June 16th, 2024

College rising to the challenge facing 21st century learners

By Alejandra Pulido-Guzman - Lethbridge Herald on November 12, 2022.

LETHBRIDGE HERALDapulido@lethbridgeherald.com

Lethbridge College has a new president and with him, a new perspective. Brad Donaldson has been named president and CEO of Lethbridge College and is ready to engage with the community.

“From my perspective the first thing I need to do is really engage with the Indigenous community, the business community, the hiring community and the agricultural community because they have such a presence, to really understand what their needs are going forward, and to help them understand what those needs are,” said Donaldson.

He said he heard a statement once about how things will never move any slower than they are today, and for him it raises the question of how to create an agile organization that is innovative and responsive to those groups he previously mentioned.

Donaldson believes that another piece he needs to focus on is around students graduating into the new world, as the technology in the market and in the workplace is changing.

“The needs of the personal workplace is changing as technology, computerization, and automation becomes so prevalent. So how do we help students with the skills to be successful in the workplace will be certainly a critical component where I will focus on,” said Donaldson.

He said that in order to achieve this, it needs to be a collaboration with other postsecondary institutions in the province, because this is a big challenge for any institution to sort out themselves.

“I will be working very closely with the other colleges, polytechnics and universities in the province to help each other become much more effective. There’s 26 postsecondaries in the province and it’s a shame if we are all doing it independently,” said Donaldson.

He said there are also multiple associations at the college level being formed and he wants to continue to leverage on that.

“It’s also working with organizations that can help learning technologies, Microsoft is a good example that has a very strong presence in educational space so how do we work with them to understand the technology?” said Donaldson.

He said they can help them see what is coming down the road from two perspectives, what are the technologies that are going to be in the marketplace that students have to become competent in and which technologies to use internally for educational purposes.

“One thing that COVID really showed us was that we can really do a much better job of online delivery, more importantly hybrid delivery where it doesn’t have to be all on campus or have to be all online. So, what are the appropriate technologies to use on campus but also online and how do you try to accommodate both at the same time?” said Donaldson.

He said that opens up a realm of opportunity for students to learn a different format, but also to learn in a manner that suits their needs.

Donaldson said that as tragic, disruptive and harmful as COVID was, we have to make sure we are learning from what we went through.

“It really forced us to look at a different way of delivering and I think that it is a helpful mind shift, a mindset shift that we can start to think more positively about how we can do things differently. There is proof we could do it, so how do we take the energy of that change and use it to continue to transform the way we deliver postsecondary education?” said Donaldson.

He said COVID also highlighted the different learning styles of students.

Donaldson said he went to university for his undergrad and apart from the engineering labs, it was basically all large lecture halls and not all people are suited to that type of learning environment.

“If we can provide different modalities of learning because of what we’ve learned through the last few years, I think we have an opportunity to really increase the number of students that can participate, but also increase the number of students that are actually very successful,” said Donaldson.

He said that as important as providing different opportunities to students to learn in an environment and modality that is suitable for their needs, the right approach needs to be taken according to what is being taught.

“Like welding for example, you can’t learn everything about how to weld online, you are actually going to have to do it in person sooner or later,” said Donaldson.

He said his role is to make sure people understand why they are doing what they are doing, but also for him to understand the perspectives of students, faculty and staff to help shape the direction that the college needs to go.

“For me it is important to understand the perspectives of the people who are enabling the college to do what it does, but also the perspectives of those who are looking for the college to provide them with graduates and making sure my team understands that and sharing that vision,” said Donaldson.

He said his perspective is based in understanding what is needed and then translating it into how they can help students learn that.

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