A unique collaboration

The Living Classroom is a partnership model that integrates education into a long-term care or retirement home to support workforce development in senior living. Students, faculty, and those living, visiting and working in the home engage in a culture of shared learning. Students gain real-life experience and are well prepared for a career in senior living. Residents, families and team members from the home benefit from student engagement and provide mentorship opportunities.


Together, Conestoga College and Schlegel Villages envisioned a new kind of educational experience for students whose career path will lead them to work with older adults in long-term care homes.

In September 2009, Conestoga College and Schlegel Villages opened their first Living Classroom, where they welcomed a class of 30 Personal Support Worker (PSW) students, at the Village of Riverside Glen (Guelph, Ontario). This Village provides a continuum of retirement, assisted living, and long-term care to approximately 400 older adults. We chose to locate our first LC at the Village of Riverside Glen because it provides local access to health care education within the community and draws local students who are unable to travel to other jurisdictions for their schooling.

To expand the model, some spaces in the Village were renovated in 2012, to welcome Practical Nursing (PN) students to learn alongside PSW students in the LC. Since its establishment in 2009, hundreds of students have graduated from the LC. Many of these graduates are currently employed at the Village of Riverside Glen.

A second Living Classroom opened in 2015 at the Village at University Gates (Waterloo, Ontario), in partnership with the Schlegel-UW Research Institute for Aging. The LC at University Gates delivers both PSW and PN programming. The PN program was transferred from Riverside Glen.

To date, 20 Living Classrooms have opened in Ontario.

Our motivation

The motivation for this initiative was a desire to increase the number of Personal Support Worker (PSW) and Practical Nursing (PN) graduates to meet workforce demands in LTC homes in Guelph, Ontario. LTC homes were finding it more and more difficult to recruit passionate, competent, and confident graduates to work in LTC.

We saw this gap as an opportunity to collaborate to develop a new option for education and workforce exposure, whereby both a LTC home and a community college (hereafter referred to as a Post-Secondary Educator or PSE) could come together for student immersion into the setting of a well-operating LTC home. The result of this innovative undertaking led to work-ready students highly qualified for employment in LTC homes upon graduation.

Today, this educational and workforce development model has become a reality. We refer to this vision as the “Living Classroom” (LC). The LC is an interprofessional (IP) approach, whereby a PSE program is delivered within the context of a LTC home, with team members consisting of faculty, students, LTC teams, residents and families, who engage with each other within a culture of interactive learning.

Learn more about Living Classrooms  ⟫


Marlene Raasok“The LC started at the Village of Riverside Glen, to increase access for students in Guelph. Additional LTC beds were being added in Guelph and all providers had workforce shortages. Schlegel Villages questioned whether there was something that they could do. Together, we (Conestoga College and the Village of Riverside Glen) decided to implement educational programs at the Village of Riverside Glen and increase accessibility to students, and therefore, increase the likelihood of students to graduate and serve the needs of Guelph and surrounding community.

Our Living Classroom experiences have been possible because of a robust collaboration with Schlegel Villages and we thank them for this long-standing collaboration. We are pleased to share our learning with other PSEs.”

— Marlene Raasok, Executive Dean (2006-2016), School of Health & Life Sciences and Community Services, Conestoga College


The Living Classroom program is funded by the Ministry of Long-Term Care and led by the Schlegel-UW Research Institute for Aging (RIA) through the Ontario Centres for Learning, Research and Innovation in Long-Term Care (Ontario CLRI), in partnership with the Ontario Association of Adult and Continuing Education School Board Administrators (CESBA).

The Living Classroom partnership model was first implemented in Ontario in 2009 through a collaboration with Conestoga College, the Schlegel-UW Research Institute for Aging (RIA) and Schlegel Villages, produced in part with funding from the Government of Ontario. The views expressed herein do not necessarily reflect the views of the Province.


Paul Brown, Chief Operating Officer, Schlegel Villages
Sharon Clarke, RN, DipED, MHScN, Living Classroom Coordinator, Conestoga College Institute of Technology and Advanced Learning, the Village at University Gates
Amy Stiles, RN, BScN, Living Classroom Coordinator (2013-2017), Conestoga College Institute of Technology and Advanced Learning, the Village of Riverside Glen
Personal Support Worker students from the Living Classrooms
Residents and families of Schlegel Villages
Long-term care teams of Schlegel Villages
Conestoga College faculty

The Living Classroom Implementation Guide reflects the experiences of Schlegel Villages and Conestoga College Institute of Technology and Advanced Learning, in developing, implementing and evaluating their first two Living Classrooms, at the Village of Riverside Glen (Guelph, Ontario) and the Village at University Gates (Waterloo, Ontario).


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