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Learning on the Edge

Learners want flexibility, shorter modules, immersive learning and soft skills—and BC’s top educators are responding.

Education providers have shifted their offerings to appeal to contemporary, working professionals in today’s technology-driven world. In some cases, schools have shifted more toward online learning; in other cases, schools have gone more hands-on, immersive learning. Several have introduced microcredentials and other bite-sized learning modules that allow students to tailor their curriculum and have more control over their learning. Whatever learners are seeking, BC’s top educators have responded with current and agile offers that adapt to trends in contemporary professional development.

University Canada West

“What we’ve noticed is that working professionals are looking for two things,” says Dr. Maureen Mancuso, Vice President, Academic, at University Canada West in Vancouver. “They are looking for course and program options tailored to their career goals, and they want flexible schedules. Most professionals approach professional development with a specific goal in mind, and they want to be able to fit coursework into their already busy schedules.”

UCW follows professional trends in industry closely and continuously designs and updates programs and course offerings that reflect the best professional standards in specific fields.

“We offer a diverse line up of online micro-credentials, giving busy professionals an opportunity to gain valuable and specific skills in a short amount of time,” Dr. Mancuso says. “Our current micro-credential offerings include courses on blockchain project management, digital strategy, data and web analytics, and supply chain management and logistics.”

Ensuring its programs include relevant digital components, UCW collaborates with leading business and tech companies, such as Salesforce, Amazon, Shopify, Facebook, the Digital Marketing Institute, Tableau and IBM, to keep courses updated with cutting edge technological trends.

UCW’s Master of Business Administration (MBA) program, available online and on-campus, has been refined to add elective areas, allowing students to acquire knowledge and skills in a specific subject area. MBA students can choose from nine areas, including Business Analytics, Digital Marketing and Project Management.

“The online MBA program was particularly designed with busy working professionals in mind,” Dr. Mancuso says. “With video lectures and all course materials provided, students can learn at their own pace and fit studying into their busy schedules.”

Earlier this year, UCW introduced a new scholarship for eligible students who are looking for a flexible and financially viable learning option. The Industry Professionals Grant offers eligible applicants up to $8,500 toward the cost of the MBA program.

LaSalle College Vancouver

LaSalle College

In the creative sector, careers and industry are booming. The demand for talent is high and professionals in this area are discovering that continuing education is essential for long term growth and to achieve leadership positions.

“Between the ever-changing technological landscape and the inundation of new applications for conventional design practices, there has never been a higher need or opportunity for upskilling,” says Maximillion Semchuk, Director of Marketing, Western Canada & Asia Pacific, LaSalle College Vancouver. “Learners are seeking options that balance flexibility, value and measurable outcomes, being an accredited or recognized certificate, diploma or degree that they can use to secure the job they’ve been dreaming of, secure a salary increase or change their career trajectory altogether.”

LaSalle College Vancouver has tailored its offerings to offer accredited e-learning programs that provide flexibility in study schedules, allowing students to earn diplomas at their own pace. Its instructors are industry leaders, ensuring that students gain practical skills aligned with current industry requirements, and not just theoretical knowledge.

“Our accelerated programs enable learners to complete their degrees a year faster than their peers, which means they can enter the job market sooner and increase their earning potential,” Semchuk says. “We focus on academic, technical and practical elements of each field, ensuring graduates have a deep understanding of their desired jobs.”

LaSalle College Vancouver is currently moving to a purpose-built education center with over 108,000 square feet, equipped with the latest technology for active learning and social engagement.

“We also emphasize cross-disciplinary collaboration, encouraging students to work with diverse groups in different programs, mirroring the real workplace,” Semchuk says. “Our programs are designed for long-term career success, with a focus on portfolio development, resume writing, interview skills, industry events, and job placement.”

LaSalle College Vancouver offers the only accredited degree program in fashion design in Canada and has been consistently rated the top video game design and video game programming school in Canada for over a decade.

“Our consecutive learning program structure, with four quarters per year, allows students to fully develop projects, resulting in finished portfolios and real project experience upon graduation,” Semchuk says. “This hands-on approach is highly sought after by top companies like Microsoft, Electronic Arts, and Fairmont, which often hire directly from our school.”

University of Victoria – Continuing Studies

“Between climate change, new technologies, shifting demographics and the recent pandemic, there is a lot happening in the workforce these days,” says Dr. Jo-Anne Clarke, dean, Division of Continuing Studies. “These are big, complex trends to grapple with—exciting and scary at the same time.”

The 2023 World Economic Forum Future of Jobs report estimates that “44% of workers’ skills will be disrupted in the next five years” and “six in 10 workers will require training before 2027.” “The magnitude of labour-market churn is like nothing we have experienced before,” Dr. Clarke says. “Lifelong learning is no longer a luxury—it’s a requirement.”

Individuals are looking for opportunities to upgrade their skills so they can keep up with workforce changes. And professional learners are busy—they need high quality learning that fits into their lifestyle and schedule. “This is why online learning is so popular,” Dr. Clarke says. “You can learn anytime from anywhere, whether from work, at home, commuting or travelling.”

Continuing education programs at UVic are not new—the school has been ahead of the curve, offering flexible learning for decades. What is new is the surge of interest in micro-credentials—short, focused learning opportunities to help people develop a certain level of competency in a particular area.

In reply, UVic is increasingly developing shorter micro-credentials with options to ladder into longer programs if learners want to. “This way, professional learners have more leniency to design a learning path that is right for them,” Dr. Clarke says. “This is adult learning theory in practise!”

Subjects range from the universal, such as Essential Soft Skills Training, to specialized areas like the Mapping with Drones micro-certificate. This fall, UVic launched several new micro-credentials that are good examples of professional development in current topics, including micro-certificates in Equity, Diversity and Inclusion, Climate Action Planning and Marketing Communications. The school has also revised and updated long-standing programs, like the Diploma in Public Relations or Certificate in Environmental and Occupational Health to ensure content is current.

“There are a lot of professional education providers that are offering training,” Dr. Clarke adds. “What learners can expect from Continuing Studies at the University of Victoria is high-quality learning that weaves in current research with practical hands-on approaches and professional programs bridge the gap between academia and industry.”

Gustavson School of Business, Executive Programs

The University of Victoria’s Gustavson School of Business, renowned for its high ranking and adaptability to societal changes, is one of the world’s first carbon-neutral business schools and boasts both AACSB and EQUIS accreditation—held by fewer than one percent of global business schools.

Eddie Isted, Executive Programs Account Executive, says professional development students seek flexible learning solutions that accommodate work-life balance while emphasizing the acquisition of practical, immediately applicable skills.

“Demand for online programs, hybrid deliveries and shorter training sessions is on the rise,” he says. “This trend reflects the desire for higher customization levels and a growing emphasis on current topics like negotiations, design thinking, sustainability, equity, diversity, inclusion and soft skills training.”

Executive Programs caters to management and educational needs across private and public sectors, offering a broad portfolio of courses. The department’s specialty lies in tailoring programs with meticulous attention and customization, aligning perfectly with current market demands.

Isted notes that these custom programs have driven valuable insights for open enrollment courses, too. “As a result, new offerings like Business Communication Skills and Self-Managed Leadership have emerged, bridging the gap between technical and soft skills,” he says. “These courses are equally popular among larger organizations and individual learners seeking upskilling.”

Gustavson has increased the number of online programs it offers, often delivering them in a condensed, half-day format, while still providing in-person options when necessary or preferred. Examples include the Masters Certificate in Project Management (MCPM) and Service Leadership programs, which adopt a hybrid approach, blending online and in-person elements to suit busy schedules.

Shawn McKenzie, a recent graduate, applauds the MCPM program’s duration and quality content. “Although MCPM is designed around project management, it provides valuable insights into the intricacies of project-based business life,” he says.

Instructors, experts in their respective fields, provide a curriculum that transcends any specific industry or sector.

McKenzie further lauds the MCPM course as exceptional value and excellent training for those aspiring to obtain a PMP designation.

Gustavson School of Business continues to adapt, delivering top-notch education that remains highly relevant and responsive to the evolving needs of today’s professionals.


University Canada West

LaSalle College Vancouver

Gustavson School of Business, Executive Programs

University of Victoria – Continuing Studies

Created by BCBusiness in partnership with University Canada West.