Workshops prepare instructors for online learning this fall

The Centre for Pedagogical Innovation (CPI) has teamed up with hundreds of Brock University instructors to redesign courses for the online environment this fall, with a focus on creating a flexible and connected experience for students.

Throughout June, CPI held 30 workshop sessions with 500 instructors and teaching assistants learning how to move and support courses online.

Giulia Forsythe, CPI’s Associate Director, said the workshops helped instructors to focus on maintaining the renowned teaching environment the University is known for.

“Brock instructors care deeply about their students and the human connections that are so important in their classrooms,” she said. “Over the last few months, many have become quite enthusiastic about how technology can actually increase connection and create engaging and meaningful learning experiences.”

Ranging from teaching large classes online to more focused topics, such as internships and teaching languages, the recorded sessions remain available to watch at any time. For topics that fall outside of the current available resources, a custom consultation with CPI can also be arranged.

Brock’s Associate Vice-Provost, Teaching and Learning Madelyn Law said in all of CPI’s workshops there is a focus on making the well-being of students a top priority.

“The focus of the course design has been very much student-centred with a lens to making courses flexible through asynchronous activities while also allowing students to feel connected to their professors, peers and teaching assistants,” she said. “We want courses to be focused on predictable structures so that students know what to expect in a course over the duration of the term so they can manage their time and efforts appropriately.”

Law said the sessions have also allowed faculty members to share ideas and encourage each other as they share strategies on how to redesign assessments, provide more flexible access to lectures and build more interactivity into weekly lessons.

“This mutual sharing and learning has provided a feeling of knowing we are on this journey together,” she said. “It’s a great time to really deeply reflect on how and what we want our students to learn.”

Professor of English Language and Literature Neta Gordon said the workshops have helped her to re-evaluate her own teaching methods and to learn about best practices with others in the same situation.

“The sessions have not only been useful in terms of learning about various tools for online teaching, they have also been inspiring,” she said. “Instructors from across the University are learning from each other and having thoughtful discussions about student-centred teaching and accessibility.”

Gordon also said the workshops helped to alleviate some of the stress instructors are feeling as they contemplate new ways to effectively teach students.

“I came into the workshops with lots of anxiety about online teaching, and I am now incredibly excited about how I’ve been stretched as a teacher,” she said. “There are some aspects of my new course design that I’m going to retain even when we return to face-to-face classes, simply because the tools I’ve learned to work with offer students a wider range of opportunities for critical response and reflection.”

As instructors and teaching assistants continue to work on courses and consult with CPI, Forsythe said the ongoing efforts showcase the entire Brock community’s commitment to teaching and learning.

“It’s through challenging times like this, that I am reminded what exceptional colleagues we have across the University,” she said.

To view the online workshops, visit the CPI website.

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