Re-tool and carry on: UNENE delivers education despite COVID-19 shutdown

UNENE Education Update, by Nik Popov, UNENE Education Program Director

In a year that challenged education institutions everywhere, UNENE delivered courses and moved through a major program self assessment, Nik Popov reports.

MARCH 11, 2021 – In 2020, UNENE continued its track record of successful educational program delivery to the nuclear industry, despite an abundance of new initiatives and challenges. 

These included development of new delivery methods (distance-education, online education, and e-lecturing), in response to the pandemic limitations, and our once-in-seven-years preparation of the Self-Study report for the UNENE program review (Institutional Quality Assurance Process (IQAP) review).

The IQAP review guidance was provided by the MacPherson Institute for Leadership, Innovation and Excellence in Teaching at McMaster University. The review was conducted over 10 months by a team of UNENE staff. The IQAP included review of the UNENE program and requirements, curriculum, teaching delivery, resources to meet program requirements, quality indicators, program quality enhancement, UNENE system of governance, academic services, and others.

We collected key inputs via stakeholder surveys conducted with the UNENE students and alumni, the professors, the industry organizations, and university administration staff. This was followed by focused workshops organized with students and professors separately on specific topics.

The IQAP review identified several opportunities and challenges in the UNENE program. UNENE continues to meet the three major objectives of the M.Eng. education program:

  • Provide an opportunity to nuclear employees in Canada to get an M.Eng. degree, and thus enhance their career; and
  • Deliver a graduate program aimed at helping people apply their knowledge to their career, and thus help nuclear companies in Canada meet their capability development objective; and
  • Deliver flexible synchronous distance education (combined classroom and online delivery) which allows students at remote nuclear sites to participate in the class.

One of the most important challenges of the UNENE program is attracting a full slate of students. It is vital to the success of the UNENE program to attract enough students to benefit from collaboration and networking, as well as ensuing a strong financial base. UNENE management continues discussions with the key industry organizations in Ontario to ensure we can respond as the sector evolves.

Another related challenge is strengthening company management recognition of the UNENE students’ achievement and knowledge enhancement. Students tell us they expect a UNENE M.Eng. degree to provide the basis for career progression.