Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Riding the Waves of change - part 1

To the average person on the beach, waves become visible just before their crash. The slow and steady growth is almost imperceptible, and when the growth changes to decay, the wave’s crescendo is visible to all. The power of the wave comes crashing down sweeping away those caught unaware and propelling those who saw the change coming.
Such a change in growth patterns is happening in colleges across America. The slow steady rise of tuition, population, and debt has reached a point where a break must occur. Just as a wave breaking provides both surf and undertow, the break in education can be a boon to students driving them towards competency and completion or deadly undertow dragging them back towards poverty and minimum wage.
Just as the lifeguard scans the beach looking for dangers and swimmers in distress, LBCC college administration has been scanning the educational horizon looking for ways to bridge funding gaps, propel more students towards completion, and adapt to changing demographics. This effort is being referred to, by LBCC administration, as the “Redesign”.
While the “redesign” is not yet fully defined, according to Bruce Clemetsen, Vice President, Student Services, the redesign is about trying to get to a sustainable model for education. “We still believe in the role of community colleges in community development. We have to adapt, and we are at a moment of extreme adaptation.”
This redesign will eventually touch every element of the college, from simple changes like texting students important information to more systemic changes like degree curriculum and requirement changes.
One of the potential curricular changes described was to the Culinary and Welding programs. Mr. Clementson spoke about how writing skills training could be embedded in the culinary and welding curriculum.
Instead of students going to a dedicated writing class, they would have a kind of circuit writing professor who worked with their, and other, instructors to meld writing with their instruction in their craft. While everyone needs to be able to communicate via the written word, not everyone needs to know the liturgical outflows of long dead white men.
By teaching writing skills and craft skills together the thought is that students will receive a more practical accreditation while also receiving the necessary level of  writing education for their preferred field.
The goal is, for some degrees, to move towards a more pragmatic and Socratic model with less lecture and more practice, flipping the classroom in essence. Part of the redesign is asking the question, “Is there a better way to teach or facilitate learning?”
The redesign, as it relates to curricular changes, is, according to Dean of Student Services Lynne Cox, in part a recognition that there is a tremendous amount of free information available online and that colleges and universities need to become a place where one learns how to apply knowledge.
Mr. Clementsen said, “Some things will be going away, to create space for newer things.  pockets of students will feel this change.” While he wasn’t specific on which programs or activities were meant for the chopping block, it was clear that he and the rest of LBCC administration were doing everything they could to maintain as many programs, for as many students, as possible. It was also clear to that Mr. Clementsen and the rest of the LBCC administration are very much interested in the ideas, aspirations, and goals of faculty and students.   
Parts of the redesign are already being implemented. Some of these changes, like mandatory advisement and career center development, are meant to facilitate achieving Oregon’s 40-40-20 goal. The goal is to, by 2025, reach a point where 40% of Oregonians a bachelor’s or higher , 40% have an associate’s or higher, and 20% have a High school diploma. The goal is itself a recognition that today’s economy is a knowledge and services based economy and if Oregon is going to remain competitive in the national and global marketplace its citizens need to have the requisite education to compete.
Cox described Career Center Development as a program designed for helping undecided students decide on what major they want to focus on or what career best fits their skills and lifestyle. For some students one of the biggest stumbling blocks to college completion is figuring out exactly what one wants to do. A program like this, coupled with now mandatory advisement, should be beneficial to the student who needs some guidance finding the path to success.  
An integral part of this redesign is increasing communication between administration, faculty, and the student body. Mr. Clementsen stressed the value of this community and the need to foster deeper and longer lasting connections between it’s members. A student body that is well connected tends to be more successful he said, and it is his, and the rest of the administrations, intent to raise the bar without leaving students underwater.

At a Glance:
Education Redesign and Strategic Planning
Achieve the Dream
Committees Contact List for the Redesign