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Adjusting to remote teaching

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Vice-Provost (Teaching and Learning) John Pierce offers guidance to instructors.

Photo of John Pierce, Vice-Provost (Teaching and Learning)
Vice-Provost (Teaching and Learning) John Pierce speaking at the Teaching Awards Reception in January 2020.

As Queen’s prepares to move to remote learning, many instructors may be looking for advice and resources on how to adapt quickly to this new situation. The Gazette connected with John Pierce, Vice-Provost (Teaching and Learning) to find out what guidance he has for instructors as they take on this challenge.

Q: Many instructors at Queen’s may not have experience teaching classes remotely. What resources are now available to those looking to enhance these skills?

John Pierce: One thing I want everyone to understand is that instructors should use a technology that they are most comfortable with. Now is not the time for experimentation. The challenge of introducing new technology is that it may bring with it unforeseen difficulties for both instructors and students. Indeed, new technology may also introduce the need for new sets of accommodations for students, and our timeline for assessing and meeting these needs. I’m encouraging instructors to rely on technology that they feel confident using – even if it’s only email communication with your students.

For instructors looking for help adjusting to this situation, there are two main resources available for them: the Centre for Teaching and Learning and their faculty or school.

The Centre for Teaching and Learning has developed a website that directs people to resources for teaching classes remotely.

And I know that each of the faculties and schools is reaching out to their instructors with support. This support is coming in many different forms, including webpages with helpful resources and online tutorials about remote teaching and the use of technology. If anyone feels like they needed help navigating this situation, they should start by reaching out to their faculty or school and also check their websites.

Q: What kinds of adjustments do you think instructors will have to make as they move to teaching remotely?

Dr. Pierce: I want to respect the variations in course content, teaching styles and assessment practices each instructor has developed, but I do have some general thoughts in this area. In putting these forward, I am thinking of the specific challenges we all face in this constantly changing environment. During this week, all instructors have the chance to review their courses to determine the adjustments they want to make. The main goal of making adjustments should be to ensure that the essential academic requirements will be met.

Many instructors might find that they need to adjust the way they evaluate their students. The first question they need to ask is if they are able to award a final grade based on the work that their students have done to date. If not, they should see if they can do without a formal exam and substitute other kinds of assignments. And if they do need to retain some form of an exam, they should do so within the scheduled exam period.

Since there are only two weeks left in the term, I also think that instructors might focus on summarizing the academic year for their students instead of bringing in new material. They could therefore put their effort into conveying the overall learning objectives and outcomes for the course to their students.

Q: What is the most important piece of advice you think that Queen’s instructors should keep in mind as they finish up this unprecedented semester?

Dr. Pierce: The most important thing for instructors to keep in mind right now is that this is an unprecedented and extraordinarily stressful time for them, for their students, and for all the staff who support the educational mission of the university. Our adjustments should always keep this context in mind.

Instructors do not need to ensure that they cover all the material originally intended for the course. We will not be able to maintain the coverage that we would have been possible under normal circumstances. And our assessments probably can’t be as thorough as they would have been. As instructors make decisions about how to approach remote learning, I advise that they keep these aspects of our situation in mind.

 

To find all the resources on remote learning offered by the Centre for Teaching and Learning, visit their website. Students who are looking for academic assistance can find resources that are available to them on the Student Academic Success Services website as well as through their faculties, schools, departments, and programs.