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27.05.2020 - 3 min. Read

Pivot online: How educators used technology to build community and support learners during COVID-19

When colleges and universities across Ontario closed their physical campuses, the pivot to 100 per cent remote teaching was abrupt. Unique challenges with physical space, accessing resources and learning new technologies meant both learners and educators had to adapt to a new reality. While the circumstances may be imperfect, Ontario educators have embraced resiliency and innovation, from using digital tools to support remote teaching, to creating online communities. Here are some of their success stories:

I replaced final exams with reflective presentation projects, and it was a win. I offered choice for final exams and graded using a holistic rubric. The result: No academic integrity violations, deeper learning, and a pleasure to grade. The presentations were a mix of blogs, videos, voiced PowerPoint presentations and reflective papers. In a medical office procedure course, students analyzed a job posting and presented how the practical skills learned in the course made them a good candidate for the job. In a therapeutic communication course, students compared course concepts to their own life experiences and reflected upon what they would take to their future careers.
Kim Carter
Professor, Conestoga College

The most significant success I had pivoting online was working with my students to build a collaborative online community in Microsoft Teams. In our Web Development – Fundamentals course, we started by holding synchronous sessions that were also available asynchronously for students who faced barriers to attending. After discussing what we wanted the space to be, it didn’t take long to see the power of a collaborative tool like Microsoft Teams. Students started posting questions, while fellow students and myself answered. Resources and coding snippets were shared between students within the platform and students that did not regularly speak in the physical classroom took part in one-on-one and group-based discussions. When face-to-face learning is held for my classes again, I still plan on using Microsoft Teams. The power of online community empowers further student-to-student learning and supports faculty-to-student learning.
Brandon Carson
Associate Researcher at Ontario Tech University and Professor at Durham College

The needs of part-time graduate students significantly differ from full-time students as they are often balancing other responsibilities such as full-time work and parental duties. When pivoting to online, my students needed accountability and community that extended beyond our allocated course time. I therefore created a Slack group for my students, and I facilitated 25-minute writing blocks on a daily basis, usually in the evenings. Students shared that they appreciated knowing others were also working at the same time and that there was a sense of community that encouraged them to continue making progress on their final assignments.
Dr. Kathleen Clarke
Assistant Professor, Wilfrid Laurier University

Recently, I have starting using H5P to develop interactive elements for my remote learning classes. One that I feel is most beneficial is the use of interactive video especially when explaining calculation questions. This automatically pauses the video where I want students to use their calculator to calculate. I can also add automatic feedback if they get the incorrect answer (or common mistakes for them to check for). The feedback from students so far on this is that they really like the pace of the video and how it makes them stop and pay attention at certain points. This helps direct them for what to focus on.
Mary Spencer
Professor, Georgian College

Do you have a success story about pivoting to remote teaching? Contact Lana Hall, Communications Specialist.