On Campus Component

A unique aspect of our program is the required "On Campus Component," or OCC. At the beginning of each semester, students enrolled in coursework travel to Canisius for four full days of classes, workshops, discussions, and presentations by guest speakers. The OCC provides faculty and students an opportunity to meet face-to-face and develop a familiarity with each other that other online programs do not possess. Students often report that this is an extremely valuable opportunity that springboards them into success for the rest of the semester.

Students typically arrive at the OCC on Wednesday afternoon or evening, attend a Wednesday evening meet-and-greet, and depart on Sunday afternoon. Students must attend the entire OCC if they are enrolled in coursework in any given semester.


Each day of the OCC (Thursday-Sunday), students attend classes with professors and peers. These classes provide an opportunity for an overview of course syllabi and assignments, valuable introductions to core course concepts, and content-based learning and discussion.


Faculty and staff from Canisius often lead various workshops during the OCC. Past workshops have included sessions on library resources, research skills, orientations to online learning technologies, capstone advising, informational sessions on publishing in journals, and impromptu workshops on careers, presentation skills, and discussion strategies.

Guest Speakers:

At the beginning of each semester, the program hosts a distinguished guest while students are on campus. Our students not only attend the speaker's formal lecture, but also have the unique opportunity to interact with them during dinners and informal question and answer periods. Some speakers have even attended classes. Recent topics include humane education, wildlife welfare and conservation, photography and animal advocacy, and urban ecology.

Some previous guest speakers include:

  • Krista Schlyer, conservation photographer and author of Continental Divide
  • Zoe Weil, co-founder and president of the Institute for Humane Education
  • Joanne MacArthur, photojournalist and author of We Animals
  • Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of the Human Society of the United States
  • Frans de Waal, primatologist and author of The Age of Empathy 
  • Gavin Van Horn and Dave Aftandilian, editors of City Creatures: Animal encounters in the Chicago wilderness