Our visit to Canadore College was characterized by lively discussions with students, faculty, staff and senior administrators on a beautiful day in North Bay.
Canadore is a fascinating institution for many reasons, not the least of which is the fact that it shares a campus at 100 College Drive with Nipissing University. Canadore is a multi-campus institution with a focus on aviation and others which focus on continuing education in North Bay and Parry Sound. The multi-campus nature of Canadore presents interesting opportunities for teaching and learning but also some challenges in terms of service delivery to the students at the smaller locations.
Throughout the day in one to one interviews and in focus groups we heard from faculty who were dedicated teachers of specific and “service” or foundational courses. The value of both areas of instruction was stressed by many faculty who said that having students engage in introductory writing, math and social sciences courses made them better prepared for their more specialized content courses. We heard from numerous faculty about their efforts to bring “real-life” learning into the classroom. This was done by hosting industry professionals as guest speakers, working on projects for community and businesses organizations, and going off-campus on field trips and site visits. What was interesting was how often these experiences were with working professionals who are graduates of Canadore programs. Faculty spoke of the importance of maintaining relationships with alumni as they provide valuable learning opportunities for students and links to future possible employment as well.
Our discussions with students mirrored many of these conversations. They spoke of how much they enjoyed and learned from these opportunities and appreciated the faculty who could integrate relevant work experiences into their classrooms. In many programs, students discussed the importance and value of having a work or internship placement during the academic year or between semesters. They noted how this helped to deepen their understanding of the career path they were moving towards and cemented their interest in pursuing that field. We also heard a lot from the students about how much they rely on their fellow classmates. Being that most programs operate in a cohort model they spend a lot of time working together on coursework and projects. The students talked about how much they rely on students in their cohort for social support as well, and where possible find interacting with upper year students or recent graduates very valuable.
Staff repeatedly spoke of providing “the human touch” – a personal interest in student’s success. It appears that the human touch has translated into a commitment to ongoing improvement of service delivery to students. In our conversations with staff and senior administrative leaders, this commitment was a key topic. One example of improved service delivery is the new introduction of a “one stop shop” — a single office where students can register for classes, pick up their financial aid, and pay their fees. Coming off a successful pilot of this project, it will be interesting to see how Canadore continues this model of having several related services in one location with cross-trained staff members assist on a host of issues and refer more complex situations to their colleagues with expertise in specific areas. It seems that serving students in a manner that prevents students from having to “run around” campus to accomplish basic tasks is a fundamental way of supporting student success.
We had a wonderful visit to North Bay and graciously thank the students, staff, faculty and senior administrative leaders who took time out of their day to meet with us.