My 5 Takeaways from E-Learning Symposium: Teaching in the Time of COVID-19

By Kamalini Ramdas, Department of Geography

The e-Learning Symposium was organised on behalf of the Office of the Senior Deputy President and Provost (SDPPVO) by the Centre for Development of Teaching and Learning (CDTL) and Centre for Instructional Technology (CIT).

1) Even as I prepare for online teaching this semester, in the long-term I should also use the opportunity to plan ahead for how I might combine e-learning and face-to-face learning to enhance student learning. Some questions I now want to consider more closely as I plan ahead:

  • How might I better include students as co-creators of content/syllabus through e-learning?
  • How might I better assess e-learning’s impact on student learning?
  • How can I bring together the strengths of face-to-face learning and e-learning to improve student’s overall learning experience?

2) Safe distancing does not mean social distancing. This served as an important reminder to find ways to connect with students and create opportunities for them to also connect with each other. Students may miss the classroom interaction and being in the same physical space with their classmates. There is a sociality to learning face-to-face that I want to recreate online. This may mean better use of breakout rooms, and perhaps even getting teaching assistants to participate in breakout rooms. I could also create online groups via FB or Instagram that allow students to connect with each other to share what they are learning and check-in with each other more regularly.

3) Teaching innovation does not only refer to the use of technology. Instead it is useful to think of innovation in terms of creative problem-solving given my personal limitations. I was reminded that it is okay to find a solution that fits my skill set and abilities and is also in line with my teaching philosophy and learning objectives. It is easy to become overwhelmed by the universe of software, applications and new technologies out there. Innovation is also about trying to figure out what works for me. And innovation does take time, and trial and error. I want to pay close attention to teaching feedback and try to figure out what didn’t work and why in the previous semester.

4) There are physical limitations students face in terms of lack of technological infrastructure (e.g. quality laptops, stable WIFI, or even a room they can work from). Part of my challenge is also to create opportunities for learning offline. Learning whether face-to-face or online is also about what happens after the class. How can I create achievable learning goals each week that will incentivise students to keep asking questions, keep reading and thinking? These are important pedagogical questions whether my module is conducted via e-learning or face-to-face.

5) Today’s symposium reminded me that there is a community of educators out there who are trying out new strategies and there are people and resources I can turn to for help. I sensed that there is a genuine desire to work collectively to overcome our individual struggles and limitations. You can check out the CAFÉ blog but also the CDTL and CIT websites for more ideas/resources.

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