Serving Adult Learners From International Backgrounds at Two Canadian Universities: Duty of Care, Student Success, and Approaches to Learning

Serving Adult Learners From International Backgrounds at Two Canadian Universities: Duty of Care, Student Success, and Approaches to Learning

Lorraine Carter, Alanna Carter
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-4360-3.ch006
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McMaster University Continuing Education (Hamilton, Ontario) and the Real Institute in the Chang School, Ryerson University (Toronto, Ontario) are two university continuing education units that respond to the needs of adult learners from newcomer and international backgrounds. McMaster Continuing Education is known for its expertise in online education and support of adult learners as they seek professionally focused education. The Real Institute provides dedicated in-class programming and support strategies for younger adult learners. In this chapter, the experiences of older and younger adults from diverse cultural backgrounds studying at the two units are presented. The authors suggest that the needs of this learner group may be better met within the continuing education unit than within the mainstream academy. Innovative learning strategies and flexibility are key elements in this position. Finally, it is suggested that the two profiled units take their duty of care and commitment to student success seriously.
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More and more, international students are choosing to attend Canadian universities to study as undergraduates and graduate students. In complementary fashion, individuals from around the world are electing to come to Canada as immigrants and creating new lives. While the former student body enriches Canadian campuses and provides a valuable revenue source for post-secondary educational institutions, Canada’s identity as a country defined by diversity and democratic principles holds great appeal for individuals and families ‘from away.’ Indeed, these persons often come to Canada with learning needs of their own although their needs often fall into the career and professional learning sector versus the undergraduate and graduate domains. In both cases, however, there is a need for competence in one of Canada’s two official languages, generally, English, and what the literature calls cultural fluency. Oftentimes, these needs are met by the university’s continuing education unit. In this paper, case studies are used to profile efforts by university continuing education units in two urban centres in southern Ontario, Canada to serve learners from diverse cultural and language backgrounds. The continuing education units are McMaster Continuing Education (McMaster University) located in Hamilton and The Chang School (Ryerson University) which houses Ryerson’s English as an Additional Language (Real) Institute in Toronto. Particular attention will be paid to the importance of supporting language and cultural development. In the situation of more life experienced learners, learning that supports career development and employability are highlighted. In both contexts, the concepts of duty of care and crossing borders are considered.

The authors relate their experiences from distinct perspectives: namely, as the Director of McMaster University Continuing Education and as an instructor with the Real Institute at Ryerson University. These identities inform the ideas presented and range from a more macro perspective to a micro look and, taken together, provide insight into how two university continuing education units in Ontario, Canada are supporting learners from diverse cultural and language backgrounds.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Duty of Care: Duty of care is a legal term referring to an obligation to protect others from harm. Instructional and administrative staff in an educational setting hold duty of care for learners including international learners.

Hidden Curriculum: Hidden curriculum is an element of an educational experience which may not have been intended such as the inclusion of norms, values, and beliefs. In courses and programs for international learners, awareness that there is a hidden curriculum is important for learners and instructors.

Online Learning: Online learning is a learning model enabled by the use of internet technologies and, in general, facilitated by a subject matter expert. Among adult learners, online learning is often a preferred mode of learning because of its flexibility and accessibility.

Cultural Diversity: Cultural diversity refers to the plurality of diverse or different cultures in a context of working together and respecting difference.

Employability: Employability refers to the attributes and skills of a person that make him or her able to gain and maintain employment.

Cultural Fluency: Cultural fluency involves understanding and use of elements from different cultures for the purpose of communication. It enables the communicator to convey meaning across cultures, and the receiver to understand messages as they are intended.

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