For more than 50 years, Vancouver Community College has been a leader in helping immigrants establish careers in Canada. During the past school year, it has taken another step in that direction by offering the delivery of educational programs via cellular phone.
Also known as “mlearning”, a two-year pilot program began in November in partnership with Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada as an alternative to traditional classroom education.
“We believe in innovative technologies that create more access to education,” VCC president Peter Nunoda said in a news release when the mlearning program was unveiled last year. “Although we’re the first college in B.C. to deliver mlearning, it has a proven track record in the USA, Europe and Africa. Many people are comfortable with the use of cellular phones. And they’re more accessible than computers.”
It’s been made available to 600 students, with the goal of providing language learning to refugees and immigrants on wait lists to enroll in Language Instruction for Newcomers to Canada at VCC.
One of those students is Phoebe Yang, an immigrant from China who hopes to upgrade her English before enrolling in a VCC program that trains health-care assistants.
“It’s really good for improving English,” Yang said on the VCC website. “I want to recommend it to my husband.”
Students use their cellphones and rely on an English-language training platform developed by Cell-Ed, which is a respected mlearning provider. The program enables learners to connect with language coaches on the phone and in face-to-face workshops to enhance their English skills.
One of those coaches is Rae Switzer, who has worked with 28 students. The language-learning app offers lessons that vary in length, with some being as short as three minutes.
“Students take full control of how much they learn and when they learn,” Switzer said on the VCC website. “We’re there to make sure they stay on track.”
VCC staff are proud of their award-winning English-as-an-additional-language curriculum, which emphasizes practical skills, including public speaking. It offers flexible scheduling to make it easier for students who have jobs to advance from beginner to advanced levels.
Meanwhile, the mlearning pilot project will continue until April 2020.
“In 2018-19, IRCC will provide $32 million in funding for as many as 100 service delivery improvement projects across Canada,” Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Minister Ahmed Hussen said last year. “Understanding newcomer needs and developing innovative approaches, as the Vancouver Community College has done, is what IRCC’s new Service Delivery Improvement funding stream is all about.”
Read VCC's Community Report at www.vcc.ca/communityreport/.