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More Meaningful Experiences for Life Long Learners

Each year, participants of the Rozsa Arts Management Program (RAMP) present their organization's board and RAMP faculty with an Action Learning Project, or ALP. This project applies their learnings from the program into a real world plan to move their organization forward. Donna Barrett, Operations Specialist at the Alberta College of Art + Design's Continuing Education Department, shared her experience with us.

I, and the ACAD Continuing Education department, continue to benefit from my RAMP experience of 2015/16. Guided by Scott Radford, I addressed my ALP to answering the question of why people pursue life-long learning. Drilling down in that research, I was able to identify types of life-long learners, the different types of motivations for all the types of life-long learners, what the service expectations are for life-long learners, factors that keep life-long learners returning, and what are key elements Con Ed instructors must understand about life-long learners as their students.

From this framework, I reviewed ten years of Con Ed student history and used the SWOT analysis tool to create a ‘map’ of Con Ed students. The ‘map’ illustrates student residence, attained education levels, income levels, and number of children demographics. The ‘map’ is then combined with where and what types of advertising Con Ed uses to reach those on the map.

My ALP has resulted in a deep understanding of our students and their motivations, much more efficient use of our advertising resources and an evaluation system for measuring the effectiveness of our various forms of communication with our students, including advertising and marketing.

The results of all of this deeper understanding and efficient use of resources? Our Con Ed department has not lost any student registrations in the collapse of the Alberta resources economy and our registrations have remained constant. When other Con Ed departments in Calgary have lost 24 – 36% of their registrations, ACAD Con Ed is steady which is saying a lot when you add in that art and design education is perceived by many in Alberta/Calgary to be a luxury. Our summer 2017 registrations were the highest in our 35 year department history, increasing a whopping 48% over our last highest year.

We also completed a new project focused solely on the Con Ed learner and validating their learning experiences from our courses. I completed an exhibition of Con Ed students in June, 2017, entitled Spotlight (literally focusing the spotlight on Con Ed students). The submission process mirrored the process anyone would experience when applying to a professional exhibition. But it was supported by myself guiding each applicant through the process. We offered a photo documentation service as well as guidance on pricing work for both insurance as well as for sale purposes. Ninety students applied with 273 pieces of artwork. The final juried exhibition hosted 83 exhibitors with 108 pieces of art, craft and design.

The exhibition added another layer to the Con Ed student learning experience, offered a safe and trusted exhibition experience for people who mostly had never exhibited previously, and gave confidence to students who saw their achievements among their peers for the first time outside of a classroom. The opening reception for Spotlight was a huge success with over 350 people attending throughout the evening. We have deepened our relationship to our students in a very meaningful way for each and highlighted the outcomes from the great courses (taught by our accomplished instructors) demonstrating the success of life-long learning as a pursuit.

I hope to offer the exhibition every three to five years and continue to offer more meaningful post course experiences for our art, craft and design life-long learners.

For more information about ACAD's Continuing Education Courses, including Adult Courses, Teen Courses, Professional Development Workshops, and Pre-College Programs, visit their website.

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