Peter Nunoda: Red Deer College undertaking thoughtful planning in preparation for fall term

Peter Nunoda: Red Deer College undertaking thoughtful planning in preparation for fall term

When I shared my last column with you, Red Deer College – like all organizations – was in a highly responsive, emergency planning mode.

We were determining how to best serve our students and support them to finish the winter term through online delivery, while also working to ensure the health and safety of all our students, employees and guests, all while continuously adapting to new and changing information.

Now that a month has passed, we have been able to lift our heads to look beyond the immediate needs of our COVID-19 response, and we’ve been planning for the weeks and months ahead.

There are still outstanding questions and additional planning that needs to happen, and we will need to remain agile and responsive in our approach, while also balancing our responsibilities to students, employees and our community.

For now, I can share several important updates with you.

The first relates to program delivery this September. With the ongoing pandemic, we have determined we need to be proactive and prepared for this fall. Red Deer College will deliver programs and courses online in fall 2020.

Even if the restrictions related to COVID-19 are lifted, we believe it is important to establish and share this plan now, out of respect for everyone involved.

This will allow our students time to process what this will look like. It will also allow faculty to effectively adapt face-to-face courses for online instruction.

Come September, we will not be in emergency response mode for our online delivery. Rather, we will offer students courses that have been developed and designed for this platform, offering them the best possible learning opportunities.

A hallmark of learning at RDC is the practical, hands-on learning our students receive in practicums, labs and work-integrated learning opportunities.

Our apprenticeship students especially depend on it. We also know that the student experience outside of the classroom is impacted by the restrictions and limitations currently in place, including student services, residence, RDC athletics and more.

I can assure you that we are thinking of these items, and we’re looking at a variety of ways we can address each of these concerns. This information will be communicated with students and with our communities as soon as decisions are made.

When it comes to decisions, we have also had to make some difficult ones recently, as RDC announced we will be suspending applications to five programs this fall.

The programs are: Instrumentation Engineering Technology Diploma; Acting and Live Entertainment majors within the Bachelor of Applied Arts in Film, Theatre and Live Entertainment; Media Studies and Professional Communication Diploma; Adult and Higher Education Instructor Post-Diploma Certificate; and the eLearning Instructor Post-Diploma Certificate.

We are working with current students in these programs to help them establish pathways for their futures.

The reasons for the suspensions vary slightly, but for the majority of these programs, the suspensions are not due to COVID-19 or budget. They are due to regular academic planning that RDC conducts each year to ensure academic operations are sustainable. A key factor in such decisions is low enrolment.

No matter what the reason, all of us at RDC recognize that program suspensions are very personal for people. Some may ask why RDC doesn’t care: about the arts, our history, our students, their futures.

The answer is that we do care – very deeply. As one example, while RDC has made changes to our Bachelor of Applied Arts in Film, Theatre and Live Entertainment, the college’s Arts Centre will continue to serve as a space in which our students learn, as well as providing myriad opportunities for community usage.

There are many considerations that impact our decision making, and determining what is best for the long-term, sustainable operations of our whole college means we had to make some tough decisions now.

For people who are the most directly and personally impacted at this time, you may have a deep sense of loss and frustration. I acknowledge and respect this. And I’m sorry this is layered onto an already difficult time.

People everywhere have been impacted by our global situation in so many ways. It has been challenging, stressful and heartbreaking.

It has also highlighted some of the amazing ways that we are resilient and adaptable, such as people finding new ways to have meaningful connections with each other, and people creating new ways of working and living during these times.

I am so proud of the work that everyone at Red Deer College has undertaken to support our students and each other.

While this isn’t where any of us thought that we would be, we are working together not just to make it work, but to make things work in the best possible way we can.

This thoughtful, forward-thinking approach will continue to serve our students and communities well, now and in the future.

Peter Nunoda is president of Red Deer College.