Rob Kjarsgaard cannot be accused of missing opportunities. Prior to teaching and joining the administration at Okanagan College in 2000, Rob served as a School Trustee and worked for Community Futures of the North Okanagan as a Coordinator for an award-winning program named Bladerunners.

After working with the School District as a Career Practitioner, Rob realized how important lifelong learning is in our society and made the move to Okanagan College. He then assumed responsibility for the concurrent administration of five employment centres for the College. He now serves in an administrative role and is responsible for setting up new trades programs and training centers, and supporting and administrating existing centers, in addition to being the coordinator for the ILLT.

Recently he was involved in the “Under One Roof Project,” a residential construction program which involves both College students and the community in building low income housing. He has also written a book about rapid prototyping which is a program design model for creating distributed learning. Wow! Somehow, Rob found the time to sit down and discuss his work.

Rob says he first learned about learner-centered philosophy during the transition from OUC to Okanagan College. Jim Hamilton, president of the College, returned from visiting several other colleges in North America with a vision of creating a learning institution that was learner-centered. This learner-centered philosophy is key to the development of the ILLT, and is something that Rob has always valued, both as a teacher and especially as a learner.

So where does he see it going from here?

Rob says that an expansion of the ILLT to other institutions would be desirable for the College, and a culture of collaboration very much includes other colleges and universities. Rob says it is also the goal of the ILLT to develop a high quality program of instruction for teachers and professors that will be marketable to other colleges and universities. He hints that one college in BC is already watching the ILLT very carefully, with an interest in creating something similar.

Rob also thinks the wider Okanagan community is especially important to the ILLT.

“We want to build a culture of leadership in learning and teaching that extends outside of OC to the Okanagan community,” said Kjarsgaard. “One of the ways we are doing this is by facilitating the development of communities of practice.” 

Communities of practice are self-directed people who share an interest. The institute is working on bringing these groups together to develop a culture that empowers dialogue, builds trust and supports collaboration among peers.

“Ultimately this will strengthen both Okanagan College and the Okanagan community as we work together.” 

When asked which part of the ILLT will be most influential in helping people, Rob identified the organization model.

“I feel that the most influential aspect of the ILLT is the fact that it is not a top-down management driven initiative, but rather a peer-led approach that is supporting a culture of risk taking, trust, and collaboration among peers which will increase participation levels and acceptance.” 

Rob finds that out of all the exciting projects the ILLT is involved in, the one he says is at the top of his list is creating a program of instruction for new instructors and professors to enhance their teaching skills.

If anyone can help others get more out of their time, it’s this guy!