Bishop’s University doubled down on student-centred education when they launched the Online Learning and Teaching Consultants (OLTC) program in July 2020.
The OLTC program, led by Scott Stoddard (Manager of IT Client Services), Dr. Jessica Riddell (Stephen A. Jarislowsky Chair of Undergraduate Teaching Excellence), and Georges-Philippe Gadoury-Sansfacon (3rd year Honours Undergraduate Student in Math and Psychology, Student Union Vice-President Academic), is innovative in both its scope and impact.
The project team – a faculty member, an educational technologist, and a student leader – deployed diverse professional and disciplinary expertise to create a holistic approach to supporting faculty prepare for Fall 2020.
Bishop’s University brings student-focused Instructional Design Workshops to the digital platform.
Following a rigorous selection process with over 65 applications, Bishop’s hired 23 students to help faculty design exceptional deliverables for the Fall 2020 term, at Bishop’s University.
The OLTC program is based on the concept of empathetic design, and provides 23 students with work integrated learning (WIL) in pedagogical design, assessment, alignment, community building, classroom management, and other facets of designing and delivering academic courses.
The two-week OLTC Orientation included a six-module teaching online course from Open Acadia. Students were paired with a Faculty Mentor Model (FMM) who shared their syllabus for a Fall 2020 course; students went through intensive technical training sessions in the mornings and then worked closely with the faculty in the afternoons on the course. After the two-week orientation, students worked in groups (divided by their discipline) called student working groups (SWGs).
“One of the many creative responsibilities of the OLTCs is to scrape the surface of a problem and to workshop the best fix for the issue at hand. In doing so, we come across many tips, hacks, creative ideas, and some harsh realities in order to better the learning environment for students and the teaching environment for professors.” – OLTC student, August 2020
In Summer 2020, the OLTCs helped professors adapt and improve their courses in an online learning environment that engages students as producers and collaborators. The students worked alongside professors based on faculty needs, whether that involved creating a plan from scratch or transferring content onto the digital platforms. Some of the OLTC students started off with limited digital fluency and technical skills but quickly adapted, learned, and became highly skilled on a number of different platforms.
“We get to provide a new perspective on course delivery and learning assessment” – OLTC student, August 2020
With the students’ academic experience on the forefront of their mission, the OLTCs worked with future-facing objectives in mind. This involved building courses with strong elements of empathy and understanding, scaffolded learning experience, and interactive learning environments. They supported faculty in the design of engaging (synchronous or asynchronous) and accessible and entertaining lectures – and many faculty members reported that their courses created more inclusive and engaging learning environments than the pre-COVID versions.
“Having students as partners may be my most powerful tool in my toolbox, this fall.” – Professor, August 2020
The collective experience was fulfilling and enriching for the student leaders. In a practical sense, they helped to create collaborative online classroom environments, provided alternative assessment and evaluation tools, and helped relieved stress and uncertainty on the delivery and technological aspect of their new course designs.
Subjectively, the OLTCs felt that they had a major influence on the upcoming curricula as they co-created courses integrated with their student voices.
“Although going online is a new and different experience from what we are used to, it is just adapting and learning how to do things differently. Therefore, my ideal classroom, online or in-person, would be with supportive classmates that encourage one another to do their best. :)” - OLTC student, August 2020
The OLTCs also designed student-focussed content to help their peers navigate the fall term and beyond. The advice included the following:
· take the time to develop your (technology) skills
· keep yourself busy with self-learning opportunities when the work-load decreases
· stay organized - make a communal calendar to track meetings and events
· be sure to communicate with your peers and professor
This might not be the academic year we expected, but the OLTC program is one example of how we can “build back better”. For more information on the OLTC program, visit the website: https://www.bishopsoltc.com
Special thanks: This program was made possible from funding from Bishop’s University, ICTC (with thanks to Charlene Marion, Williams School of Business for the initial funding proposal), the ITS services budget, The Jarislowsky Foundation (through the Stephen A. Jarislowsky Chair of Undergraduate Teaching Excellence), The Maple League of Universities, and the Bishop’s University Student Representative Council.
[By Tanisha Campbell, 5th Year Modern Languages Major, Bishop’s University ]