BC’s New Accessiblity Act

If you didn’t know, this summer, BC passed its own Accessibility Act.

“The Accessible British Columbia Act makes B.C. more inclusive for people with disabilities.”, and aims to remove barriers, which it defines as “anything that stops people with disabilities from being included,” which includes education.

While the implementation is still in its infancy, everyone in public service needs to pay attention!  The Provincial Accessibility Committee will be developing standards and determining the order of implementation of said standards, so stay tuned for more as this legislation develops.

You can find out more about the timeline for implementation by viewing the Accessible BC Act Implementation Timeline PDF.

Camosun Faculty Story #32: Leta

Leta is a faculty member in the Dental Hygiene program at Camosun.  The sudden pivot in March 2020 from face-to-face to online was a challenge, especially when Leta notes “I’m a person who can usually switch gears quite easily in situations I am familiar with, however, anything involving a computer is not intuitive to me and therefore takes time and repetition to learn how to navigate.  Plus, while I knew there was support available, with everything going on, I didn’t have time to pursue it.”

Leta told me “when we had to fast-track right away last March, we were survival mode. Even in September, after everything settled over the summer, I was reluctant to try anything new because it was such a learning curve for me. In addition, in our program we are stretched to the maximum with our curriculum, so having to learn how to manage new online tools was too much.”  Leta ended up teaching mostly synchronously, getting ongoing feedback from her students.  But she feels her students struggled with the online format.  “My classes are 2 ½ hours long which is long time to be sitting in front of a computer trying to stay engaged. And after my virtual class, they had to run off to campus for their clinical course. So I know they were signed in, but I don’t think they were always engaged.”

In addition to the stress of moving to online teaching, and the logistics of students having to move from virtual classrooms to face-to-face clinics daily, Leta expanded a bit on challenges she faced last year around student engagement.  “I teach clinical theory which integrates everything students have learned in their basic sciences courses, dental anatomy, etc. Usually we would have a lot of discussion in class, but due to the amount of content in the course, and the complexity of discussing questions online which can be time-consuming, we’d always be rushing through the class. Sometimes I would have to talk for the full 2 ½ hours and it became difficult to build in that engagement.”

In spite of all the challenges, Leta did have some good takeaways from her online teaching.  For example, “using the D2L quiz tool was great, because my courses have so much heavy content that can be hard to evaluate appropriately.”  Leta is excited because, while the program is required to run in-person midterms and finals to meet accreditation requirements, the quiz tool allows her to provide low-stakes evaluations for students which she is planning to incorporate when she moves back to face-to-face teaching.

One of the lessons Leta learned first-hand last year was that “you can’t follow your regular in-person style when you’re teaching, which I knew, but I didn’t really understand how different the modes of engagement were between teaching in-person and teaching online.”  Leta says she would have liked to have learned to use additional tools to support her students, like the Discussions in D2L, but found she “was not confident enough to both learn new tools and ensure that I could engage with students appropriately. It was just too much to wrap my head around while in the middle of doing it.”

Leta advises anyone moving their courses online to connect with CETL and eLearning for workshops, consultations, and one-on-one help.  She said she found the online tutorials especially useful “because while some people are great at remembering things. But I find a step-by-step tutorial that I can refer back to really helpful.”  A good reminder for us in CETL to provide help in as many ways as possible!

Moving forward, Leta wants to work with D2L quizzes, and to explore the Discussion tool to support students outside of class time.  “I want to incorporate more quizzing, because students don’t always ask questions until they’ve failed a midterm,” so having more options to test their knowledge will be useful.  “And I think discussion boards will give them more options to comment on or ask questions about content outside of the class.”  Leta also sees D2L as an option to provide students with content if she is unable to teach for a day.  “I could provide them with an asynchronous class so we don’t get behind in the schedule and then we can discuss the material in person later.”  Finally, “one thing that was nice last year was I could meet with students virtually outside of normal office hours.  They were in their own space and I didn’t have to worry about privacy,” since Leta works in a shared office space.  The virtual environment also allowed Leta to share her screen with students, so they could more easily go through their exams, etc. “I could see continuing with virtual office hours because we need to support our students however we can.”

Leta’s final words are to remember that “doing your best is good enough.  As educators, we always strive to make it better, but if you do the best you can, students will still learn and engage.”

Centre for Excellence in Teaching and Learning September Bulletin

Welcome to September from CETL at Camosun College.  Included here are some resources that might interest anyone getting ready to return to face-to-face teaching this fall, or exploring other modes of teaching after everything we’ve learned last year!

“Everyone is exhausted… Everyone has a metaphor… Everyone appreciated a chance to reflect… Everyone has learned more about themselves… Everyone has embraced (mostly) change… Everyone tried new things they will keep using… Everyone put themselves in the shoes of their students…” From: Faculty stories: A reflection

Check out all our Faculty Stories, where faculty at Camosun share their reflections on the past year.

Tips on teaching while wearing a mask

As you know, Camosun now has a mandatory mask requirement for all indoor public spaces, including classrooms. Teaching and learning in a mask may be new to many of us, and so let’s be patient as we all work through this new reality together. Below are some resources that may be of help:

Beyond the basics of adapting to masks, perhaps this is another “challenge as opportunity” to reflect on how we continually improve our teaching practice. This might provide an incentive to move away from instructor-focused teaching toward learning-focused teaching/facilitation, incorporating more blended and active learning, and some of the skills and technologies that we’ve learned to use over the past 18 months.

Blended learning resources

As we get ready for the coming semester, many of us are wondering how to leverage our recent experience and are exploring ways to integrate classroom and online learning.  If we use a blended model, how do we make the most of both the classroom and the online experience? How do we ensure we are altering rather than adding to student work? How do we match the delivery to the desired outcome? Below are a few resources that can help. Expect additional resources and learning opportunities as we move into the fall. Questions or ideas? Email Robin Fast or Emily Schudel

Encouraging academic integrity through a preventative framework: Start off right

“Langara College has created an open access toolkit for educators titled: Encouraging Academic Integrity Through a Preventative Framework (2020). The e-book is available for free through BC Campus Pressbooks Open Education Resources. This toolkit was a collaborative initiative that arose because of increasing requests from faculty for support in addressing and promoting academic integrity in higher education. It is meant to be a starting point on a journey towards a solution-focused discourse on educational integrity, using the Complexity Quadrant to reframe conversations around academic integrity and develop assessments that encourage it.”

(description taken from BC Academic Integrity Network email promotion)

Camosun Faculty Story #31: Asha

Asha is a faculty member in the Community Child Family Studies program at Camosun.  Now, Asha’s programs are cohort-based, so not only did she face moving all her current students online in March 2020, but they also had a brand new cohort starting in May 2020, meaning they would start off their Camosun studies as online learners!  “We were a bit panicked about how we could make the student experience relational, because our program is about interpersonal relationships. So collectively our faculty worked together to figure out how we were going to make this happen when everyone’s learning to navigate the technology of Collaborate and online learning.  That was so great, that peer-to-peer piece where everyone was helping each other.”

While Asha’s program had to postpone some courses due to practicum changes in our community, and found it challenging to move the rest online so quickly without time to prepare, the challenges weren’t all bad.  “We thought, we’re educators.  We can figure out all these things. We didn’t have to do everything, but we could start small and build from there. I think a big takeaway from going online is that we can scaffold how we teach online and what tools and technology we use. We can learn little pieces, get good at them, and learn some more, and keep the best of them depending on what works for our teaching style.”  But in addition to sorting out the pieces, and learning how to teach in this new online mode, Asha says “we also had to support our students in learning what it means to be an online learner. I think the technology lent itself well to scaffolding this learning, and they gradually built confidence around it. So, it was two-fold for the students: building technology skills and confidence, and building confidence learning new content.”

Like many faculty, Asha also found herself developing online courses as she was teaching them, working to “translate things to online  figuring out different ways to do things, and still being creative, while finding ways to keep students engaged like I would have in a face-to-face classroom. In addition, many students were reluctant to be online, so creating community and maintaining a culture of safety was a challenge. But we overcame that in many ways, for example, playing games online, dancing in our classes, working in smaller groups, respecting our diverse needs and cultures and building peer support, which helped.”  In the end, Asha says that they did the best they could, and students still learned, still understood the big ideas, and were able to continue to develop as compassionate learners and professionals.”

When I asked about any rewards Asha sees from the past year, she told me that she has always been interested in Universal Design for Learning (UDL), and thinks that, overall, courses were better designed for UDL because “we used closed captioning on videos, readings were more accessible for reading, and I think the online provided opportunities for many students to learn in the ways that suit them. I think we met the needs of a more diverse group by going on line.”  Asha also told me how surprised she was with the closeness some of the cohorts developed.  “I thought people would feel more disconnected, but they found ways to be connected by building relationships through the technology or outside of class. What also surprised me was how creative students can be when they have to use technology to create assignments. For example videos, podcasts, skits online or demonstrating their learning in other ways, which is UDL.”

In addition, Asha was delighted to discover inventive ways to bring her personality into the online classroom.  “For example, every class I showed something from my garden, and that became part of the culture of the classroom. And then the students started bringing things in – we were creating our community of learners.”  And this community ended up including students from different parts of Canada and the world.  “We had the beginnings of this global network, which I thought was really exciting because in a live online classroom, we were hearing different perspectives from people living in different countries.”

Asha learned many lessons from last year, including one that keeps coming up again in again in my conversations with faculty.  “We have learned new ways to deliver our courses, as well as how to meet and collaborate with our colleagues, which I’d like to explore more.”  Although she did recognize the challenge learning online is for some students.  “Some people didn’t love being online, and some people really needed a personal connection. So one question I still have is how do I keep students motivated in an online environment?”  The advice Asha has for anyone moving their courses online is “to be gentle with yourself because you do know what you’re doing. You know how to connect with students, and that will come through online. But also dig into all the resources you can find, and challenge yourself to try somethings you never did before. And remember you are not alone and that you can reach out to colleagues for support”

Moving forward, Asha’s Interurban cohort program is staying online for Fall 2021, with a plan to have face-to-face with some blended courses in the Winter 2022 term.  “We’d like to potentially offer a completely online program at some point, because we recognize there’s a need for that in our community.”  Asha does think that we, at the college, need to all take some time to reflect on all that we have accomplished, all that we have learned over the past year and a half.  “We have already begun to reflect on how our eyes and minds were open to the creativity of online teaching and learning, and to the many things we actually gained going online.  But now we need to take what we’ve learned, and think about how we want to deliver courses in the future, about what courses could stay online, which could be blended, etc.  Ask ourselves, does everything have to be in the lab or classroom or can we do some things virtually? Can we condense things and have students on campus for shorter amounts of time? It has made me rethink how we schedule and design education.”  And I definitely agree with something Asha said to me, “I think this year has allowed us to blow up education a bit – it allowed us as a college and as educators to jump forward a few years, and hopefully we don’t retract entirely back into what was our comfort zone – this goes for all levels of the College. I think this year we saw some of the most creative work and dedication from faculty- they showed professionalism and innovation in a pandemic, and I hope that faculty are encouraged to keep creating education in new ways.”

Asha’s final words reflect how I think so many feel now.  “It was a pretty emotionally draining year, but I think that allowed us to feel more empathy and compassion for our students and for each other. We needed each other more than we would have done before.”  Let’s hope we don’t forget that!