eLearning at Camosun College

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Camosun Open Sustainability Project: Project Story #5

Fifth in our ongoing series on Camosun’s Open Sustainability Project, as I finally catch up with the amazing faculty project stories I have collected so far (three more interviews to go!), is Pooja Gupta. Pooja teaches upgrading math, and for this project she has been working on adapting an existing open textbook, splitting it into three textbooks and creating ancillary materials to support instructors using them – specifically creating PowerPoints and open math problems for student self-study using an open system called MyOpenMath.

Pooja tells me that her Open journey “started with searching for a suitable open textbook that I could use with my upgrading math students, but there were none. In addition, I was using Pearson MyMathLab for teaching my online math sections, but we had concerns about student privacy where student data was being stored.  More traditional textbooks are expensive, and the editions change frequently which always made me anxious because I worried about how students who bought that $200 textbook would afford a brand-new edition. So, there were multiple reasons leading me to look for something more sustainable and less expensive for students.”

Reducing costs for students was the biggest incentive for Pooja to work with Open Educational Resources (OER) mainly because the courses she works with are tuition-free, and it seemed unreasonable to ask students to purchase expensive textbooks when they are expecting free courses.  She does note, however, that even with open textbooks “if a student prints them, that can still be expensive because these are huge books. I work in a department where we see a huge economic divide, from international students from wealthy families to students for whom buying a textbook means losing a week’s worth of meals.  Sometimes choosing a textbook for a course can be a bit emotional because there is such a huge divide, and one solution does not work for everyone. Even when using digital texts, I am constantly concerned about students. Will they be able to access it? How are we going to support them?  But sometimes you just have to do the best you can at a given time.”

Pooja has faced many challenges along the way in this project, but the biggest was the inability to find a reliable open online tool she could use to create a math test bank.  “There aren’t many options that are adaptive, and the only platform I had available initially in which to build questions was D2L which is not open. So that was my biggest challenge: finding an open platform that would work across the country, and in different countries, which would randomly generate questions.  There were paid subscription services everywhere, but nothing open source.”  Finally, she settled on the MyOpenMath platform.

As you can probably guess, Pooja is not one to give up and one of the biggest lessons she learned in moving into OER is persistence.  “This process of finding and getting MyMathLab to work with D2L has been going on for at least 5 years.  But if you keep asking questions and talking to people, then things happen. So, I kept prodding and poking and kept at it – being persistent really paid off.”

As for advice Pooja has for other faculty wanting to explore the world of Open Education, she says first, “make sure to vet the content of any open textbook you want to adapt because it might work for one group of students, but not another.”  But don’t limit yourself to one book.  “Find multiple open textbooks. Don’t be afraid to put them together and make it your own, add your own personality into it. In addition, be mindful of the copyright and creative commons licences.  If you don’t know how to attribute licenced content, connect with a librarian. And finally, don’t rush the process of finding the right open textbooks, because it is not going to happen overnight, and give yourself time to work with the materials before you pilot them with your students. Also, knowing that there is a lack of editors in the OER world, I have committed to improve my resources on an ongoing basis.”

Like other faculty involved with our Open Sustainability Project, Pooja plans to keep working with OER.  But she first wants to complete her current project working with her test bank in MyOpenMath before exploring more open options, like H5P, to support her in bringing math to life for her students.

Centre for Teaching & Learning November Bulletin

The first two months here have been a whirlwind adventure!  My [department team] have been very supportive… That said, and I’ll be honest, the first couple of weeks felt like I was being dropped in at the deep end… I had never taught before, and it had been… well, about 20 years since I spoke in front of a group larger than a few people.  WHoooo!  … And now guiding and teaching many impressionable minds… Good thing I’m passionate about and thoroughly know the subject matter that I’m teaching… I haven’t been this excited about going to work in a long, long time.” Quote from a new faculty member

Invitation to join the Teaching and Learning Council

The Camosun College T&L Council is a collaborative, peer-based, interdisciplinary group of faculty from across the college with a passion for advancing quality teaching and learning at Camosun, including advocacy, supports and strategies. We are seeking faculty with enrolled students willing to act as champions, and actively engage in the Council’s projects. Learn more here…

Deadline for expressions of interest: November 12

Camosun Showcase 2022: Professional, Scholarly and Creative Activity

Call for submissions to share your knowledge and expertise! Are you interested in sharing your stories of innovation, research, and creativity with the college community and beyond? Are you interested in highlighting the relevant and important work that you have done individually or collaboratively with colleagues, students, or community?  Are you interested in writing about how you realized the ‘opportunity in the crisis’ in the last year and a half in terms of your students’ learning or your instruction? Learn more here…

Deadline for expressions of interest: December 13

Past Showcase Issues

Camosun’s Open Education Project

Congratulation to all who have participated in helping to build capacity for open education at Camosun. We received a BCcampus Open Sustainability grant that helped support a group of faculty to develop/redevelop their courses using open education resources. It has been a collaborative project involving support from across the college.  Through this funding and matching funds from the college, this project has brought together 11 faculty members, as well as librarians, copyright experts, instructional designers (with expertise in Universal Design for Learning, OERs, educational technology, etc.), curriculum developers, indigenization specialists, and others in an extensive (and exceptional!) collaboration. Together, we are working towards creating a framework for best practices in bringing OER sustainably into every-day use at the college.

Take a few minutes and listen to faculty speak about their projects

  1. Sandra Carr: Open textbook for Joinery/Woodworking
  2. Michelle Clement: Revising an open textbook for Marketing
  3. Brian Coey: Open textbook for Sheet Metal/Welding
  4. Pooja Gupta: Open math homework and ancillary resources to support existing open textbooks
  5. Peggy Hunter: Revising/enhancing existing WordPress Biology lab site (interactive images, self-tests)
  6. Stephanie Ingraham: Open textbook for Physics
  7. Liz Morch: Five nutrition modules on WordPress
  8. Alex Purdy, Jana Suraci, Sarah Erdelyi: Open textbook on Allied Health patient management

More Camosun faculty stories

We now have a collection of 41 inspirational stories from faculty across the college. Enjoy reading them!

·       Story #40: Laura

·       Story #41: Michelle

For more information about either the Open Education or the Faculty Stories projects, contact Emily Schudel at schudele@camosun.ca.

Free learning opportunities and resources

NEW! Rubrics guide

NEW! Dismantling racism & oppression Anti-racism & social justice guide

Magna Publications free resources (Faculty Focus newsletter, Teaching Professor email updates)

Anti-racist writing pedagogy workshop November 10, 12:30-1:30pm. Join Zoom here

BC Campus free learning opportunities:

 

eLearning Workshops, December 2021 and January 2022

We have new offerings to  help you wrap up your fall term and get you started for Winter 2022!

How to Export Your Final Marks from D2L to myCamosun

Description: This workshop will walk you through the process of how to export your final grades from D2L to myCamosun. Have your final grades ready to publish in D2L and follow along with the steps provided. We will help troubleshoot the process.

Note: This workshop will only support Letter Grade and Competency Gradebooks. The process currently doesn’t support Percentage Gradebooks.

If you are unable to attend this workshop, video and print tutorials are available in the D2L On-Demand course. This workshop will not be recorded.

Date & Time: December 14 from 10:00-11:00  Register

Date & Time: December 17 from 11:00-12:00 Register

Date & Time: December 22 from 2:00-3:00 Register

D2L Course Set-up

Description:  This workshop will focus on setting up your course for Day 1. We will demonstrate how to copy course components (from your DEV or MASTER course to your LIVE offering), customize your homepage, apply a course banner, create a welcome news item and streamline your navigation bar.

Date & Time: Wednesday, December 15 from 10:30-12:00  Register

Date & Time: Thursday, January 6 from 1:00-2:30  Register

Camosun Open Sustainability Project: Project Story #4

Fourth in our ongoing series on Camosun’s Open Sustainability Project, as I try to catch up with our amazing faculty project stories, is Peggy Hunter.  Peggy teaches biology, and for this project she has been working on updating and adding to her biology anatomy lab website.  “My project has been to take what was a website built to give students access to anatomy lab material, and update it.  The site will contain images of the whole collection of models and slides we use in our anatomy classes so students can study them at home. In the past, students were restricted to seeing the models and slides for three-hour labs, and then they never see them again until the exam.”  Peggy’s website has been a work in progress for about a decade, going through several iterations and hosting changes. So, Peggy’s main goal is to add more resources to the site, and improve the functionality of some of the interactions which include hotspots and self-testing elements.

“Going online with the lab resources has made me realize that there are some gaps I need to address.   For example, they are missing the skeletal system completely, which has been a big oversight.”  But it’s important to stress that this site is not meant to replace the labs.  “Looking at pictures of models and slides that somebody else brought into focus to find the perfect spot is not the same as finding that spot yourself, and looking at pictures of bones is definitely not the same as holding them in your own hands.”

Peggy’s site has been through several iterations and several domain changes over the years, and she feels like “it seems to have gone from more open to less open, curiously. It started as a website created with Dreamweaver, then Frontpage, and now is a WordPress site. In its earliest iteration, I was able to edit the site, add and fix content, etc.  But now I don’t know how to change anything myself. That doesn’t mean I couldn’t learn it, it just hasn’t been a priority.”  Once the new version of the site has been completed, Peggy would like to learn how to do more of that revision herself again, with the idea that when she retires, someone else will easily be able to take over the site.

Peggy doesn’t feel like she has enough experience working with open source to offer anyone advice about doing a similar project, but I think she does.  It takes vision, perseverance, hard work, and understanding that your work is always a work in progress to build and maintain a resource like this, and Peggy exemplifies all those qualities.  She has been incredibly patient with those of us supporting her, especially over the past few years when her site was bumped from ancient WordPress instance to newer WordPress instance, and finally to the Open Educational Technology Collaborative (OpenETC) WordPress instance.  I sincerely hope this is the last move!

Moving forward, Peggy is looking forward to improving the functionality of the site, as well as making sure people know about it and tracking usage.  “I used to get contacted by people wanting to add things to the site or asking me to add things, but I haven’t had any of that traffic lately and would like to get that back.”  But she also tells me how excited she is now.  “I’m maybe going to work for another year or two before I retire, this is something I can leave behind not as a Peggy Hunter thing, but as a Camosun College contribution to Open, something I can leave as my digital teaching legacy. I just think open-source is so cool – everything should be open-source!”

The next steps for this project is for me, yes me, to finish moving and updating Peggy’s new site on the OpenETC WordPress instance, complete with interactive H5P objects, which can be easily edited or added to as needed.  Stay tuned for more when that work is completed!

Camosun Open Sustainability Project: Project Story #3

Third in our ongoing series on Camosun’s Open Sustainability Project, and sadly delayed for an inexcusable number of months (apologies for this), is Stephanie Ingraham.  Stephanie teaches physics, and specifically for this project, she has been working on developing an open textbook for the Physics of Medical Imaging and Radiation Therapy course in the Medical Radiography (MRT) program.

This course is unique, she says, telling me that it “covers some introductory physics topics like electromagnetic radiation, the structure of matter, electricity and magnetism, but then goes into topics that are specific to medical imaging. For example, X-ray production, the interaction of electromagnetic radiation with matter, radiographic and nuclear imaging, the biological effects of radiation, and the physics behind radiation therapy, sonography, and MRI. So though it’s designed for students in the MRT program, it covers the physics of other imaging topics too.”  And like many of the courses taught by our Open Sustainability grant holders, there isn’t a textbook out there currently covering all these topics.

Stephanie’s hope is to include not only text-based content, but also images, examples, practice problems, and homework for students in her textbook, with the idea that it could be used by courses similar to her own course, but also by courses that cover one or more of the individual topics included in her textbook – and this being an open textbook means pieces can be taken and adapted as needed.

Aside from creating a needed resource to support the course Stephanie teaches, one of the inspirations behind wanting to create an open textbook is providing access to materials for students.  “I think we’re moving as a society towards free education and more freely available information. I also know that costs are a barrier for students, so helping to reduce those costs is very important to me.”

Stephanie has faced a few challenges after embarking on this project.  “First was COVID, because that delayed everything and changed my work pattern. In the end, it wasn’t possible to take release time to work on the project when I had originally planned.” But at the same time, Stephanie sees the pivot to online learning due to COVID as also a positive, because now she has been immersed in online teaching and has a better idea how an online resource could support her students.  “The other challenges I have mainly involve designing or finding images and data tables that are exactly what I want – but that’s manageable and kind of fun.”

Stephanie tells me that while working on this project, she’s learned “the value of being organized and planning everything. Keeping lists of the open resources used, making to-do lists and schedules, all help me to stay on track.”  She also has learned the value of having a team to support the project.  “I had already started working on materials before the grant opportunity came up and working on my own was very daunting.  In the terms when I didn’t have a lot of designated time to work on the project, it has been helpful to have some regular check-ins, to hear what the other grant recipients are working on, and to learn about different tools (like H5P and Pressbooks) because that has made me more excited about the project.”

Some advice Stephanie would have for anyone wanting to start this kind of project is, “you should definitely go for it. We’re moving towards sharing knowledge for free and creating digital resources that are accessible, for example including text-to-speech options and high contrast images. There are so many great benefits in creating these open resources.”  But she also cautions to take some time to search for what is already available out there.  “See if there’s something you can start with or get ideas from to take back to your own projects.”  And ask for help.   “Maybe someone else is wondering the same thing as you, or reach out just to get some feedback on what you’re working on.”  And finally, “it’ll take longer than you think!”

What does the future look like for Stephanie in terms of open?  “To start with, this open textbook that I’m working on will ideally be used in May of 2022 when this course runs next. But that is just the beginning. I imagine revising and adding things to the textbook in the future, and there are other open resources for Physics that my department has been considering adopting. Depending on what is available, we may decide to develop more of our own open online resources in the future.”

Camosun Faculty Story #41: Michelle

Michelle is a faculty member in the Community, Family, and Child Studies (CFCS) and Mental Health and Addictions (MHA) programs at Camosun College.  She was one of the fortunate ones to have taught blended courses in the MHA program before, but she had never developed content for a fully online course until last year. “This was my first opportunity to imagine delivering a course fully online. As somebody who thrives on a lot of interaction, I wanted to offer an online course with the kind of engagement I strive for in my face-to-face classes. By using both asynchronous and synchronous tools, I think I was able to create that interaction.  However, it was a lot of work developing in both modes, trying to figure out what needed to be asynchronous and what needed to be synchronous. In the end, it’s been a year of a tremendous amount of learning and a tremendous amount of overtime.”

During the Fall 2020 term, Michelle taught “the same course to two different program groups. I always collect feedback from students throughout a course and then report back to the students on how I will incorporate their feedback into the course delivery moving forward. This time was more challenging because students communicated a much more diverse range of needs and preferences now that the course was in an online environment. Some wanted more group discussions, and others wanted longer lectures; some said the synchronous classes were too short, others said they were too long.  So finding the right balance, while also not making too much work for myself, was a challenge.”

Meeting the diverse needs of her students and offering both synchronous and asynchronous options were definitely top on the list of challenges Michelle faced.  And related to these was confidence. “At one point, students said they wanted more synchronous content, so I adjusted, but halfway through the term they commented that the synchronous sessions were too long and requested more asynchronous discussions. I did a lot of reorganizing and soon realized that I was struggling to decipher what feedback needed to be incorporated because I wasn’t confident in how I structured the course in the first place, given I hadn’t taught this way before.” But with experience comes confidence, and Michelle now feels she can speak to the students about the balance between synchronous and asynchronous and is confident in the way her courses are structured, so that “the learning outcomes will be met if do the work and ask for help if needed.”

I asked Michelle what worked well for her last year, and she told me, “I was most surprised by how having some sense of anonymity online benefited some of our discussions. I loved that students felt safe enough to disagree with the general sentiments of the class. The diversity of opinions added a lot of richness to discussions.” Michelle also used the Survey tool in D2L for the first time. “I think I got much more thoughtful feedback than I ever got collecting written feedback in person. I was able to speak to why and how we give effective feedback, which connected to the course learning outcomes and resulted in richer information. When I think about what I’m taking forward from this experience, I am confident I am a better instructor now that I am well versed in so many online tools.”

And Michelle found a surprising benefit of teaching online. “I initially didn’t believe that you could explore relational practice effectively completely online, but I was surprised how in many cases being online enhanced our ability to fine-tune our interpersonal skills. Completing role-plays online called on students to be even more attentive to non-verbal skills, attending to eye movement and how people lean in and out, etc.” In addition, Michelle found an unexpected benefit of students being on camera in synchronous sessions. “Students complete an assignment where they record themselves in a role play. Many students have anxiety about being filmed. Getting students used to being on camera early on has made them more comfortable with being recorded later on. They’re watching themselves all the time in Collaborate, so by the time they get to that assignment, looking at themselves is not so intimidating.” In fact, Michelle is going to continue to have students post introductory videos in D2L at the beginning of her courses to give them a low-risk opportunity to lose that camera anxiety.

Michelle advises other faculty moving courses online to make sure to have a clear organizational structure from the beginning. “It doesn’t need to be the same for every instructor, but students shared with me how much they appreciated my consistency. I created each asynchronous module as if it was a story, like another chapter of a book to open. Students only needed to work through one of these chapters each week. This allowed for consistency but also allowed me to incorporate different kinds of media and links. I could include that diversity of activities because there was always a very clear structure containing it all.” Michelle also learned from her experience that she needed to spend more time orienting students to the course to reduce their anxiety, especially if they are learning online for the first time.  But she notes, “students adapted surprisingly well, which is also a good takeaway: how resilient people are and how quickly we can adapt to change.”

In addition to the introductory video, Michelle tells me that her courses next term will be blended.  For example, “instead of showing videos in class, students can watch them at a time that works for them and come prepared to discuss them in-person. I think we’ve had much richer discussions because students reviewed the material in advance and had time to reflect.” Of course, blending means considering which components will work best face-to-face and which will work best online.  Michelle says, “The most interpersonally based pieces will be face-to-face, and then things like videos, self-assessments, etc., will be in D2L – in a structure similar to the one I used last year.” Some students are looking for more flexibility in their post-secondary learning, so as Michelle said to me, there are many advantages to blending your courses. “I’m going to do two hours face-to-face and one hour online. While bringing these two pieces together is challenging, it opens a lot of doors for rich learning. And now that I see what online teaching can be, I can confidently say that there’s a lot we could be doing online.”

Michelle’s final words were inspiring to me.  It was a lot of work, but “I don’t regret it by any means. I’ve learned a tremendous amount and cannot believe how confident I feel now in an online classroom.  Before this, I would have opposed a fully online CFCS or MHA program, but I see it as a possibility now. That’s been a big shift for me:  I believed students needed those face-to-face experiences, but now I feel very confident that if you design it right, you can have a different kind of richness learning these skills fully online.”

Camosun Faculty Story #40: Laura

Laura teaches in the English Language Development program at Camosun.  Laura considers herself fortunate that when the pivot to online teaching/learning happened back in March 2020, she was on scheduled development leave so had time to prepare for complete online teaching in May/June.  Laura reflects that the Spring term went quite well in the end.  “I think we were all a bit nervous, but students and instructors were quite accommodating and kind to one another through all the challenges.”  While Laura ended up teaching three courses she had never taught before, she reflects that “in some ways it was better because I just planned how to teach them online from scratch, rather than having to transition a face-to-face class to completely online.”

Starting back in May 2020, Laura taught, and continues to teach (since she is still teaching online), mostly synchronously for her courses but using a flipped classroom model.  D2L houses the course pack, her course assignments, and her weekly News posts, which let students know what will be happening in the synchronous sessions.  After working on her online teaching strategies throughout the spring and summer, Laura felt much more comfortable teaching online last fall.  “I was teaching the same classes, and it went well. I changed some of the content, but did not really adjust the teaching style. During the synchronous classes, we’re together for the first hour to hour and a half going over work that students prepared during the previous class, and for the second part of class, they’re working in small groups on the activities they need to complete in preparation for the next class. By having them stay in their study groups for longer periods of time, with me visiting the groups, they can focus more deeply and really immerse themselves in the tasks. This also reduces the potential for cognitive overload, which can occur virtually when being moved around too much and switching tasks too frequently.”

While her online classes continue to go well, Laura has definitely had some challenges with teaching online.  First and foremost, troubleshooting technology issues can be challenging, although she noted how supportive she found college technical support to be in getting through those issues. However, she told me that it was frustrating to develop strategies to build and maintain engagement with all students.  “Prioritizing engagement and making the learning experience meaningful and interesting are my objectives, but also my greatest challenges online.”  During her first term teaching online, Laura made adjustments to how she taught and assessed her classes to support engagement.  Because she had students working more independently, she decided to mark those independent tasks as complete or incomplete and connected them with a participation mark. “Those tasks are required, and if they aren’t completed, then a participation mark disappears. Students are allowed to miss three over the term, and this could be because they are busy that week, or they do not want to complete that task. While most students understand the value of feedback for helping them succeed in formal assessments, some students need that extra bit of incentivization to complete these informal assessments, which will ultimately help them be more successful in the course and beyond.”

Laura tells me one of the rewards from the past year and a half was discovering how convenient and time saving it was to have all her content, as well as all her assignments, on D2L. Aside from students having access to all the content to review when they want to, “I have students looking back from their early to later assignments and they can really see their growth.”  She also uses the Discussions tool more now.   “Students make weekly discussion (journal) posts about literature that we’ve read. And when they go back and look at their first journal to their last journal, it’s so motivating for them to see how much they’ve developed.”  And finally, Laura has seen how moving online can be much more inclusive and accessible, “I record all the Collaborate sessions, so students can watch them if they missed a session or need additional clarification on something – that ability to go back and review is key.”

Laura also discovered that changing her teaching style and handing over more responsibility to her learners was another big reward for her.  “They now need to preview more content before class, for example, watch a video and do some reading on a topic.  Then, one group is responsible for summarizing and presenting that topic to us. Giving them the opportunity to lead the class can both deepen their learning and engagement, and they like taking responsibility for that important intellectual work. This involves not just answering comprehension questions but presenting key content areas to the class with me supplementing, clarifying and correcting the areas that they require additional support with.”

Laura’s advice to other faculty moving their courses online is that “everything takes longer than you think.” In addition, she advocates carefully considering the cognitive load on students where they are not only learning content and developing skills, but also learning online tools and learning to learn online.  “In a class, I have students doing fewer tasks, but I try to maximize what we get out of those tasks.”

Moving forward, Laura plans to keep using D2L so students both have access to the course content and know what they need to do in advance of coming to a live class, whether it’s online or in person.  “The Cognitive Load Theory also explains that if we don’t know what to expect, then we worry, and this limits what we can learn. Teaching students how to learn and how to use the technology are also key aspects of reducing negative cognitive distractions and developing successful online teaching and learning.”

Downloading Written Response Answers (D2L Quizzes) for Reviewing Offline

Scenario

This tutorial will cover the steps involved with downloading all answers to a Written Response Question in a quiz so they can be reviewed offline.  Note that in order to view ALL responses to a Written Response Question in one place, you will NOT be able to see which student gave which response.  However, if you export the responses in an Excel document (outlined in this document) you will be able to match student and response.

Steps

  1. Go to the Quizzes tool in your course.
  2. Click the down-arrow next to the title of the completed quiz containing the Written Response Question you wish to download responses for, and select Statistics.

  1. Click the Question Details.

    Click Question Details

  2. Find the Written Response Question for which you wish to review all the responses, and click Expand Responses.

    Click Expand Responses

  1. Either copy all the responses and paste them in a WORD file, or scroll to the top and click Export to Excel to download ALL the Quiz responses to your device. Once you have saved the Excel file to your device, you can work with all the questions in the quiz, or delete the ones you don’t need to review, and review the Written Response answers alone.

    Copy and paste responses
    Click Export to Excel

Things to Remember

You can also use the Grade function for a quiz, and grade by Question to assess individual student responses to a Written Response Question.  See the tutorial Grading or Re-grading a Quiz for more information.

Camosun Faculty Story #39: Judith

Judith, a faculty member in the English Language Development Department, was in the middle of teaching when we all suddenly moved online in March 2020.  Because she had been concentrating on non-teaching work for the previous six years, she had not yet integrated much D2L into her teaching, “When I had to go completely online all of a sudden, there was a huge gap in my knowledge and for those five or six weeks I was in survival mode.” Like many other faculty, she simply tried to do what she could to get students through the end of that Winter 2020 term.

In May/June, Judith was able to take a bit of a breath, take workshops on teaching online, and learn what she could to prepare for the Fall term.  “I was still in a bit of survival mode in the fall. I taught synchronously, and I was probably online with students for at least two hours of each 2½ hour class, while still being available online for that last half hour.”  As Judith became more comfortable with the basics, she slowly added more tools into her teaching, and while building her toolkit, Judith discovered she liked the options some of the tools offered to her students. For example, she began to use the audio recording feature in the D2L Assignments tool.  “Students were able to record their opinion or read a passage for pronunciation. They even could use their phones and upload the recordings. Some students didn’t blink an eye learning how to do this, while other students had a harder time, but being able to record directly on D2L helped. Then I was able to provide recorded feedback as well, which I think the students liked.”  That fall term, however, was tough. “In the fall, I was overwhelmed with so much work that again I just dealt with what I could, slowly adding more over the term. I also found the marking very time-consuming,” a frustration I have heard over and over from faculty moving from hand-marking to digital marking.  While Judith says she eventually “got used to the online marking tools, I still find them kind of frustrating and awkward.”

These were some of the many challenges Judith faced when moving everything online, but I asked what her biggest challenge was. “I would say organizing materials – getting rid of extraneous things and getting a better handle on what I had on D2L – was my biggest problem.”  In addition, Judith was teaching one course she hadn’t taught for many years, and another that she hadn’t taught before at all.  “Not only had I not used D2L much before, but I’d also not recently taught ELD 072 or 075.  Even if we’d been in the classroom, I would have had to spend quite a bit of time preparing to teach.” While organization was a challenge for Judith, she also says it was also a reward in the end. “I think I became more organized than normal because I was forced to. Every evening on D2L I made sure to tell students what we were going to do the next day, rather than being as spontaneous as I might have in the classroom. I think in some ways that made me a better and certainly more organized teacher.”

When I asked about other rewards, Judith told me she “was amazed at the students – I was amazed that I had almost no attrition. With very rare exceptions, students were there and ready to go, answering questions and participating, which makes me realize that even though I worked very hard over the past eight months, it meant something…it had a real impact. I’m sure there’s lots I could have done better, and I’m sure it was hard for the students, but they came along for the ride regardless.”

Judith will take some lessons with her from the past year.  “There’s the obvious takeaways of learning what one can do online, how we can make it work for the students. But the biggest takeaway is realizing what we can do when we need to, and that people don’t give up, they just keep going.”  Judith does, however, miss seeing her students face to face, and was delighted when she met a student she had never seen in person while on a walk one day. “Online, you still get to know people – to like them or sometimes to have difficulties that need to be worked out. You can still have great conversations, but it isn’t the same. It’s sad that we couldn’t be together in person.”

Moving forward, Judith is happy to have the organizational piece in place and to have the all course content available in one place for students.  Even after the pandemic, “I may even still meet students online, for example if somebody can’t come to my office hour. And I think I will continue to use the recording in D2L option for the courses that have pronunciation and speaking.”

Judith has some final words of advice for any new colleagues who may be teaching online for the first time.  “Don’t bite off more than you can chew, and don’t worry about doing everything from day one. Decide what your priorities are, figure out how to do those things, and make do with what you can do.  With regards to the past year, Judith reflects, “it’s been hard, but what a great push we’ve all had, because we often don’t do things until we have to, or have the time. But it didn’t matter if you had time or not. You had to do it.  We have all done so much learning and that’s fantastic.”

Camosun Faculty Story #38: Diane G.

Diane teaches in the BEST (Academic Upgrading Building Employment Success for Tomorrow) program at Camosun College.  She started our interview expressing her feelings about moving to online teaching in March 2020:  “I think it’s been amazing adventure with wonderful surprises, and an opportunity for me, as an instructor, to walk the talk, to be congruent with what I ask the students to do because I’m doing it as well, moving out of the comfort zone into the growth zone. I’ve been really touched by their acceptance, their patience, their understanding of us as a team as we tell them it’s not perfect, but we’re moving forward, we’re in the growth zone with you. It’s been just heart enriching and also skill enriching for me as an instructor.”

Diane is grateful first of all for all the support the college gave BEST students, providing them with computers and internet boosters.  “I had some online curriculum in D2L to use which helped me when we moved online, but some of my students didn’t have Internet access or computers at home, and some only had smart phones. So I did a lot of talking and texting and emailing with that group. But by the fall, we had a tech assessment process in place and were able to get loaner laptops and Internet boosters for them. That was a huge for my teaching because I feel it’s important that everyone is on equal footing.”  And she is also grateful to her team, Val (see Camosun Faculty Story 22: Val) and their Instructional Assistant Allyson, saying “I did a mountain adventure when I turned 40, and then a sea kayak surf adventure where I was part of the team leading, and there were a lot of parallels to the move online in terms of hard work, long hours, and that team approach, as well as the challenge to discover what you can accomplish mentally, physically, and spiritually.”  In fact, I was priveleged to have all three of the BEST team, Diane, Val, and Allison, in one or more of my Facilitating Learning Online courses last year, and I can attest to their dedication to making the online environment work for their students.

Like many faculty members I’ve spoken to, Diane spent a lot of time thinking about how to connect with students during this incredibly stressful time.  “In terms of teaching, I want to be tuned into how much stress they were under so I could make adjustments to assignments, to due dates, and to whatever it was that they needed.  I didn’t want to hold them up to rigid timelines; I just wanted them to do their best and to stay connected.”  Whatever the BEST team did must have worked for students, because Diane told me that they had better attendance in their synchronous online courses than they typically do in a face-to-face class.  “People were rolling out of bed with their bed hair and logging in.”

Diane feels that having to learn online was beneficial for students in ways beyond just learning the course content.  “I believe that students need this experience of being online, meeting online, etiquette online, and learning more about being a self-directed learner, including time-management and focus skills.”  And in the past year, BEST has seen different kinds of students join the program.  “We’ve had parents, a lot of gamers, and socially shy people taking the program and attending in a strong way. Learning online definitely provides more flexibility for some students, although I think some people still miss the face-to-face for sure. But I just talked to a student this week who said he wants to go on with online learning. It’s just more convenient,” not an uncommon discovery from the past year.

One other benefit to teaching and learning online Diane mentioned was being able to bring guest speakers into classes.  “It’s so meaningful for the students – they love the guest speakers because we bring in people related to the career curiosities. So the guest speakers just need to log in, and they don’t have to drive and park and find out where the classroom is.  It’s so easy for them.”  And finally, Diane reiterated something Val mentioned in her interview around how much more easily students can share a bit of their world with the rest of the class.  “Because they are in their own space, I’ll ask them to take five minutes and find an object that’s meaningful for them, then come back and tell the class why that object has meaning for them.”

The experience of the past year was not without its challenges though.  The BEST team worked hard to hone the assessments for their courses so that there weren’t as many, so that students were not overwhelmed.  “That’s what we’re doing now. These last eight months have been a wonderful pilot opportunity, and now we’re looking at what assignments to keep, adapt, or let go, as well as how to weight them because we’re also moving to articulate the program for adult graduate credit at the BC grad diploma credit.”  And one other challenge, which will sound familiar to many, was trying to decide what pieces of the course should be asynchronous and what pieces should be, in as Diane put it, part of the “precious, precious synchronous time.”

Diane has several pieces of advice for anyone thinking of moving their courses online.  First, she recommends looking for existing online curriculum so you don’t have to start completely from scratch.  Second, get a team around you.  Third, ask students for feedback. “Every week we asked for feedback, and then at the end of the program we asked for feedback on the whole experience.”  And most importantly “don’t try to be perfect, just do the best you can and keep it simple.”  Finally, Diane wants faculty to know that “it’s going to be a fun and challenging adventure. The first round is the hardest one, and then it’ll get better.  Have faith, have fun people around you, take regular breaks, and remember that any crisis has incredible opportunity in it as well.”

The plans for BEST are to, for the time being, keep it online and refine the synchronous/asynchronous model the team has been working with.  “I hope moving forward, by keeping BEST online, we can attract people from across the province and the country. We’ve also had interest in the program from international students, which was another surprising piece, although there are not many tuition-free education and career planning programs out there.”

Update:  since this interview, Diane tells me that students from their last year’s BEST program (online!) are now enrolled in several Camosun programs this term, including Mental Health and Addictions, Mechanical Engineering, Electronic Engineering, Kinesiology, and Upgrading.

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