SFU to offer select courses in Whistler this Spring

Come for the courses, stay for the slopes.

Students will be hitting the slopes and hitting the books next semester.

SFU has launched a pilot project in collaboration with a non-profit organization, the Whistler Education Group, in Whistler to offer five different SFU courses up in the small mountain village for Spring 2016.

Courses will be offered in one-day, two-day, and semester-long formats, ranging from social media strategy for businesses, to brewing delicious beers.

The day-long courses, or “boot camps,” tackle some more specific social media and digital skills. These include BOOT 520: Social Media for Small Business, BOOT 555: How to Optimize your LinkedIn for Business, and BOOT 715: Visual Leadership: Building Ownership Using Visuals.

The single two-day course offered is VIVA 201: Visual Analytics Workshop: From Theory to Practice. For those wanting a longer stint in the village, BREW 110: Introduction to Brewing will be regularly scheduled all week for the duration of the semester.

All classes are expected to have a capacity of 25 students.

The Whistler Education Group first approached the university about a year ago to pitch the idea of hosting courses in Whistler. Through conversations with the office of the VP Academic and SFU’s Lifelong Learning department, the group has entered into an official partnership with SFU as well as BCIT to make Whistler a destination for post-secondary education.

SFU’s Lifelong Learning office oversees departments such as Continuing Studies, SFU NOW, and the Centre for Online and Distance Education.

Larry White, director of career and professional programs for SFU Lifelong Learning, explained that these classes are meant to draw students to Whistler “to engage in a learning opportunity that could potentially be connected to an adventure activity,” as well as provide educational opportunities for locals.

“Think in terms of attracting someone to Whistler for BREW 110, that might be scheduled Tuesday to Friday, and someone staying the weekend for a mountain adventure experience, or using the weeknights for that experience,” White suggested.

All courses will be hosted by the soon-to-be launched Whistler Learning Centre. Stephen Milstein, head of the Whistler Education Group, expressed that ‘educational tourism’ is a booming market — one that the group is looking to break into. “Continuing studies is a money-maker,” said Milstein.

The courses will be held in various spaces around Whistler, like the Spruce Grove Field House, or in hotel conference rooms. Milstein explained, “We plan to use existing spaces, indoor and outdoor, as classrooms and learning spaces.”

“[SFU is] very excited about this partnership and about the prospect of bringing our programs to people in their own community,” said White. “We are excited about the concept of helping to support local economic development through increasing tourism as a result of offering our courses and programs.”

He also expressed the hope that the pilot project will be successful enough to continue on beyond next semester, and that SFU remains Whistler’s “education service provider of choice.”

SFU Lifelong Learning sees the project as beneficial for all involved. The courses are meant to attract more visitors to Whistler, improving tourism in non-peak seasons, and to expand SFU’s educational offerings into a new market.

As White put it, the partnership “creates a win-win-win situation for learners, for Whistler businesses, and for SFU.”

Milstein remarked, “All of a sudden, on a rainy day, there’s lots to do in Whistler.”