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168 collaborative learning opportunities

Concordia professors and students are venturing off campus to foster citizenship
November 23, 2016
By J. Latimer

Catherine Bolton: “Our community has a huge amount to teach us.” | Photo by David Ward Catherine Bolton: “Our community has a huge amount to teach us.” | Photo by David Ward

Whether it’s archaeology, urban design or pastoral ministry, Concordia offers an array of courses that send students off campus. The goal? To encourage in-person collaboration with local businesses and community associations and provide unique learning experiences.

“To date, we offer 168 designated ‘CBEL’ courses, meaning community-based experiential learning,” says Catherine Bolton, Concordia’s vice-provost of Teaching and Learning.

“Citizenship involves being aware of your community and working with it. These courses are tremendously effective ways to train students to think rationally and critically.” 

Bolton credits the Living Knowledge research project, funded by the Office of Community Engagement (OCE), for creating the online directory of 168 CBEL courses, organized by faculty. The project reflects at least three of Concordia’s Strategic Directions: Embrace the City, Embrace the World, Teach for Tomorrow and Get Your Hands Dirty.

“These findings helped us to identify the extended CBEL community. The list is a living document and we hope to populate it with more courses,” says Bolton.

“Sometimes, there's a professor doing CBEL and we just don't know because the course description is generic. So, we're looking to have professors help inform us and figure out how we can build more relationships — supporting our university’s development, our students and the community at the same time.” 

Students take the lead

Raymond Paquin, for one, tries to incorporate CBEL into as many of his management courses at the John Molson School of Business as possible, including the popular “MANA 369 - Business and Sustainability."

“I don't send students to specific companies. Instead, I encourage them to go into the community and look around — to think of the places they frequent and how they can become involved,,” says Paquin.

“What they need is to think about what's practical, given time constraints — the students have nine weeks — and the potential for actual change. This often means working with small organizations and those that are willing.”

Recently, several students in Paquin’s course had an ambitious idea: to retrofit their apartment building’s lighting system. They did a full analysis, with recommendations and planning, then presented it to their property manager. The project was accepted and construction began immediately.

“Not everyone is guaranteed such a ‘light-bulb’ moment,” says Paquin. “However, many times there are enough light bulbs, meaning examples of real impact, in the class that the students who didn't get their own ‘ah-ha moment’ can sense the possibilities and still benefit.”

‘We need to respect what our community needs’

CBEL opportunities exist across Concordia’s three other faculties too, from the Faculty of Engineering and Computer Science’s “SOEN 490 - Capstone software engineering design" to the Faculty of Arts and Science’s “URBS 333 - Urban Laboratory" to “DART 453 - Design and Community Engagement" in the Faculty of Fine Arts.

One of the things Bolton learned while talking to people involved in CBEL is the importance of reciprocity.

“We need to respect our community and what they need if we want to go into their world,” she says.

“It can't be a one-way street. They're not a laboratory. They have a huge amount to teach us.”

Bolton notes that the OCE is working on finding more community partners and developing a list of potential future collaborators.

“Ultimately, we want to establish long-term relationships,” says Bolton. “If faculty members are interested in learning more about how to incorporate CBEL into their courses, contact Rob Cassidy at the Centre for Teaching and Learning and contact the OCE.”

Check out
Concordia’s online directory of 168 CBEL courses. Email to suggest a course be added to this list.

Find out more about the Concordia’s Office of Community Engagement.


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