Student Association Director Madeleine Mei sat down with Algonquin Times to discuss the Learner Driven Plan. A new initiative by the college to collect feedback from students and faculty to bring forth important new ideas to the college to make it more viable for the future.

As the student demographics of the college and economic needs change, Algonquin is looking to implement new changes to how students learn.

The “Learner Driven Plan” plan is in the process of being created through an ongoing series of college community consultations with students and staff. The college hopes to gather enough feedback to make policy changes that support a more personalized educational experience.

It is expected to be unveiled to the college’s Board of Governors in April of 2019.

“The combination of modern technology, changes in post secondary demographics and goals means this is an exciting opportunity to delve into personalized education,” said Student Association Director and student representative of the plan Madeleine Mei. “If we can harness all the resources that Algonquin already has and bring them into a direction that students see as the most effective way of improving the college environment, then that’s important.”

Instead of the college dictating the new direction, it is determining priorities based on student and faculty feedback, said Mei.

“I am a huge fan of collecting the student opinion because the crux of this initiative is working to effectively harness our resources,” said Mei. “Oftentimes colleges hire an academic consultant from somewhere else, those people may have theoretical insights in other situations, but may not grasp what Algonquin needs and requires moving forward.

“The way we’re asking the questions are like what would be the most helpful inside the classroom, outside the classroom and what about technology,” said Vice President of Student Services and Project Manager of the plan Laura Stanbra. “So it’s sort of those three buckets asking those questions to guide the discussion.“

An example would be to give students with previous education easier access to bridge more easily into Algonquin programs so they are not wasting their money or time in taking classes they have already taken.

“For example, we have prior learning assessment. If a student comes here and took courses elsewhere they would have initiate with the college the fact that they’ve had course before,” said Stanbra. “So in order to personalize and be proactive when students apply here then we should ask that question and do the leg work on behalf of the student so that gives them a more personalized experience. That shows that one, we care about you and two, we don’t want you wasting money on courses you’ve already taken.”

The plan hopes to survey a total of 4,000 students or 20 per cent of the student population and 70 per cent of the 2,883 faculty members. While this may seem daunting, the point of the plan is not to take into account the hundreds of things students suggest but instead to look at overarching themes and concepts that are brought up numerous times in the data.

“We don’t want the plan to be a hundred things,” said Stanbra. “What we want to do is have a meaningful transformation. What that means is we pick a few things, and …see what resonates with most people to be able to do it. Then it’s viable. “

The viability of a college is dependent on its ability to stay current and equip its students with proper skills to go forward into the workforce. This can mean numerous things, but an important priority in the minds of those spearheading the plan is technology.

Said Mei: “If you could go to an institution with better technology, why would you go to an institution that is still lagging?”

The emerging plan doesn’t promises the fulfillment of all needs of all students. However some form of intuitive model that tests what students and faculty are thinking about in terms of the state of their college seems like a good first step towards adapting to the future of post-secondary education.

“Our demographics are changing, our economy is changing, so we need to change too,” said Stanbra, “So how can we best do that? Any organization needs to stay current and relevant so the plan is a part of making sure we’re doing that as well.”