Aurora College is closing its Centre for Learning and Teaching Innovation, three years after launching it, saying there is no more money to keep the centre going.
Created in May 2020 as a pilot program, the CLTI was designed to be a hub for learning and teaching support, carefully evaluating Aurora College programs and improving staff training.
According to the CLTI’s website, by the fall of 2022 it had come through its initial pilot phase and was actively expanding. But in an email this week, staff were told funding had run out and the initiative will wrap up by the end of June this year.
“While the intent was and continues to be to find dedicated funding to make the CLTI a permanent part of the institution, we are currently unsuccessful in that endeavour,” the internal email stated.
“We will continue to pursue potential funding sources so we can re-establish the CLTI at Aurora College.”
The CLTI’s creation was considered a part of the college’s progress toward becoming a polytechnic university, occupying a slot of its own on a university progress tracker maintained by the GNWT.
That webpage declares that the CLTI and up to five associated staff – including a director based in Fort Smith – would “contribute to professional development within Aurora College and will play a key role in supporting a learning-centred environment for Aurora College students.”
Announcing the centre’s creation in 2020, the college said the CLTI would be “instrumental” in improving academic and research excellence.
All five CLTI positions were rarely filled at the same time, a person with knowledge of the unit’s operations told Cabin Radio. Two people are understood to have been employed at the CLTI when this week’s announcement came through.
In a written statement, Jeff O’Keefe – the college’s vice-president of education and training – said: “At this time, the employees are not laid off; they are considered ‘affected employees.’ Aurora College has not filled other positions in CLTI that became vacant over the past several months as we attempted to secure ongoing funding. Further, we have not taken on any new projects under the CLTI in recent months.
“Our hope is that the affected employees will have the best opportunity to secure other positions within the GNWT or Aurora College, and that ultimately Aurora College will be able to re-establish the CLTI with permanent funding.”
(After this article was first published, one of the affected employees contacted Cabin Radio to contest the characterization that they were not being laid off. They said they had been expressly told that becoming an “affected employee” was the first stage of the lay-off process, and pointed to their collective agreement, which addresses affected employees in a section titled “lay-off.” Note that the latest collective agreement does away with the term “affected employee,” but the prior agreement – which expired in 2021 – contains that language.)
How the CLTI was funded in the first place is not clear.
In its email to staff, Aurora College said the centre “has been running using third-party funding.” The college did not answer a question from Cabin Radio about which third party was involved.
O’Keefe said the centre’s closure was “not a reflection of the success of the project or the value of the team’s work to Aurora College,” but an operational decision given the lack of cash to keep it going.
The internal email concluded: “While this is not the outcome we were hoping for, we have to be realistic about what we can and cannot afford as we grow our institution into a polytechnic university.”