June 1 is an important day for our university, it’s the 40th anniversary of BC’s Open Learning. On that day in 1978, the provincial government created the Open Learning Institute (OLI) to pioneer open post-secondary learning in BC. The OLI was the inheritor of the principle of openness in post-secondary established by the Open University in London, UK, which opened in 1969. It was designed to use modern technologies such as television to bring post-secondary education to the people rather than the other way around, and without the need for program registration and prerequisites.
Fast forward four decades, and we have Open Learning (OL) as an integral part of Thompson Rivers University and our provincial mandate as BC’s open access university.
Globally, OL has been a trailblazer in many open education initiatives, including Prior Learning Assessment and Recognition (PLAR), the use of open educational resources, and transfer credit agreements, and has created partnerships with many institutions, businesses and organizations across the country. It was a founding member of both the Canadian Virtual University-Université virtuelle canadienne (CVU-UVC) and in 2010, the Open Educational Resource universitas (OERu).
Of TRU’s 27,000-strong student enrolment, half of those are studying through TRU-Open Learning. TRU-OL offers open, accessible and flexible education, which allows many people who would otherwise never be able to access higher education the opportunity to attend university: working students, mature students, caregivers, students in remote settings and students from underrepresented groups.
Over the years, we’ve helped people with certificates or diplomas secure bachelor’s degrees through our partnerships and PLAR process. We’ve made it possible for full-time professionals with busy lives and family commitments to secure the credentials they need to take their careers to the next level. And we’ve made it possible for people in remote communities to access post-secondary without leaving home, and still others to upgrade their education so that they could enrol in a university program.
Each year at Convocation, we get the chance to hear from graduates who would not have been able to achieve their educational goals without TRU-OL’s flexibility. They are so grateful for the support of Open Learning Faculty Members, program advisors, Student Services staff and Open Learning staff.
As an institution, we are celebrating Open Learning’s 40th anniversary by showcasing highlights of OL’s history, people and programs through stories on our website throughout the year. Later in the year, we will host a campus-wide event in recognition of this milestone. Please take a moment in the coming days to reach out to your colleagues in TRU-OL and thank them for the work they do.
As we reflect upon the past 40 years and OL’s position as a leader in open and distance education, we look forward to what the next 40 years will bring.
President and Vice-Chancellor