By Preeteesh Peetabh Singh
According to George Brown College’s (GBC) 2010-2011 annual report, the number of students registered for continuing education at the college is a whopping 36,000 whereas full-time, international and apprentice students combined make 28,336.
With 1,600 programs on offer and about 600 part-time staff in including teachers in place, GBC’s continuing education department seems to be printing money.
Kathleen Abbott, associate dean of the GBC centre for continuous learning begs to differ. She believes that apart from monetary benefits it’s also about quality education.
According to the recent Continuing Education Provincial Survey conducted by the continuing education departments of the 24 Ontario Colleges of Applied Arts and Technology. GBC has been ranked as the top metro college on four key points: helpfulness of staff, quality of courses, quality of instructors and overall ease of registration. Other metro colleges in the race were Centennial, Humber, Seneca and Sheridan.
GBC was also graded high for technical support, reliability of course platform, usefulness of assignments, instructor’s knowledge of the subject etc. In total, continuing education at GBC scored the highest among metro colleges in 37 areas.
When asked who funds the survey Abbott said, “We have to pay for it. The cost is pro-rated as larger colleges pay more compared to smaller colleges”. Abbott also said that most continuing education courses at GBC gets some funding by the provincial government but students do not qualify for scholarships from GBC foundation. Continuing Education at George Brown chooses to not hire full-time faculty due to scheduling requirements of the collective agreement between GBC and its faculty.
The provincial survey is conducted once every three years. The report prepared by CCI Research Inc. states that in the winter 2012 term, a total of 61,610 students at 24 colleges in Ontario completed the survey.
“I don’t see this survey entirely as a marketing gimmick.” Said Abbott, “Yes, we do market the areas where the college does well but at the same time we also look at the areas where it performed poorly. We market the positives and try to fix the negatives.”
The student feedback helps the college keep improving. The responses are analyzed in order to review courses, teachers and curriculum. The courses which are not so popular are dropped and new ones are introduced based on the research. Some of the popular courses are web marketing, language, cooking, landscaping, interior designing and photography.
“These courses are taken up by the students because it interests them. 90 per cent of students already have a job and 30 per cent have their university degrees. It can start as a hobby and then some students convert it into their own business and go for a career change”, said Abbott.