Online offerings and learner support key to mature student success

For many, the post-secondary educational journey begins right out of high school. For Andrea Doiron, this was the case; she started taking courses from the University of New Brunswick (UNB) in 1994.

After her second year, she was accepted into a specialized dental therapy diploma program that trained students to provide basic oral health services in First Nation and Inuit communities. The program was located in Saskatchewan and she left UNB to pursue that goal.

Since then, she has yearned to go back to university to finish what she started. Twenty-two years later, at the age of 40, she is returning to UNB to walk across the stage to receive a Bachelor of Integrated Studies (BIS) degree.

Life has taken Doiron in many directions. She is currently a dental therapist and is working as a national dental therapy policy advisor for Health Canada's First Nation and Inuit Health Branch, in Ottawa. Her end goal is to complete a master of public health but needed a four-year undergraduate degree for acceptance into a program at this level. The BIS program met this requirement.

“I have always wanted to complete my degree but found it hard to find a program that would take all of my previous learning into consideration. I had arts courses from UNB and dental therapy courses that were more science related, and wanted to find a program that would give me credit for my past accomplishments,” said Doiron. 

Researching schools online, UNB’s BIS was one of the top search results.

“I promptly contacted the BIS Coordinator, Lorna Campbell, who helped me to get started. It was an easy process.”

The BIS was ideal for her situation. In addition to accepting her previous post-secondary credits, she was able to complete the entire program online.

"I enjoyed taking courses online. Even though there was no face-to-face contact, you got to know your classmates and the instructors knew who you were. I found everyone to be personable and professional."

Doiron also liked the flexibility of the online experience as she travels a great deal.

UNB delivers online courses through a learning platform Desire2Learn (D2L), which Doiron found simple to navigate.

"In the beginning, it [D2L] was a bit of trial and error, but anyone with basic computer skills would find it easy to learn," she adds.

Of the support available to adult learners through UNB, Doiron's academic advisor, Lorna Campbell, made a significant difference. Regardless of the question, Campbell was prompt at getting back to her with the solution.

“She [Campbell] went above and beyond, encouraging me to apply for bursaries and scholarships, helping me to select courses that would align with my end goals, and even letting me know when course fees were due! She made everything run very smoothly. Her support is really what an adult learner needs.”

Although online learning is convenient and flexible, the key is to stay focused.

“It is hard work. It is just as hard as being in a classroom. You have to attend and put in your time. The key is to be organized and to balance your work, school, and life. If you can do that, online learning may be for you.”

Doiron is looking forward to the benefits and opportunities that having a degree presents.

“Having a degree will open doors for me to apply for a variety of different positions. In government there are different job classifications and a lot of them require an undergrad degree."

"When I was trying to decide whether or not to attend my UNB graduation, I realized that this was such an accomplishment for me. When I graduated from dental therapy school, my father was battling cancer and no one in my family could make the journey from New Brunswick to Saskatchewan. My father has since passed away, but this week, I will walk across the stage at UNB to receive my degree with my mother and two of my father's sisters, my aunts, attending. It’s really special for me, to finally finish my degree and to have my family there to see."

Doiron has a special place in her heart for UNB.

“UNB has a history with my family as my dad finished some French language training courses for his job as a RCMP officer in the 1980s, and my brother received his Bachelor of Education from UNB as well. UNB is where I started my journey, so it means a lot to be coming back after all these years to receive my degree finally.”


Learn more about the Bachelor of Integrated Studies, or contact Lorna Campbell at the College of Extended Learning at 506 458-7976 or bis@unb.ca.