Idea Group examines how Concordia should prepare for the decade ahead in learning

Response from faculty and students has been encouraging
March 10, 2015
By Karen McCarthy

The Strategic Directions initiative has featured a series of Idea Cafés (pictured above) as well as the current work of seven Idea Groups The Strategic Directions initiative has featured a series of Idea Cafés (pictured above) as well as the current work of seven Idea Groups. | Photo by Concordia University

What kind of learning experiences do we want to create for our students?

This is just one of the many questions that Philippe Caignon and Jason Camlot are asking Concordians as they co-lead an Idea Group exploring the key characteristics of next-generation learning.

Their mandate, part of the strategic directions initiative, includes articulating an approach to teaching and learning that inspires and challenges while providing a sense of focused priorities. They will also identify two to three novel approaches or methods for expanding experiential opportunities that could be offered on a pilot-project basis.

“How do we adapt to the learning challenges of our students? There are changes in the ways students learn, so we have to envision the best ways to engage and support them,” says Caignon, who is also the chair of the Département d’études françaises and academic director for the Centre for Teaching and Learning.

Caignon and Camlot, along with Idea Group members Annie Chevalier, Scott Chlopan, Patricia Hachey, Mahesh Sharma and Veronica Tamburro, are conducting interviews with faculty members, department chairs, key personnel from the Institute of Co-operative Education and the Centre for Teaching and Learning, as well as students to better understand what is needed for the future.

Both Caignon and Camlot have been encouraged by the response they are getting from faculty and students.

In the interviews, group members are asking people what they would like to see at Concordia in terms of learning experiences, and asking for ideas on how the university can get there. For Caignon, this includes asking what students will want and need in 10 years and thinking about what Concordia will look like in a decade. “We are asking these questions because we need a kind of vision of where we might be able to go,” he says.

Caignon acknowledges that teaching technologies are a driving force, but that they are not panaceas. “It is surprising how much technology is changing and how it could influence our teaching practices today,” he says. But he emphasizes that technology cannot replace the professor who can empower students to be creative and learn from one another, and support students in taking steps to turn information into knowledge.

He says the Idea Group will create a brief document that will start with a pedagogical statement on the future of learning, including experiential learning, based on the consultations they are currently conducting.

“We’ve been given the license and encouraged to use this [strategic directions] process as an opportunity to brainstorm in the freest way possible, and in an informed way by hearing leading thinkers in higher education, learning and teaching,” says Camlot, who is also the associate dean of Faculty Affairs for the Faculty of Arts and Science and an associate professor in English.

At the same time, “we are interested in learning about the practical inhibitors to the kind of experiences that faculty members want to create for their students, and what solutions that could be adopted to create other impactful experiences,” adds Camlot.

While we are imagining what is possible, we are entertaining many different ideas and looking at what makes the most sense for Concordia, while keeping the larger context of Quebec and North American higher education in mind,” he says. “We are straddling the imaginary and practical throughout the [strategic planning] exercise and spending some intensive time speculating upon the value of different kinds of learning experiences before we write a report that will be designed to frame suggestions about might be worth pursuing.”

The seven Idea Groups will be submitting their reports Concordia President Alan Shepard by April 3. The remaining Idea Groups are focused on innovation and entrepreneurship; international strategy; next-generation academic structures; next-generation student skills and expectations; public/community engagement; and research.

About the strategic directions initiative

The strategic directions initiative is taking a three-pronged approach to engaging Concordians in thinking about the future: bringing in thought leaders for the speaker series The Future of the University and the Future of Learning, bringing together the seven Idea Groups and holding five Idea Cafés (which took place in February).

Find out more about what the Idea Groups are doing — you can even email the group convenor with your comments or questions. 


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