Tristan Banwell graduated from the UBC Faculty of Forestry in 2009 with a B.Sc. in Natural Resources Conservation (Global Perspectives). Because of his personal situation and the desire to add to his credentials, he is currently enrolled as an unclassified student in distance education courses. He explains, “I am taking distance education because I plan to pursue a designation as a Registered Professional Forester in BC, and I need several additional courses to complete my ‘academic requirements’ before continuing with the application process.” The other factor into his decision to utilize UBC’s distance course offerings is he “recently moved to Washington State in order to facilitate [his] wife’s application for Canadian residency.” His geographical location and family needs, coupled with his course requirements, led him to take FRST 421 and FOPR 262 by distance education this term.
In FRST 421: Integrated Resources Management I Tristan is “learning about quantitative tools used in forest management.” He explains, “this is a great subject for me, as I have an interdisciplinary resource management background, but I do not know much about modelling, linear programming, decision analysis and simulation as planning and management tools,” all of which are concepts covered in FRST 421. Since FRST 421 is a print-based course Tristan “has been doing a lot of reading and completing assignments that challenge [him] to synthesize prior knowledge and new learning and apply this to forest management questions.” With courses like FRST 421, “despite [his] isolation from any academic institution and the spontaneity of [his] daily life, [Tristan is] still able to further [his] career goals through further education.”
By enrolling in FOPR 262: Forest Access and Transportation (formerly Forest Operations I) Tristan is “learning the basics of road layout and harvest planning.” FOPR 262 uses the online format, so course materials are available through WebCT Vista. “Course materials include many government documents utilized by the forest industry, and [the students’] assignments include on-the-ground surveying projects, in addition to various project design assignments.” Tristan shares that the “course gets students out into the forest to do some basic surveying, which is an excellent way to learn.”
He explains his personal situation, which demands flexible learning environments; “I am currently sitting in an off-grid straw bale house in Washington State, USA. When the 20 litre gas tank on my generator runs dry, the Internet will die, along with my monitor and lights. Today I planned to complete some readings, but heavy rains overwhelmed the road drainages on the property I am managing, so I spent the day clearing those instead and I will complete my readings tomorrow.” The flexibility of his print-based and online distance courses allows him to further his education while staying in Washington with his wife.
On the topic of interaction Tristan shares his experiences with his courses. “Both professors are always available, prompt and thorough in responding to enquiries, despite the fact that they are busy fulfilling their roles as Associate Dean of the Faculty of Forestry and the Program Director for the Forest Operations program at UBC.” The additional roles of Tristan’s instructors reflect the high quality of instruction he is receiving, as his instructors are highly knowledgeable and connected to the area of teaching.
What would Tristan’s situation look like if he did not have the option of distance education? “If I couldn’t take these courses at a distance, I would have had to put my professional development on hold until I was able to move back to Vancouver with my wife, or we would have had to split up until she could move to Canada. Being tied to campus would also mean compromising on employment options.” However, due to the fact that he could continue his studies at a distance, Tristan “doesn’t have to choose. I can pursue any opportunities that come my way knowing that I will still be able to move forward with my education, whether in Canada, the USA or across the globe.”
Distance learning at UBC has provided Tristan with the flexibility and quality coursework he needs to be become successful in his career as a Registered Professional Forester in BC, all while living across the border in Washington State.