The U of G portico on Johnston GreenAmid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the University of Guelph has experienced a significant increase in its summer semester enrolment.

Degree-credit students are taking 55 per cent more distance education courses than the same time last year, and non-degree program enrolment is up by 20 per cent.

“This summer’s spike in enrolments speaks to students’ need for ongoing educational opportunities and the ability of the University to offer these opportunities to our own students and those across the country and around the world,” said Charlotte Yates, provost and vice-president (academic).

Like universities across Canada and worldwide, U of G had to make rapid and significant changes in its academic offerings and operations due to COVID-19. In March, U of G moved to delivering all courses in an alternative format; summer courses will also be offered remotely.

“Working together, we continue to deliver quality education under challenging circumstances,” Yates said.

During the summer 2020 semester, U of G is offering degree program courses primarily through distance education.

Adding that U of G is a pioneer in distance education, Yates said, “Our courses cover a wide range of fields, are top-quality and demonstrate how best to use technology in teaching.”

Besides U of G’s excellence in course offerings, said University registrar Ray Darling, the increase may reflect the current student job market.

“Students who have been unable to find employment are taking the opportunity to get ahead in their studies,” Darling said.

“The increase in summer enrolment is welcome news for students and the institution in this challenging environment.”

Michelle Fach, executive director of U of G’s Open Learning and Education Support (OpenEd), said students are also looking to boost future employment opportunities.

“Historically, in times such as these, individuals see education as essential for remaining in the labour market,” she said.

U of G is also experiencing growth in its non-degree distance education programs, offered fully online, Fach said.

OpenEd delivers a variety of non-traditional learning opportunities, including night courses, workshops and seminars, and certificate programs.

“Many students also take courses as academic upgrading to prepare for undergraduate or graduate programs,” said Fach.

“We are also seeing an increase in our environmental science and leadership certificate programs, which likely reflects shifting areas of student concern. As well, there is an increase in the number of students taking courses for personal interest.

“My interpretation would be that some students are taking this time to prepare for the future and others are simply taking this time for themselves, to do something that didn’t work into their schedule before.”