You’re thinking of applying to the NAIT online Opticianry program. GREAT! Let me tell you all about the weird process to apply. Trust me on this one, it isn’t what you’re used to.
What Do You Need:
Now, of course, this can change from year to year. I applied in 2019 for the fall semester and they changed a few things from the previous years. You are going to want to contact the OAC (Opticians Association of Canada), and they will provide you with an application. The application is typically released around May, and you have until August to apply. In the application you need:
- A completed application package
- A passport-sized photo (You can smile! It’s just for a student card)
- A signed contract from your supervisor (An Optician or Optometrist) who will be signing off on your clinical work
- Proof of provincial registration (not sure how this works, I didn’t have to do it in Ontario)
- Application fee receipt
I would suggest getting this information altogether as soon as you can because you have to snail mail it to the OAC in Winnipeg. I sent mine with a tracking number because I really didn’t want it to get lost. An extra 10 dollars to make sure it doesn’t get lost is well worth the investment.
How Is The Course Structured?
If you have looked into this at all, you will know it’s all online, except for your final exam. This means that you will be tested and taught completely online. The reasoning behind this is because you do have to be employed by an optical the whole time, and the lessons are short enough that you can do it all after work, and still have time left over for some tv shows or hangouts. The best part is that I can apply what I learned right away at work. I’m also getting paid while I’m in school! There’s no stress about trying to find a job that can work around your hours, you can keep easily keep your part-time job.
Each week you are given material to learn and then you are tested on it. The stressful thing is that you need to stay on top of everything, the online material and textbook chapters! The tests are only open for a week so you need to write them within a time period.
You also have a clinical package that you have to complete over the semester at work. You are given tasks to complete with your patients and supervisors. This allows you to work first hand with the material that you are being taught. Be sure to keep up with this, there is no timeline of when to complete this, but it must be mailed in by the end of November.
What is Material Like?
Going into this program, I was terrified of Optics, I wanted to be able to fully dedicate my time to this class, and I was worried I wouldn’t be able to. The program doesn’t take on 4 classes at a time but instead works on one class a month. That means that you are only learning one set of material at a time. I personally found that this made it easier to study for the weekly tests. There is no online group work or discussions, but the tests are where the majority of your marks come from, so take them seriously! They aren’t easy. There were 2 tests in particular that brought my average down HUGE. Pro-tip: I would suggest being employed in the optical field for a bit, prior to applying to these courses. I feel very lucky to have the experience that I already have because it made learning the material so much easier, at least in the beginning.
There are a lot of lessons that involve math, if you are like me and DESPISE math, don’t worry, it’s not that difficult, you will survive. It is mostly formulas so as long as you can follow BEDMAS, you will be ok. I found that doing a little bit every night after work was a great structure for me. In between switching classes, you have a week where you don’t have to write a test, so take this time to work ahead on the lessons, and prepare for the next test.
I was honestly shocked by the number of people in my class this year. The program has 115 students, we don’t often interact, but at the beginning of the semester, everyone introduces themselves. It’s nice because you can meet people who are in your area and get together for study sessions since I’m doing the course with a co-worker, I never did this but I saw a few people do it! There are forums where you can ask people questions about the lessons, tools, formulas, anything. The teacher will also be keeping an eye on the forums if you need help. Be warned though, you don’t get the answers back from tests, so whenever you’re wrong, you won’t know what you got wrong, which can be pretty frustrating.
Would I Recommend the Course Online or In School?
I can only really speak for the online portion of the class because I have no experience taking it in school. If you are good with time management, work for a helpful and understanding optical company, and are determined to stay focused, then I would do it online! Being able to take the things I learn and use it first hand is awesome. I also have access to many optometrists who can answer my questions and are willing to help me if I need it. The course does take a lot of your free time though, it might be tough if you have a young family or a lot of commitments outside of work. You are enrolled in school full time and you will have to allocate some time to do the work. If you are unable to do that or live close to a school that offers the opticianry program, then do that! The course is 3 years (2 years eyeglasses, and 1-year contacts), depending on where you live this could be reduced by a year if you do it in school. Choose a learning method that is best for you and fully embrace it!
I am so glad that I finally chose to do the Opticianry course, it is so fun to learn new things every day. I cannot wait to further my knowledge and help our patients.
Moral Of The Story: Never stop learning.