With the Canadian educational sector expanding its programs to include online programs and courses, as an international student you need to be aware that too many online courses may jeopardise your visa and/or your eligibility to work in Canada after graduation as the Canadian Government isn’t as aligned with online learning as they could be.
I will discuss three online course scenarios for the international student:
Taking one or two online courses won’t affect your visa or prospects of joining the government’s post-graduation work program. The majority of your program will be in class, on campus so you are okay.
Staying in your own country and taking a full-time online program as per those offered by Athabasca University, will not affect you. This student remains in their home country and so visa issues, etc. are not of a concern. But also be aware that the same university offers the ability to complete the program onsite and arrive in Canada under a study permit to finish the degree. This is where the problem might lie.
(Please note that Athabasca University is a reputable university and offers quality education. They hold a credible position in Canada’s education scene and with the University of Alberta.)
International students who are in Canada on study permits and take most of their program online may be in for an unpleasant surprise upon graduation. As per an article in the Metro News, foreign students were denied work permits because they took online classes. “They were told that their studies failed to meet the requirements because the bulk of their classes were conducted online and considered ‘distance learning’”.
There are a number of colleges and universities in Canada who offer some or most of their program online. They state that the international student will be considered full-time and eligible for a study permit because they must attend the ‘onsite’ or on campus portion of the program.
These are very reputable universities and colleges in Canada offering valuable certifications, but at this point in time, there seems to be some misunderstanding between educational institutions and the government.
Therefore, when looking at a program that offers online courses/programs to international students, please bear in mind that you may well get the study permit to study in Canada, but the big question is; can you remain in Canada after you graduate to participate in Canada’s post-graduate work program?
If in doubt, please make the appropriate inquiries to the Canadian government or to the university or college in Canada. You do not want to spend a lot of money and not get what you had hoped for.