Bree teaches Statistics at Camosun College. I didn’t really get to know her until the great pivot last March, and during May and June when she worked moving her courses to fully online for the Fall. Bree did not really use D2L to support her teaching before COVID, but used an online homework system external to D2L for class assignments. So, moving online she was pretty much, aside from those assignments, starting from scratch.
Bree told me she was lucky to have scheduled development planned for May and June, but in order to develop two courses (in the Fall she taught two sections of one course, and one section of another), those two months ended up being “really four because I did work through the summer too, to build my courses.”
Having not used D2L for content delivery before, Bree found that one of the biggest challenges she faced was “figuring out how to translate the content that I would usually lecture into something that was a good online format…how am I going to do this so that it still gets the essence of my teaching?” And the second challenge she faced, as many of you will relate to, was time. “You are no longer just presenting a lecture. Now, I am typing the lecture, audio recording the lecture, uploading the lecture, you know, like it was taking three times as long to do one thing. So the time was a big one.”
I asked Bree if she finds now that all the work she did last term helped her with the current term (she is teaching one of the same classes this term), and she reflected on her experience from last term, working from 7am until 11pm every night, “I was exhausted and it was horrible.” But that time has now paid off and she can spend her time fixing things, creating more assessments, and teaching – because while last term Bree taught entirely asynchronously, this term, Bree has added a synchronous component to her teaching. And she does like this blended mode better because “I feel like I have more contact with the students. I feel like the students know me better and reach out to me more because they see me in those live sessions. They know my personality and I’m not just a name.”
As for rewards, Bree feels grateful to have some good work-life balance happening now. Being able to take a quick 15 minute break to make tea or load up the wood stove makes life a bit less hectic. But she also says that she misses the kind of student interaction she had face to face. “There have been students that I’ve connected with who have been sort of less shy to come on a video chat with me, and so I’ve really held onto those because that’s why I’m a teacher. I like that kind of interaction.”
Bree does have some advice for anyone who will be moving their courses online: “build carefully for long-term benefits…thinking about this as being a course that you can use again and again and again and again…spend the time thinking about what it is you want and doing it carefully and comprehensively so you don’t have a lot of adjusting to do in the future.” And also, if possible, take online courses or find some way to experience online learning as a student. Bree took some of the workshops eLearning offered last May/June and “noticed that I got bored after 5-10 minutes, just staring at a screen….When we were first learning [to put our content online], it was like we were trying to figure out how to go from an hour-long lecture to something that captured that, and our immediate response was to do an hour-long lecture (as a video recording). It makes no sense…it’s not the same.”
Would she continue to use what she’s learner and built? Bree says yes. “Maybe I would do sort of a combo of that going forward…[for example, if] somebody’s away and needs to know the lecture or watch the lecture. I could post that, or I could do the webpages as well as doing the in-person classes.” Which I consider to be the best of both worlds: having that student connection face to face, as well as providing students with flexible options for accessing course material.
Bree wraps things up by telling me that “the hardest part was having a plan. Once I had a plan, I was okay.” She had to work really hard for a while to get there, but in the end she says “I have enjoyed it. Once I got through that first term, I have enjoyed it.”