As part of its Strategic Academic Plan, McGill is committed to “supporting pedagogical and curricular innovation.” McGill Online is one of the ways the University is exploring “alternatives to traditional degree organization and academic time-tabling.” With the launch of this new website, McGill University is showcasing its increased commitment to offering online programs that provide dynamic experiences for the 21st century learner.
Unlike individual courses, which may use online delivery as part of an in-person program, these are complete academic programs designed to be delivered entirely online.
McGill’s current online programs, which are the initiatives of various Faculties and units collaborating with instructional designers include:
- Bachelor of Nursing (Integrated) (BNI) (Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences)
- Certificat d’études supérieures en pédagogie de l’immersion française (Faculty of Education)
- Graduate certificates in:
- Chronic Pain Management (Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences)
- Cybersecurity (Faculty of Arts)
- Healthcare Management (Joint initiative between the Desautels Faculty of Management and the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences)
- Master’s degree in International Health Leadership (Desautels Faculty of Management)
Additionally, the McGill School of Continuing Studies offers a number of academic programs online, including an undergraduate certificate in cybersecurity and a graduate diploma in legal translation, with more programs being planned.
“While McGill is primarily an in-person institution, it is a strategic priority for the University to increase its offerings of fully online programs, in addition to its traditional, in-person programs,” says Professor Christopher Manfredi, Interim Principal and Vice-Chancellor. “The ability to offer quality distance education, whether for local or international learners, will allow us to fulfill our mission further and to respond to pressing societal needs, such as the need for upskilling and reskilling.”
Although there isn’t one single type of online learner, many McGill Online programs are designed for professionals looking to take the next step in their careers. The various graduate certificates attract working professionals who want to grow their skill sets — or are setting the stage for an eventual career transition. Because these students often work full-time, they need the flexibility of a primarily asynchronous program that allows them to learn and complete assignments within the constraints of already busy schedules.
Nursing: First bachelor’s degree out of the gate
Launched in Fall 2021 with a cohort of 75 students (increased to 125 in Fall 2022 and 145 in Fall 2023), the online version of the Ingram School of Nursing’s Bachelor of Nursing (Integrated) program was McGill’s first fully online bachelor’s degree—and remains the only program of its kind in Quebec. Furthermore, all course materials are available in English and French in order to accommodate students from across Quebec.
To be eligible, students must already hold a college diploma in Nursing (DEC) earned within the past three years. In the context of the healthcare workforce shortage, the program is designed for flexibility to help working nurses obtain a bachelor’s degree which will increase the province’s capacity to train registered nurses capable of working across the full spectrum of care setting. Studying either full- or part-time, the students complete 20 theoretical and inquiry-based courses, plus three clinical courses—two in the community, and one in an acute care setting. With many prospective BNI students living and working outside of metropolitan areas, the program had to be designed to account for this reality.
“As a mirror of our BNI on Campus, the BNI Online provides them with the flexibility to pursue their studies from the comfort of their own homes while balancing their careers and other obligations,” says program director Annie Chevrier. That flexibility, she notes, was a key deciding factor for many of the program’s first cohort of students.
McGill Online courses are taught by the same McGill faculty, recognized experts in their fields, who teach in the traditional in-person programs—but that’s where most similarities end. Christopher Buddle, Associate Provost (Teaching and Academic Planning), emphasizes that the online programs are not retrofitted in-person programs, but are specifically designed from the ground up.
“These programs are not the same as switching a lecture or two to Zoom, perhaps because of a unforeseen event like a snowstorm, or to bring in an occasional guest lecturer into a classroom using online technology. ’ Instead, it’s creating entire programs from first principles with the right tools and thoughtful approach to online delivery,” he explains. “. It’s not about shifting to online delivery. From the outset, these programs are designed for, and specifically targeted to, students who wish to learn their entire program online.”
Ingram School of Nursing’s Chevrier agrees. Over several years, the School collaborated with the University’s Teaching and Learning Services to redesign every module for online delivery. “We had to revisit what, why, and how we teach the course material,” she says.
Learning from the pandemic
Although McGill began planning to expand its online reach well before the COVID-19 pandemic, Buddle says Spring 2020’s quick pivot to online learning did offer some valuable lessons.
“We certainly saw that some learners want to have a self-paced approach to online learning, while others want more synchronous or live kinds of learning,” he says. “So, what we’re trying to do when designing McGill Online programs is think about the different aspects of what it means to teach online and recognize that we’re able to take different kinds of approaches to online education.”
Compared to a decade ago, he says, today’s online programs are designed to be more engaging and interactive.
“We’ve moved beyond simply watching a video and answering a few related questions,” says Buddle. “Now it’s much more than an instructor providing content online and students answering questions. Students may still watch a video, of course, but today’s knowledge checks involve things like small group discussions facilitated by a TA or an instructor, or simulation activities.
“And it’s definitely not a one-size-fits-all. Different programs have different needs. For example, how do we set up patient-care simulations for the online Bachelor of Nursing? How do we bring in real-world problems to the cybersecurity certificate? Many innovative tools are being used in today’s online teaching and McGill intends to be at the cutting-edge of this expertise and offer the best possible online education.”
If you have questions or are a member of the McGill community who may want to develop an online program, please reach out to us at email@example.com.