British Columbia

B.C. post-secondary school out to prove marine safety courses can be done online

A North Island College spokesperson says teaching classes by video actually benefits students in remote communities.

Virtual learning actually benefits students in remote communities, North Island College spokesperson says

Students enrolled in marine training courses at North Island College will receive equipment by mail and be taught by Transport Canada-approved instructors online. (@TrainingNic/Twitter)

Students enrolled in marine safety courses at North Island College on Vancouver Island are now being taught virtually — and staff not only want to prove it can be done effectively, but that it should be done long term, a school spokesperson say.

The entry-level classes — Small Vessel Operators Proficiency and Restricted Operators Certificate-Maritime — are required for many employees who work on the water in industries like aquaculture, fishing and marine towing. They have been moved online because of COVID-19 and public health measures. 

Yet despite not being in a classroom or in the field with an instructor, the online courses still allow students to get hands-on experience, said Suzanne Jolly, regional continuing education and training officer at the college.

They also benefit those who live in remote communities and may not otherwise have been able to participate, she said.

North Island College is offering two entry-level marine safety courses online. Small Vessel Operators Proficiency and Restricted Operators Certificate-Maritime are both approved courses by Transport Canada. (@TrainingNic/Twitter)

"We are thrilled to be able to equalize the playing field for folks who live outside some of the centres where marine training is offered," Jolly said Monday on CBC's On The Island.

In particular, Jolly said, people living in remote Indigenous communities often need access to marine safety courses and, while the college has sent instructors into such communities, it can only afford to so once a year.

"It's really exciting for us," said Jolly about expanding access online.

Students are mailed the gear they need, such as navigation equipment, nautical charts and, in some cases if they do not already have one, a personal flotation device, Jolly said.

"We have actually gone out of our way to make sure it is a practical education experience for them, even though it is a live video format," said Jolly.

To complete the courses, students will do their final exams one-on-one with an instructor, via live video. 

North Island College instructor Clive Quigley says teaching classes online means students no longer have to cover the expense of relocating for their studies and can still get a quality education on how to safely operate small vessels in coastal waters. (North Island College/Clive Quigley)

The school provides industry and Transport Canada-approved training for both experienced and emerging mariners.

Jolly said the mandatory online classes could be the opportunity needed to prove to Transport Canada that this method should continue after the pandemic.

Instructor Clive Quigley also praised the move online for giving equal access to training.

"Students can access the training from across Canada without having to pay for travel," said Quigley in a media statement, adding it is a great chance to learn how to operate a small vessel safely.

North Island College has four campuses on Vancouver Island. You can learn more about marine training courses here.

With files from On The Island