Nipissing University Awards Honorary Doctorate to Canadian Author

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Distance education pioneer Colin Simpson,Dean of George Brown College's Centre for Continuous Learning, will receive Nipissing University's highest distinction at its upcoming 2015 convocation ceremonies.

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Distance education pioneer Colin Simpson,
Dean of George Brown College's Centre for
Continuous Learning
, will receive Nipissing
University's highest distinction at its upcoming
2015 convocation ceremonies. Simpson is being
recognized for his extraordinary contributions
to electronics, industrial automation and
robotics education, and will receive an honorary
doctorate of letters
at the ceremony in North
Bay on June 12. "It's wonderful and the fact
that it's from my hometown makes it extra
special for me," he said. Simpson, who has a
doctoral degree in electrical engineering from
the University of Hawaii, has written six
textbooks, including the best-seller Principles
of Electronics, and has developed simulation
software that enables students to study
electronics, electro-mechanics, robotics and
automation
through distance education
programs. There are approximately 250,000
registered users of his simulation software worldwide.

Breaking down barriers to education

Simpson has been recognized before for breaking down barriers when it comes to access to education, with the TVOntario Lifelong Learning Challenge Award among his honours. He was inspired to launch the distance education offerings at George Brown in 1997 when, as a teacher, he saw students dropping out of college because "they couldn't afford it, or because they had some kind of family issues." He knew some students needed greater flexibility in their learning options in order to complete their studies.

Electronics program

His distance education electronics program at George Brown provides easier access to training for students facing economic challenges and has attracted a relatively high number of female students. "Typically, it's a very low percentage of females that enrol in an electronics program—it's usually in the range of two per cent. Our programs typically average around 20 per cent," Simpson said. The self-directed and pay-per-course design of the electronics program also provides more flexibility for students to gain new skills to either get into the workforce or adapt to changes in their current work environment.

"For people who have really busy lives—they may have family commitments or they may do shift work…[the online program] provides them with a means of being able to improve their lives by being able to take these courses because they are employment-based," he said. George Brown is one of the largest distance education providers in North America, with approximately 21,000 students currently enrolled.

Simpson started at George Brown as a teacher, eventually moved into an administrative role and currently has been dean of the Centre of Continuous Learning for a decade. Ever since, enrolment in George Brown's Continuing Education programs has jumped to 65,000 from approximately 35,000.

About George Brown College

Toronto's George Brown College has established a reputation for equipping students with the skills, industry experience and credentials to pursue the careers of their choice. From its three main campuses located across the downtown core, George Brown offers 148 full-time and 1,600 continuing education programs across a wide variety of professions to a student body of approximately 64,000 (including those enrolled in full-time, part-time and continuing education programs). Students can earn diplomas, post-graduate certificates, industry accreditations, apprenticeships and four-year bachelor degrees.

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Scott Duncan
George Brown College
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