During a February 23rd meeting, among the items that were the subject of updating reports from the college's administration to the school's Board of Governors were these:
• If one "good" thing did come out of the pandemic, it is that the new remote teaching/learning environment has spurred the college to exceed its goals in on-line course development.
One of the goals of the college's Strategic Directions plan had been to increase the total number of online courses offered at St. Clair by seven percent over five years, with a concentration on "high-demand" courses.
In 2019-20, the college had 51 on-line courses of that nature.
This year - thanks, in large part, to the conversion of many courses for the pandemic-necessitated on-line delivery - it has 75 such courses.
That's a one-year increase of 47 percent in the number of on-line courses - far in excess, obviously, of the seven-percent-over-five-years target.
But the college is not done.
Even as the pandemic eases and in-person instruction resumes, the school intends to pursue the conversion of many courses to on-line delivery - if only as an option for "distance education" learners using the province's "ecampus" services.
The report noted, also, that the pandemic-necessitated switch to on-line delivery has greatly increased the college's expertise in various platforms and softwares associated with effective and efficient on-line education.
• Another college service that has had to switch to on-line delivery during the pandemic is remedial English language upgrading for international students.
Although international students must demonstrate test-passed English proficiency as part of their initial enrolment process, it has become evident over the past half-decade that some of them do not have the capacity to adequately handle postsecondary-level written assignments. Some, also, aren’t fully equipped to deal with some of the "English jargon" associated with highly technical, mathematical and health-related courses.
The college, therefore, now re-evaluates the English skill level of all incoming international students, using the Accuplacer Assessment system.
Those who are identified in need of remedial education are subsequently enrolled in the MyLab Writing program - now being delivered in on-line fashion
The report to the Board explained: "MyLab Writing is another adopted learning tool that empowers domestic and international students, through self-paced personalized learning, to upgrade their English language skills to succeed at college. It provides targeted skill practice through personalized and adaptive instruction, unique to every student. Starting with the Path Builder, the results from each student's learning path provides a personalized pathway for that student to build their English skills through a variety of activities." (Note: That paragraph also emphasizes that domestic students in need of remedial English assistance can also be identified and helped by the college.)
Referral to this assistance can also occur midway through a student's education. If a student fails a course due, primarily, to his/her language skills, he/she must pass the MyLab Writing course before re-admission.
• The stuff delivered in lectures, clinics, workshops and labs, and everything in textbooks, constitute students' "hard" skills: the knowledgeable expertise and hands-on techniques they'll be using on-the-job.
But strategies for getting a job - and the behaviours expected and demanded by employers - those are equally important "soft" skills ... and the college is striving to instill those too.
The update report to the Board on this topic stated:
Career Services has been strategically positioned to support students in a variety of ways. While traditionally Career Services supports students with career and employment objectives, the services and supports offered have expanded to include a range of activities to increase Soft Skills. Often employers are indicating that Soft Skills are equally or more important when hiring than hard skills. Career Services quickly pivoted to offering virtual services for students and employers through email, telephone, website, and the St. Clair College Career Central electronic portal.
Some of the Career Services activities and mechanisms to support students include:
1. Resume critique and feedback: providing coaching and assisting students to identify and articulate their Soft Skills; reviewing and assisting students to locate the Essential Employability Skills (EES) that are outlined on their Course Outlines, and form part of their learning in achieving course/program outcomes.
2. Interview Preparation: providing coaching and assisting students in preparation for interviews with prospective employers including mock interviews and, more recently, preparing for and excelling at virtual interviews.
3. Offering virtual workshops and class presentations to assist students.
4. The Industry Liaison Office assists employers with navigating the more than 120 programs; and to identify students and graduates who will meet their workforce needs, highlighting the vocational learning outcomes (hard skills) as well as the EES that an employer could expect from a graduate of a particular program.
Having direct contact and building relationships with hiring managers allows for staff to have good insight with respect to employers' needs, and to work with students to help them understand employers' needs. This additional insight provides students with a chance to reflect on their strengths/skill sets and express these to a prospective employer.
St. Clair College continues to be committed to supporting student success, and will deliver strategic supports and services to provide graduates with the necessary skills and qualifications to be successful in their career aspirations and address employer needs.
Aside from these services offered by the college's Career Services Office, similar soft skills learning opportunities and workshops are regularly provided by the college's Genesis (Entrepreneurship) Centre, and the student governments.
Even more fundamentally, faculty are encouraged to include soft skills tips throughout their discussions with students, talking about the "real world" of employment and the expectations of bosses.
Read about the college’s still remarkably strong enrolment growth: http://stclair-src.org/news/need-know-news/enrolment-growth-continues-midst-pandemic
Read about a new program – well, not really: http://stclair-src.org/news/need-know-news/new-program-old-program
Read about the college’s ongoing efforts to find out if you’re satisfied: http://stclair-src.org/news/need-know-news/student-satisfaction-still-topic-study
Read about the college’s recent beautification efforts: http://stclair-src.org/news/need-know-news/beauty-eye-campus-beholder