With The Michener Institute of Education at UHN currently conducting its first online Fall semester due to the Covid-19 pandemic, faculty are seeking ways to share best practices and resources to support one another during this new method of teaching.
To help address this challenge, a team of faculty and staff have developed new virtual rounds about online education. The idea grew out of discussions with The Institute for Education Research (TIER), Learning, Innovation and Research, the Centre for Academic Quality and the Learning Resource Centre (LRC) about how to support faculty who are working virtually.
“From the development of the Teaching & Learning in the Time of COVD-19 Portal, we saw that engagement was a substantial issue,” says Juanita Richardson, Manager of the LRC. “The staff had heard the same from faculty and it seemed like an opportunity to highlight that research and to discuss the issue more robustly.”
The goal was to create a community of practice, as faculty and staff are experiencing the same isolation students are feeling. The rounds would provide a forum to share experiences and expertise – backed by research – and different individuals would lead each session based on topics emerging from discussions in prior sessions, frequently asked questions in the Teaching & Learning Portal and consultations.
“Covid-19 poses many challenges to experiential and simulation-based learning, and required us to design new methods of teaching, learning and assessment,” says Ann Russell, Senior Director of Learning, Innovation and Research. “The unique challenges for health professions education is that we rely heavily on hands-on-learning, laboratory learning and simulation.”
Juanita and Gayatri Aravind, Research Associate in Applied Educational Research, were chosen to lead the first session on Engagement in an Online Environment.
“Tom Blennerhassett from the LRC and myself had already done some research on this topic, so we thought it would be great to start with,” says Gayatri. “We wanted to bring in anecdotal evidence and look at how other institutions have dealt with this problem before, as well as make it a very open, judgment free space.”
The session was hosted in October on Microsoft Teams and explored the topic using interactive exercises, sharing of resources, communication channels, evidence and best practices from faculty’s own experiences.
“We had about 25 participants show up and the session was fantastic,” says Gayatri. “Faculty were very eager to share their experiences and come up with suggestions and solutions to the questions that came up.”
With the first session proving to be a success, the academic support areas plan to continue hosting rounds on a monthly basis, bringing in new presenters based on topics of interest.
“Especially right now when we are all virtual and distanced, these rounds give everyone the opportunity to engage with different colleagues, to hear synthesis of the research on a topic of interest and to mobilize the knowledge in order to deliver the best teaching and learning experience,” says Juanita.