Camosun Faculty Story #25: Lisa

Lisa teaches in ELD (English Language Development) at Camosun.  She remembers the switch to online teaching last spring well: “The Friday before, I quickly taught the students how to take photos of their work with their phones and upload them because it felt like we might not be coming back on Monday. And then Monday we were online. Then I just tried to get them through the last weeks of the course.”  Then, over May and June last year, Lisa was on scheduled development leave and worked with a colleague to prepare for what they knew was coming in the fall.  “We realized that at the level our students were (lower level ELD students), nothing would be accessible to them. They might not be able to get into the class, and for new students, how would they even find their student numbers? So we spent a long time trying follow through what a student’s path would be to access the online platform, and did a lot of work trying to figure out how we were going to teach them all the skills that they would need.”

As I mentioned, Lisa taught lower level ELD courses in the fall, and found managing the challenges her students faced to be at times overwhelming, especially considering that “underlying everything was an assumption that they had basic computer skills. And they might have those skills in their own language, but keyboards and webpage layouts can be very different in English. Unfortunately, we hadn’t put much focus on basic computer skills development, which ended up being a big problem for students.”  In addition, Lisa faced some frustrations with D2L because it doesn’t always lend itself well to language teaching/learning.  “Where I’m at with it now, I would prefer not to use D2L, but would use Collaborate and either send a CD to students, or links to online audio files.  I was constantly trying to fit language learning into a system that was not developed for language learning and always having to find workarounds.”

The fall term presented a daily constant challenge.  “I heard a teacher being interviewed and he used the word heavy and that’s what it felt like. Every day were frustrations. I would stumble across a new thing and get all excited to try it out, and then wouldn’t work quite the way I envisioned it. It was a roller coaster.”  In addition, ELD courses typically have lots of small homework assignments that are easy to manage face- to- face, but managing them online, well “you put a lot of effort into marking something electronically, then have to help the students find the feedback,” but unfortunately in D2L instructors can’t always see what students see.  “I found it very difficult to help students at my level and I’m sure half my class never saw any of their feedback. It is so much more difficult compared to just handing it back and having a quick chat in the classroom.”

This Winter term, however, Lisa’s workload has been much better.  “I teach six hours a week and the other part of my workload is doing online testing. This term, there’s three of us team teaching, plus a support person, plus a manager, which makes things much more manageable.”  Having a larger support team managing an online teaching load, especially the first time around, is really key to success (and much less stress).  I do want to mention the project Lisa worked on this term.  “It’s a project with contract training, providing language, business and make-it skills to a group of immigrant women to sell products at local farmer’s markets. With the pandemic, one unexpected result has been the creation of an online store for Camosun.  Any students making products for sale can now sell them through the store and people can pay online, so it’s a benefit to the whole college.”

While Lisa felt frustrated a lot of the time over the past year, she does see some positives.  “Humans are remarkably adaptable, and I’ve felt like everyone jumped in and made it work as best they could.  We were collaborating, teaching each other, and learning as quickly as possible.”  Even instructors who were very new to all the technology were figuring it out and helping their colleagues.  “What I take away from last year is that huge team effort, everybody digging in and finding ways to make online teaching work.”

Lisa has some advice for faculty teaching online for the first time.  “I would definitely try to get access to a course that had already been set up, and connect with the instructor who set it up.  And I would want to work with that person as a mentor.”  Last spring, because they were thrown into the deep end, this was not really possible so “the group of us who were on SD ran training for the department.  Other instructors (who were teaching in the spring) could learn with us and then try it out right away in the class and report back.”

Moving forward, Lisa also feels that having dedicated eLearning support (someone familiar with their programs and teaching styles), as well as technical support, would make future technology-enhanced, blended, or online teaching less stressful for faculty and students.  “Someone who knows the platforms and can come in on-call to help with students when they’re having trouble, and also teach some basic computer skills.”  As for what she will continue to use moving forward, Lisa says now that she has content, the gradebook, and tests set up in D2L, she will continue to use them.  “I will also use the News, and I’d like to get on top of the Checklist.”

Lisa ends with a couple of thoughts. “When I look back on last year, with the news that we will be back face-to-face in the fall, it was very satisfying. I love delving into new things and learning about them. As a language teacher, I don’t think I would put much more effort into D2L, but into online learning?  Absolutely. I can see all sorts of ways we could make it work, as long as workload is being recognized properly, which is a big issue.  I also proud of myself and the other instructors in our department, as well as our students. So even though there’s been a lot of hard stuff, we’ve done some pretty amazing things, and that’s what I’m going to remember.”

Camosun Faculty Story #24: Ally

Ally is a librarian at Camosun College, working primarily (pre-Covid) at the Interurban Campus library. Librarians, and Instructional Designers (like yours truly), are also faculty members at Camosun. We facilitate workshops and teach instructional sessions for faculty and students. Fun fact:  Ally had emailed me to ask if I was going to interview a librarian, and I said “Yes – are you volunteering?”  So, she did, but sent her colleagues my questions to get their answers and perspectives on the past year as well.

I asked Ally what the sudden shift to online support was like for her and her fellow librarians. “At first, it was a bit of a jumble, like it was for everyone else. We made more use of the online tools we already have, more time on AskAway (online chat) research help, and then worked to develop new online resources. One of the things I spent a lot of time on in the first few days was the initial COVID-19 resources guide pulling together subscription content like Credo Info lit with Camosun created resources. All of the librarians jumped in and started creating what ended up being instructional videos which, over time, we narrowed down, improved, and made more consistent.”

What Ally missed most, however, were the daily face-to-face interactions with students and colleagues. In the past, “at Interurban, Margie and I have offices right in the student space. With Margie, groups of business students would just go to her office to ask questions and chat, and I would often have one-on-one interactions with students who know me from class sessions and come to ask for help. At Lansdowne, the librarians have daily shifts on the reference desk, and I think losing that day-to-day, more personal connection with the students, was a significant loss.”  For some context, while the Camosun libraries were forced to close after the shutdown, it wasn’t long before there was some limited opening for handing out books, laptops, etc. for students. But mostly the libraries remained closed until fall (in September the Lansdowne library opened for take-out and limited computer workstation access, and the Interurban library followed suit in November). But luckily, librarians are highly adaptable and found new ways to connect – new ways that they will likely not let go of even when returning full time to their libraries. “We weren’t really using Collaborate before, but now we definitely are, and we’ve discovered that it’s a fantastic tool. We have been using research guides for years, but recently we have invested in some additional apps on the same platform. One is a scheduling tool which, combined with Collaborate is how we’ve been putting together our online open-registration workshops.”  In addition to workshops, Collaborate has also made it possible for librarians to host virtual one-to-one chats with students and faculty. What makes Collaborate such a game changer is being able to “see a student’s screen, give them advice, and work through problems. It’s a lot easier to have those kinds of teachable moments in a Collaborate session than in our pre-Covid classroom sessions, which has been quite transformative for us.”

When I asked Ally what the biggest reward might be from the past year, she told me “I honestly think that Collaborate makes it easier for me to connect with students. When we are face-to-face, there aren’t any name tags, but in Collaborate when people are typing in chat or speaking, I can address them by name and get to know them. I think it’s been very good, strangely, in terms of personal connections.”  I have heard this echoed by other faculty and colleagues – that despite the distance technology can create, in some ways it has brought us closer over the past year.

Reflecting on lessons learned, Ally says “I think as a group, we do our best to respond to students and faculty at their point of need, so the biggest takeaway for us was to jump in and take risks. Like the instructional videos: most of us have made videos in the past individually, but the Covid response involved all of us jumping in. We created a lot of content and then re-worked it, which I think was strangely more streamlined than hashing out the details before creating anything.”  And these thoughts certainly are echoed in her advice to anyone who might be coming back to work after being off for this past year. “Don’t be afraid of just trying things, your colleagues and students really don’t expect perfection, let it be messy for a while, and don’t lose your sense of humour.”  She notes that the librarians normally engage in reflective teaching practice (they all teach workshops year-round), and integrating new technologies has been part of every aspect of college librarianship for decades, so, they were already adept at “pivoting.” Learning Collaborate added an additional layer of complexity, but their reflective practice remained the same.

Moving forward, Ally says she sees “probably an expansion of more workshops on Collaborate and speaking for myself, I would be quite open to office hours for reference help. And I think we will probably start integrating the new scheduling tool with Collaborate to create a set repertoire of online workshops and drop-in times, because I think there are a lot of students who really like working from home. And so why wouldn’t we continue these as a service? Why would we leave those students out if that’s their place of need?”

Libraries’ function as a “safe third space” will always be an important part of life at the college. “There are plenty of students who live with too many roommates or family members, and there’s just no mental space at home for them to really get the sort of studying done that they want to do – and that’s why they spend so much time at the library. But I think what this past year has done for some students is also give them a digital space where they can get help when they need it.”

Camosun Faculty Story #23: Brent

Brent teaches in the Medical Radiography program at Camosun, a program with a long history of using D2L to support its face to face offerings.  When I asked him about his experience moving completely online last year, he said “my personal experience with the transition is that it was born out of necessity in a chaotic time that was predicated on decisions that were made external to my locus of control.”  A good way to describe something that took over our lives and which we had no power to change.  In fact, he described the experience of last March as less about planning and more about simple survival, which I am sure others can relate to.

Brent had definitely used online tools, and other educational technology, to support his teaching before COVID.  “I’ve always been very adventurous in trying out new things. I try to find the optimal tool for the learning outcome that I’m working on with the learners, and I find it such a fun world to explore – we’re finally reaching a point now with options like H5P where all of a sudden coding is accessible for educators. But the tools still need to be thought out, used intentionally, and be authentic to the educator using them.”  Thinking out the appropriate use of technology for his teaching during this past year, meant that Brent ended up teaching blended: asynchronous with “some synchronous components that were reserved mostly for getting people on the same page, and for discussing more difficult concepts that required instant feedback.” The asynchronous was reserved for content and providing “directions of what was required during the week.  The key thing as the instructor is to understand where complexities arise so they can be dealt with proactively by getting people together [synchronously] for a more wholesome discussion.”

Brent says that the biggest challenge he faced in the past year was around nurturing and creating community and relationships in the asynchronous world.  “When you are face to face with students there are various non-verbal cues communicated between people. But when you don’t have access to see, to hear, to get immediate feedback verbally from learners, it disrupts that model. So the biggest challenge is learning how to maintain a semblance of that relationship with learners in a different setting altogether.”  And this requires building new skills in an effort to achieve the same outcomes for a course you wouldn’t normally teach online – something many faculty were not ready for when the switch to fully online happened last year.

Brent has seen many rewards over the past year, saying that “I think probably the single biggest reward is that learners are able to access education in ways that best suit their lifestyles. A face-to-face program often defines a student as someone who can attend from 8:30 am till 5:30 pm, can drive to campus and not have to leave during that time, and has five hours after school to do their homework.  The transition to online learning has forced educators and administrators to rethink traditional approaches, and how those traditional choices have impacted people. The whole idea that you can’t learn or work from home has been completely blown out of the water by the fact that, well, we’ve been doing it for a year.”  Echoing my own thoughts, Brent says that in order for us to survive and thrive as post-secondary institutions, “we need to start embracing and cultivating technology because that’s going to help us become more sustainable. It’s not a matter of if we should use technology to support teaching and learning, it’s a matter of when, especially in terms of truly serving our community, because our community is asking for better access to education.”

But, simply embracing technology is not enough.  “As great as technology is it’s not something that you just throw on the education buffet table and say this is the only item that you get to eat here today. It’s also less about what you’re throwing on the table and more about how you’re using it.”  Cultivating relationships and recognizing that every learner’s journey is different, regardless of whether you teach using technology or not, represents “the real skill of the educator, understanding that it’s going to be an adventure and there’s no one singular path to your destination.”

Brent has some advice for faculty starting to move into online teaching.  “You will fail, and that’s okay. It’s humbling and stressful, so have compassion for yourself, just as you would for your students when they stumble.”  In addition, Brent stresses the importance of having an open mind.  “Know your values and approach to education really well, because the more grounded and crystal clear you are about your approach to education and what your values are, the easier it will be to be creative and to learn from the experiences of others.  If you worry that you’re alone in all this, you’re mistaken: there’s many people who’ve walked these trails, especially over the last year.”

Moving forward, Brent says that his ideal is for learners to “have complete autonomy and agency in terms of deciding how, when, and where they would access their education”, and while that might not be possible institutionally any time soon, it certainly is a goal worth pursuing.  “As an educator, I really value the place of Camosun as an institution within our greater community, and I think the whole point of the institution is to help raise everybody’s boat higher. But in order to do that, we need to work towards lowering barriers and increasing the access to programming.”

Camosun Faculty Story #22: Val

Val is a part-time instructor in the BEST (Academic Upgrading Building Employment Success for Tomorrow) program at Camosun College.  Because her primary role at Camosun is with CUPE, when she was brought in to teach for the program last spring/summer, it had been awhile (since 2003 or 2004) since she had taught online so she felt a bit anxious.  Luckily, teaching online is a bit like riding a bike, so they say, and after some brushing up and attending eLearning workshops she was able to breathe again.  “Am I completely proficient now? No. Do I have lots of room for growth? No question. But sometimes just being thrown in is the best way to learn to swim,” which I am sure other faculty over the past year can relate to.

Val is no stranger to online BEST-like programs, having taught up north to isolated communities.  “I came from a community college up north that had to run its programs by distance or else they wouldn’t have had a student population.”  Realizing the power of online learning to create community as well as inclusive and diverse learning opportunities, Val shared her teaching experiences with her group because she realized “that moving BEST online could grow our membership beyond Victoria proper.  For example, for a student taking a baby to daycare, then travelling from Langford to class and back again, which creates barriers, expense, and environmental issues, having classes online, some synchronous, some asynchronous is a beautiful mix.”

BEST, which is “about fostering and creating trust, learning communication, and moving through value-based discussions in career and educational exploration,” is a program that some people thought might suffer when it moved online.  If, as some people believe, 90% of our communication is body language, how do you connect with BEST students online?  But challenging as losing that face to face contact is, Val notes that learning online helps students with those essential technical skills they need to hone and feel comfortable with, telling me about the wide ranging abilities of students of all ages going from zero to sixty learning the technology!  But with that wide range of abilities, and additional need for support that comes with learning online, Val says they could not have run the courses as successfully without their Instructional Assistants.  I wish all programs could have dedicated student support like this.

Val had some challenges getting started.  First, deciding on the right delivery mode(s) and finding a balance for the students.  “I wouldn’t want it completely asynchronous because I think we would lose that incredible community teamwork, celebratory human piece that is harder to build in a purely asynchronous course.  It can be done, but it’s not the same. So I think for this program, when you’re dealing with values, feelings, conflict resolution, communication strategies, active listening, it’s pretty nice to have the synchronous component.”  Second, learning the technology.  Val worked with a colleague to move the content of the courses into D2L, but learning to use the tools effectively was one of her challenges. And “most challenging was keeping students engaged. I think that was our biggest worry. But we (Val and her colleague) have been profoundly moved because there has been more engagement virtually, better attendance, than I have ever experienced in my time in this BEST program.”

As you have already seen, Val has seen many benefits moving BEST online.  She especially wanted me to include the benefits to the environment and mental health by not having to be face to face all the time. “We are not contributing to a carbon footprint, and while there’s a mental health need to connect, I feel that we’re reducing stress because instead of frenetically driving through traffic to get places, students get to share their space, their animals, etc. which seems to bring some comfort and reduce anxiety.”  To expand on this, Val says she has gotten to know her students in a different way.  Because they are all coming in to the synchronous sessions from their homes, they can, and are, sharing more of their lives with the classes.  One student played the piano for their class, others have shown their home renovation projects, or shared their artwork.  “Are these related to career in education? Absolutely. Because they’re presenting, they’re building confidence, they’re showcasing their transferable skills.”  And Val has to wonder if any of this would have happened in the face to face classroom.

What Val takes away from this entire experience is that “anything is possible.  BEST brings everyone from a Fulbright scholar, to a student upgrading to grade ten, to a mom who hasn’t left the home, to a gamer (we’re getting the gamers who won’t leave the house!) The diversity of students is incredible. My takeaways are dream the dream and we can do it.”  The online future is bright for BEST.  “We see opportunity to grow the program.  We’re bringing in guest speakers from Ottawa, from Toronto, even TV Ontario guests, people we never have been able to bring in face to face.”  The possibilities are endless.

Given BEST’s future goals, Val wants to find time to do more training, and would like to see CETL and the college bring faculty together from across the college, from experienced online instructors to novices, to share their experiences, their tips, and their virtual skills to build capacity and community.  “I think community-building happens when I get to work with somebody I’ve never met before, in Arts or in Child and Family, or an IA in engineering because I think there’s a richness in community building that we really need at the college.” And this is something I hope to find ways to support!

“I think we need to recognize that there has been a shift in the world, from the environmental piece to accessibility for an older population, to the fact that there’s already so much community online. But there’s a sweet spot somewhere between being online and communicating face-to-face too.  I think my final words to you is we absolutely need to continue to create diversity in learning options and join the virtual world with alacrity, care, quality, and the assurance that we’re also being supported.”

Camosun Faculty Story #21: Jana

Jana is a faculty member in the Medical Radiography, Sonography, and Certified Medical Laboratory Assistant programs in the School of Health and Human Services (HHS) at Camosun.  Jana had a particularly challenging entry into the world of complete online teaching as she was a part-time instructor last fall teaching three courses, and only had half time scheduled development to prepare those courses.  This term she is full time, teaching five courses, three of them new (although she did not know which ones she would be teaching until November of last fall). And like many other faculty in HHS, Jana is also a front-line worker, so has found balancing course creation/teaching, meetings related to the many programs she is associated with (all of which were moving online), and life particularly demanding. “So to this day, I am preparing classes as I go, and I’m up quite late on Sunday nights making sure I have everything ready because since the students are in labs Tuesday through Friday, everything has to happen Monday. So it’s been a challenge.”

As you can imagine, teaching health care courses online is tricky.  Jana spent a significant amount of time figuring out how to get her labs online, labs which ended up being condensed in time, but not in the number of assessments required (which was exacerbated by Jana losing her teaching assistant).  In addition, students produced videos of their lab skills and marking videos takes a lot longer than marking something that is happening right in front of you.  “Instead of watching students interact and marking them on the spot, they submit videos which I have to download which takes about 30 minutes (to download the whole class’s videos). Then you have to watch the videos and you have to give feedback, both of which takes quite a bit of time.”  I mentioned that the labs were condensed, which means they are face to face, but due to COVID restrictions, “instead of having eight students, we now have four students in each lab, so they’re running more labs, and giving less time for lectures.”  Having less lecture time was upsetting to some students, but “if we were to fit more lectures in, we would have to find five to six extra hours of lecture time on top of everything else.”

While Jana was comfortable with D2L, she struggled a bit with Collaborate when using her iPad, which unfortunately doesn’t play well with Collaborate.  In addition, the prep work for creating videos and PowerPoint presentations took longer with the added technology.  “Recording my presentations took about four or five times the amount of time it normally would since I’d redo them.  In addition, instead of presenting a PowerPoint, I would write everything out on a piece of paper while recording what I was doing on camera.  The students seem to really like this way of presenting notes because it was more dynamic.” But Jana found that “until recently, I was really struggling with trying to teach effectively, especially when trying to explain some of the topics we had to cover, like muscles and the cardiovascular system which is hard when you don’t have the ability to draw on a picture.”  In spite this, as well as being camera-shy, learning to deal with life interrupting her teaching (we all know the sound of construction, or the dog barking in the background…), and being in general exhausted, Jana is beginning to find her way. “Instead of having long lectures, I have mini lectures, and I integrate discussions to help break up the lectures a bit because I know what it’s like to sit there watching an hour long lecture. I don’t know if I’ve figured out a perfect balance yet – each of my classes is so different.”

One thing I found particularly interesting was Jana’s observance of the differences between the two cohorts of students she taught this last year.  Not surprisingly, the older cohort struggled more with the new mode of course delivery, being used to face to face.  “That group really loved being at school. They were a very social group to begin with and they did a lot of extracurricular activities with each other. So I think they were hoping to have that kind of experience again.”  The new group, however, seemed to adapt more quickly, something I have heard from other faculty teaching multiple cohort groups.”

Jana says one of the biggest lessons she’s learned over the past year is to “make sure to plan things if you have the time,” which is a tough one for her as she didn’t have the time to plan.  She also says that “marking online has probably been my biggest challenge because it takes more time, and it was hard keeping up with marking while trying to get my courses online for the next term.”  She advises that whatever you do, “check your technology, make sure it works, and have a backup in case it doesn’t. Have everything well organized for your students, and be clear about what you are expecting them to do. Now I create game plans, which sounds simple, but I didn’t do initially. Also, keep it simple and don’t complicate things. For example, in one class I was teaching about the cardiovascular system, and in the other one about pathologies in the cardiovascular system, so I knew that assignments could easily be confused. My solution was to create a generic template for the labs clearly outlining expectations and just changing the topics in the template each week.” That little bit of consistency can make a huge difference to busy and stressed students.

Jana does have some positive memories though.  “Students were doing some of their lab work online, for example, for the PPE labs, they gathered household items as their PPE, meaning they would put on housecoats, jackets, etc. and demonstrate how to perform PPE. Also, they practice their interactions with patients by recording themselves, making mistakes, but getting more practice and coming better prepared to the face to face labs, which is something I will likely continue.”  Moving forward, Jana also plans to continue using her iPad in the classroom, projecting her work on the screen.  She is also considering keeping a condensed lab model to give the students a bit more flexibility and free up classroom space. “The allied health programs are quite intense, especially our X-ray program. Students were coming in 8:00am to 5:00pm every day, which is a long day to absorb information, apply it and then go home and study. Going forward I will likely keep a more condensed labs to shorten these days if possible.”

All in all, I am glad Jana persevered and found some good come out of her challenging year.  I look forward to hearing how her new plans go!

NEW!! Setting a Student’s Quiz Accommodations from the Classlist in D2L

This tutorial is designed for faculty who have previous experience using the various tools in D2L and will cover the steps involved in setting a student’s Quizzes accommodations through your D2L Classlist.  While you can set accommodations for students from the Quizzes tool using Special Access (to add more time, etc.), you can also set Quizzes time limit accommodations for an individual student so that you don’t have to change this in every quiz.  Note that this feature is ONLY for setting a student’s time limit accommodation for Quizzes at this time (May 2021 – this tutorial will be updated as new accommodation features are added to D2L).

For further information, please contact for assistance.


  1. Go to the Classlist in your course.
  2. Click on a student’s drop-down menu (the down arrow) and select Edit Accommodations.Click the drop-down arrow next to a student's name and select Edit Accommodations
  3. In the Edit Accommodations pop-up box, select Modify Time Limit and then either set a Multiplier of original quiz, or the Extra time (in minutes – for example, if the quiz is an hour long and the student needs time and a half, add 30 minutes). You can also select Always Allow Right Click, for example if a student needs to be able to access accessibility tools in order to complete a quiz.  Then click Save.

    Add accommodation settings and click Save

  4. An icon appears next to the student’s name indicating added accommodations. A student will also see this icon in their view of the Classlist and will be able to check their accommodations.

    Instructor View of Classlist Accommodations

    Accommodations icon in instructor view of Classlist

    Student Views of Classlist Accommodations

    Classlist icon and drop-down to View Accommodations

    Student view of icon and drop-down in classlist

    Specific accommodations information

    Accomodations information

Things to Remember

You can still use Special Access in a quiz to overwrite an accommodation on a quiz-by-quiz basis. Note that when you overwrite an accommodation using Special Access, you will get a warning describing the impact of overwriting an accommodation. Further accommodation options and enhancements are planned for this year, so this tutorial will be updated as needed.