What's New On Campus: Lethbridge College

Providing quality education through a revamped program

18, Apr, 2017

What’s New on Campus?

Technology Alberta subscribers and regular readers know how proud ASET is of its strong relationships with the province’s educational institutions, particularly NAIT, Red Deer College (RDC), SAIT, and Lethbridge College (LC). Our Programs & Services staff frequently present on professional ethics to students, and ASET representatives sit on numerous program industry advisory committees. This partnership goes back to the Association’s earliest days, and is expected only to grow as we move ever closer to the universal certification of Alberta’s engineering and geoscience technology professionals.

Our annual Back to School articles have become very popular, and last fall we received a number of comments from certified technologists who were impressed by the seven capstone projects featured in the September issue. So much so, in fact, that ASET has created the Capstone Project of the Year Award, honouring the best of the best in end-of-program student initiatives. On April 1, 2017, at the AGM in Calgary, we will formally announce the inaugural recipient of this prize and believe it will become a coveted recognition of academic achievement, representing a significant addition to the curriculum vitae of any young professional.

We’re always fascinated by how much is going on at any one time on the campuses of our major educational partners and have decided that once a year simply doesn’t do them justice. The following article is a quick look at just some of what’s setting apart Alberta’s excellent technical educators.

Lethbridge College

30-60-120: Completely Redesigning a Curriculum

Where Red Deer College has added a whole new program, Lethbridge College’s School of Trades and Technologies has completely revamped the curricula of its three engineering technology offerings, EDDT, Civil, and Geomatics. This exhaustive, exhausting, three-year process was designed to meet the requirements of LC’s Credential Framework and Learning Pathways, a project launched in 2012 with the goal, according to the institution, of creating a “standardized measure of learning that is understood by post-secondary institutions worldwide.” Known informally as the 30-60-120 Project, in lay terms, the initiative aims to help graduates find recognition for their studies internationally as well as within Canada. This applies equally to individuals seeking transfers to other post-secondary facilities and to those who are entering the workforce, whether within Alberta or beyond its borders.

The origins of 30-60-120 can be found in the 1999 Bologna Accord, which created a pan-European template for educational credentialing, effectively sowing some semblance of order in the chaos that had hitherto seen graduates of completely disparate educational systems vying for the same university and work spaces. While Canada cannot be an official signatory of the Bologna Accord, many of our nation’s post-secondary institutions, including Lethbridge College, were determined to see their students benefit from such harmonisation.

Redesigning the three engineering technology programs represents the culmination of this massive transition.

    The future home of Lethbridge College's Trades and Technologies Programs

“The past 36 months have been challenging for our faculty,” notes Bill Smienk, the Chair of Engineering Technologies. “That’s not necessarily a bad thing and we’ve discovered a collective strength of character we didn’t know we possessed. The redevelopment process also allowed instructors to examine course alignment with each other and within the context of the overall programs and their objectives. We also made sure to validate the resulting skills usefulness to potential employers.”

It’s important to note that Alberta post-secondary faculties routinely review and evaluate courses and even entire program; they must remain relevant. This, however, was a completely different animal. Every element had to be examined in the context of how it fit with the other courses, as well as how it contributed to the overarching objectives. The net result has been a much leaner program, as Smienk and his team were required to drop from eight courses per semester to six, so as to meet the mandated 60-credit program total (see tables below)—and to do so without sacrificing quality or learning outcomes. In fact, the purpose of the exercise was exactly the opposite—LC was seeking to improve its offerings and provide graduates with opportunities that had previously been unavailable to them.

Faculty members were able to reduce duplication, while still allowing for a natural progression of courses from one semester to the next—that flow is an important educational consideration. Students have to have a sense of progress as they advance in their studies.

One of the many challenging factors was the decision to keep the common first semester that links all LC engineering technology students, regardless of discipline. Smienk and his team believe, as does RDC, that the resulting flexibility is worth the extra effort required to make courses relevant across the different disciplines.

Finally, with all the focus on international alignment, Lethbridge College could not forget to align its programs with requirements to meet Canadian accreditation standards.

Facing all these hurdles, leadership opted for a multi-disciplinary approach. Faculty members were joined by curriculum specialists and advised by industry partners and even current students. Their guiding principle was the desire not to deviate from the College’s mission to produce high-quality graduates who meet industry needs. The extraordinary effort paid off and has been validated by results that, to date, have yielded positive reviews from the first wave of students to use the new curriculum. 

Will the final product live up to its early promise? No one can say for sure, but Smienk is optimistic. “Elements of this process were new and different,” he acknowledges. “But our teaching staff is quite simply extraordinary. As a matter of course, they stay current on industry practices and standards, weaving whatever is new into the course material as it becomes relevant. So the desire to be the best is part of their DNA. They have never complained despite facing yet one more challenge: Teaching the current crop of students using two different curricula—the second-years are completing the old system while the first-years are baptising the revised version.”

And how, one might ask, is that working out? “So far, so good,” he says. “No real hiccups, which is a testament to the extraordinary attention to detail that went into the redesign, as well as the commitment of our instructors. We’ll see what happens next year but if things continue along their current path, we’ll be just fine.” Then he sighs, ”Of course, as soon as that’s done, we’ll have to start working on getting the programs accredited with TAC. Providing quality education is a never-ending endeavour.”

Table 1: The original second semester offered to LC Civil Engineering Technology students.

Course Topics Credits
CON 1150 Codes, Details, Drawings 3
CON 1155 Managing the Construction Process 3
CON 2209 Business Management in Construction 3
ENF 1135 Statics 3
ENF 1158 Soils 3
ENF 1161 Fluid Mechanics 3
ENF 1168 Construction Materials for Civil Engineering 3
MTH 1160 Calculus I 3
SUR 1162 Survey Applications 3
Total  27

Table 2: The revised second semester as currently offered to LC Civil Engineering Technology students.

Course Topics Credits
CON 1165 ENF 1168 Steel/Concrete 3
CON 1180 CON 1150 Codes/Details/ CON 2252 Heavy CON/ Revit 3
ENF 1166 ENF 1135 Statics/ENF 1150 Strengths 3
ENF 1170 ENF 1158 Soils/ENF 1168 Asphalt 3
MTH 1170 MTH 1160 Calculus 3
SUR 1180 SUR 1162 Survey App’s./ Civil 3D 3
Total  18

To view the original article, CLICK HERE to visit the Winter 2017 Issue of Technology Alberta.