What I see as a problem in the Fisheries and Aquaculture Diploma Program at Vancouver Island University 

“So much to do and not enough time to do it” is the lament of students and instructors of the 2-year Diploma Program in Department of Fisheries and Aquaculture (Fish-Aqua) at Vancouver Island University. The program strives to provide learning opportunities to prepare students for employment in broad ranges of jobs in different but related fields, from fish health technicians to fish farm managers, from environmental outreach educators to fisheries habitat restoration consultants, and from microalgae culturists to shellfish growers. This results in a heavy course load and rigid schedule of lectures, labs, field work, and hands-on technical learning activities that might be alleviated by transforming some of the content into online learning components based on a blended learning model.
I would suggest beginning by identifying the problem and stating it in the SMART way, as defined by Horn and Staker (2014) in Blended: Using Disruptive Innovation to Improve Schools:

  • Specific – Students in the 2-year Fisheries and Aquaculture Diploma Program at Vancouver Island University have a very heavy course load but still need more hands-on components specific to their fields of interest, and opportunities to explore the required knowledge content in different ways.
    • Students complain of current workload (traditional classroom)
    • Threat: Declining number of applications to program possibly due to competition from more focused programs of shorter duration offered by other institutions. (Nonconsumers)
  • Measurable – 1. Convert some lecture content to online formats and develop new learning strategies for the material and offer it in blocks available as extension courses earning diploma credits;  2. Student success with the new course/program design, and a student satisfaction survey; 3. After implementation of the new online credit courses for one year, compare numbers of applicants with those of previous years.
  • Assignable – Lead 1: Fish-Aqua Department head with a team of professors/instructors and technicians, Natural Resource Extension Program, with assistance from the Centre for Innovation and Excellence in Learning (CIEL) and the Information Technology (IT) department. Lead 2. Dean of Science and Technology and a team of educators and an Administrator.
  • Realistic – Given current resources-professors will need time to prepare online components and new lab and field components, and the project may require funding for quality video production and specialized software programs.
  • Time-related – Initial delivery of select courses for Spring semester of 2018, i.e., Larval rearing and shellfish aquaculture course.

The Fish & Aqua department chair would need to work with Natural Resource Extension Program personnel to develop some online courses that could be offered for stand-alone certification or as credits towards the diploma program. The credit courses could be taken prior to entering the diploma program or, if a student is required to retake a course due to failure, withdrawal, or scheduling conflict they could do so at their convenience. The lecture portion of a course could go online in full or section and made available for credit from anywhere at any time, leaving the laboratory, field, and technical components to be taken during the reduced on-campus portion of the diploma.
The leaders would also need to organize the right teams:

  • Lightweight: To develop courses would include educators (professors, instructors, and technicians) from Fish-Aqua and the NREP Program, and representatives from both IT and CIEL.
  • Heavyweight: To determine new course credit and delivery system: Dean of Faculty of Science and Technology, Department of Fish-Aqua Chair, Educators (professors, instructors, and technicians), NREP Program Assistant and/or Coordinator, and VIU Administrators

As a sessional instructor I don’t have any influence on how the programs are managed at VIU but I plan to present the case for blended learning and hope to have a framework to present to the Department chair and Dean as a result of work done in OLTD 511. I welcome any suggestions on how this plan could be framed better. 
Horn, M.B. & Staker, H. (2014). Blended: Using Disruptive Innovation to Improve Schools. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.