Wider Horizons

With presence in three more communities, Lethbridge College is making its programs more accessiblewind turbine

Something is taking place between the fall rye and the spring wheat out in the rural areas of southern Alberta: adult learning.

Long a presence in Fort Macleod, Lethbridge College acquired campuses in Claresholm, Crowsnest Pass and Pincher Creek from the former Chinook Educational Consortium (CEC), after being designated by the province as a comprehensive community institution with a regional stewardship role.

In the first few months, demand has been high for rural programming, the value of the locations is undeniable, and student appreciation is evident.

Albert Getty says he probably wouldn’t be enrolled in upgrading classes if he had to drive to Lethbridge, a city with which he is unfamiliar.

“I don’t drive and I live in Claresholm,” he says. “It’s important to have the campus here.”

Cost, too is an issue for many rural clients, and job opportunities in Claresholm are limited.

“I would probably need to work full-time to get down to Lethbridge part-time, so it would be hard.”

Lethbridge College and its rural faculty and staff agree having campuses in the smaller communities of southern Alberta is important and necessary. Claresholm instructor Kimberly Pregernig says they provide students a shot at a college education without forcing them to commute or move to Lethbridge.

“Our rural campuses give accessibility to students who might not otherwise be able to attend college programs,” says Pregernig. “Some of our students have families and other responsibilities. By having our rural campuses available, they are able to stay close to home and succeed in their courses.”

Doug Scotney, rural education coordinator at Lethbridge College, says the college has created three local advisory committees to support the rural campus initiative and ensure community involvement and engagement. A regional access advisory council will also be formed, with representation from the three local advisory committees.

Lethbridge College has big plans to expand the programs offered at the rural locations. Scotney says the vision for the rural campuses is to enhance access to programs, courses, and student services through technology-enhanced delivery, consistent with the needs of communities.

Since acquiring the three campuses from the CEC, the college has taken steps to improve the course offerings at each location. Technology will play a large role in delivery, in line with program expansion at the main campus.

“The college is implementing its distributed learning strategy, which will enable individuals to better access programs and courses,” says Scotney, who holds a doctorate in education. “The college will work with community organizations and its local advisory committees to identify needs, and utilize resources to enhance access to relevant courses.”

At the Claresholm campus, the lower level College and University Prep courses (below Grade 11) are presented through videoconferencing. The higher level courses are online, so students can complete assignments, watch videos and view tutorials.

The rural campuses link to classrooms at the Lethbridge campus; Pregernig, like other rural instructors, is able to teach in all three locations using blended-learning tools.

“I teach two classes through video conferencing to students in Fort Macleod and Pincher Creek,” Pregernig says. “We are able to have face-to-face instruction with the students, as well as use technology such as Smart Boards that allow us to interact with students like in a real classroom.”

Another innovative, technology-driven educational tool the college is touting is the eLearning Café, a learning support website that assists students in developing skills, strategies and behaviors for academic success. It’s a great tool for students no matter where they are in their academic careers. It’s open to everyone, not just college students.

Students say the rural campuses offer welcoming, professional learning environments. Student Anna Jordan is impressed with the friendly, supportive atmosphere.

“I’m able to study in a way that suits me best,” says Jordan. “And I have an instructor on campus full-time, five days a week who’s here to answer any questions that I have. It’s proving to be very helpful.”

Getty agrees that the environment is professional and positive. It’s easy to stay on track because everyone is there to learn, and the teachers are there to help.

“If you have any questions they can answer them, and if they can’t answer them, they can find you the answers,” he says.

Pregernig says she’s encouraged to see students responding positively to the method of programming offered at the rural locations. One-on-one teaching and technological tools are proving successful. Community and camaraderie have been created in the small classroom settings.

“I find the students are not afraid to ask for help and are extremely motivated to get their work done and to do it well,” she says. “We have a very positive atmosphere in our building. Our students are always willing to help each other.”

It’s a comment heard on other Lethbridge College campuses.

All four offer academic upgrading, using blended-learning strategies such as lectures by video conferencing and online courses to full- and part-time students. They also offer an introductory course in the Early Childhood Education program, taught by video conferences that connect to an instructor on Lethbridge College’s main campus.

At the Fort Macleod campus, students can enroll full-time in the first semester of the Wind Turbine Technician program, while a course in basic construction is offered in Crowsnest Pass, and a course in basic welding is offered in Claresholm.

As of last fall, one student in Pincher Creek is taking a course from the Special Needs Educational Assistant program, using video conferencing, and part-time students were accessing the course from Magrath and Grassy Lake.

Lethbridge College is planning to expand course offerings, and will continue to incorporate blended-learning tools and new technologies into the classrooms.

Lethbridge College is also co-operating with other post-secondary institutions to provide learning. For example, the Claresholm, Crowsnest Pass and Pincher Creek campuses also deliver courses by Bow Valley College (Calgary) in Practical Nursing and Early Learning and Childcare in order to complete programs. The Claresholm and Pincher Creek campuses deliver courses from SAIT in the Emergency Medical Responder program.

Education is becoming increasingly more flexible and accessible thanks to technology. Blended- and online-learning tools are allowing Lethbridge College to reach students in new and exciting ways. Offering programming at the rural campuses is just the beginning.

 

Rural campus contacts

Claresholm Campus5202 Fifth Street E.

Christina Burrows

Email: christina.burrows@lethbridgecollege.ca

Phone: 403-625-4231

Crowsnest Pass Campus

MDM Community Centre

2802 222nd St.

Bellevue

Colleen Frier

Email: c.frier@lethbridgecollege.ca

Phone: 403-562-2853

Fort Macleod Campus

521 26th St.

Roberta Maclvor

Email: roberta.macivor@lethbridgecollege.ca

Phone: 403-553-4788

Pincher Creek Campus

Co-Op Ranchland Mall

1300 Hewetson Ave.

Shelley Ingram

Email: shelley.ingram@lethbridgecollege.ca

Phone: 403-627-4478

Wider Horizons
Megan Shapka
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