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Students are key Partners for Fall 2020 - and beyond

Program History   In June 2020, Bishop’s University hired 23 university students as Online Learning and Technology Consultants (OLTC) to help support faculty members prepare for Fall 2020. These undergraduate students are drawn from all five divisions: natural sciences, social sciences, humanities, business, and education. Some have completed one year of study while others are in their final year of their program. The one thing they all share in common is they value relationship-rich learning experiences (cf. Felten and Lambert. 2020). 65 applications were submitted for 23 positions: successful candidates demonstrated exceptional communication skills, creative problem solving, curiosity, and well developed social and emotional intelligence -- all skills necessary for building successful relationships with faculty as they prepare for teaching in the time of COVID.  Program Design & Delivery  This program, funded by the Bishop’s University Information Technology Services (ITS) unit, is the collaborative co-creation of Dr. Jessica Riddell (Stephen A. Jarislowsky Chair of Undergraduate Teaching Excellence), Scott Stoddard (Director of Client Services, ITS), and Georges-Philippe Gadoury-Sansfacon (3rd year Honours Undergraduate Student in Math and Psychology, Student Union Vice-President Academic, and the Jarislowsky Student Research Fellow). This program takes a tripartite approach -- where a faculty member, student leader, and educational technologist co-construct a Student-Faculty partnership program -- that is grounded in the scholarship of teaching and learning literature (SoTL) with design principles drawn from authentic learning (Reeves and Herrington 2002), students as partners (cf. Healy et al. 2014), high-impact practices (Kuh, 2008), and transformative learning and threshold concepts (cf. Meyer and Land 2003). 

Empathetic Design The program is based on the concept of empathetic design, where the OLTCs develop critical empathy so they are aware of and can appreciate and make visible the discomfort and disorientation for both instructor and learner in a learning environment radically disrupted by a global pandemic. For many students, this is the first time they are aware of pedagogical design, assessment, alignment, community building, classroom management, and other facets of designing and delivering academic courses. 

OLTCs undergo an intensive two-week orientation in advance of working with faculty members. In the process of designing the orientation, Dr. Heather Smith, 2020 Jarislowsky Visiting Scholar, was a key collaborator in modifying the framework of Instructional Design Workshops (ISWs) into a student-focussed, immersive “ISW inspired” series of scaffolded sessions. The number of instructional contact hours and group work makes this an intensive and transformative experience for OLTCs, but also for the program coordinators and faculty mentors.   Skills Training The skills-based learning requirements for OLTCs are demanding. Students:

  • Complete a six module teaching online learning course (developed by Dr. Jeff Banks and Open Acadia). 

  • Are able to identify and direct faculty to Bishop’s and Maple League resources for instructors based on individualized needs/interests

  • Can navigate fundamental elements of the three platforms supported by Bishop’s University (Moodle, Microsoft Teams, and Ensemble), and are able to apply the best aspects of these tools towards solving a course delivery element/challenges

Authentic Learning The orientation process is guided by the design principles of students as partners (SaP) literature, and includes a simulation whereby OLTCs are broken into student working groups (SWG) of 4 - 5 students and assigned a Faculty Mentor Model (FMM). The FMM presents a course outline of a course running in Fall 2020 to the SWG at the start of the two-week orientation. The SWG completes asynchronous training modules in the mornings to develop key skills, and then breaks into the SWGs to work together by applying their knowledge to the FMM course in the afternoons. 

The SaP design ensures that OLTCs are able to apply the expertise they have learned in orientation to real issues and problems for instructors, develop an enhanced ability to work in a team context necessitating collaboration with persons from different fields of specialisation, and successfully complete a closing project/final product that puts closure to the students' experience (Healy et al 2014). In this case, engaging in collaborative team work with an instructor to create components of a course. By the end of the first week, the SWG presents the FMM with a landing page, welcome video, navigation, Moodle, assignments, and other components designed in collaboration with the FMM.  By the end of the two weeks, each of the five SWGs design and implement a plan with their assigned FMM and present to the larger group on their final project (which can include a handbook, report, series of resources or artefacts, and list of recommendations for synchronous, asynchronous content design, and strategies for building virtual communities and relationship-rich learning environments).  One of the key competencies in this OLTC Orientation is the ability to engage in critical reflective practice, and to be able to think theoretically and practically about their role as students as partners. Specifically, the OLTCs engage in critical reflective practice around the following concepts: 

  • Self regulation & accountability 

  • Ability to problem solve and where/who to ask for help

  • Role as student partner

  • Managing interpersonal dynamics (form, norm, storm, perform)

  • Managing emotional and cognitive labour of the roles of instructor and learner (empathetic design)

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