Lessons in Online Learning Part I: Transitions, Training, and Teamwork

Video call

When in-class learning was suddenly no longer an option due to public health safety related to the pandemic, effective online learning options became more important than ever. In this three-part series, we explore how our teams at SCS responded to learner needs during the COVID-19 onset, what you can expect from an online learning experience at SCS, and tips for leading a team in difficult times.

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit in March, it became clear almost immediately that we needed to transition our in-class courses to an online format, fast.

Really fast.

There were many factors complicating this urgent need to transition online. Our courses are staggered, meaning that some courses had just started their Winter term, some were mid-term, and others were nearing their end, so a one-size-fits-all solution to online transition was not an option. Each course had unique logistical considerations. We needed to find fast, effective solutions that would provide our learners and instructors with a smooth transition to online learning. 

Through teamwork and collaboration, we quickly developed a remote learning strategy that honoured our commitment to academic quality and a positive learner experience. Under the leadership of the Director of Academic Programs, in consultation with our Program Directors, and with critical input from our instructors, our Learning Innovation team assessed options, and identified which in-class courses could successfully transition to an online format.  

At SCS we offer two types of digital learning: remote delivery, a synchronous online learning option where learners and instructors meet in real time to simulate an in-class learning experience, and online learning, a highly flexible option that involves both synchronous and asynchronous learning.  Once we had identified courses that were suitable for transition, our Learning Innovation team worked with instructors to shift content and learning strategies online. 

Throughout this process, we focused on communication. It was very important that our learners were kept informed, engaged, and felt supported during such an uncertain time. Our Strategic Communications and Marketing team, in collaboration with our Enrollment Learner Services team, worked to ensure that all learners were up to date on next steps in their learning journey. Our Program Directors and Instructor Program Services team also kept in constant contact with our instructors to streamline and support this transition. They say, “it takes a village”, and we quickly learned the power of teamwork to accomplish a major transition. 

Meanwhile, the Learning Innovation team, led by our Manager of Learning Innovation, Janay Gouveia, played an important role in ensuring that our dedicated instructors had all the tools they needed to thrive in a digital classroom. Typically, this team provides 10-12 instructor professional development sessions each term. In the first two months of the pandemic, they hosted over 35 training sessions to ensure instructors felt confident and supported. This series of trainings focused on best practices for remote teaching, webinar skills, tips for mastering our learning management system, and designing effective online assessments.  

Through commitment and determination, we provided a highly personalized approach to learner and instructor support, and transitioned 237 courses to remote learning for the Winter 2020 semester. Meanwhile, our dedicated instructors rose to the challenge and worked diligently to embrace change, learn new skills, and adapt quickly. 

Fast forward to our 2021 Winter semester, we now have 584 unique active courses that will be offered online or via remote delivery. This constitutes 67% of our courses overall, up from 64% from our current Fall semester, and from 29% in Fall 2019. 

Janay says she and her team learned a lot during this hectic time, and they continue to use this experience to inform their approach to online learning. “We took the time to reflect on our experience and determine new best practices for future terms. When we had a moment to take a breath, we were able to clarify our focus, assess what was effective, and identify areas where we could streamline our processes” she says. “We renewed our commitment to ensuring that remote learning options would be a positive and engaging experience for both learners and instructors.”

 

In Part II of our Lessons in Online Learning series, we will explore what learners can expect when they choose to learn online with SCS. Stay tuned!