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There’s an app for that: College and Accelerate Okanagan partner to offer new coding program

Okanagan College Media Release

In an era of smartphones, tablets and mobile computing, applications – apps to most of us - are at the core of making it all happen, but the industry that produces them requires talented and trained developers to turn ideas into on-screen reality.

In response to the exponential growth in app popularity and sector demand, Okanagan College and Accelerate Okanagan have partnered to offer a new Mobile Coding for Android and iOS program starting this fall.

"Accelerate Okanagan received valuable feedback from industry that iOS and Android are the languages most in demand for programming training needs," says Pilar Portela, CEO of Accelerate Okanagan. "The format of this specialized training is key to developing local talent which will assist in connecting companies with highly skilled workers."

With room for 16 students, the program is currently accepting applications for an October intake. Four months of part-time classes on evenings and Saturdays will be followed by a five-week practicum with one of the region’s tech companies that Accelerate Okanagan will help students connect with.

"This program answers the expressed needs of the region’s technology sector," says Okanagan College President Jim Hamilton. "With financial support from the province, we’ve developed a curriculum that will enable students to advance in their careers, and give them the job skills training necessary to excel in the field of app development."

Geared towards individuals currently working in coding, the class schedule will allow them to remain in the workforce.

Students will learn how to create an app for Android and iOS systems that includes responsive and functional technology that can be converted from one platform to another, meaning it is adaptable to be functional on a smartphone, tablet, and desktop computer on multiple operating systems.

The program took shape following a funding announcement made in April by the B.C. Government in support of the regional tech economy. During a press conference in Kelowna, Premier Christy Clark announced $250,000 to be provided to five post-secondary institutions to advance coding skills among the tech sector workforce. Okanagan College received $50,000. Working with Accelerate Okanagan and in consultation with tech leaders, the College has developed this program.

Program admission prerequisite criteria include applicants having some programming experience, a demonstrated foundation in object-oriented programming, a clear understanding of databases (such a MySQL) and libraries, and an established aptitude for math.

Upon completion of the program, students will be able to pitch their app idea to Accelerate Okanagan for a chance to earn a scholarship that will help the individual build a business around the app in order get it ready for market.

"We are proud to partner with Okanagan College for this innovative new program that will give young talent the opportunity to excel in the tech industry that is quickly becoming the backbone of our region," says Portela.

For more information and to apply to the program, visit

Smoke proves to be power vampire

Okanagan College Media Release

Smoky skies caused by fires south of the border are affecting much more than visibility, breathing and our appreciation of the region’s scenery: one of the impacts many people may not think about is on solar power arrays.

An example is Okanagan College’s photovoltaic solar array at its Kelowna campus.

A review of data from an online monitoring website (created by SkyFireEnergy, which installed the array for Okanagan College), shows a dramatic reduction in power output between Saturday, Aug. 22 – the last relatively clear day – and the last three days.

On Saturday, Aug. 22 the solar array on the top of the canopy over the outdoor heavy equipment yard at the Kelowna campus produced 1,103 kilowatt-hours of energy. On Sunday – when the smoke from fires south of the border moved in and occluded the skies – the array produced just 462 kilowatt-hours, a reduction of more than 58 per cent. When the smoke lightened a bit Monday, the array was able to produce 715 kilowatt-hours. Tuesday’s skies blotted the sun as well – the array was able to produce 692 kilowatt-hours, a reduction of 37 per cent from Saturday’s output.

The array on top of the canopy includes 793 solar photovoltaic module panels. The outdoor shop covered by the canopy was built as part of the Trades Training Complex renovation and expansion project currently underway along KLO Road.

The 194 kW electrical solar photovoltaic array system is among the largest in the province, only slightly smaller than the 258 kW system built on top of the LEED Platinum certified Jim Pattison Centre of Excellence at the College’s Penticton campus.

Since being fully commissioned in June, the photovoltaic array on the Kelowna campus has saved about 72 megawatt hours of energy. That’s equal to the amount of energy required to run about 604 computers for a year, or the equivalent of about one-quarter of the energy required to operate the College’s 142-bed Skaha Residence annually.

The array is part of the College’s larger sustainability plan that includes seeking LEED certification for its buildings and striving for the esteemed Living Building Challenge standards. Achieving energy net zero will require the College to produce as much energy as is consumed; the College is targeting to reduce its net carbon emissions by 80 tons per year, and is already well underway. From 2007 to 2013 the College successfully reduced its energy consumption per square metre by 32.2 per cent.

Registration open for new College conference focused on connected classrooms

Technology and connectivity in the classroom are remarkably changing methods of teaching and learning, leading education institutions to adapt to new models in order to stay ahead of the curve.

On Sept. 25 and 26 Okanagan College will host a new conference titled Tiltshift – an acronym for “technology in learning and teaching”– that will explore technology tools and innovative ideas to help the education community acclimate to new teaching platforms.

“From Skype to web-based software, video production and iPads, understanding how students use technology and how to maximize this knowledge to benefit their learning is imperative for the advancement of education and career preparation,” says Dr. Beverlie Dietze, Director of Learning and Teaching at Okanagan College. “Our aim with the conference is to broaden the perspective on where educational technology is heading.”

The conference will provide alternative perspectives for education, and the practical uses of technology in classrooms and course curriculum design. The interactive and demonstrative sessions will explore online learning, new tools and resources available, and technology leadership.

Leaders and innovators from the Okanagan’s thriving technology, business, and education community, and the general public, are invited to join in this exciting dialogue by registering to attend the Tiltshift Education Technology conference. Online registration is open at A $50 conference fee applies.

Held at the College’s Kelowna campus, Tiltshift will kick-off the evening of Sept. 25 with a keynote address by Mount Royal University Associate Professor Dr. Norm Vaughan. A published author, he has expertise in blended learning solutions (the combination of online and in-class courses) and faculty development.

The conference will continue with a full day of breakout sessions and presentations on Saturday Sept. 26. The day also includes a second keynote address by Penticton speaker and author Nikos Theodosakis who is the founder of the OliveUs Education Society and the architect of the Instill Life: Preserving Your Culture programs. He is an advocate for shaping education experiences that are personal, relevant and meaningful.

“We’ve seen technology provide tremendous benefits to our students, resulting in accessible education that circumvents barriers to learning, including time, geography and finances,” says Laura Eagen, Director of IT Services at Okanagan College.

Eagen points to the example of an open online Applied Sustainability course the College previously offered. Technology made the online course possible; more than 100 students from communities across the province, country, and abroad participated, including individuals in remote regions who would have faced a geographical and time barrier otherwise to attend. The six-week course also highlighted how technology inspired shifted views on assessment. Using a gamification model, students strived to achieve different levels to advance to new content much like what you would experience in a video game.

“The speed at which technology is advancing may mean some educators don’t necessarily know which resources are now available to them, or the effective uses for them,” says Eagen. “We wanted to offer a forum to allow experts in the community, and educators, to engage in conversations about how to advance the learning environments we provide, ultimately benefitting students, and the future workforce.”

For additional information including details of the session topics, please visit the Tiltshift website:

Education Assistant graduates make a difference in children's lives

Christine Liefke gave birth to her fourth child two months before her eldest sister was in a serious car crash.

The two events marked a turning point in her life. The stay-at-home mother of 10 years had recently divorced and was working at a home-based business.

“I thought, ‘I’ve got to do something with my life that means something,’” Liefke says. “I wanted to make a difference.”

She attended an information session for Okanagan College’s Education Assistant (EA) program, which prepares graduates to work in the classroom with children with special needs including physical challenges or those on the autism spectrum. Liefke applied to the program, graduated nine months later in 2011 and found work at School District No. 22 in Vernon.

“I love my job. Some days I cannot believe I get paid to do it,” she says.

Liefke has opted to take casual positions to give herself flexibility as a working mother.

“I found it easy to find employment,” she says. “I got in right away.”

School District No. 22 and Okanagan College work in partnership to offer the Education Assistant certificate, and the School District invites graduates to submit applications. Those interested in finding out more about becoming an Education Assistant are invited to an information night at Okanagan College’s Vernon campus on August 20 at 6 p.m.

“The College prepares EAs well in understanding and working with children with special needs,” says Monica Lloyd, the School District’s director of instruction for Student Support Services. “Successful students will be given an opportunity for an interview and selection to the casual list.”

Education Assistant graduates have also found employment as special needs workers and are eligible to apply for their Early Childhood Educator Assistant license. Lloyd says students graduate with a basic understanding of developmental challenges, how to build a positive relationship with children and the importance of relationship first, social development, and ways of working with youth for better academic success.

Colline Johnson, vice principal of Okanagan Landing Elementary school, says Education Assistants are the people who allow teachers to focus on teaching and remove barriers for students.

“They can change a student’s life,” Johnson says.

Liefke says she valued the program’s 120-hour practicum, during which time students are placed in a classroom to practice their skills.  
“It showed you if you really wanted to do it or not,” she says.

Since graduating, Liefke has developed a network of colleagues, and given herself a sense of purpose.

“Every day, I’m still learning,” she says. "You just feel so good knowing you have helped someone."

What: Education Assistant Information Night

When: Aug. 20, 6 - 7 p.m.
Where: Okanagan College, Vernon Campus, Room E103