By: Laura Clementson
With only three months to develop a strategy, Algonquin has submitted what it feels are the three most important goals for the college to meet.
Over the summer holiday, minister of training, colleges and universities, Glen Murray handed each post-secondary institution a Sept. 30 deadline to propose to the province three main goals to distinguish itself from others.
“These Strategic Mandate Agreement (SMA) submissions will help identify promising priority initiatives that will deliver greater innovation, increased productivity and more emphasis on student-centered learning,” stated the ministry in a Sept. 2 email to the Times.
When Algonquin President Kent MacDonald was handed the task, while undergoing the transition into his current role, he explained that his team quickly assembled to begin the project.
“We have had a group of faculty and staff who have worked extremely hard over this month and a half to put our report together,” said MacDonald to the Times Sept. 18.
According to MacDonald, the first two goals come straight from Algonquin’s strategic plan. The first is to ‘create the Ontario Institute for Digital Education (OIDE).’ MacDonald stresses the importance of finding ways to leverage new emerging technologies to enhance the learning experience for students.
MacDonald believes it’s crucial to position Algonquin as a leader in digital education. “That whole spectrum of a digitally enhanced applied education is our number one priority,” he said.
The second goal of the college is to serve as an online hub for learning.
The province dubs it the Ontario Online Institute, and it will allow students to take a wider selection of courses online.
And with student enrolment expected to reach more than 30,000 in online courses at the college this year, the focus will shift to offering e-textbooks and open educational resources.
“We want to lower the costs of those items for students while enhancing their ability to get information and content,” explained MacDonald.
He says the days of learning from hardcover textbooks are quickly fading away. The third objective brought out a lot of passion from MacDonald.
Its focus is on enhancing entrepreneurial thinking and community partnerships.
“Quite frankly, our economy requires more people to think creatively, take risks, be entrepreneurial, help the economy, help employment, etc.,” explained MacDonald.
MacDonald also expressed to the Times that he would like to see students be able to utilize their previous education and have it acknowledged.
“There is a lack ability of our students to have mobility into other post-secondary institutions in this province,” said MacDonald. It’s an issue that has frustrated him for the past 14 years.
He said it’s “unfair” for students not to be able to transfer their credits from other colleges and universities.
The ministry also commented on the transfer issue.
“We want to see institutions prioritize students and their learning needs through creative initiatives such as more widespread use of technology to enhance teaching and learning and increasing credit transfer opportunities,” said the ministry.
When it to comes the college’s ability to adapt, Student’s Association President David Corson says he’s confident it will.
“We have an advantage over other schools because we can turn on a dime,” said Corson. “We have a flexibility to adapt to a changing market.”
Corson says that the college consulted him and his team in regards to the SMA and was asked to sit in on roundtable discussions with the college’s strategic team.
When it comes to the needs of students, third-year nursing student Tiffany Mack had more specific needs.
“I would say something like teachers being more available because I’m in the nursing program and I noticed that my teachers are extremely busy because they work at the hospital as well. Because I know they’re so busy, it’s like I can’t ask for them to stay after school,” said Mack.
Because of a difficult statistics class last year, Mack noted how extra help and more tangible resources would be helpful to her as a student.
The ministry is still in the process of receiving SMA submissions and will be analyzing them before determining a concrete timeline.
The full document can be found at www.algonquincollege.com/sma/part-3/.