By Bobinec, Greg on February 18, 2020.
The team behind Lethbridge College’s real-life health-care training environment known as SPHERE (Simulated Patient Health Environment for Research and Education) has received provincial recognition as the Alberta Colleges and Institutes Faculties Association (ACIFA) awarded them in Innovation in Teaching last week. The SPHERE team will be accepting the award at the ACIFA conference in May.
ACIFA recognized the SPHERE team for their work and collaboration with a group of student volunteers called the Student Crew. The group of volunteers have 151 active members made up of students from academic centres across campus, Lethbridge College alumni and community members. The volunteers provide support in many areas across campus, notably acting as patients, victims, family members, jury members or many other active roles in live-action educational scenarios that allow the students involved to get the most out of their learning experiences, as well as several other college-wide initiatives.
“Student Crew offers the college a unique way to increase capacity, maintain sustainability, and empower students to become engaged in their student experience as partners in the education,” says Sheri Wright, SPHERE co-ordinator.
“This program is unique because it is driven by students, supported by staff, and offers alumni opportunities to remain engaged following graduation.”
SPHERE helps close the gap between theory and practice, creates realistic training scenarios for future health-care workers and provides opportunities for students to embrace failure as a learning strategy. SPHERE uses hi-tech manikins, however, some students find it tough to suspend disbelief when working with manikins, so having Student Crew members volunteer in these roles creates a more authentic human experience that enhances the learning opportunities for students.
“The Student Crew has not only enhanced the confidence and learning opportunities of the volunteer students and their peers within their own program, but has also had a positive impact in other programs,” says Dave Maze, chair of the School of Justice Studies.
“The volunteers within the Student Crew have enabled me to create ‘as close to real life’ as possible learning events for my students. The innovative creation of the Student Crew by the SPHERE team has changed the lives of many students and greatly enhanced learning across the college.”
Student Crew began in 2016 with four students interested in helping the SPHERE team with items such as classroom set up, cleaning and organizing materials. It has grown organically and expanded into a peer connection group that fosters diversity, inclusion and develops emerging leadership skills. The collaboration between volunteers extends well beyond the classroom, instilling life skills as well as academic benefits.
“Student Crew and SPHERE quickly became much more than a group of volunteers, they became my family,” says Megan Jones, a general studies student and Student Crew volunteer.
“Student Crew embodies the philosophy of students as active members in their academic journey and emphasizes the significance of inter-professional collaboration and partnerships. I don’t know what my post-secondary education would look like if I wasn’t able to experience these opportunities outside of my classroom.”
The ACIFA Innovation in Teaching Award recognized the programs that demonstrate evidence of student satisfaction and learning outcomes, with innovation successfully being integrated into the total learning process for the relevant course of study, and the potential for the innovation to be applied to different fields of student. The SPHERE Team will receive a $1,500 award and the Lethbridge College Faculty Association will receive $500.
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