Pivoting to a full-scale, remote online learning environment within a few days does not just happen.
Software and licensing have to be purchased and approved by university leaders. There has to be IT capacity to roll out and maintain the technologies. But possibly most important of all, there has to be a knowledgeable and passionate team to teach these new tools and provide constant support to faculty and students.
“During a time of great instructional change, the UFV Teaching and Learning Centre (TLC) team are exemplary role models of teamwork, responsiveness, patience, and positive energy in their efforts to support all at UFV,” says Dr. Mary Gene Saudelli, Associate Dean of Education, Community and Human Development.
For nearly two years, this resilient TLC group helped UFV maintain a high-level learning experience. They packed their calendars with hundreds of one-on-one faculty virtual meetings. They answered thousands of questions and worked overtime to ensure faculty and students were proficient with the tools and techniques. It is this level of support and care that the TLC team has been honoured with the 2022 UFV Teamwork Award.
“It means so much to us to be able to accept this teamwork award because we really are a great team that wants to help,” says Michelle Johnson, educational developer at the Teaching and Learning Centre. “We lean on each other, we lift each other up, we care about each other. We all know that the work that we do with faculty is in support of the success of our UFV students.”
“I can think of no other team more deserving, especially with their above and beyond efforts to support faculty, staff, and students during these last two years of COVID-19,” adds Saudelli.
The TLC team has long provided tools and resources to faculty to optimize their educational experience. Teaching and Learning provides professional development opportunities for UFV’s teaching community in areas including Indigenization, internationalization, curriculum development, and course delivery. When UFV was forced to take classes online in the spring of 2020, the role of TLC became essential.
“At that time, only 9% of our courses were completely online, and we had some hybrid courses but not many,” says Maureen Wideman, Associate Vice President, UFV Teaching and Learning. “And then within five days, it was closer to 95% of courses were online and that was a major shift.”
With plenty of uncertainty in the world at the time, the TLC team helped bring stability and organization to a wide variety of learning experiences. They worked around the clock (literally) to get faculty, staff and students acclimated and comfortable with online learning and working. The team led online micro-courses, created teaching videos, and helped introduce the hyflex learning pilot, which integrates both face-to-face and online learning experiences.
This year, the team continued that dedicated support, but moved away from “emergency virtual teaching” to supporting higher quality learning. They helped stakeholders become proficient with various new software applications such as WeVu, Peer Scholar, Padlet, and Blackboard.
“Sometimes, people just needed to touch base with somebody for five or 10 minutes, and sometimes, it was at night,” Wideman says of her team. “We had people calling on the weekends, or between Christmas and New Years. We are available because we know faculty are working then. We made sure that we were around and available and supporting people for whatever it was that they needed.”
The TLC team also shared their expertise in the community. They have delivered several Instructional Skills workshops and Facilitator Development workshops in the past year to other post-secondary and local police organizations. They work closely with BCcampus and provide workshops to support the provincial teaching and learning community.
Wideman says the customer service success can be largely attributed to the team’s diversity in ethnicity and culture, education, disciplinary expertise, and technical ability. With a wide variety of needs and questions coming from faculty and staff, relatability and specific expertise become important in resolving issues.
Beyond the technical expertise and the hundreds of instructional videos and demos, was the actual human factor. These two years filled with a global pandemic, social unrest and climate change had impacted the small staff of the TLC Centre on a personal level as well. But it was the team’s empathy, passion and resilience that kept pushing them forward, spending countless hours making sure the learning environment didn’t skip a beat despite what was being thrown at them.
“The team really worked hard over the past two years to make the transition as easy as possible for faculty and as a result for students too,” says Johnson. “It is not always easy, but as a result, the students are having much better learning experiences, and that was in part, because of our support of the faculty and the learning technologies.
“And we’re proud of that.”