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Shannon Van Leenen

Shannon Van Leenen

Media Relations Officer, Bow Valley College

The economic turmoil facing thousands of Canadians in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic will have long-lasting effects. Layoffs and the temporary and permanent shuttering of businesses are a devastating reality. Bow Valley College recognizes the need to solve the complex workforce problems emerging from this crisis. The post-secondary institution in downtown Calgary is re-imagining adult education through Pivot-Ed, an ecosystem meant to get people who have been laid off, or those who are under-employed, working again.

The college is using artificial intelligence (AI) to do scalable assessments to identify the proven competencies of professionals. Through Pivot-Ed, people will be awarded a Bow Valley College micro-credential as evidence that they’ve mastered specific skills and knowledge. If the assessment of industry-recognized competencies reveals gaps in a learner’s performance, they’ll be put on a targeted path toward filling those gaps. 

“This is all about upskilling and reskilling individuals to meet employers’ needs,” says Dr. Misheck Mwaba, Academic Vice President at Bow Valley College. “Through these AI assessments, we can pinpoint missing technical and soft skills and provide the learner with the education necessary to increase efficiency and effectiveness.”

Bow Valley College is actively searching for new ways to incorporate AI and virtual reality (VR) into its curriculum. The college teamed up with Calgary-based technology company ICOM Productions to develop an immersive virtual experience in respiratory assessment, which made its debut in a new VR lab earlier this year. The assessment tool is being integrated into the college’s Practical Nurse Diploma program

The VR respiratory assessment features nine different avatars ranging in age, ethnicity, and respiratory conditions. The nursing students do assessments on the virtual patients to recognize normal and abnormal findings. Before this innovation, the students practised on their classmates, most of whom had healthy lungs. “This tool provides our learners with an invaluable experience that would sometimes take months to become proficient at in a hospital or clinical setting,” says Nora MacLachlan, Dean of Health and Community Studies at Bow Valley College. 

“I’ve never been into video games or much of a techy person, so I was nervous about learning to operate the VR. But the instructor that I had was very helpful, and I caught on quickly,” says Kristen Cameron, a Practical Nursing student who was one of the first to pilot the stethoscope. “Our learners are doing amazing activities to perform skills and develop competencies in the virtual environment,” says MacLachlan.

Bow Valley College is proud of the innovative ways it’s helping to develop the skills its learners need to be work-ready, and to secure employment even in these challenging times. “Our vision is to open doors and open minds,” says Dr. Mwaba. “And we’re also making it our mission to make all learning count.”

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