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Okanagan College students win big with accessible tourism pitch
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Okanagan College students win big with accessible tourism pitch
Okanagan College Media Release

The Winning Pitch Nov. 2018A junior team of four Okanagan College School of Business students have captured the regional title at The Winning Pitch competition for their innovative concept to expand accessible tourism opportunities in the Thompson Okanagan.

The Winning Pitch is a post-secondary student case competition presented by go2HR, British Columbia’s tourism human resources association. The competition was held at the Thompson Okanagan Tourism Summit in Osoyoos on Nov. 14 and tasked teams to develop an idea of a new tourism service that supports the development of accessible tourism opportunities in the province.

Second-year students Bryan Cresswell, Celina Matte, Emily Pilon and Zackery Plaxton made up the junior team entered by Okanagan College. They presented to a packed audience of local tourism stakeholders and judges on their winning idea, AccessFest – a seasonally inspired series of festivals for those with accessibility requirements.

“Tourism opportunities can be limited for people with accessibility requirements and a lot of regions in B.C. are actively working to improve on that,” says Pilon. “Our proposed festival focuses on highlighting regional aspects of B.C. specifically for those with accessibility requirements and the whole concept contributes to B.C.’s Accessibility Strategy to become a truly inclusive province by 2024.”

The team’s pitch focused on four seasonal festivals in four different locations across B.C. Opportunities to spotlight everything from fully accessible restaurants and hotels to ski resorts and wineries were part of the pitch. Each festival would also feature the various areas’ unique aspects of culture and tourism to develop unique visitor experiences that are more accessible and inclusive.

The junior team was joined on the podium by fellow students from Okanagan College.

OC’s senior team, consisting of Brittany Hemmerling, Nathan Ziebart, Jacob Pushor and Brett Loeppky, came in second after a close vote. Thompson Rivers University teams placed in third and fourth. Both College teams were coached by Okanagan School of Business Professors Blair Baldwin and Alan Rice.

“Both the junior and senior teams’ pitches were well received by the judges and Alan and I are very proud of their hard work and ambition,” says Baldwin. “This is the first time the students from the junior team have worked together and they found an immediate team chemistry. Each student comes from different specialty areas – marketing, finance and accounting – and they each brought something unique to the team.”

The competition required students to build a full business plan and seek feedback from real community stakeholders.

“After speaking with a few tourism stakeholders across the region, we found that what was really missing was a key driver that could influence the industry and create demand,” says Cresswell. “We started to think about an event that could be held regionally and could be scalable to a provincial level and that’s what sparked on the idea of AccessFest. After we developed the idea, we brought it back to those stakeholders and we were blown away with their support and desire to turn this idea into a reality.”

The team will now go on to represent the Thompson Okanagan region at the provincial finals, facing off against four other regional winners from across the province – but not before one last twist. All regional winners will be handed an extra challenge in January that teams will need to account for and build into their presentations at the provincial championship.

“The twist could be so many things so it’s hard to try to predict our challenge,” explains Pilon. “We’ve done our work and we’re actively preparing for provincials. Once we hear what the twist is, we’re going to further develop our concept and start building it into our plan.”

The provincial challenge takes place in February at the 2019 BC Tourism Industry Conference in Vancouver and teams will present to a panel of judges and an audience of more than 1,000 conference attendees.

 

OC profs’ approach to texts ease student costs
Okanagan College Media Release

Okanagan College professors are helping to turn a new page in the rising costs of post-secondary education, giving students free access to online textbooks.

An online solution to lower post-secondary students’ costs is spreading at Okanagan College. Open Educational Resources – also known as OER – are high-quality resources (notably in the form of open textbooks) that are available in digital formats and at a very low cost to print.

The latest provincial statistics show Okanagan College ranks sixth in the province for open textbook adoption. By fall 2018, the College reported 147 courses that have adopted open textbooks, helping 2,875 students to save $437,212 (those numbers are up from 95 courses using online texts, 1,673 students impacted and a savings of $248,522 only a year ago). Many professors have committed to continue using and expanding their use of online texts at each of the College’s campuses in Kelowna, Penticton, Vernon and Salmon Arm.

“It is fabulous to see initiatives like this become a reality,” says Andrew Hay, Okanagan College’s Vice President, Education. “Student success is of the utmost importance to Okanagan College and the combination of better student learning with reduced costs is most welcome.”

Okanagan School of Business Professor Michael Orwick is one of many professors at the College who has introduced online textbooks to his classes and he can already speak to the educational benefits.

“Generally, the first mid-term grades in the Intro to Marketing classes I teach average 57 to 61 per cent,” explains Orwick. “This year, my first mid-term just averaged 73 per cent and I heard from students who said they felt the annotated textbook was a major reason for improved scores.”

Orwick has supplemented the text he is using – Principles of Marketing – with his own notes that provide students with additional insights into the subject matter.

“The textbook change for this class alone means a savings of $6,000 and every student is guaranteed to be able to get the textbook,” says Orwick. “There are four sections of this class running this term, so that adds up to $24,000 in savings just for this course. Next semester there may be 12 sections running which amounts to $72,000.”

The savings fit with the Province’s and the College’s agenda, as well as the Okanagan College Students’ Union, which presented to the Select Standing Committee on Finances and Government on Sept. 27 about the very issue.

“The high cost of textbooks has become a serious obstacle to accessing post-secondary education in B.C.,” says Jennifer Meyer, 2017-18 OCSU Board Member. “Textbook prices rose by 82 per cent between 2002-12 and now typically cost more than $200 per book. For the many students and families already struggling to afford education and the cost of living, this unpredictable expense can be a huge burden, causing students to take on additional debt or work longer hours for their required books.”

OC student Andre Dominguez is enrolled in Orwick’s Marketing class and has experienced the financial help that comes with the advent of online textbooks.

“The e-textbook has been a real asset because I can access it anywhere I go, both on mobile or on my laptop, and the fact that it was free is extremely helpful,” says Dominguez. “Expenses accumulate for college and it takes a toll on your bank account which brings unwanted stress that affects your personal and academic life.”

Not only do e-texts bring serious savings they also offer a custom approach to teaching and learning. Professors can annotate the online texts, leaving detailed notes, highlights, comments and provide specialized information. Students can choose to access the text online or can choose to have it printed from the College’s bookstore.

“It’s such an incredible bonus that my textbook is annotated by my professor,” explains Dominguez. “There is more retention when reading and I know I wouldn’t be doing as well as I am and learning as much if it wasn’t annotated. If every teacher had annotated textbooks, it would help students out very much.”