The NWT’s Aurora College will refund any student who begins a distance learning course this fall then decides it isn’t working out.
The college made the guarantee on Tuesday in a bid to demonstrate confidence in its ability to create worthwhile distance learning courses while Covid-19 pandemic restrictions remain.
Last week, education minister RJ Simpson confirmed Aurora College expected to continue distance learning “for the most part” in the new academic year.
Under the NWT’s pandemic recovery plan, colleges cannot open until phase three – which kicks in once an expected second wave of Covid-19 has passed through southern Canada, forecast to be late this fall at the earliest.
Students “not satisfied with the quality of their experience will have the option to withdraw by October 9 and receive a full tuition refund with no academic penalty,” the college announced in a news release.
Andy Bevan, the college’s new president following the termination of Tom Weegar’s contract in January, said: “Aurora College recognizes that students may have questions about the quality and effectiveness of distance learning.”
He continued: “We want to assure them we are confident of the quality of the programs we are delivering and we are willing to back that up.”
The college said students who withdraw after October 9 but before November 6 can receive a 50-percent refund with no academic penalty.
The Tuesday announcement represents an extension of normal withdrawal deadlines, the college stated in its news release. In the past, the college has not provided full refunds once classes start.
Announcements on courses, housing
In the same news release, Aurora College set out which courses will be offered by distance learning and when student housing will be made available.
“While most instruction will be delivered by distance, Aurora College is continuing to plan for a gradual return to face-to-face instruction,” the college stated.
Programs to be delivered by distance learning are:
- Business Administration
- Office Administration
- Early Childhood Development
- Certificate in Adult Education
- Personal Support Worker (full-time and part-time pilot)
- Occupations and College Access
- University and College Access
- Adult Literacy and Basic Education
- Various Literacy and Essential Skills courses
These programs will have “blended delivery” through a mix of distance learning and face-to-face instruction, pending approval from the NWT’s chief public health officer:
- Environment and Natural Resources Technology
- Early Learning and Child Care
- Bachelor of Science in Nursing
- Apprenticeship Carpentry Levels 1 & 3, Electrical Levels 1 & 2, and Plumber Level 1
Programs not scheduled for delivery this fall while pandemic restrictions remain are:
- Heavy Equipment Operator
- Mining programs
- Non-apprenticeship trades programs
- Non-academic courses at community learning centres
Community learning centres will offer no face-to-face courses this fall.
“Further discussion will take place with the Office of the Chief Public Health Officer to determine when these programs can safely be offered face-to-face,” the college stated.
Campus student housing will be available in September, the news release announced. All residences will have pandemic-related restrictions in place.
The college is examining ways to enhance students’ access to the internet and help students who have other technological barriers to distance learning, though the precise nature of that support has yet to be confirmed.