This past week I did a session for Northern College at their Faculty Development Conference reflecting on some of the key themes and opportunities for higher education, as we collectively navigate through this “Year of the Pandemic”.
There were faculty and staff joining from across northern Ontario, and a lively discussion following my talk. One thing that stood out for me was how, regardless of how large or small, rural or urban, our institutions – all of us in higher education are grappling with the same big questions, big issues, big challenges, and big opportunities for transformation, redress, growth and change.
Here are the “Top 10” standout themes from Wednesday’s conversation:
- Leading inclusion and action through “two pandemics”: COVID-19, as well as the more destructive, corrosive and longstanding pandemic of racism, particularly Anti-Indigenous and Anti-Black Racism, and other forms of violence and exclusion
- Navigating institutional sustainability in the face of enrolment challenges
- Mastering online and digital technology tools and applications to support online teaching, and preparing students for meaningful engagement in online learning
- Digital inclusion and student access to technology and WiFi/bandwidth
- Fostering connectedness and community in this time of physical distancing and remote working and teaching
- Assuring student and employee health and safety, especially those who are engaging in face-to-face, lab-based learning on our campuses
- Supporting student (and employee) mental health and wellness
- Fostering closer connections with industry and employers to enrich opportunities for Work-Integrated Learning and graduate employment
- Balancing work with child care, elder care, and other competing priorities and responsibilities
- Finding our way into a new reality for PSE, one which can offer students choice and “hyflex” learning opportunities across a range of face-to-face, online, and hybrid credentials and micro-credentials…all pretty unimaginable just six months ago!
As we prepare for a fall semester in which so much is uncertain, and in which our students are placing so much hope and trust in us, the axiom that “we are all students, and we are all teachers” has never been more real. We are on an extraordinary learning journey together. It’s not going to perfect, it will certainly be messy at times, and the occasions when we get things absolutely right will be worth celebrating.