Applied learning courses tackle life’s complex problems

August 10, 2018
Lisa Weighton
“Our courses are run by facilitators, not instructors. It’s not sage-on-the-stage kind of learning. Our courses offer an applied experience. We know they have a vested interest in making change, and students and faculty learn together.”

From Writing for Business to Mindful Communication and Listening, Professional and Continuing Studies (PCS) at Royal Roads University offers a range of professional advancement and special interest courses to inspire learners.

Applied learning is central to PCS courses says Calvin Roberts, Professional and Continuing Studies manager.

“Our courses are run by facilitators, not instructors. It’s not sage-on-the-stage kind of learning. Our courses offer an applied experience. We know they have a vested interest in making change, and students and faculty learn together.”

The 2018-19 Professional and Continuing Studies course calendar offers a range of innovative courses designed to respond to contemporary and organizational learning needs—some of which offer tools for solving some of today’s most complex challenges.

Problem solving by design

Dave Whittington’s problem solving tool box contains three essentials: collaboration, curiosity and empathy.

From food systems issues to the opioid crisis, this trio of tools is crucial to solving even the most wicked problems.

“The standard approach to dealing with problems is to analyze them, come up with a solution and roll it out,” says Whittington, an experienced facilitator and coach who specializes in strategic leadership, organizational culture and workplace innovation. “When things are really complex, that doesn’t work.”

That’s where design thinking, and his toolbox, come in.

Whittington, will lead a two-day interactive Design Thinking workshop in November. The course guides participants to use a design approach for their own challenges and to develop a plan to address it.

“Design thinking is a very different way of approaching complex challenges. It involves exploring the breadth and depth of the challenge, brainstorming potential solutions and then testing them to see what works and what doesn’t,” he says.

The process yields robust solutions that don’t rely on expertise or analysis.

Originally developed for industrial and product design, Whittington says design thinking has been successful in solving multidimensional challenges to do with transportation infrastructure or patient flow in hospitals.

The design approach is both a process and a mindset, he says.

“The mindset involves being collaborative, being curious and being optimistic. Caring for the people you’re designing for is important. You have to be willing to iterate and go back over things in the successive refinement.”

Teach together, learn together

Collaboration and developing a shared purpose is also central to the Art of Hosting Meaningful Conversations for Participatory Leadership, a course offering platforms, tools and methodologies that help facilitate systematic organizational change.

The course helps participants chip away at the way organizations interact to solve complex problems, says David Stevenson, who co-facilitates with Pawa Haiyupis.

“The way we approach challenging issues can be as much a barrier to solutions as the actual problems themselves,” he says. “What this course does is provide tools to create more social connection, cohesion and creativity. It’s based on the assumption that all the wisdom doesn’t rest on the top of the system. Wisdom lies at all different levels.”

The hands-on course will guide participants to spark innovation and creativity to create change within their organizations.

“A lot of the conversations we have in our work environment and in our communities are not actually as meaningful as we could make them and are not addressing big problems in a way that we could collectively do that.”

The three-day course will be tailored to participants’ needs, Haiyupis says.

 “We’ll co-create an agenda once we meet the participants and know what their learning interests are, so it’ll evolve. It’s not something that’s pre designed or packaged.”

E-mediation for conflict resolution

The Online Facilitation Skills for Mediation—BC Mediate course is designed to teach experienced mediators how to effectively use technology in conflict resolution.

The fully online course introduces online-specific mediation skills and emphasizes how mediators can effectively build community online, says Erika Deines, course facilitator.

“This course offers tools and tips to create a safe and empathetic environment.”

From using cell phones to choosing the right video conferencing software, online mediation is a powerful tool to increase access to justice regardless of geography or the nature of the dispute.

“We’ll focus on using technology as a mediation tool. Web conferencing can be an effective tool for dispute resolution, especially when the conflict has become too heated to resolve face-to-face.”

Design your future and explore the 2018-19 Professional and Continuing Studies course calendar to build your skills or discover a new hobby.