Dr. Michael Catchpole teaches a distance psychology course at North Island College. While he’s based out of the Port Alberni campus, students at any of NIC’s campuses can access the course through live interactive television. Image provided

NIC distance learning technology allows one instructor to teach students in five locations

‘You get all the benefits of being in a class with your fellow students, without having to travel,’ says instructor

One of North Island College’s lead advocates and innovators in the use of distance education methodology has helped the college reach a new milestone in providing educational access throughout its region.

Since 1978, Dr. Michael Catchpole has taught psychology courses at North Island College (NIC)’s Port Alberni campus as well as throughout the college region via distance education.

This term students from across the North Island will come together from across the region to take his Abnormal Psychology (PSY-235) course, delivered simultaneously to all five NIC campuses via live interactive television.

“ITV is a unique way to deliver education,” said Catchpole. “You are learning from a distance, but you’re not alone. You still go to class, hear the lectures, see your instructor and take part in discussions and group projects. You get all the benefits of being in a class with your fellow students, without having to travel”.

This semester, Catchpole has students from Campbell River, Comox Valley, Port Alberni, Port Hardy and Ucluelet all registered in the same course.

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“When I originally piloted our ITV system 22 years ago, we could only teach to one other campus,” said Catchpole. “Now, thanks to a leading edge videoconferencing system, I can reach all our campuses and our learning centre in Ucluelet at the same time.

“It is certainly a good demonstration of NIC’s commitment to offer courses to students as close as possible to where they live throughout our region. It also shows that there is a demand from students who want to be able to take courses without leaving their home community.”

Bringing students from various communities together brings another level to the discussion in class.

“It’s always interesting to see the dynamic when you bring students with different backgrounds, communities and experiences together,” said Catchpole. “I find we learn a lot from each other and about the rest of the region, along with learning the course material.”

PSY-235 is a university-level course that covers mental health issues along with their biopsychosocial diagnosis and treatments. Along with being a fully transferable second-year course for students working toward their Bachelor degree, it is also a popular elective for health and human services students, and others interested in the mental health field.

“The course is a favourite of mine to teach,” said Catchpole. “There’s a huge interest in mental health and mental disorders and we focus on theories and research with the students, hopefully, leaving them with an appreciation of how important and valuable psychological research is to developing treatments and helping individuals.”

Along with teaching psychology, Catchpole is a former practicing registered psychologist, published psychological researcher and author of Anxiety: Debug it Don’t Drug it.

According to Catchpole, NIC’s international reputation for its commitment to stay on the leading edge of new teaching technologies is a big part of why he remains excited to be teaching at the college.

For more information on NIC’s psychology courses, visit www.nic.bc.ca/university-studies.

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