On Oct. 1, 2012, members of our education advisory panel joined Globe and Mail editor-in-chief John Stackhouse for a live discussion on our Time to Lead series and issues affecting higher eduction in Canada. The following is an edited excerpt of that conversation.
Here’s a question we have been considering for the series: Do students in 2012 learn differently than they did in 1982? If so, how are institutions responding? And how are teachers responding?
Ron Burnett, president of Emily Carr University:
We are dealing with a dramatic shift in assumptions about learning from a generation that doesn’t see “school” as the only place to learn. Also, a large percentage of our students work while they are in school. This has shifted, and will continue to shift, the nature of their engagement and their expectations.
Ted Hewitt, executive vice-president of the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council:
With respect to teaching, I wonder whether or not we have fully integrated the decades of research that have been undertaken on teaching and learning within higher education in our curricula? My sense is that most of us are teaching in pretty much the same way we were decades ago, despite everything we now know about how students learn.
Sara Diamond, president of Ontario College of Art and Design:
From our research and observation, there is significant change in the capacities that learners bring to the postsecondary education environment: how they receive and process content, technology and the social space. At the same time, how they learn is a mixture of successful historical forms of learning and innovative forms that have adapted to their pace. We are a studio-based institution (among other elements) and there is deep learning here that is experiential and can be modelled in other fields.
Robert Luke, assistant vice-president of research and innovation at George Brown College:
The Internet was supposed to take learning anytime, anywhere. We need to understand and recognize that education is all the time, everywhere. This includes experiential learning such as co-ops and the applied research colleges conduct with our industry partners, which hone students’ innovation skills in conjunction with learning outcomes.
We are enabling mobility and re-education across the life span. The recognition that people will return to education throughout their life spans means that there are system adaptations needed to enable this (online learning for sure, but also credential laddering and linking the college and university systems in better ways). The credentials of the future will be more like badges. We can think of this as an educational passport that enables people to engage with schools during the lifetime: episodic time in school punctuated by work, then retraining then work again and so on. This will bolster productivity, and our ability to innovate as a society.
Dominic Giroux, president and vice-chancellor of Laurentian University (Sudbury and Barrie):
Many universities are successful in providing a positive student experience while being successful in terms of research output and impacts. I believe the key for a university is to be able to identify signature programs in areas of strength and also true areas of research excellence. These are definitely tough choices to make, but they are possible. For example, at Laurentian, we have adopted a concise two page 2012-2017 Strategic Plan. In short, to keep the right balance, it’s all about focus, focus, focus –– and keep it for a significant number of years.
Ross Finnie, associate professor in the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs at the University of Ottawa: