Tuesday, June 7, 2011

What does being an access-based institution mean to you?

In my post yesterday, I talked about the history of Douglas College as an access-based institution.

I know that access is very important to many of you as well.

Now, I'd like to hear from you.

What does being an access-based institution mean to you?

Maybe you have personal story, or a story about a student, that expresses what it means to you?

I invite you to share your thoughts by leaving a comment on this blog post. Everyone who does will receive a free copy of Douglas College: the First 40 Years, by Gerry Della Mattia.



  1. The administrator of my first job at a prestige BC university told me that "a B+ student is always a B+ student, we only take A students" and "only people with 25+ years of work experience in this field would be considered for PLAR". While in Douglas, if you have a will and are committed, you are welcome! I have student asking if "45 years old" is too old or if they don't have Grade 12 English, they thought they can't do it, and my answer is always "No, you are welcome! We will have something for you to accommodate your need!" What a big difference! We provide academic and career training opportunities to everyone who needs it!

  2. I fully agree with the importance of remembering our roots and the act of honoring the access-based quality of Douglas College as an institution. My own story of attending as a student, working and contributing in my field of training then returning to join the College as faculty is a prime example of someone benefiting greatly from this model. I am proud to share how my journey of growth and true empowerment resulted directly from Douglas College’s philosophy of access and specifically from the guidance and mentoring from faculty within the Department of Child, Family and Community Studies.

    In the late 1980’s and early 1990’s I observed a large adult population returning to post secondary education in the areas of Human Service. I was representative of this demographic in that I was poised for a change in career, and having survived some daunting life hurdles I felt tentative yet hopeful of success. I was looking for an environment of learning that would accept me as and where I was and which would be willing to guide me in partnership through to success. I had been an average student in high school with some post secondary training yet I felt rusty and insecure in my abilities.

    When I entered the Classroom and Community Support Program after having achieved the prerequisite entrance qualifications (then called the Community Support Worker Program) I encountered an amazing cohort of instructors teaching groundbreaking curriculum encompassing depth and breadth, in an active, engaging and relevant manner. We were learning how to support people with different abilities in the community, in schools, in work, in life. Indeed, the whole program philosophy lived a model of access in that it embodied the person-centered idea of supporting individuals with different learning needs by setting up environments where people (including students) could get what they needed to succeed, starting as they were and where they were.

    After graduating from Douglas College I worked for many years as an Educational Assistant supporting individuals with different abilities to find their place within community and within public school classrooms. I embraced and perpetuated the same philosophy of access modeled to me, doing my best to “pay it forward”
    throughout the community - by advocating for inclusion and true citizenship for all individuals, as well as by creating mentorship and support avenues for my Educational Assistant colleagues working within the K-12 public school system.

    I continued to pursue post secondary studies over the years and eventually graduated in 2008 from SFU with a Masters degree in Education. Then came an opportunity to reconnect with some pivotal instructors in the Classroom and Community Support Program who had provided mentorship and inspiration during my own learning. I was thrilled by first being invited to speak to their classes, then by receiving an amazing opportunity to begin mentoring and supervising Classroom and Community Support students on practicum, and finally by having the opportunity to co-teach.

    And so I have come full circle - working and teaching within the very same department that had been so pivotal in sparking my own transformation in learning and in life. From my perspective, the seeds of Douglas College’s philosophy of access-based education have been well planted, producing roots which are self perpetuating and flourishing in ways that that will support future students and the vision of the College’s strategic plan to be the largest and most progressive baccalaureate degree-granting college in British Columbia. I have no doubt it will reach this goal.

  3. Serving as an access-based institution means welcoming everyone who comes to our doors into a program suited to their best educational and career advantage.

    As the “Douglas College region” becomes increasingly populated by new Canadians, many of whom will front their studies with intermediate to advanced level English language courses, being an access-based institution means continuing to run a first-class ESL Department specializing in English language for academic purposes. Douglas College is a leader in this field, building on 30 plus years of experience.

    Being an access-based institution is personified in the Iranian journalist and Turkish-Farsi interpreter who entered Douglas as an intermediate-level English Language student and is now completing his BSc Nursing.

    The Japanese educator who started Douglas as an English language learner and went on to complete a PhD at UBC and chair the Modern Languages Department at a special purpose university is another example of open-access.

    The Sauder School of Business is about to graduate a learner who began in Douglas College ESL and completed two years of Business at Douglas before her acceptance into UBC. This Douglas student / now business specialist is an example of open-access.

    Then there is the Russian engineer, the Palestinian teacher, the Polish IT specialist and the Thai philosopher. With our campuses in New Westminster and Coquitlam we at Douglas College are well positioned to welcome new Canadians into academic study and training beginning with language courses that lead into vocational and degree programs. With language courses tailored to further academic study, Douglas College has no language barriers for immigrants. This is open-access.

  4. It is an hounour to be a part of a person's educational journey. I have had that honour many times. I have seen personal growth and better self-esteem come from having a good educational experience.

    So many people have not had a good educational experience before coming to college, for many differnet reasons. So to me learner pathways is about how we can work together to provide a good experience for as many people as possible.

    We can do that by melting away some of the externally imposed barriers that we have put in people's way, without meaning to. We can do that by helping our students get passed their own internal barriers, with much needed student supports.

    When we can support student success through stronger learner pathways into and through the college experience, our students can spread their educational wings and soar towards their own goals; and ultimately contribute to the community with their own gifts.

    An amazing journey to witness.

  5. Olga RoutkovskaiaJuly 11, 2011 at 2:59 PM

    To me, an access-based institution means an institution that not only says that everyone is welcome, but actually puts effort into making it easy for people to study. In other words, what matters to me is how access translates into the real life and what it means logistically. For example, working parents will most likely find it difficult to attend courses during the day, so offering courses at night or on weekends will allow greater access to education for these people. Online courses will give even greater flexibility and access because courses can be taken at home without necessarily having to arrange for child care. For many parents, online courses are the only way to upgrade their education.

    Building upon the existing education one already has is very important. For example, if a person has a diploma from one institution and realizes that he/she needs a Bachelor's degree a few years later, there needs to be a way for this person to get a Bachelor's degree as an add-on to their diploma, even if it's at a different institution, without having to start from square one.

    However, "access-based" means more than just accessible. In other words, it's not just about how you come into an institution, it's also about how you come out and where you go from there.

    Personally, I am someone who values life-long learning and I will probably always continue to learn at various points in my life. So I always want to keep my educational options open. I believe there should be no dead-ends in education. You just never know how life will unfold and whether or not you will suddenly decide that you want to get an MBA, go to law school, or medical school, or go to a highly-sought after international school, or whatever else you may want to do that you never considered previously. Of course, some of these "dead ends" can be self-inflicted, meaning that if one doesn't work hard enough and does poorly in school as a result, chances are some of the higher educational opportunities will not be available to them.

    However, sometimes, the way an instructor marks can have an effect on the student's future educational prospects. For example, I was a student at another institution. Overall, it was a very positive experience and I did very well. However, I remember trying to argue with instructors (sometimes without success), who didn't find any flaw in my projects, but marked them down anyway because they believed there was no such thing as perfect and that receiving a lower grade will make me want to work even harder next time. To further support their position, they used to say that marks didn't matter in the workforce. True, marks may not matter as much in the work force, but they do matter when you try to get into a very competitive educational program in the future.

    So in my respectful opinion, marking down projects solely because the instructor believes there is no such thing as "perfect", thereby lowering the student's GPA, can hinder the student's ability to continue their education in the future. Receiving a perfect grade (or something close to it) on a project or an essay should be just as attainable as getting a perfect score on a math test, and in my respectful opinion, an access-based institution is one that recognizes that and ensures that students are graded fairly.

    Our world is changing. The requirements for staying competitive in the workforce are increasing. An access-based institution is not necessarily a final destination, but rather a point along what could be a lifelong educational journey. Like I already said, it's not just about how you come into an institution, it's also about how you come out and where you go from there. The more options the students have before, as well as after taking a program, the better.