eCampus Ontario: Expanding Virtual Choices for Students

A student’s journey through the postsecondary system can often take many twists and turns. Recognizing that, eCampus Ontario offers students the flexibility they need to chart their own unique paths toward the successful completion of their studies and ultimately, a rewarding life and career.

Launched in late September, 2015, eCampus Ontario consolidates 13,000 online courses and 600 online programs from all of the province’s 45 publicly assisted colleges and universities – allowing students to find out about programs when they could be anywhere in the world.

Like a search engine, the portal allows students to type in keywords that turn up programs and courses on the topic of their choice. Listings provide information on content, registration and credit transfer options. The portal also provides students with links to administrative supports like application centres and financial aid resources, as well as learning supports for the online environment. It also offers useful online teaching resources for instructors.

To learn more about it, we spoke with Joseph Palladino, university student member of eCampus Ontario’s Board of Directors, who shared his own personal experiences with online learning and eCampus Ontario.

Q: What is eCampus Ontario all about?

It’s a portal that is meant to show students that there are choices out there. It’s meant to make the postsecondary learning experience more accessible for more students.

One of the things that eCampus Ontario allows students to do is search how their courses translate to their own university. So, although I go to McMaster, I could go online and look up courses at York University, because I’m from York Region, and I can actually search how those courses – if at all – will be counted at McMaster and if I can take them.

Q: What drew you to online learning?

I initially became involved with online learning because I took online courses out-of-province through Athabasca. We didn’t have any fully online courses at McMaster at the time, so after taking these out-of-province online courses I learned something very important – access to online courses can make postsecondary education much more manageable.

Q: What was your experience with online learning like before eCampus Ontario?

I didn’t know online courses existed until my third year at university.

I’m a first-generation student – neither of my parents attended postsecondary education so, for me, going into university, away from home, I kind of had to feel things out for myself. When I took my first online course I had to search it out for myself. I had to go to my faculty and ask them where I could find these courses, and whether I could even take them.

So it took me three academic years to realize that there are courses I can take out there that are more flexible and can fit my schedule. And you know, if I had known this earlier, say in the end of first year or second year, maybe my degree would have taken a different path, or maybe I would have had an extra job experience, because I could have pushed one course to an online platform and it would have made things a little easier.

Q: And what has your experience been now that eCampusOntario has launched?

Well, this year, I’ll be graduating from McMaster. So prior to applying for Master’s degrees and continuing education, I used the eCampus Ontario portal to see if there was anything out there for me that was online – and I actually found a few courses I wound up applying to – so for me, it was a quick and easy way to search what was out there.

Q: In your role as university student member of the eCampus Ontario Board of Directors, how are you contributing to the student voice/experience?

My main role with the board is to ensure that students are realizing that there are online sources out there. Much like my own experience, there are students who don’t actually know that these resources exist. And that’s how I view my position on the board, I’m committed to making sure that anything and everything we do betters the postsecondary experience and makes it more accessible for students.

And when I say students – I don’t necessarily mean the traditional 18- to 24-year-old university student – this encompasses mature students, students with different schedules, different roles, different jobs, and even different interests. Ensuring that there’s no “model student” is the basis of online learning – so that that no matter where you are in your life, what you’re doing, or where you are in the province, you know you have a resource at your fingertips where you can search for what is out there for you.

Joseph Palladino

 

Joseph Palladino is the university student member of eCampus Ontario’s Board of Directors.  As a 4th year McMaster University student, he has had the chance to interact with a variety of student leaders and community members, and is passionate about online pedagogy and post-secondary education.