Upgrade your skills while working full-time

Online degrees let you advance your career without missing a beat

In math, as in life, there’s never just one way to arrive at the right answer. It’s why a flexible, learning-centred approach to education just makes sense.

High school math teacher Carley Funk (MMT ’17) swears by the process. A recent graduate of Waterloo’s Master of Mathematics for Teachers (MMT) online degree program, Funk continued to work full-time while she completed her degree over a three-year period.

“Twenty years ago, I wouldn’t have been able to do this at all. And I don’t think I would’ve been able to do it if I’d had to go into class,” Funk says. “This worked perfectly with my job and being able to do it on my own time. I thought it would make me a better teacher and I wanted to learn more myself.”

The MMT is one of many popular online degree programs for working professionals that allow people to improve their skills in a specific area or to change careers altogether, all without missing a beat in their career.

“It makes me more sympathetic as a teacher having been a student very recently. Sometimes you get bogged down in process. In my MMT program, there was no exam,” says Funk, who is on secondment for a year at Waterloo’s Centre for Education in Mathematics and Computing (CEMC). “So, it was good to recognize and remind myself that it’s hard to be a student, that it doesn’t always have to be an exam – it can be something else and still be academically rigorous.”

It’s the kind of fundamental shift in thinking that has helped make online learning at Waterloo what it is today: flexible, accessible, world-class education for adult, part-time and fully online learners – all with the same academic rigour as traditional in-class courses.

Back in 1968, when distance education began at Waterloo, instructors would sit at a microphone recording lectures based on their prepared notes, and students would complete assignments by correspondence.

Waterloo’s Centre for Extended Learning celebrates 50 years

using audiotape 50 years ago for distance learningFifty years later, Waterloo’s Centre for Extended Learning (CEL) has shifted to new technology to establish a fully online interactive “classroom” in which students are engaged with their instructor and classmates.

The centre serves not only working professionals but on-campus students as well, giving them more flexibility to take courses, including while they’re on a work term. And for students who wouldn’t otherwise be able to enrol in a program – including those with other responsibilities or commitments such as work and family – it gives them the opportunity to study at a distance.

“It’s really about making the education relevant. We are keeping on the forefront of research in terms of how to design online learning experiences that result in high rates of learner success,” CEL Director Aldo Caputo says.

“The key thing we recognize is that, especially with adult learners, you have to welcome their prior experience and learning, allowing them to express and build on those.”

Sometimes it’s purely about the love of learning. In fact, one woman in her 80s recently completed her undergrad degree entirely online through the University of Waterloo.

“Every year there are examples like that of people who for the love of learning are taking various programs,” Caputo says. “Doing it online affords that possibility, and they can do it in the comfort of their own home.”