Program innovation

Reflecting on the valuable time spent at #CICAN24 this week in Calgary, which included a side trip to visit Southern Alberta Institute of Technology (SAIT), Bow Valley College and University of Calgary, I’m left with more than a few takeaways. The standout for me is the increasing imperative to focus on program innovation, not course innovation. A theme that emerged from both the visits and sessions that I attended was how coming together as programs in a design process was important to optimize the quality and use of applied learning spaces. In the case of Bow Valley nursing programs, VR is being used to replace 30% of clinical placement time, which also requires maximizing the equipment and space use to make that possible. In one area of SAIT, program innovation meant rethinking spaces owned by programs to spaces that are defined by the competencies and equipment required to teach and to learn. At Cambrian College, spaces and programs were being enhanced via applied research opportunities.

Beyond space, the standout example of the impact of program level design was Collège La Cité ‘s complete rebuild of 93 programs to be competency based and focussed on experiential learning and authentic assessment. Over the course of 6 years, they harmonized 9000 surplus course hours through a collaborative design process engaging everyone from the VPA, Deans, faculty, and learning designers. This effort looked at 5 impact measures: employer, student and faculty satisfaction; student success; and standardization of course/program hours that was centred on quality of hours, not quantity.

In a similar spirit, the University of Calgary has set up a program innovation hub to offer the guidance and support needed for significant program changes.

Program innovation also was about leveraging and extending into new areas. Bow Valley described how they are designing PLAR/recognition into the micro credential design. A standing room only panel on AI in course design and teaching signalled that changing practices is no longer a nice to have. For example, AI use syllabus statements are a now, not a next year thing to be debated. Ultimately, we are in different times that require different approaches, and collaboration within and between institutions is the way to get there.

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