Blended learning for international students – what’s it all about?
Our expert Rahul Kumar throws light on the concept of blended learning offered by Canadian institutions during COVID- 19
International education industry was completely caught off-guard with the sudden appearance and rapid spread of the coronavirus. The lockdowns and travel restriction that followed made matters worse for students and educators. International students were suddenly not able to travel to their dream destinations and would be required to wait for an uncertain period of time before things get better or at least under control.
Canada is no different. Canada welcomed 1,11,165 new students from India in 2019 and even in the first two months of 2020, over 16,000 students received their permits to study in Canada. The interest for Canada was only going to go up. All researches and indicators were pointing to that. Unfortunately, travel restrictions and lockdowns were implemented from March 2020 to control the spread of the virus, which resulted in a sharp decline in the number of study permits issued for Indian students in the following months. Even the students who had received visa before March would not be able to travel to Canada for quite a few months.
All this meant trouble not just for students but also for Canadian institutions. Bulk of their revenues are generated through international enrolments and it suddenly came to a standstill. They had to come up with a solution. And fast!
Adapting to the new normal – Go online
So, just like every other business, Canadian institutions shifted to online learning. A lot of programs, which were earlier offered only through physical face-to-face classes were quickly offered online to support students who were expected to start classes in the May’20 intake. The government of Canada through IRCC also pitched in and made it clear that even if students started classes online, it would have no negative impact on their post-study work permit rights and they could complete up to 50% of their course online. Since it was a new thing for international students and there was a definite shortage of time, the impact of this initiative was minimal.
Blended experience for international students
For the Sep’20 intake, institutions are much better prepared. Not only are they offering a much larger set of programs online but are also prepared to offer a hybrid/blended experience to students. Through the blended/hybrid model, institutions are now prepared to deliver the programs through a combination of in-person and online classes.
What it means is that upon arrival in Canada, students will still take some portion of their program online and the rest through the physical classroom format. They’ll be able to do all the lab work the way they are supposed to be done and some of the theoretical aspects will be delivered online.
Institutions have also started to inform students that they have decided on a roster mechanism for their students through which they’ll be able to offer a much richer experience to international students and still be able to follow the social distancing norms. They have started to encourage students to travel to Canada on the first available opportunity as and when things get better.
The students who are not immediately able to travel to Canada can start their classes for Sep’20 intake online from India and when they are able to travel, they’ll be integrated with the rest of students in Canada into the blended/hybrid format.
All this will ensure that students are able to have the wonderful Canadian education experience but are still able to minimise the risk of exposure to COVID. Needless to say, students will continue to qualify for a full post-study work permit after hybrid/blended learning!
Therefore, after careful evaluation of everything mentioned above, my suggestion to students would be to apply for their study permit as soon as possible for the Sep’20 intake. Once they get their visa approval, they should opt for hybrid/blended mode of education - start their classes online in Sep and switch to face to face classes at the first available opportunity by travelling to Canada. This will prove our resilience and the dreams of our students won’t be defeated by an invisible enemy!
Updated on July 31, 2020
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Rahul Kumar, Associate Director – Canada, at IDP Education (India, Bangladesh, Mauritius and Sri Lanka), is responsible for driving, training and growth of Canada team in his region across 42 offices in 4 countries. He works closely with Canadian institutions to ensure that our students and counsellors are up-to-date with any new development and process changes related to Canada. Under his able leadership, IDP has witnessed tremendous growth in Canada over the last 3 years in terms of student enrolments and quality counselling.
Rahul comes with a rich experience in the international education industry. Prior to joining IDP, he was associated with Fanshawe College, Canada and King’s University College at the University of Western Ontario, Canada. He holds an MBA along with an undergraduate degree in Electronics Engineering.