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How COVID-19 Has Impacted Post-Secondary Enrollments in Canada

a MaKami College instructor teaching a class in-person to students in a classroom

Think back, if you will, to the days gone by. Your local post-secondary institutions brimming with students, walking hurriedly to class, crammed into hallways (sans mask, by the way), sitting in full classes with instructors (also sans masks) giving their lectures on projectors in thousands of classrooms across the country.

In many ways, aside from the replacement of note pads to laptops, there have not been a lot of drastic changes when it comes to Canada’s (or North America’s) post-secondary institutions. While online enrollments have climbed steadily over the last few years, at around a 10% increase per annum, there was really no cultural push for more online education from these schools — that is, until the arrival of COVID-19 in March 2020.

Changes to Post-Secondary School During the Pandemic

When the pandemic struck, some sweeping changes to post-secondary schooling came with it. Schools had to shut down all their in-class components, students who were enrolled were unsure of their future studies, and international students were sometimes left wondering if they would ever be able to fulfill their educational dreams in Canada.

According to Statistics Canada, the number of students enrolled in postsecondary institutions in Canada has been climbing steadily over the last two decades, from 1.34 million in 2000 to around 2.15 million in 2019.

That’s a lot of students affected by the pandemic.

How International Students in Canada Were Affected by COVID-19

And while it may not be obvious, a large portion of these students are actually international students. Between 2017 and 2018, 15% of all enrollments were classified as international students. Unsurprisingly, the pandemic greatly impacted the ability for Canada’s post-secondary institutions to enroll international students as the rules around international travel continued to change. MaKami College, like many other post-secondary schools in the country, had to put international enrollments on hold due to the uncertainty of border regulations.

“Unfortunately we aren’t taking international enrollments right now,” says Marija Pavkovic-Tovissi, MaKami’s CEO. “We were getting applications but just couldn’t commit to them that they would physically be allowed past the border, so we just had to put this on pause until there’s some more certainty.”

Online Classes Added at Post-Secondary Institutions, Including MaKami College

Covid-19 has resulted in other changes in post-secondary institutions — the somewhat forced necessity of offering online programming.

Many post-secondary schools, especially the larger institutions, were left scrambling in the spring of 2020, struggling to adjust to the rapidly changing circumstances and recruit students.

MaKami College was one of the few post-secondary institutions somewhat prepared for the change. The college, which has focused mainly on its 3,000 Advanced Massage Therapy Diploma Program in the past, had already been putting plans in place to increase its availability of online classes when the first COVID lockdown started in March 2020.

“We were very lucky I think,” says Pavkovic-Tovissi. “For us it was really just a matter of moving over some files in a couple of days, but we know other institutions were really left in the lurch.”

Since then, many schools have adjusted their programs to offer both online and in-person components when needed and permitted by provincial government regulations.

MaKami College Adjusted Online Education to Meet Student Needs

MaKami now offers all its programs — which have expanded to include not just massage therapy, but also Business Administration, RHHealth Care AideMaster Instructor and Alberta Basic Security Training — either online or in a blended online and in-person format. We have found enrollments have actually increased during COVID.

“I think a lot of people for many reasons have decided to go back to school during this time of uncertainty,” says Pavkovic-Tovissi. “And people seem to appreciate the flexibility of online education. We also have a number of learning strategists, tutors, tech help and ESL instructors who are able to work with students online to help keep them motivated and on track, and I think that’s really made a big difference to them.”

Students who are interested in the school can now take a Virtual Tour when restrictions do not allow the public on campus, and have their questions answered by one of the Student Advisors on campus.

“In a way, I think COVID has really just pushed us to do the things we could or even should have had available online,” says Pavkovic-Tovissi.  “It’s true that adversity breeds innovation, and I think we’ve proven that at MaKami.”

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