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What is a Campus Master Plan and what can it do for RRC?

March 21, 2013

Newly designed learning space for Culinary Arts students at the Patterson GlobalFoods Institute

What makes a great campus?  For some, a great campus is defined by the quality of the learning spaces – including the way the space is designed, the availability of learning technology, and the overall functionality of the space.  For others, the quality of one’s workspace is key, as many people want (need) a safe and ergonomically designed environment, with sufficient spaces to interact with others and/or to work without distraction.
Of course there are many other components that contribute to a great campus environment, ranging from the spaces where we support students, to campus services like cafeterias, retail spaces, and parking lots.  Internal and external public spaces also come into play, from the ability to meet and interact in hallways or to gather in other social spaces with students or colleagues.  At some campuses, the green spaces outside are also vitally important, as is the connection to the local community of shops, businesses, and industry.
The Campus Master Plan
The “document” that helps a college plan tasks like designing quality learning and workspaces, creating new buildings, making the campus easy to navigate, planning for transportation services, and attending to the greenspaces is called a Campus Master Plan. The consultation process that led to the development of the current Strategic Plan (2012-2015) recognized campus planning as a vital task for addressing these issues, and as a result, identified it as a strategic action.

The “atrium” at the Roblin Centre – Exchange District Campus (EDC)

As noted above, a Campus Master Plan needs to consider many things. It needs to take into account the communities and neighborhoods that surround the College, the transportation systems that serve the College, the infrastructure (for example, water and electrical), the landscape, how the buildings are located, the likely growth of the College, how the College community interacts, and where new buildings should go. It also needs to consider sustainability issues – social, economic, and environmental – in the use of materials and design of spaces.  This is continuing with the tradition set in the design of other recent RRC buildings such as HETC and the Patterson GlobalFoods Institute. The theme of diversity and community are also important, as the College spaces need to appeal to a very diverse student body who literally make the campus their “home” while they are studying.

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Measuring Staff Wellness – Part 1

March 15, 2013

The Staff Survey is used to help support the People Plan and a variety of other stakeholders from across the College – including the Wellness Committee (see the FAQs about the Staff Survey post for more info).

Before wading into the data, I should disclose that I have been a member of the Wellness Committee since December 2008 and recently became a co-chair over the past year.  So while I’m presenting the data-driven side of the story, many of the insights are drawn from having applied these findings as part of the Committee’s activities.

The Road Map

The staff survey was first used to gather wellness-related feedback back in February 2009, and it has been used many times since to explore and understand a variety of topics including:

  • Understanding how staff define “Wellness” and “being healthy”,
  • Identifying and prioritizing the strategies that the Wellness Committee should pursue,
  • Gauging the types of wellness activities that people currently participate in and those which they’d like to do more of,
  • Conducting market research on the effectiveness of Wellness events and activities – such as the Chili Cup and the Wellness blog,
  • Developing some baseline measures to gauge people’s personal sense of wellness and the social/environmental conditions that could potentially improve it.

Part 1 is going to tackle the first two items on the list.

What constitutes wellness?

As a starting point, the Wellness Committee wanted to get a better understanding of how staff define “being healthy” to see whether there was a dominant definition to help guide the committee’s activities. Not surprisingly, the definitions of “being healthy” covered a broad spectrum of ideas – including physical health, recreation and athletics; mental and emotional health and stress relief; and spiritual well-being.

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Frequently Asked Questions about the Staff Survey

March 7, 2013

Why does the College have a Staff Survey?

Using staff surveys to gather feedback is a common practice.  Typically, staff surveys are conducted as a census administered by an external consultant once every few years. Prior to 2008, RRC also used this method.  The downside to this approach is that the information is less responsive to immediate needs and changes within an organization, and the emphasis is more likely to be on tracking measures and benchmarks rather than process improvement.

When the People Plan initiative was created in 2008 as outlined in the Strategic Plan (2008-2011), RRC’s Director of Research and Planning, Ashley Blackman, suggested a monthly survey model similar to one that he had helped develop while working for the private sector.  This monthly staff survey was primarily meant to inform and support the People Plan initiative, while also providing a valuable feedback tool for a range of other College business areas and committees. The monthly survey contains both benchmarks for tracking change over time and monthly topical question to help address more immediate issues. The staff survey is now in its fifth year, with over 2,515 surveys completed to date.

Are my responses confidential?

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What’s with all these surveys? SEPS edition

March 1, 2013

Student success is a crucial focus at Red River College. Their success is our success. So how do we learn about student success? One way is to ask them. That’s what we do when we ask students to complete the Student Evaluation of Program Survey (SEPS) just as they are finishing their program.

A few thousand students are asked to provide their opinions about different areas of their college experience, from facilities and services to instruction and program quality. They are also asked to share their comments on their experience at RRC – what they like and what they think could be better. This wealth of information is used annually to improve programs, facilities, and services to students.

*RRC Employment Rate is calculated for those in the labour force.
+RRC Student Satisfaction includes only those expressing an opinion.
Note: Comparisons should be viewed with some caution. Different survey techniques and variations in questions can produce misleading results. In addition, college to college comparisons can produce misleading results due to a variety of factors, such as college size, local employment conditions, program mix and respondent demographics. Ontario colleges use a five point scale while RRC uses a four point scale for Student Satisfaction in this table.

What the heck do you do with all that Data?

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What Manitobans and Private Sector Organizations think about Red River College

February 20, 2013

What is it reputation?

Reputation is a measure of the beliefs, opinions and impressions that one generally has about something.  In the case of Red River College, reputation can be based on many things:

  • one’s experience as a student, or as the parent or friend of a student at the College;
  • hiring or working alongside RRC graduates;
  • advertisements, such as the billboards found around the city that celebrate College alumni; and,
  • what one reads in the newspaper or discusses in casual conversation.

Why is it important? 

Having a strong reputation is important for a number of reasons. Most importantly, it can influence the decisions of potential students as they weigh out their post-secondary options. Similarly, it affects which staff and instructors the college is able to hire, in its quest to build a strong and competitive workforce and be an employer of choice.  Finally, it can affect the views of our stakeholders – including industry and employers, government, and the general public – and how they work with us.

How do we measure reputation?

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Walking the Paths to Success

February 15, 2013

First Steps

In September 2005, Red River College began piloting the Freshman Integration and Tracking System (FIT), an innovative student retention initiative developed by staff from Humber College. The College has since adapted and customized this model into the current Paths to Success initiative, starting in 2007.

After eight years, the Paths initiative has involved over 250 College faculty and just over 8000 students. In the most recent year, more than 1,700 first year students participated in the initiative from 56 diploma, certificate, and degree programs.

The Paths to Success model

The Paths model has three main components:

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What does “Research Involving Human Subjects” have to do with me?

February 7, 2013

(Note: This post was written by Sheila Allarie and Ashley Blackman)

Have you ever been asked to participate in a survey, a focus group, or perhaps a clinical study while employed or studying at the college? Have you ever asked others to participate in a research study? Whether you’ve been asked to participate in a survey or research study or you’ve asked others to, there are ethical implications to be considered.

Did you know that the Red River College Research Ethics Board (REB) was formed to ensure that all research involving human participation will be reviewed by the Board before it can proceed?  The Research Involving Human Subjects Policy adopted by the RRC REB is consistent with the current approved Tri-Council Policy Statement, “Ethical Conduct for Research Involving Humans.”  The College has signed agreements to abide by these policies; non compliance can affect our ability to receive funds from Federal granting agencies such as the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada  (NSERC).

REB Responsibilities

In addition to reviewing all research protocols requiring the participation of human participants for ethical approval, the RRC REB is also responsible to the President of RRC for:

  • ŸDeveloping policies regarding ethical issues relating to the use of human participants in research and experimental teaching protocols;
  • Reviewing annually all policies regarding ethical issues relating to the use of human participants in research projects to ensure that policies remain current;
  • Dealing with matters concerned with human-based research referred to the Board by the President of RRC;
  • Preparing an annual report for submission to the RRC President;
  • Participating in continuing education organized by RRC research administrators for the College community in matters relating to ethics and the use of human participants.

Steps you need to take if you’re conducting research on human subjects

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Social Media usage among Red River College staff and faculty

February 1, 2013

The term social media refers to a variety of internet-based applications that people use to create and share content (ideas, information, art) with each other, and foster networks and connections with friends, colleagues, and the general public.  The most commonly known applications include online “newspapers” (very generically any news or informational hub online) and blogs (such as this one), as well as Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube and Flickr.

Many of these applications are being used by millions of people, or in the case of Facebook – billions of people worldwide (1.2 billion to be precise). The photo sharing website Flickr has over 5 billion images on it, while there are some 490 million unique users of YouTube users every month.  Crazy!

So how does RRC staff and faculty stack up?  In September 2011 and again in April 2012, Research and Planning asked a random sample of 100 staff and faculty (each month) how often they used social media tools for work and for personal reasons.  The six categories offered ranged from “daily” to “never”.  The gap between the end of the bar and the 100% marker represents those who never use these tools.

To summarize this information, we rolled up results to look at those using social media at least several times a month.

  • As you can see, just over 50% of staff/faculty use online “newspapers”, YouTube, and/or Facebook for personal reasons several times a month.
  • Blogs are used by only a fifth of staff (21%) whereas one tenth (10%) use Twitter and/or LinkedIn for personal reasons.
  • Work usage is lower across the board, with online newspapers (41%) and YouTube (34%) leading the way.
  • Many of the other tools, like blogs, are used by only 5% of staff for work reasons.

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The best report about Red River College that you’ve probably never read

January 23, 2013

(Note: This post was written by Nancy Ball, Ashley Blackman, and Mike Krywy)

Every year the College files an Academic Annual Report with the Council on Post-Secondary Education (COPSE). It’s a College-wide effort; many schools and departments submit information, College Relations edits and writes many of the articles, and Research and Planning provides the data and assembles the report. While intended to respond to a regulatory requirement, the report is an interesting montage of facts, figures, stories and achievements that serve as a guidebook for those who want a snap shot of what the college is all about.

Research and Planning’s contribution is twofold. First, we provide stats and figures to help people get a sense of enrolment trends, graduation numbers, employer satisfaction, and many other interesting statistical nuggets.  For example, if you check out the most recent RRC Academic Annual Report (2011-12) you’ll discover that:

  • Full-time enrolment hit another record high in 2011-12, with 9,135 students registered in certificate, diploma, advanced diploma and degree programs.
  • That 16,530 students were studying in part-time programs, keeping many CE instructors hopping.
  • Some 3,408 students took apprenticeship training across 32 trades.
  • That Red River College has approximately 1,360 full-time equivalent (FTE) staff years working at the College (no wonder coffee line-ups are so long, it’s all the FTEs ordering their double doubles).
  • That the average income of recent graduates responding to a graduate survey was $40K

Secondly, we help compile the fantastic achievements that are threaded throughout the report.  In fact, it is almost overwhelming to read about the many success stories that occur across the college.  After reading even a few of these stories, you begin to appreciate the breadth of what is accomplished across the college community.

  • Selkirk Avenue received a lot of attention this year. The Makoonsag Intergenerational Children’s Centre opened on Selkirk Avenue, serving as the College’s first demonstration childcare centre, and representing its commitment to providing community residents with increased access to programs promoting child and family supports. The 52-space centre for infants, toddlers and pre-school children was developed through a partnership between the Urban Circle Training Centre, Red River College, and the University of Manitoba’s Inner-city Campus.


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Knowing your Numbers

January 17, 2013

Welcome to the first post of the Research and Planning department’s blog – Know your Numbers.  To kick things off here’s a few numbers to help you learn about us and the College.

Lucky #7

The Research and Planning department is a crew of seven, led by dark chocolate aficionado Ashley Blackman (Director of R&P). His supporting cast includes Senior R&P Analyst and hockey fanatic Mike Krywy, number cruncher Pam Grimshaw, research assistant and avid walker Nancy Ball, the incomparable administrative assistant Sheila Allarie, SQL junkie Zaheer Ahmad + casual helper and expert pickle-maker Pat Bates.


In the 2011/12 academic year, the College had 9,135 students enrolled in full-time programs, 16,530 part-time registrations, and 3,408 apprenticeship students. Figures like these are used to support reporting to the Manitoba Council on Post-Secondary Education (COPSE) and for preparation of the College’s Academic Annual Report.


In the past 12 months, Research and Planning has interviewed 3,871 staff, students, alumni, and industry representatives using their online survey system. These folks participated in at least one of the 25 different surveys administered during this time period, on topics ranging from the experience of first year students, to the opinions of staff, and the perceptions of Alumni.

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