Starting points for a vision of Dal’s academic future

DALVision 2020 Senate Forum report released

- February 14, 2013

The recently released DALVision 2020 Senate Forum report.
The recently released DALVision 2020 Senate Forum report.

Back in November, more than 300 students, faculty, staff and community members gathered to share their ideas for the future of undergraduate education.

Now, with the release of the full report on the DALVision 2020 Senate Forum on Undergraduate Education, the question is: what’s next?

“It was the first time at Dalhousie that we’ve brought together students, faculty and staff to discuss undergraduate education,” says Fiona Black, director of academic planning at Dal. “What do faculty, staff and students value? What strong components in existing programs are worth emulating across a wider range of curricula?”

Four themes to consider in more detail

The report identifies four key themes that came out through the ideas, opinions and considerations generated during the forum — areas where participants felt Dal could focus its efforts on improving undergraduate education:

  • Enhanced interaction between students and faculty, and also among students.
  • Increased flexibility in program design and delivery, including opportunities for interdisciplinary study.
  • More opportunities for experiential learning.
  • Enhanced engagement of faculty and students in the learning and teaching process.

“The forum was not a formal research study — it was a gathering of people sharing their own ideas — but those themes are highly suggestive, and certainly worthy of further exploration,” says Dr. Black. “They’re ones that we’ve heard in other venues: discussions with faculties, in proposals for academic innovation funding, in agenda items at Senate Committee meetings and the Associate Dean’s Academic Council.”

“The forum report helps to identify some patterns we could, and arguably should, strengthen,” she adds. “It also suggests the kinds of undergraduate programming that might differentiate Dalhousie.”

Exploration is a key component to innovation and Dr. Black is managing an academic innovation fund to support initiatives in the delivery and/or design of courses, experiences and even programs at Dalhousie.

Planning principles

One of the significant results of the forum and consultations to date is the recognition that while Dalhousie has its strategic priorities, one of which is academic innovation, the university has never articulated an academic strategic plan: a guide for future decisions in the planning of academic programs and delivery modes.  

Consequently, Dr. Black is chairing a task force to consider the principles and priorities that would form the basis for such a plan.  

“In order to make long-term decisions about how you want to innovate in program development, you need a framework that is going to help you decide where to invest,” says Dr. Black. “Those decisions need to be based on solid evidence, both internal and external.”

This evidence will include themes from the DALVision Senate Forum as well as examples and best practices from Dalhousie and elsewhere. Dr. Black and her team will be engaging in broad consultations with faculty members, staff, students, alumni, and employers over the next six months.

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