Camosun Faculty Story #20: Chris

Chris is a Physics instructor at Camosun College.  When I talked to Chris back in March, he confessed to feeling tired after a very long year.  “I was just reflecting back to about a year ago and feeling like there wasn’t enough time to transition to online teaching properly and feeling really uncomfortable with just needing to keep my classes moving forward.”  Even though Chris has been using D2L for years, he hadn’t used some of the tools, like the Discussions or Quizzes, which last March and April he realized he would have to learn, in addition to creating videos to support his students. “I spent basically the whole of last summer getting things ready, and spent a lot of time thinking about how to design the courses to be as user-friendly and flexible as possible from a student perspective.  I really tried to imagine what it would be like for a student to navigate the course, and to find the most universal design way of delivering the content.”

Last fall, Chris taught two sections of Physics 140, which he describes a content heavy course largely aimed at physical science students and engineers.  “I built all of my lectures to be asynchronous because at least I could ensure their quality. And then took my six hours a week of live lectures and made two of them office hours, set two aside for students to work on their labs saying I would be there if they needed me, and made the other two hours into synchronous tutorials where I worked on the harder homework problems with them.”  Chris also had an interesting experience teaching a SIP (South Island Partnership) course to high-school students.  Because he and his co-instructor were worried that the school might get shut down at any moment, they developed the course with a blended model.  “Instead of doing traditional lectures in the classroom, I created 20 minute lecture videos that the students watched first on their own, and then came to class to work on their homework.”

One of the biggest challenges Chris spoke to me about (which will resonate with many faculty) was how hard it is to build community in an online classroom, and finding a platform to encourage students to engage with each other.  The discussion tool in D2L just wasn’t working for him, so after learning that students were using Discord to communicate, he set up a Discord space for his course, recognizing that it was important to meet his students where they were at.  Another thing Chris realized last fall was how time intensive it was not only for him developing and teaching an online course, but also how time intensive it was for students to learn online.  “I remember thinking that if I were to advise students, I would say take no more than three courses fully online at a time because more will be too much.”

As you can probably imagine from reading so far, Chris found many rewards in moving to online teaching.  “We developed a number of online labs, some of which are video analysis, and some of which are applet based. One of the things I noticed is that lab marks were higher this last year because students were able to pause the videos explaining the labs. I realized that sometimes I took marks off because students didn’t remember all the information from my lab explanations in class – I was testing their lack of ability to access instructions. So now I’m going to change how I do labs.”  But ongoing access to materials went beyond the lab videos. “I get e-mails from students at 3:00 am, not that they’re expecting me to respond, but they’re working through the content because that time works better for them to engage with material. And it also occurred that for me, every term, I give the same lectures with varying degrees of effectiveness depending on how I feel that day or how tired I am, whereas when it’s all filmed, I can keep re-shooting until it’s nearly perfect.”  Moving forward, with students being able to access lecture-like material online 24/7, Chris says he can then use the face to face class time for the more dynamic and changing content, specifically “working with the students, having them work through problems, and supporting those who need extra review.”

Chris’s advice to faculty moving to online teaching is simple:  “front-load your course development, at the very least, the organization.”  Be consistent with the course design, and take the first week slowly, teaching students how to navigate your course site and letting them explore.  “I do a weekly news feed: they get an announcement about the lab for the current week, and they get an announcement with the schedule and other miscellaneous pieces of information.”  And that consistency, that ongoing presence in the News, decreased frustration.  “It took me three to four times the amount of time it normally would to set up my D2L site, but if you think it through carefully and set everything up in advance, it makes a huge difference than if you are tweaking everything on the fly.”

In addition to keeping videos to support his labs, Chris says that “there’s a degree of flexibility in online teaching that’s really exciting.”  He told me that he has been interested in flipping his classroom, as he did for his SIP course, for a while, but “it’s one of these things where when you’re in the middle of the term, it seems like an enormous effort and a risk – it probably would have taken me years to get around to trying it.”  But this model is something he is interested in continuing with.  “It would be obvious for students who can’t make the normal college times work to meet in person twice a week for an hour and put the rest of the course online, and use the best of both worlds. I’ll probably try the flipped classroom approach moving forward, depending on what our classroom capacities are. I might do something like every second week the labs/classes are in-person, and then every other week they’re online.”

I am discovering as I talk to faculty members about their experiences that they have an amazing inventiveness for creating metaphors when describing the past year.  Chris told me that another faculty member described last year as “a tight-rope walk over a live volcano.”  And Chris himself likened it to running a marathon and having to learn how to pace it so you don’t run out of steam.  But aside from never having enough time to feel like he could do everything he wanted to do when developing and teaching his online courses, Chris says “I hope that this past year has been enough disruption that some of what we have learned will stick. It would be great if we could find ways for faculty to share what’s been working well for them. I’m really curious as to what everyone’s been doing in terms of online delivery. I’m exhausted, but I’m really excited and I think having some time to reflect as a community would be great!”

NEW!!! Exporting Final Adjusted Letter Grades from D2L to myCamosun

This tutorial is designed for faculty who have previous experience using the Grades tool in D2L. For further information, please contact for assistance.


Colleague is the student information records system at Camosun. As such, all final marks must be entered into Colleague for two reasons:

  1. To formally add final marks to the student’s record in Colleague, and
  2. To make final grades visible in myCamosun.

This can be achieved in two ways:

  • By entering final grades directly in myCamosun, or
  • By exporting final grades from D2L into Colleague.

If you enter your marks in D2L, then you can export your Final Adjusted Letter grades to Colleague. This tutorial covers the steps involved in that process. For help entering grades directly into myCamosun, see the Faculty Learning HUB.

Note:  This tutorial does not provide information on exporting Percentage or Competency Gradebooks.

This tutorial assumes you know how to calculate and release your Final Adjusted Grades in D2L.  See the Releasing Final Adjusted Grades tutorial for information on this process.

First, in order to export your final marks from D2L to Colleague, you need to ensure:

  1. Your marks are calculated using the Final Adjusted Grade item,
  2. The Final Adjusted Grade item has the Camosun Standard Grade Scheme applied, AND
  3. You have Released your Final Adjusted Grades to your students.

If any one of these three steps has not been completed, the export will fail.  Once you have completed these three steps, proceed to the next pages to learn how to export your Final Adjusted Grade to Colleague.

Step 1: From the Enter Grades tab in the Grades tool, click on the button Export to SIS.

Click Export to SIS

Step 2: Do the following on the Export Grades screen (if you have merged or nested sections, see Page 3 for some specific information first):

  1. Verify that the Grade Type selected is Final Grade.
  2. Review the Current Final Grade column of each student for accuracy.
  3. Input an Override Grade for students if needed, for example an I or IP.
  4. Leave the Last Attendance Date as is. It may be blank or have a date in it. Do not edit this field. Also, do not enter any data in the Default Incomplete Grade or Incomplete Extension Expiry Date columns.
  5. Once you are confident all data is accurate, select all your students using the select box at the top of the left-hand column.
  6. Click the Export button at the bottom of the screen.

Export Grades screen setup

 Note: If you have two or more course sections merged together, such as labs, or if you have nested sections, such as courses with reserved seating or international students, you will need to repeat the export process for each section.

You will know if you have a merged or nested course if you see a field titled Scope above the Grade Type field (1).

  1. Click on the down arrow in the Scope field to see the list of merged or nested sections. Select the section you want to export and the select all users for that section.
  2. Once you have selected the relevant students for that section, then continue the Export process following the instructions in Step 2 on page 2.
  3. Repeat the Export process for each section.

Handling merged sections

Step 3: Once you have Exported your grades, the Export Details screen will appear.

  • Check the Status to ensure it states Success. You can also view the number of Successful Exports, which should be equal to the number of students in your section.
  • Under the Results column, you can confirm the result status by student.

    Confirm status

  • If your export was not successful, an Error status will display (1). Check the History column (2) for an explanation of each error.

    Error status

Note: If you have made an error in your grades, you can re-export your Final Adjusted Grades multiple times on the same day or edit the Final Grades manually in myCamosun.

However, you cannot re-export Grades or edit them manually in myCamosun after midnight, when verification occurs. Once marks have been verified, Grade Change Forms will need to be submitted to Student Records with the Dean’s signature.





Frequently Asked Questions

  • Will faculty also have an option to manually input final grades into myCamosun?
  • Instructions can be found on the Learning Hub at myCamosun Faculty.
  • When are final grades exported to myCamosun? After the faculty member “releases” the final grade in D2L?
    • Grades will not be sent from D2L to myCamosun until you have calculated and released the Final Adjusted Grades to students in D2L. Then, you must also complete the Export process to transfer your marks from D2L to myCamosun.
  • Once the grades are posted in myCamosun, are they “official”?
    • Yes, but grades can be changed and re-exported until they are “Verified”.
    • “Verification” occurs automatically every night at 11:59pm.
    • Final grades become visible to students in myCamosun once they are verified.
  • How will changes to grades in myCamosun work?
    • The policy has not changed on this; final grades can be appealed according to the Student Appeals Policy; faculty can go through the Grades Change process to correct errors once grades are verified.
  • Can final grades be individually released on myCamosun?
    • Yes, final grades can be released and exported individually from D2L into myCamosun. However, you cannot re-export the same student’s grades the next day.
    • Yes, you can enter individual grades into myCamosun.
  • Can I enter or release mid-term grades.
    • This feature is not yet configured through the D2L grades export to myCamosun.
    • Faculty may choose to enter mid-term grades manually into myCamosun.


Visit the Learning HUB at myCamosun Faculty for more information about myCamosun.

Camosun Faculty Story #19: Bob

Bob is a part-time faculty member (who moved to a Continuing position on April 26, 2021) in the School of Business who teaches Business 150 (Introduction to Management).  Last March/April, he was one of the instructors who suddenly moved from being fully face-to-face to fully online, choosing an asynchronous mode for the last five weeks of his course.  Bob says that “moving to asynchronous was easy for me because I already had my materials prepared, although I didn’t have any videos which would have been helpful. But while it worked out well for me, students missed that regular class time.”  In addition, he had already prepared online exams so the final assessment piece last April was not a problem for him.

For summer of 2020, Bob stuck to an asynchronous model, but as he moved towards teaching in the fall, he decided to do a blend of synchronous and asynchronous, which he found worked much better for the students because of the scheduled synchronous sessions.  “The summer term was much more engaging for both me and the students compared to the end of the Winter term. There were some challenges getting things set up, but I worked with instructional designers in eLearning and I think without that, the whole thing would have been a colossal fail.”  Bob found a lot of support from his colleagues as well.  “We were sharing our experiences with each other, so we were learning from that as well.”

Bob feels that students should have confidence in their instructors to deliver their courses effectively no matter what the teaching environment, even if instructors don’t feel confident themselves, and he admits that sometimes the technology gets in the way of doing things like group work.  “We need be transparent about how the online classroom is going to work. And so that’s the approach I took, saying to the students, look, this is all new to us. We’re going to try this out. If it doesn’t work, the sky’s not going to fall, and we’re going to learn something new together. And so with that approach, and if you can laugh at yourself, the failures are a little easier to bear.  But, when you come back to the next class have it figured out so students can have confidence in the technology.”  Another challenge Bob faced was time.  From developing the course, to giving feedback to students, “that’s all layers and layers and layers of extra time we put in. But that extra time isn’t really factored into what you would normally do for your class, especially when doing a combination of synchronous and asynchronous. So for me, finding extra time was the most significant challenge to moving online.”

One of the positives of online learning Bob mentioned to me several times is that “although it takes more time to manage things, you’re giving an opportunity for every student to have a voice in the conversation that they wouldn’t have had in face-to-face classroom. I think there’s some magic to that because they’re contributing in a meaningful way.”  And with those voices comes a new depth of discussion.  “I saw that enhanced opportunity for students in the depth of the writing and the feedback they give to each other.  For example, when they say, ‘I hadn’t thought of that – you brought up some points here that have made me rethink this whole thing,’ I have to ask if that would have happened without this opportunity.”

Bob had some good advice for faculty moving their courses online.  “Do your homework, learn the environment especially if you will be teaching synchronously.  Contact eLearning for help, and figure out what you want to do in your classroom and make sure that you can actually do it!”  He also cautions to consider how much material to give students, and how much they should be able to access all at once.  “Understand what content students need and make sure it’s available to them when they need it, then articulate that clearly to students.  Make sure there’s a shared expectation about what’s going to happen so there is no confusion.”

Moving forward, Bob says the past year has presented “opportunities for us to think about things differently and to integrate some of what we used and learned when we get back into the classroom,” for example, creating space and time for students to process information so they can come into the classroom more prepared.  “I’m going to be much more insistent on students doing the prep before they come to class and structure my classes so they are more about the application of the materials that have already been shared.”  This kind of flipping is not a new concept to Bob, but the online experience has highlighted the benefits of it.

Bob will continue using videos to support his classes.  “Videos allow for an extension of class work into the online space, as well as provide a resource to help students make sense of things, to reaffirm a point, or allow them to review specific topics. I don’t think that’s something I would have done had we not had this transition.”  And he will also continue to use the discussion forums to support every student’s voice being heard, “allowing them, especially if they’re struggling with English, to formulate their thoughts, to think about what they want to say, and to be able to better express themselves.”

Some final thoughts from Bob which echo some of my own thoughts these days: “I think the transition back to the classroom in September is going to be as interesting as leaving the classroom was because there are things that we’re going to want to do that we won’t be able to do right away. Then the question becomes, do we have the space and means to have that conversation so we can work towards making the classroom experience different than it was pre-COVID?  I’m confident that we’ll be able to take a lot of what we’ve done, hang onto it, and start rethinking how we approach things.  We had the tools before, but now I’m able to use them in a way that will enhance my ability in the classroom. I’m kind of excited by it all!”

Camosun Faculty Story #18: Tanis

Tanis teaches in the Centre for Sport and Exercise Education at Camosun.  This past year, she told me, she was not teaching applied courses, but more lecture-based courses which meant that this, coupled with the fact that Tanis also was seconded to work part time for eLearning as an instructional designer last fall, made the transition from face-to-face to online teaching a bit smoother for her.

In addition, Tanis has previously taught online asynchronously at another institution, and has used D2L to support her courses during her time at Camosun.  So, last fall after the great pivot, Tanis started out teaching mostly asynchronously, using Collaborate only for office hours.  Then this Winter term, she taught primarily synchronously, but she “felt really puzzled at the beginning with Collaborate.  I didn’t know how it would work for me, but I was really keen to dig into it. I can’t imagine what it would have been like if I hadn’t done asynchronous teaching before.”  While Tanis was comfortable with the technology and the online teaching side of things, she still faced challenges.  One of the biggest for her was not always knowing how the students were doing. “I had no feedback. I didn’t know how they were, or if they were overwhelmed.  You feel kind of alone in the world, talking into nothing. I wish I had been more proactive in getting ongoing feedback from the students.”  That piece of online teaching, when you lose the ability to see student faces, seems to be what faculty I’ve talked to miss the most.

One thing Tanis has learned from teaching online is how organized it makes you become.  “If you go into face-to-face class, you can just make it happen. But this last year I had my units all laid out in advance, and I created more quizzes that now I’ll be able to use again. So I feel better prepared going back into the classroom having more structure around my courses.”  Teaching online also allowed Tanis to explore the notion of flipping her class. “When learning online, students have to come prepared,” meaning that she, as the instructor, no longer has to drive everything in the class.  In-class can be more about the application and discussion of concepts students have reviewed online.

Over the past year, Tanis has learned to be more patient with herself and her students.  “We have no idea what situation they’re in so we need to have a little bit more compassion for all of us.”  And in addition to being patient with yourself, Tanis advises faculty getting ready to teach online for the first time to “keep it simple, and seek out help from eLearning and from other faculty members. Then you won’t feel so alone.”  And one interesting note that came out of our conversation was how, in spite of technology barriers, we seem to have more compassion for each other being apart than we had when we were all face-to-face.

Tanis is already thinking about what her courses could look like moving forward.  “I would love to keep some of it blended.  For example, keeping the D2L discussion forums to give students space for introspection, and keeping some of the lectures online, leaving the labs face-to-face where students can ask questions and practice. We have to imagine that students may not want a 100% face-to-face classes anymore.  They miss the social aspect of school, meeting up with their friends, but they’re not missing lectures where they’re hiding at the back of the room. So open up the social spaces, but let’s talk about how we can take the best of both worlds for teaching.  I think there’s some really cool combo opportunities we could explore.”

Camosun Faculty Story #17: Jessica

Jessica is Program Lead for the Early Learning and Care (ELC) program at Camosun.  Even though her main role throughout the past year (you know the one) has not been teaching, she has had a lot of experience teaching online having started her career with Northern Lights College (in Prince George) in a fully distance ELC program and then Northwest Community College in Terrace ( now Coast Mountain).  These initial experiences, reaching remote northern communities, many of whom were Indigenous, through distance learning means that for Jessica, concerns about the value of online teaching and learning simply don’t worry her, although she does admit that face to face teaching is a favourite mode for her.

One thing Jessica said that particularly resonated with me was how technology works, or doesn’t, and the impact it has on students and instructors.  “While distance platforms have improved and I’ve seen the progress that’s been made, some of the experiences this fall with implementing or trouble shooting the technology were very replicate of teleconferencing or video conferencing technology from the past. The same barriers and challenges [pop up] whenever we introduce a new piece of technology, and the frustration this last year was very similar.”  And all this leads to the same frustrations Jessica encountered in the past, that faculty encountered this last year “I struggle when I can’t support a student in the way that matches the high standards I have for myself.”  Just as an aside, while Jessica was talking about how similar challenge with technology are now to 12 years ago, I kept hearing a line from that Talking Heads song, “same as it ever was.”

But courses in Jessica’s program were not new to D2L, in fact all of the courses have D2L sites, and faculty in ELC have all used D2L tools in one way or another, and a couple of the courses were already being delivered online before Covid hit.  Because some components of the courses had already been designed for delivery in an online format, “that really helped us decide what courses we could teach online, [and because] most of the instructors really like having a synchronous option because otherwise they find it’s hard to engage the students who aren’t engaging, they could add a synchronous option if they wanted to.”  But of course, moving completely online was still challenging.  “We also have a practicum component, but we paused the practicum because the field was putting a pause on additional adults joining programs.”

Some of the faculty in ELC have also been collaborating on their online course development (before and after the shift last spring), sharing the load of developing content and creating the design and set up for it in D2L. Jessica note “I think when you can collaborate, it’s great because we don’t all have skills that the other one does,” and supporting the strengths of each instructor, and building capacity through collaboration and embracing different ways of creating and designing content she sees as a positive.  “Different faculty, different approaches – I think it’s the multiple ways in which you can engage [that really works], although I’ve also seen that could also be a barrier for some.”

Collaboration and support are a couple of the big takeaways from the past year for Jessica, especially “the opportunity for mentorship of new faculty and faculty who have experience and the opportunity to share resources,” while at the same time being mindful that not everyone has the same interest for collaboration and sharing. “I think that’s something that I learned with this other experience I had that I made a lot of assumptions.  [For example,] don’t assume that everybody has the same understanding of what online learning is, how they would do remote or distance learning, or what’s important for them.”  I certainly understand how easy it is to get caught up a passion for online learning!

Jessica has some advice for instructors moving online:  “I would say definitely attend a couple of workshops so you can see different styles [of online teaching] and find a point person [in eLearning] if you don’t know where to begin and just walk through your course shell with them. If you can, [ask other faculty] to be put into their master D2L shells so you can start to see other people’s styles because then you know what you’re drawn to.”   In addition, Jessica recommends considering what balance of synchronous and asynchronous will work for your courses and students. If you have a course that is very interactive, completely asynchronous may not work for you.  “Think about that contact with students and what you’re comfortable with, and think about what things are really important for you.”

Finally, “try not to think of online as being limiting.  It could be really freeing if you can change your mindset.”  One of Jessica’s mentors (and she does highly recommend finding a mentor who you can bounce ideas off of) “was the first person who taught me that, for a student, it shouldn’t matter how their program is delivered, their experience should be the same. So just because I did my education online and you did yours face to face classroom, it doesn’t mean that one or the other is any lesser – they’re still the same quality education.”  What’s important is what you value in your teaching.  “What’s important to you? Is it important that you develop some skills and are confident being independent?  Do prefer to work with a team that you can rely on? Is it that you are interacting and engaging with your students?”  Whatever your values, concentrate on those.

The ELC program will continue to not only use online tools to support face to face courses, but also to deliver courses completely online, as well as to develop more online learning opportunities (or as Jessica prefers to call them, multi-mode or distance rather than “online”) through support from the Ministry of Advance Education.  As faculty embrace the option of multi-mode teaching, working together when possible to share the load, and find new ways of engaging with students in the program, Jessica sees a future program that includes a wide range of options for students attending courses from across the province.

Camosun Faculty Story #16: Linda

Before COVID hit, Linda was an Instructional Assistant with the Certified Medical Laboratory Assistant (CMLA) and Medical Radiography (MRAD) programs at Camosun.  She remembers last March’s pivot as an abrupt move “from being in the classroom and very hands-on every day to suddenly everyone going home, then trying to figure out how to teach online at the same time as learning how to use Collaborate and other tools.  At times it felt like we were fumbling our way through, but we recognized if we did stumble we would still try and give our students the best experience possible.”

But then, Linda had a break, and didn’t come back until Winter 2021, this time as a faculty member teaching online, after everyone else was settled into the new normal.  “Teaching online was a big transition for me because I’m so used to being in the classroom, gauging reactions to the material, and getting unspoken feedback from students’ facial expressions or even their postures.  But now I’m talking to a screen and I don’t get that feedback anymore which is definitely tricky. So it’s been a learning curve for me to adapt and draw students in.”  But at least the students, being a cohort, “already had a connection with each other that they could draw upon, the challenge was more about them learning at the same time as I was learning.”

Linda also counts herself lucky because the course she taught this term was already developed, and one of her co-workers mentored her in getting ready to teach the course online.  She herself hadn’t used D2L or Collaborate as an instructor, but “I sat down with her and asked how all this would work, especially labs because my group wasn’t getting any face to face lab time with me and I wasn’t sure how I was going to adapt content from in-class to online. The subject I’m teaching, radiographic principles, is quite dry, so my co-worker video-recorded me making what I call video vignettes, and each week I provided the students with a video to give them a more practical understanding of what we would be doing if we were all in the lab together.”

Aside from, as she put it, feeling like she was jumping off a cliff without knowing where the bottom is, Linda says one of her biggest challenges was feeling comfortable with the technology she was using to teach, and not panicking when there was a glitch.  But the lesson she takes away with her is that “it’s ok to stumble and feel uncomfortable with the platforms, as long as students are actively engaging with and understanding the information I’m giving them.”  But she also told me that it “sure feels good when you give a synchronous lecture and everything works out really well, and students are engaged, asking questions and giving good feedback.  Or when they turn on their cameras, and you see their faces – those little things feel really good right now.”

Linda has some advice for faculty who might be teaching online for the first time.  “Pull out all the stops and don’t be afraid to try new things. Make videos, teach synchronously and asynchronously, and draw from everything you can. If it works, great, and if it doesn’t then don’t do it that way again. And seek out other instructors who have already tried something and learn from them.”  Linda reflects on her own experience as well, saying that she is a planner (as many of us are): “I like to know what I’m going to do and what my approach will be, but it can be a stumbling block in terms of being comfortable putting myself out there. Somebody said to me it’s like you see the train coming, and when it gets to the station you jump on and it just keeps going, so just enjoy the ride.”

Moving forward, Linda says she has found that “having the ability to be flexible with how we teach has been rewarding.  In the future, I can see a hybrid scenario which I think has benefits for instructors and students.”  At the very least, Linda would like to keep using the video vignettes she’s made for her lectures and labs.  “My hope is that they can be built on and used in future years by myself and others.”  She also hopes students have learned from having to adapt so quickly to this new world of online learning. “I’d like to say to them that you always have to be adaptable, because while you can memorize the textbook, a person will walk into your workplace and not look the way you remember from the text. You have to think on your feet and adapt to who is in front of you in the moment because no one is textbook perfect – you need to think on your feet and be able to go with the flow.”

While this experience has been challenging, Linda does not feel negative about it.  “I think it’s just another tool in the toolbox. As we talk about moving back to face-to-face in the fall, maybe we consider that hybrid, where you have hands-on labs for that connection with the students, and at the same time run online sessions where they can review material ahead of time – a combination would be great.”

Camosun Faculty Story #15: Lynelle

Lynelle is the Chair of the Allied Health and Technologies programs in the School of Health and Human Services (HHS).  As Chair, she has had a different experience of the past year from other faculty I have spoken to, and brings a unique point of view to online teaching because pre- COVID, D2L was already heavily integrated into the courses in her programs.  “From day one of MRAD (Medical Radiography) and for every subsequent course or program in Allied Health and Technologies, our underlying starting point is face-to-face enhanced with D2L. When you take a job with us, it is so deeply integrated in the way we interact with students, it doesn’t make any sense to opt out.  New faculty are trained and supported in using D2L from day one, which I think is a huge key for a minimum level of universal adoption.” In addition, plans for moving some of Allied Health & Technologies programs into a fully blended format with some exclusively online courses were already in progress, which means that this past year gave AHT a jumpstart on achieving what they’d already been planning.

But even if courses already integrated technology, Lynelle’s faculty still faced challenges. “I think the biggest challenge that we all faced, students, faculty, staff, was creating boundaries between what happens at school or work and what happens in the rest of your life, but also accepting that sometimes those boundaries can’t be rigid. This also created a great deal of acceptance and understanding from instructors for what their students were going through because during the pandemic the challenge was the same for everyone.”  Another challenge was, as Lynelle puts it, that “some people and technology are like oil and water.” You have the happy adopters at one end of the spectrum, and at the other end those who prefer the way things are and are having perhaps the hardest time adapting.  “I empathize with the struggle those in the second group are having, and I try and remind myself that they’re living this struggle every day and it’s depleting their resilience faster than anyone else’s.”

When I asked Lynelle about her experience, and the experiences of her faculty, of moving completely online last year, her sentiment probably sounds familiar. “Initially I think everybody wanted to vomit because, we were being forced to do something many faculty had resisted in the past. But then I think a certain percentage of faculty surprised themselves by how well they were able to do it, how well their students responded, how much they ended up liking it. They had just never given it a chance before.”  As a result, Lynelle sees many rewards from the past year.  “Some of the things we’ve learned during the pandemic are not new, but not everybody was there yet. But now we have an opportunity to figure out what we must maintain (for example, no student is going to want to roll back to having no D2L shell for some of their courses.) I’m really glad that this has forced everyone to the same page – keeping everybody on that page is going to be the next challenge for the organization.”

Lynelle does have some advice for faculty moving to online teaching.  “My advice would be that while we did it (we did it quick and dirty during the pandemic) which proved to us that we could do it, it wasn’t the best way to do it. Now we need to take stock of the things that are working really well and the things that we should continue doing as much as possible. Faculty need to carefully consider the content pieces they want to design and how they need to design them, for example making them modular so that it’s easy to switch things out, and treat that content creation as normal course refreshing.  Then get feedback from students, and revise.”  But she also cautions not to be afraid of trying something new, just don’t try to do everything at once. “My advice is to just do it. If it’s bad, don’t do more of it, do something else.  If it’s good, do more of it.”

And the future?  Well moving more courses to online learning with blended teaching approaches for labs and practice was always in Lynelle’s plan for at least one of her programs, namely the Certified Medical Laboratory Assistant (CMLA) program.  “We got such a bump – light years faster than we ever expected, and now we’re here.  We’ve ripped the bandage off and now we’re wondering how we can support all our instructors who will need to keep teaching in this way. We will need better instructional spaces for them, perhaps miniature recording studios with the features they will need to create really engaging content.”  Lynelle sees huge benefits for students learning this way.  “Students could miss a face-to-face class because they could either watch the class later, or they simply log on remotely.”  Maybe there are students from Calgary or Edmonton, or maybe students are working part-time jobs while they’re upgrading. “They can’t do that if their course schedule has them showing up in classes on Monday at 2:00pm, and Tuesday morning at 8:00am, and Wednesday at noon. But when you throw asynchronous courses or a combination of synchronous and asynchronous learning with a combination of face-to-face and remote learning, sometimes you can tick all a student’s boxes.”

Both MRAD and CMLA already have some of these options.  “We have face-to-face labs right now, but in some cases, students only have to come on campus once a week. So they can travel to Victoria, stay in a nice hotel one day a week for their entire program, for cheaper than it would be to move to Victoria for just one semester.”  And Lynelle notes that it was the students who figured out that math!  “That’s huge, especially since both programs require a certain percentage of students to relocate for their practicums anyway. So if they can arrange their practicums in locations where they would prefer to work, that makes everyone happy because employers want people that have ties to community and the desire to work in those places because they become long-term employees instead of employees that are on their way to something better. And so that’s better for the overall development of the island, not just us.”

With future plans already in motion, Lynelle is excited.  “Now we have educational resources that we never had before to make all this possible. I thought it was going to take us three, maybe five years to build those resources, but the pandemic happened, and now we’re ready. That’s what education should be about: delivering the learning to students where they need it, and when they need it!”

Camosun Faculty Story #14: Kerry-Ann

Kerry-Ann is in a slightly different position from other faculty I have talked to on this project.  While she was a teaching faculty member in Nursing, and will likely go back there in the future, for the past 2 years she has been the Simulation (sim) Education Coordinator for the School of Health and Human Services (HHS) at Camosun College.  If you don’t know what a sim lab is, see Sim-One Canada for more information.

Kerry-Ann only started working as the Sim coordinator in the fall of 2019, and had just begun developing relationships with her colleagues across HHS when Covid hit, and she mused that “going virtual does not help for developing relationships when you don’t know somebody.” So a survey in the fall of 2020 sent out to program leaders and chairs across HHS, which included follow-up meetings, helped Kerry-Ann to connect with programs and identify how she could support them.”

Kerry-Ann had been exploring virtual sim before COVID, but had a hard time finding faculty to join her in these explorations. Those of us who work supporting faculty in using technologies to support their teaching know that there are always those faculty who are on board before anyone else, those who adopt tools as they need them, those who want to adopt tools but often can’t find the time to learn more about them (I think this category is the majority), and those who don’t want to at all.  Last year, everyone had to jump on board in one way or another despite different comfort levels!

“In Fall 2019, my goal was to keep in-person simulations going and deal with various technology installations and setups that still needed to happen as we moved to the new CHW. And then Winter 2020 landed and midway through we went virtual, and we created some new simulations that launched new inter-professional collaborations. But come Fall 2020, in-person simulation was not a possibility, so I started exploring virtual simulation.”  Kerry-Ann reflected on Colette Foisy-Doll’s visit to Camosun during the development of the CHW simulation spaces prior to Covid. Colette, a long time simulationist from Alberta said that “in-person simulation was too resource intensive and it would fade away, and that virtual is the future. And now that’s what we’re living – it’s like this fast forward. So now I’ve had to apply the best practices of simulation, design and development, facilitation, and debriefing to a virtual world, and I’m seeing the benefits tremendously.”

Kerry-Ann sees a lot of other rewards coming out of the past year.  “People have found smarter ways to work. For example, meetings: at the end of a long day, you can stay home, you’re not rushing in traffic to get there, so there seems to be a larger uptake in meetings and even more engagement in meetings.”  And she also notes the increased use of Teams and OneDrive for file sharing, commenting that all of us at Camosun had access to these tools before, but many of us didn’t use them.  But now we have had to change how we work together, and wonder why we didn’t use them this before!  “You know, the pandemic has shaken things up in a way that is really exciting on some level. I know it’s been hard, but I’ve seen the excitement among faculty trying something new, saying that they never would have done this had the pandemic not happened. They are working harder than ever, but it’s exciting because there are so many new ways to do things now.”

Moving forward, Kerry-Ann says she sees that integrating virtual sim with the in-person sim will have huge benefits.  It “gives students the option of doing some virtual sim work before they come in to do the live sim work. And in addition, virtual sim development has helped improve formative assessment in face-to-face experiences.”  And Kerry-Ann is excited about the changes in learning and evaluation that can come from this. “So a lesson learned is that the virtual world has helped us think more in terms of assessment for learning, which in a health program like nursing is profound because it has repercussions that go well beyond a student’s program and into their professional career and their ability to contribute to a “just culture in healthcare”.”

One final reflection Kerry-Ann had for me as we talked about moving closer to the end of the pandemic “I think we were all so used to living a life where we looked into the future, so something I would tell myself is to live more day-to-day, and find joy in that day-to-day, because you don’t know what the future’s going to bring.”

Camosun Faculty Story #13: Jim

Jim teaches in the Automotive Trades, which as you can imagine was a tough program to put entirely online.  But his group, there are three of them, worked hard to put everything together, in spite of not having used online technology, like D2L, to support their courses in the past.  When I asked how they did it, Jim explained how they reached out to eLearning for support, and then they and the 3 instructional designers they worked with set their goals.  “We could have spent a lot of time dwelling on what you can’t do, but we didn’t do that. We really concentrated on where we were, where we needed to be, and how we were going to get there.”

In addition to having to create a lot of material from scratch – videos, quizzes, content – and learning all the technology they needed to use, the team faced many challenges, as did their students.  One of the on-going challenges has been connectivity:  “it’s very difficult teaching a group of students when three or four of them are glitching out all the time.”  But in the end, Jim says that they recognized that they were all in the same boat.  “Students are really quick at adapting. They would help each other, and they were also teaching me, which I would acknowledge.  Then we’d have a laugh about that – humour was a great thing to bridge those gaps and we acknowledged the bumps in the road and tried to make it a fun place to be.”

Jim remembers as he made his videos, having to let go of being perfect.  “I was trying to do them in one take because if I didn’t, then I’d have to edit them, and I didn’t have time. I was burned out and exhausted from learning of all the new technology. So I would do one take, and do the best I could. It was funny when things didn’t go right.  For example, I did a pressure washer demo and the breaker didn’t work, and then I get the power to it and the water was turned off. All these little real life things happen, so I’m rolling my eyes and laughing. But it was okay, because it was more authentic – here you are on camera and the water doesn’t turn on and the cutters don’t cut. Anyway it turned out that those things were actually good because the students would laugh and talk about how they loved it when it didn’t work. So that was one of those unexpected things.” I also loved Jim’s description of a game called “Name that Thing” where he would show his students some kind of auto part on camera, and whoever got the name of it right in the chat would have their name put in for a draw, a kind of light at the end of the tunnel for when they could all be together in the same space again.

Aside from allowing his personality and humanness to show in his videos, Jim also learned to be more flexible in terms of the schedules for his classes.  Some days would go quickly and a test could be earlier, but other days he needed to spend more time with the content, or perhaps change a shop day into a theory day to make sure everyone was feeling comfortable with the material before moving on.  “I used to teach with structured time blocks in mind, but I’ve learned to not do that online, which makes it better for everybody.”

As for advice for instructors new to online teaching, Jim says to try to view the course and the online teaching experience from the student’s perspective.  “Don’t assume what they know or don’t know, take your time, smile and be authentic. Remember that it’s okay for you to make mistakes, and that things are going to happen that are out of your control – you can’t prepare for everything.  Just be okay with things that are going to happen that you can’t be ready for.”

Jim says he is going to take many of the things his group has created and the tools he has learned to use into his face to face classes when they return.  He likes the calendar in D2L, and has created a lot of quizzes – the quizzes tool he especially found made testing and keeping tests up to date much easier.  As well, all the videos the team have created will definitely remain part of the courses so students can review them as they need to. “I made about 30 videos which students can watch first, and come to class more prepared. Now when we meet, it’s going to be better overall because we can focus on other things. I can’t see us going back to the way we taught before, not at all.”

In the end, Jim says “if we want to say there’s a silver lining [from this past year], I think we will end up with a better program, and with something that’s probably more relevant for young people. It forced us to get a little bit more in line with the times, which is good.”

Camosun Story #12: Liz

Liz teaches in the Dental Hygiene program at Camosun College.  Now, this is one of the programs that has managed to have some face to face teaching since just after the shut-down.  I remember last May, the students who had had their clinical courses interrupted in March, suddenly being sent back in so they could finish their program.  This created an even more stressful time for instructors, both moving some courses online, and working to keep their students safe while they completed their clinical work.  What Liz and I talked about, however, was her work moving her more lecture-based courses online for the fall term.

One of the first things Liz told me was that after the craziness of last spring, she had to take a break to clear her head.  She had already been thinking that her approach for moving courses online for the fall would be to “take a hard look at teaching in general. Take time to look back on the courses that I teach, and approach them in a slightly different way, which was to [determine] what is a “must know”, what is a “should know,” and what is a “nice to know”…Then, after making sure I had the course outcomes covered, I could focus my time and attention on the musts and then on the shoulds, and then if I had time, I could weave the nice to knows into it.” But first, she needed to rest her mind: “I think what I was doing was letting go over the summer, thinking about different approaches, and then I literally pulled out every one of my outcomes and performance indicators, and just blew it up.”

Liz believes that this whole last year was an opportunity to “reinvest in the approach to teaching.”  Liz has a background in educational technology, so is not afraid of trying new things, and she has always been free with her content, posting her PowerPoints and providing students with guided questions for their readings.  But now she had to figure out how to work in an environment where she couldn’t see 25 faces looking perplexed, saying “I think that lack of face-to-face connection makes adaptation a little bit more difficult.”  That ability to be flexible and adapt from what you are reading in students’ faces is definitely more challenging online.

But overall, Liz sees rewards everywhere.  One of the biggest ones has been integrating Universal Design for Learning (UDL).  She notes that while some faculty worry that “if you tape a lecture, the students won’t come, that’s not been in my experience at all. They all come all the time. If I have a synchronous class, I probably have 98% of them there every time…I think the value of having lectures taped for them is that they actually use them to review. I can get passionate and talk a little bit fast at times, and so I think they find it valuable to be able to go back over discussions. And that’s universal design.”

What was her biggest takeaway?  Liz says, “I think it is the opportunity to step back and try to figure out what is it that we’re actually trying to achieve. I think it’s a time for renewal. I think I had a past tendency to teach the way I was taught. And in the future, we need to embrace the fact that the Information Age is here and the speed of change of material is great.”  Not that she thinks this is easy.  “You need the time in advance to look at a course, back up from it, and think about how you would do this completely differently, and there can be really big wins on the other side of it.”

And this is also some of the advice Liz would have for faculty moving into online teaching for the first time. “Instead of thinking … I have to teach online in a traditional way, think outside the box. And also divide your content into those musts, shoulds, and nice to knows, because I think we have a lot of nice to knows, because we are passionate and want to try to give it all to them.”  In addition, Liz, like other faculty members I’ve talked to, points to looking back on the past year as a positive, saying, “there are times when you force somebody into a situation, and they’re going to learn something, be it good or bad, so I think the whole thing has been an opportunity to learn and be creative.”

Liz has spent some time reflecting on this past year, seeing it as an extension of her journey as an instructor.  “I think my journey in the last five years of teaching is about releasing control. Put it in the hands of the learner and they exceed your expectations every time.  I think [we need to ask ourselves] why we do the things we do? When I did that, I realized it was because that’s the way I’ve always done it or that’s the way it was when I was a learner…I don’t think it has to be elaborate and I don’t think you have to use the maximum number of tools…The goal isn’t to learn tech: the goal is to learn some content.”  And some classes will be a better fit for face-to-face, just as some students will perform better face to face – we need to consider what the best mode is for courses, students, and faculty, for their teaching and learning.  Let’s not take this investment we have all just made and toss it out because of the fear that online education is substandard.  Instead, look forward.  “I think it needs to be different – I think our world is different and I think it’s a giant opportunity to figure out how to teach this generation that’s coming forward.”