TORONTO — On April 22nd, KML assembled a group of highly esteemed educators to discuss the state of hospitality education and examine how tomorrow’s schools will need to change, how these changes will impact students and how schools can truly contribute to solving the labour challenges plaguing this industry.

The webcast, Higher Learning: A Webcast Discussion on the State of Hospitality Education — moderated by KML’s editor/publisher Rosanna Caira, and sponsored by Tourism HR Canada — included Lorraine Trotter, dean, Centre of Hospitality & Culinary Arts, George Brown College, Toronto; Statia Elliott, director, School of Hospitality, Food and Tourism Management, Gordon S. Lang School of Business and Economics, University of Guelph, Ontario; Marie-Claire Louillet, professor, l’institut de Tourisme et d’Hôtellerie du Quebec, Montreal; and Carl Everitt, Chair, Hospitality Management Program, Camosun College, Victoria, B.C.

“As we know, over the past few years, the education sector has been hugely impacted by the lingering COVID-19 pandemic and like every sector in this industry, it’s had to pivot to find its footing. Today we will be exploring issues facing the education sector to find out what the future looks like for hospitality education in Canada,” said Caira.

The discussion began with a look at how universities and colleges differ today from pre-pandemic, as well as how online learning has changed the delivery model for education moving forward.

“We’ve all adopted online delivery models and tools far, far faster than any of us would have predicted two years ago,” said Trotter, adding that it is both a blessing and a curse, “because we’ve had to move up the learning curve pretty quickly. But on the other hand, we’re so much more flexible and creative in the way we use those online tools.”

She added that online education has “blown apart” the traditional view of where the students are. “So, the regional focus that we might have taken in the past is no more. While traditionally we would have looked at just the Toronto Region, now we have continuing-education students from India and Austria; we’ve got baking students in Japan and the Middle East.”

For a program known for hands-on applied learning, Everitt said the pandemic caused a shift in thinking. “The infrastructure for online learning has changed and improved drastically. We were never known as an online-learning institution, but one of the positive outcomes [of the shift to online learning] is accessibility for the students. I’m finding they’re now taking their courses in a hybrid mode, where they’ll come in and perhaps take some of their academic classes, but they don’t need to be in that facility the entire time, which offers a great deal of flexibility for them.”

Louillet said at l’institut de Tourisme et d’Hôtellerie du Quebec, classes went online immediately at the beginning of the pandemic and remained online for a long time. And while in-person classes are running again, the school still offers about 20 to 30 per cent of its classes online as well.

“This shift has changed the way we teach,” she said. “During the first round of the pandemic, students needed more empathy and support, so we’ve grown into a more personalized coaching role, as opposed to traditional teaching role. We dedicated more time in class time for discussion, presentations, interactive teamwork and coaching. [COVID] has profoundly, and permanently, changed the way we work”

“In March 2020, the future arrived ahead of schedule,” said Elliott, adding it “pushed us to innovate and invest in technology and in training of faculty — and that investment continues. So, looking ahead, I see hybrid being something that we continue to offer.”

She said she sees online learning as possibly replacing a large lecture hall of hundreds of students, which will provide more opportunity to engage with students and offer them access to asynchronous material that perhaps they didn’t have in such a flexible way before. “And then we reserve those face-to-face times for smaller groups where there’s greater engagement in experiential activities, such as cases, industry projects and simulations and hands-on labs. So, we end up with this fusion of campus and augmented campus experiences that are going to continue to push us to be even more innovative and engage students.”

Click here to watch the entire Higher Learning webcast


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