To the Editor,
As members of the community may be aware, Thompson Rivers University (TRU) is ending its lease for the building that housed our learning centre in Clearwater. While we’ve had this space in the community for a long time, we have faced challenges over the years with low enrollments and high costs to deliver our programs.
The pandemic, unfortunately, has magnified this situation. With pandemic safety-related concerns, most education is being delivered online at TRU. Face-to-face education in Clearwater is less than 10 per cent compared to previous years. In student numbers, this equates to nine so far for 2020-21, compared to 168 in 2018-19. The leased facility has been virtually empty for many months, and to continue this way is no longer sustainable.
I’d like to reassure the community that TRU will continue to provide continuing education programming in Clearwater. What is changing is how and where we do this.
Through the regional centre, we provided university-prep courses, workplace health and safety training and, occasionally, trades programming through our mobile training unit. We work with industry partners to determine specific training needs, and host programs and courses to match local needs.
This type of collaboration with community partners on educational needs will not change. And it may be in the future we use short-term-rental spaces, on an as-needed basis. We know this represents a change, but we also see possibilities going forward.
The pandemic has opened up new opportunities for rural students that didn’t exist before, through access to more virtual learning. We also know students are increasingly taking advantage of virtual and distance learning, including our Open Learning courses.
As a result of ongoing COVID-19 challenges, we have established cohort-based learning via distance delivery. This has created increased access to a whole new form of learning for students.
Looking ahead, we see Clearwater very much as part of our TRU community.
Recently, we celebrated with community members the near-completion of the new Education and Research Centre at Wells Gray.
We are excited about the value this facility will bring to the Clearwater community and beyond. We also remain committed to providing programming in Clearwater and each of our regional communities.
Dean, Trades and Technology
Thompson Rivers University