Ontario’s Ministry of Colleges and Universities in 2018. Now, it’s a shared partnership between the University and the Chamber of Commerce. The program usually serves about 200 students per year.

Phillips believes that the students who take part in this year’s edition of the program could stand to benefit more than in previous years.

“A student who’s still looking to find ways to overcome and work through these issues of the pandemic, I think that speaks to that resiliency and that opportunity for students to become engaged and seek out those opportunities on their own,” he says.

Students at Nipissing will be taking all fall courses online this year, with the potential to return to the classroom in the winter semester if it’s deemed safe.

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