Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Learner Pathways Jan 18 discussion group summary

Bob Cowin facilitated our first themed discussion group on the subject of Learner Pathways, yesterday at David Lam. He provides this summary of the discussion. Please feel free to comment on what you read here.

If you missed this face-to-face discussion on Learner Pathways, there will be another opportunity on Wednesday, February 10, 4:15-6pm, at New West. RSVP online. --Scott

Learner Pathways discussion group summary - from Bob Cowin, Director of Institutional Research

The January 18 discussion session at Lam was typical of the campus, namely small attendance but rewarding discussion. Each participant had something cumulative, rather than contradictory, to add to the discussion. The group ended with the conclusion that priorities would have to be set; it's better to take on a few tasks, resourcing them well, so that the outcomes are high quality and sustainable.

The "learner pathways" terminology was welcome.

Before mentioning some of the initiatives Douglas could take in this complex area, it's worth noting that a lot of work is already happening in Faculties that isn't always visible. Having a strategic plan that values this type of work and which encourages consistency across the College (e.g., whether to recognize Advanced Placement or International Baccalaureate courses) will be helpful in strengthening what are already reasonably good transfer pathways.

Part of the challenge is that existing pathways are not always easy to find. The information may be on the web, but in different places for each program and presented in different manners. Sometimes it's clear that credits will transfer only for unassigned credit towards a major at a particular institution; sometimes it's not. Information needs to be clear, succinct, easy to find and consistently formatted in multiple modes (print, graphics and web) for students, parents and counsellors.

Another challenge is that admission and transfer philosophies seem to vary within the College, sometimes seemingly based only on the preferences and history of the discipline or program. Whether this is the case or not, departures from the typical college practice need to be justified and evidence-based.

Pathways are needed into the college, out of the college to further study and/or employment, and laterally within the college.

A particular concern is pathways into Douglas for the under-prepared student who is marginal in some respect, e.g., lacking English language skills. Front-end remediation is clearly one pathway, but perhaps more could be done in developing parallel support courses and services, e.g., a half course, starting part-way into the semester, for students who have shown themselves in other courses to be at risk in terms of writing. Such a course could help them complete assignments in their original courses.

Pathways may be a different issue in limited enrolment areas with orientations and admissions interviews than in open areas. Limited enrolment students have often set their educational goals upfront, whereas open students may be exploring. First year Arts and Science students can remain vague about their path. By second year, though, Science students especially need a clear idea of their pathway. The point is that the specificity of pathways can and should vary by subject area and year level.

There is some desire for better lateral movement between applied and UT fields. A comment on this topic led to discussion of block transfer: sometimes desirable in principle, but complicated in practice when issues of course prerequisites arise.

The devil is often in the detail. Some courses may transfer well, for example, to UBC. If, however, a Douglas student is picking up their last Douglas course in the summer semester to start at UBC in the Fall, they may have to sit out a full year before entering UBC. This arises because the UBC document deadline is in June but the Douglas summer course may finish in August.

My nutshell summary of the discussion would be:
- clarify and better communicate existing pathways (the low hanging fruit)
- in developing new pathways, focus on a few pathways and do them well
- recognize that what in principle is desirable and obvious may take a couple of years to implement, especially if it involves relationship building with other institutions.


What do you think? We welcome your comments on the Learner Pathways discussion.

1 comment:

  1. waltonb@douglas.bc.caJanuary 20, 2010 at 2:23 PM

    Hi Bob:
    Thanks for facilitating this session - I did attend and you represented the discussion very well. I would add one more thing - if new pathways/programs are developed, we need to watch the timing of implementation. We need sufficient time to promote and advertise, orient all internal stakeholders, to give these new opportunities the optimum chance of success.