WLU offers first complete online undergraduate program

Photo by Serena Gill
Photo by Serena Gill

Wilfrid Laurier University has been making serious advancements in the development of online learning. Starting in September 2016, Laurier will be offering its religion and culture degree completely online.

It will mirror the in-class degree already offered at Laurier under the same name.

Students will be completing the degree full-time, with the same fall, winter and spring semesters as if they were taking in-class courses. The core requirements will also be identical.

Religion and culture will be the first degree in the faculty of arts to be offered completely online.

According to Meena Sharify-Funk, associate professor and chair of the religion and culture department at Laurier, the religion and culture department is second to psychology when it comes to offering the most online courses at Laurier.

“We have, of course, the in-class and over the years we’ve developed online courses. Then we realized that we’ve developed actually a lot of online courses, more so than any other arts department,” said Sharify-Funk.

Students will have access to all of the same online courses offered under the religion and culture department as any other student taking the degree in-class. However, not all of the courses offered on the academic calendar have been converted to online formats.

“It’s been a work in progress, to get to the point where we could develop our core courses. Currently RE207, which is the core course in second-year and 407, which is our capstone course, those two are being developed as we speak. They will be offered come… 2017,” said Sharify-Funk.

In the meantime, students have begun the first semester of the degree.

Laurier’s push for online learning stems from the need to reach a wider geographical region of students, according to Sharify-Funk.

“Why Laurier is interested in online learning, of course, is to attract as many students as possible from within the local region, as well as outside of the region and to be competitive in that market of online learning. I know that when I was talking with the recruitment office and I mentioned that we have the first complete online degree in the faculty of arts and they were just so excited because up North, with a lot of the aboriginal communities, there is a great interest in online learning,” said Sharify-Funk.

Courses offered online will include students from both the in-class and the online degrees, giving them the opportunity to communicate with people from all over Canada and potentially the rest of the world.

“It does actually extend our borders in infinite ways,” said Sharify-Funk.

“There is, of course, an opportunity to connect with communities we could’ve never dreamed of before. I think the more that we can internationalize knowledge and have a diversified body of students, the better.”

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