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Student Learning Experience

Supporting students with remote learning

Week-long campaign uses social media, online events, webinars, and workshops to help build skills and confidence.

Academics Week will connect students with resources that support a successful, less stressful academic experience.

For many students, this year is their first experience with remote education. As the halfway mark of the fall semester approaches, the Student Experience Office and Student Academic Success Services (SASS) in Student Affairs have teamed up to help students build skills and confidence in the online environment.

Level Up: Academics Week, launching October 19 with an Instagram Live, is a collection of live online events and posts that highlight resources and academic hacks for remote learning.

The goal is to connect students to resources that support a successful, less stressful academic experience.

“Upon speaking to my peers from various faculties and years, the transition to online learning has been more difficult than we maybe initially thought,” says Veronica Sewilski, Student Assistant, Student Experience Office. “Academics Week will hopefully shine a light on the supports available at Queen’s as we head into the latter half of this online semester.”

The week begins by showcasing a virtual meeting with a SASS Learning Strategist on IG Live, giving students the opportunity to see what a one-on-one remote appointment looks like and how talking to an expert might help boost their confidence about their academics. This is followed by a workshop with peer learning assistants discussing learning tips, creating both a sense of community and a safe environment to ask the questions that can lead to an easier online learning experience.

Other events throughout the week include sessions with Student Affairs staff, Arts and Science academic advisors, and more. Throughout Academics Week, students can learn how to tackle several areas of concern related to remote learning, including finding balance and staying healthy while studying from home.

From writing assignments to accessing student services, students can feel part of a community at Queen’s that is supporting them and guiding them to academic and personal success.

“Hosting many aspects of this initiative on social media will allow us to bring the supports and services to students, so they can better understand how and where to access them,” says Meg Ferriman, Director of Student Life, Student Experience Office. Accordingly, Level Up: Academics Week offers its events through a variety of familiar platforms, including Instagram, Zoom, and Microsoft Teams.

“We want to ensure students are aware that, while student life is currently different from the experience of the typical term, there are resources available at Queen’s to help everyone succeed,” says Susan Korba, Director, SASS. “By creating a community of students, peers, and professionals, Academics Week sends an important message: We are all in this together.”

See the full Academics Week calendar of events.

Student mental health in the age of COVID-19

Queen’s experts and Bell Let’s Talk host campus community for virtual session on mental wellbeing.

From left to right: Moderator Jane Philpost and mental health experts Anne Duffy, Brooke Linden, and Heather Stuart.
The session, moderated by Dean of the Faulty of Health Sciences Jane Philpott featured Queen's mental health experts Anne Duffy, Brooke Linden, and Heather Stuart.

For months now, tuning in to the news has meant unleashing a deluge of coverage about the coronavirus pandemic. In an effort to keep informed, we watch the experts — health care leaders, academics, journalists, politicians — discuss and debate COVID-19 effects on our lungs or hearts, our economies, our education; our day-to-day routines.

Last week, a panel of Queen’s University experts hosted a virtual discussion with hundreds of Queen’s students and community members about another, lesser-discussed impact of the pandemic: the toll it is having on our mental health.

The discussion — organized in partnership with Bell Let’s Talk and moderated by Dean of the Faculty of Health Sciences Jane Philpott — was wide-ranging, touching on how to spot common signs of mental health issues, social stigma, and how families and friends can help one another when these struggles arise. Panel experts also highlighted available resources and shared some best practices and tips for taking care of our mental health and how to manage through the most difficult moments.

“Stigma is one of the major challenges people face when they experience mental health challenges. They can fear it more than the illness itself and it can prevent them from seeking help,” says Heather Stuart, panelist, professor, and Bell Canada Mental Health and Anti-stigma Research Chair at Queen’s University. “Social support is vital to us as human beings, so it’s important to reach out and to have people reach out to you. It’s not a sign of weakness to have to rely on others for support, especially in the context of COVID-19.”

Dr. Stuart, whose research focuses on mental health services evaluation and destigmatization of mental illnesses, was joined on the panel by Anne Duffy of the Department of Psychiatry’s Division of Student Mental Health, as well as Brooke Linden, a postdoctoral research fellow with Queen’s Centre for Health Services and Policy Research Institute.

“We know from established evidence that we seem to be creatures on a clock. We do better — our brains, our bodies — if we’re on a rhythm,” says Dr. Duffy, who specializes in understanding the development and early course of mental illness in young people. “Even though our whole lives have been changed by the pandemic, we need to work to keep ourselves in a routine; waking up at a certain time, going to bed at a certain time, and regular cardiovascular exercise are very important for gaining and maintaining mental wellness.”

Currently, Dr. Duffy is working with colleagues at Queen’s and Oxford universities to develop an international collaborative network of mental health research called U-Flourish, focused on studying well-being, academic success, and mental health needs of university students. She urged Queen’s students in attendance to fill out the U-Flourish survey, which was emailed to all students on Sept. 21, to share their experiences in managing mental health during the pandemic with her team of researchers.

“In times like these, it’s all about communication and flexibility,” says Dr. Linden, an expert in stress and psychiatric epidemiology. “If you suspect someone close to you is having trouble with mental health but may be resistant to seeking professional help, try to meet them where they are. While therapy is an option, a lot of people can be hesitant to pursue it at first, so share with them that there is a wide range of resources available for wide-ranging needs.”

Learn more about available mental health resources in Kingston and at Queen's on the event page, and if you missed the panel discussion you can watch it below.

Queen’s places fifth in 2021 Maclean’s university ranking

Queen’s maintains top-5 ranking in the medical-doctoral category and is third overall in student satisfaction.

For a third year in a row Queen’s is ranked fifth out of the 15 medical-doctoral universities across the country, according to the 2021 Maclean’s university rankings, which were released on Thursday.

Queen’s University once again led the way nationally in the proportion of undergraduate students who graduate (88.6 per cent), second in student retention from first year to second year (94.7 per cent), and fifth for average entering grade (89.9 per cent).

McGill University placed first in the medical-doctoral category, followed by University of Toronto, University of British Columbia, and McMaster University, in a repeat of last year’s rankings. The medical-doctoral category features universities with a broad range of PhD programs and research, as well as medical schools. The two other categories in the rankings are comprehensive, and primarily undergraduate.

The rankings comprise five categories: students (28 per cent of final score); faculty (20 per cent); resources (22 per cent); student support (15 per cent); and reputation (15 per cent).

Within those categories Queen’s highest rankings were faculty awards (2), student satisfaction (3), student awards (5), library expenses (5), scholarships and bursaries (5), and medical/science grants (6). Queen’s ranked sixth in the reputational survey.

“There is world-class research and teaching being conducted every day at Queen’s and the entire Queen’s community should be proud of the work that is being accomplished,” says Principal and Vice-Chancellor Patrick Deane. “Thanks to this collective dedication, even in these challenging times, Queen’s continues to provide an educational experience that is recognized as one of the best in Canada.”

Student Satisfaction Survey

Utilizing an online survey, 14,000 students from across Canada submitted their views on their experience at university, providing a glimpse of overall student satisfaction. In the medical-doctoral category Queen’s placed third, behind Sherbrooke and Laval, in a repeat of last year’s results. Queen’s grabbed a spot in the top five in eight of the nine categories, led by a first place in extracurricular activities. Queen’s placed second in experiential learning and residence living, third in student life staff and administrative staff, fourth in course instructors and academic advising staff, and fifth for promoting Indigenous visibility.

National Reputational Ranking

Queen’s placed seventh out of 49 universities in the national reputational ranking, for a third year in a row. This ranking brings together all universities. For the reputational ranking Maclean’s surveyed university faculty and senior administrators, and a variety of businesspeople for their views on quality and innovation at universities. In the three categories of the ranking, Queen’s placed sixth for highest quality, seventh for most innovative, and ninth for leaders of tomorrow.

Program rankings

Maclean’s also looked at nine programs in the sciences and social sciences, assessing quality and research from a reputation perspective. Only the top 20 were highlighted for each program area, with Queen’s being ranked in each category, and made the top 10 in eight of the program rankings.

Queen’s saw an improved ranking in six programs, stayed the same in two, and dropped in one: Biology (7, up from 10); Business (4, up from 8); Computer Science (11, same); Education (8, same); Engineering (seven, up from 11); Environmental Science (8, up from 10); Mathematics (6, up from 13); Nursing (9, from 10); Psychology (10, down from 6).

Excellence in teaching and learning

The recipients of the 2020 Principal’s Teaching and Learning Awards have been announced, recognizing excellence in the areas of Indigenous education, educational technology, student support, international innovation, and promoting student inquiry.

Administered by the Centre for Teaching and Learning (CTL), the awards are presented to individuals and teams for their innovation and leadership in teaching and learning at Queen’s.

“Excellence in teaching and learning is of primary importance at Queen’s and there is a great deal of dedication and innovative work in support of this goal happening across the university,” says Principal and Vice-Chancellor Patrick Deane. “I congratulate each of this year’s winners and thank them for their commitment to enhancing and improving the student experience.”

New to the awards list this year is the Principal’s Indigenous Education Award.

The recipients of the 2020 Principal’s Teaching and Learning Awards are:

Principal’s Indigenous Education Award

Lindsay Morcom

A professor in the Faculty of Education, Lindsay Morcom incorporates a teaching and learning approach that is reflective of traditional Indigenous knowledge systems. Throughout her teaching and mentoring of both Indigenous and non-Indigenous teacher candidates, graduate students, and doctoral candidates, she consistently models Indigenous pedagogy, while demonstrating Indigenous ways of knowing and worldview. Additionally, Dr. Morcom is currently the lead on a SSHRC grant using Virtual Reality technology to unite Indigenous children in four schools across Ontario with an artist and an elder to create 3D virtual art in shared virtual reality spaces. She has also participated in and helped to program summer experiences with the Matariki Network, bringing Indigenous students, elders, and instructors together from across Canada, as well Australia, New Zealand and other countries. In addition to her dedication to Indigenous education within a classroom environment, Dr. Morcom has built strong connections to the Indigenous community in the Kingston and surrounding area. With this, she is always looking for opportunities to get her students involved in language programming, community initiatives, ceremonies, and more.

Melanie Howard

As director of the Aboriginal Access to Engineering (AAE) program, Melanie Howard has had a transformational impact on Indigenous education within the Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science and at Queen’s. Besides increasing the number of Indigenous students in engineering she has also created a supportive and inclusive environment, increased opportunities for students to learn about and collaborate with Indigenous peoples, and developed outreach activities to promote science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) for Indigenous youth, and educators. Howard also came up with the idea to write a series of ‘We Are Engineers’ comic books to be used in classrooms across Canada. These comics provide role models for Indigenous youth, but are also a means to provide Indigenous and non-Indigenous teachers and students examples of engineering that incorporates Indigenous culture into the learnings. One of the major challenges Howard has faced, and overcome, is how to teach Indigenous students about STEM topics. She has worked extensively to develop effective strategies that both reflect Indigenous worldviews and approaches to teaching and learning, while tying those approaches to STEM topics.

Principal’s Educational Technology Award

Ryan Martin

Ryan Martin, a professor in the Department of Physics, Engineering Physics and Astronomy, saw a need for in-class response systems, also known as clickers, that can be used in his teaching. This active learning technique enables students to actively think about the material being taught and to initiate group and class discussions during lectures. Dr. Martin decided to develop his own solution and enlisted the help of a group of students in the School of Computing to create a prototype. The result is Qlicker, a web-based application that is open source and free for anyone to use. The application is easy to use for both faculty and students, requiring only a device that can run a web browser. Qlicker was first used in 2017-2018 in the PHYS 104/106 class, and a few other smaller courses, and has continued to be developed. Qlicker also includes a searchable library of questions, and students can contribute questions for professors to use or for other students to use as practice. In 2019, Dr. Martin worked with Centre for Teaching and Learning and IT Services to deploy Qlicker on ITS servers, where it is now available to the entire Queen’s community.

Principal’s Promoting Student Inquiry Award

Una D’Elia

A professor in the Department of Art History and Art Conservation, Una D’Elia created ARTH 485: A Social and Material History of Italian Renaissance Sculpture/ARTH 840: Studies in Italian Renaissance Art: A Material History of Italian Renaissance Sculpture, an innovative and intensive seminar for advanced undergraduate and master’s students, which demands original research gleaned from diverse range of print, digital, and material sources. First, to enhance and deepen their understanding of the 16th century, students experimented with materials in the classroom, the Art Conservation lab, and a contemporary artist’s studio. They then debated their findings and, through a series of guided discussions, collaboratively determined how best to make their research accessible in an online exhibition. All of this intensive independent and collaborative research culminated in an online virtual exhibition, Locating the Materials of Italian Renaissance Sculpture. Written assignments, discussed beforehand and afterwards in class, allowed students to move from visual analysis of works to the final exhibition. Students wrote brief project proposals, which outlined the questions that were to guide their research, the methods and sources they would use to answer those questions, and obstacles to their work. At each stage, Dr. D’Elia offered written responses and suggestions to students individually, then raised the issues for class discussion.

Principal’s International Education Innovation Award

Jennifer Ruth Hosek

In support of Queen’s University’s vision of internationalization, Jennifer Ruth Hosek, a professor in the Department of Languages, Literatures, and Cultures, designed a student-to-student language exchange web platform called LinguaeLive.ca, which she has now managed and fostered for over a decade. Based on evidence from existing scholarship and on her experience using it in her own classroom, Dr. Hosek’s peer-to-peer telecollaboration tool has had a demonstrable impact on supporting students who are developing communicative competencies in learning languages. This one-of-a-kind tool is available for all to use to enhance international collaboration in fostering language, culture, and intercultural competency globally. LinguaeLive enables students around the world to safely collaborate with each other to learn their peers' language and to teach their peers their own language. LinguaeLive also allows equitable internationalization at a very low cost. Due to travel restrictions, as we see with the COVID-19 pandemic, students have fewer opportunities for studying abroad. By working with peers around the globe in an expanded classroom and under the supervision of professional instructors through LinguaeLive, students are developing themselves as global citizens, learning about the world, others, and themselves.

Mike Condra Outstanding Student Service Award

Joan Jones

During her 25-year career at Queen’s, Joan Jones has served in a unique capacity to support students living in the Kingston community. As Student Community Relations Coordinator,she has made a significant contribution to the campus community through assisting thousands of students in responding to a range of issues that can arise in what can be a very important element of their Queen’s experience – their living environment. Working with student input, Jones has developed housemate-selection and house-hunting resources, a housemate agreement template, and tip sheets for managing household conflict. She has also spent time every year giving talks to first-year students about the importance of carefully considering plans for second-year housing and understanding all of the factors that should be assessed before making decisions about housemates and where to live. She has an encyclopedic knowledge of provincial and municipal housing legislation, regulations and standards, and has developed and maintained several resources to help students advocate for themselves and protect themselves. Ms. Jones is matter-of-fact and a straightforward speaker, while still being compassionate and empathetic. It is clear that the one-on-one support she has provided to students throughout her time at Queen’s has made a significant difference in their lives and their overall success.

Teaching and learning online

Vice-Provost (Teaching and Learning) John Pierce on Queen’s efforts to create a successful remote educational environment.

Photograph of John Pierce, Vice-Provost (Teaching and Learning)
Vice-Provost (Teaching and Learning) John Pierce says that the university undertook its largest single-time investment in teaching technology to prepare for remote instruction this fall.

As Queen’s announced that most classes in the fall semester would be delivered remotely to protect community health and safety during COVID-19, faculty, staff, and administration across the university set out to develop strategies for making the term as successful as possible.

Now that the semester is underway, the Queen’s Gazette connected with Vice-Provost (Teaching and Learning) John Pierce to find out how Queen’s prepared for the challenges of moving to a new learning environment. Touching on topics such as technology, assessment, and accommodations, Pierce explains some of the resources that are in place and some things that students and instructors can expect throughout the fall.

The large-scale move to remote teaching and learning is likely the most comprehensive and sudden shift in course delivery in Queen’s history. Has the university made any specific investments in tools or programs to help facilitate this move to online instruction?

Since March, Queen’s has undertaken its largest single-time investment in teaching technology in the last decade. The investments have been made on two fronts. The first is to supply instructors with the technology required to transfer their teaching materials into an online form and make up for the inability to use physical classrooms. This includes video production software, captioning software, assessment software, and software that enables peer group work in an online environment.

There was also investment in support teams to help instructors figure out how to use this new technology. Queen’s IT Services reinforced its support teams and added longer hours into their support systems. The faculties and schools also did more to build up support for instructors. And the offices of the principal and the provost invested money in the Centre for Teaching and Learning to create teams of students who could help instructors with the technological aspects of their courses. And this support can range from instruction on how to upload videos for courses to more complicated uses of peer-related software tools.

While the university has invested in these new tools to address COVID-19, they will also be useful in the future when we return to on-campus instruction. So we believe this is a significant long-term investment in teaching and learning.

Beyond technology, what other preparations have been made for remote teaching and learning in the fall?

As in-person classes were cancelled in March, meetings began to discuss what a remote teaching and learning environment would look like for a full semester. Throughout the summer, we established a full new set of guidelines to help instructors and students move to remote instruction. In the new guidelines, we’ve tried to reconsider a number of aspects of instruction, from how to present material, how to engage with students, and even how to assess and examine students. The guidelines represent a kind of re-envisioning of what the teaching and learning environment at Queen’s is like.

At Queen’s, there is usually a decentralized approach to teaching and learning, where the faculties and schools develop their programs on their own. But we came to an understanding across the university that we need to coordinate more because we all shared the challenges of the pandemic. The Vice-Provost (Teaching and Learning) website underwent a significant overhaul to centralize a number of guidelines and resources.

There were also a number of training modules and sessions set up both by the faculties themselves and centrally by the Centre for Teaching and Learning. And these were primarily for instructors to adapt to a new environment. Those sessions went on all through the summer and were well attended by both experienced instructors and new instructors.

We also had to think about accommodations. Because we realized that this new environment would present special challenges to students. Both for those who need formal accommodations but even students who do not normally need accommodations are under new stresses, such as creating their own workspaces and supplying their own Internet connection.

With students taking classes from across Canada and around the world this semester, finding a balance between synchronous and asynchronous teaching seems very important. Can you say more about how Queen’s is approaching this issue?

We have a new challenge in the timing of synchronous activities during remote instruction. Since we have students from all over the world and from different time zones, new challenges arise with synchronous instructional activities. Students in different time zones might have to get up in the middle of the night to take part in a synchronous event, and those late night periods are not conducive to the best learning experience. Many instructors are moving largely or exclusively to remote instruction to avoid this problem; some are holding several of the same synchronous activities to ensure that no student has to engage with the course at unreasonable hours. Finally, we are advising all instructors to ensure that whatever material is presented synchronously is recorded or conveyed to all students in an alternative form so no student is disadvantaged. Our guidelines to synchronous vs. asynchronous teaching are available on the Teaching and Learning website.

With all these changes, what do you think students can expect from their remote classes in general?

Students will see a variety of approaches to remote teaching and learning. There will be a variety of uses of technology and a variety of types of pedagogy. This is a fact of moving rapidly to a largely new model of course delivery. Some instructors will use technology in intensive ways. And for others it will be less intensive. While there are many different methods used in in-class instruction, the varieties of approaches used in remote instruction may be even more wide ranging.

There’s no getting around the fact that this new environment is challenging for instructors and students alike. But there is a high level of commitment on all sides to make this work.

With the change in learning environment there will probably also be changes in how students are evaluated as well. How will test and exam proctoring – and assessment more generally – work for the fall semester?

Extensive thinking has gone into how we assess students in this new learning environment. A lot of instructors have looked into alternative forms of assessment to the standard exam. However, for many instructors and disciplines, exams are still the best way to assess student learning. So there are courses where remote proctoring will be used for the fall semester, both for term tests and finals.

Queen’s has carefully examined two tools, Examity and Proctor Track, and approved their use after determining that they meet the privacy and security requirements of the university. Both of these tools have been used in the past, and they will be used going forward. These tools ensure the integrity of exams.

Queen’s has also put together a guideline on academic considerations technical failures or in-the-moment interruptions that might occur while a student is taking a test or exam. It says that if a student has a technical failure or interruption in their workspace that was unpredictable or random, there should be consideration and allowance to accept that as a bona fide problem. And the instructor should work with the student to address that.

This does not apply to chronic failures. For instance, if a student has a persistently unstable Internet connection and makes no attempt to address the issue, this situation does not warrant an academic consideration. The same goes for workspaces. Students are responsible for finding a workspace that generally enables them to complete their work. But it’s understood that there may be momentary noises or interruptions that prevent students from completing their work.

To help ensure that their remote test or exam goes smoothly, all students should take a practice test on the exam platform to identify any technical challenges that might arise.

No matter the form of any test or exam, Queen’s will ensure that all formal accommodation needs of a student are met. There is more information on remote proctoring on the Registrar’s website.

Are there any resources available for faculty or students who want assistance as they go through a full semester of remote courses?

The Centre for Teaching and Learning has many resources available on its website, including guidelines and training materials for remote instruction.

Queen’s IT Services provides tutorials on their website about using remote teaching and learning technologies.

Students can find resources through the Division of Student Affairs. For example, Student Academic Success Services offers academic skills resources. And Queen’s Student Accessibility Services can offer assistance with academic accommodations.

The faculties and schools also have their own resources and supports in place, and you can find more information about them on their websites.

Do you have any words of advice for students or instructors for the fall term?

This is a challenging new environment for everyone. And there are obviously stresses associated with this new learning environment. I hope that students who are feeling large amounts of stress will seek support through resources like Student Wellness Services and Empower Me, and that they keep a line of communication open with their instructors. I also hope that everyone will stay in close touch with their peers and colleagues throughout this time. Because we all have a common goal to make this semester as successful as possible, and we’ll need to support each other to do so.

New virtual career fairs

While the academic year has just begun, some students are already thinking about their career plans.

In response to physical distancing requirements and the remote job search environment due to COVID-19, Career Services has transformed opportunities for students and employers to connect this fall.

The university’s annual Career Fair will be held online on Wednesday, September 23, and since fully remote events are a new way for students and employers to interact, Career Services has developed Career Fair Prep workshops to help students plan for the online environment.

“Many employers are keen and ready to meet with students online, and we are excited to facilitate connections through our online events this year,” says Cathy Keates, Director, Career Services and Experiential Learning.

In addition to the Career Fair, there will be a Further Education Expo on September 29, the annual Engineering and Technology Fair on October 6 & 7, and many employer information sessions, all of which are listed and accessible through the MyCareer portal.

The Career Fair will also include an online launch of the third in a series of made-for-Queen’s job search resources. This year’s Queen’s Best Interviews includes examples of answers – with analysis - to common questions, as well as interview scenarios and strategies for remote situations. Students can also access the popular first two publications, Queen’s Best Resumes and Queen’s Best Cover Letters, which include a range of resumes and cover letters from Queen’s students and alumni, and highlights of key success strategies.

Herman Kaur, M.Eng ’19, who attended a past career fair, says  “I am very excited to know that the Career Fair is going virtual this year. The Fair is a great opportunity to interact with hiring managers. I received great advice and gained insights about the companies I wanted to apply to. I am now employed as a Technical Project Manager (something that I really wanted to do) and am totally loving this role."

For more information about the Career Fair and other online employer activities this fall, check out the Career Services event calendar

Schulich Leader Scholarships awarded to 10 Queen’s students

Ten future leaders in science, technology, engineering, and math are attending Queen’s this fall, thanks to Canada’s most prestigious STEM scholarships.

Schulich Leader Scholarships, worth up to $100,000, was launched in 2012 by Canadian businessman and philanthropist Seymour Schulich as a way to help the next generation of entrepreneurial-minded technology innovators.

“With 100 outstanding students selected in Canada this year, it is all but guaranteed that this group will represent the best and brightest Canada has to offer,” says Schulich. “These future leaders will make great contributions to society, both on a national and global scale. With their university expenses covered, they can focus their time on their studies, research projects, extracurriculars, and entrepreneurial ventures.”

Last year, four Schulich Leaders came to Queen’s, but the increase to 100 scholarships across Canada this year helped boost the eligible number at Queen’s to 10. Queen’s has awarded 36 Schulich Leader Scholarships since the program started in 2012.

The 10 Schulich Leaders attending Queen’s this fall are:

  • Catie Austin, Brantford, Ont., School of Computing
  • Rabab Azeem, Barrie, Ont., Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science
  • Emma Davison, Goderich, Ont., Faculty of Arts and Science
  • Abdellah Ghassel, Kingston, Ont., Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science
  • Sharaf Khan, Scarborough, Ont., School of Computing
  • Liyi Ma, Guelph, Ont., Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science
  • Shashank Ojha, East York, Ont., Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science
  • Emanuel Piccininni, Nobleton, Ont., Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science
  • Nazanin Soghrati, Richard Hill, Ont., Faculty of Arts and Science
  • Dajung Yoon, Drayton, Ont., School of Computing

“Queen’s and the Schulich Foundation share the goal of developing innovators and leaders who aspire to change not only Canada, but the world,” says Ann Tierney, Vice-Provost and Dean of Student Affairs. “Thank you to the Schulich Foundation for providing students from across the country with this opportunity. We are honoured these 10 talented students have chosen to continue their studies at Queen’s.”  

Starting first-year with confidence

Queen’s is providing free online tutorials to help incoming students adjust to university.

A young woman writes as she looks at a laptop
Incoming students at Queen's have been able to take advantage of a number of extra supports being offered to help them get ready for their university career. (Unsplash / J. Kelly Brito)

For many incoming university students, the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted the end of their high school education and has also moved the beginning of their post-secondary education to remote delivery. Given all the rapid changes over the past several months, students have been taking advantage of extra supports Queen’s is offering to help them get ready for their university career.

July’s online Summer Orientation to Academics and Resources (SOAR) provided opportunities for new students to meet each other, ask questions of upper-year peers and staff, and get advice and information from videos and interactive modules about preparing for university life.  

This month, faculties and schools have been offering a series of free online tutorials to help bridge the academic gap between high school and university. SOAR Studies includes general approaches to university-level courses and content specific to each faculty and school, offering something for any new student looking to prepare for their first semester.

“Recognizing the challenges that high school students have faced this year, we are investing in each student’s success with faculty-tailored SOAR Studies to ensure we help ease the transition to university and provide the support students need,” says Lori Garnier, Executive Director of the Commerce program at Smith School of Business.

In addition, and aiming to help all incoming and returning Queen’s students adjust to remote learning, Student Academic Success Services (SASS) in Student Affairs has created Academics 101. This series of seven interactive tutorials helps students develop the academic and writing skills to succeed in distance learning in fall 2020 and throughout their time at Queen’s. Along the way, they will discover how to build connections with peers, teaching assistants, faculty, and support resources while studying remotely.

“We wanted to create something that would ease the academic transition for students and introduce them to academic expectations at Queen’s, that they can engage with at their own pace — no matter their time zone and regardless of their familiarity with the concepts featured,” says Susan Korba, Director of SASS.

Academics 101 concludes by showing students how to make a plan for their first six weeks at Queen’s. Students will leave the series with a clear sense of their strengths, an array of study strategies and methods to use in the fall, and a renewed sense of confidence. Students can log on any time during the summer or throughout the school year and complete the tutorials at their own pace. The entire series will take an average of three to four hours.

New students can also register for Setting Yourself Up for Success (SYUS), a six-week online course created by Queen’s Regional Assessment and Resource Centre (RARC) in partnership with Queen’s Student Accessibility Services. It helps students understand what’s ahead, what resources are available, and includes information for students with disabilities or mental health conditions about how to ensure they have equitable access to their education. To register, visit the RARC website.

Faculty and School SOAR Studies

SOAR Studies features tutorials tailored for students entering specific faculties, schools and programs. The Faculty of Arts and Science (FAS), the Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science (FEAS), and the commerce, health sciences, and nursing undergraduate programs all have developed free, non-credit, online tutorials.

FAS has developed a three-week mini course: Learning and Working in a Digital World. This course helps incoming students understand what to expect from first-year university courses. It also introduces them to some of the digital tools they will use as undergraduates while giving them an opportunity to engage with other new first-year students. The one-term, for-credit version of this course, ASCX 101: Learning and Working in a Digital World, is being offered this fall.

Students entering the Commerce Program at Smith School of Business will be able to learn the ins and outs of the program through the First-Year Commerce Onboarding Portal. In addition to program policies and procedures, system tutorials and helpful resources, the portal provides incoming students with access to optional, non-credit preparatory courses in calculus and financial accounting to help prepare them for academics. Commerce students can monitor the onboarding portal or their Queen’s email for content release announcements.

For students entering FEAS, QEng Prep helps students review key math, physics, and chemistry concepts, and is entirely self-directed, letting students learn at their own pace. Students start by taking a diagnostic quiz to identify which core topics they may need to brush up on. They then access online modules that cover all key information in a variety of formats, followed by self-check quizzes to solidify their learning.

The undergraduate nursing program is providing reviews of chemistry and biology material. Students can access these reviews along with other resources through OnQ.

Students entering the Bachelor of Health Sciences have access to recorded Quick Fire Q&As with their first-year professors where they can learn more about the expectations and format of their courses. As well, there are Virtual Meet & Greet sessions on Zoom, where students have the opportunity to meet staff and faculty members in a casual setting and get to know the people behind the email addresses.

Learn more

To learn more about all the different programs and to find out how to access the course materials, visit the SOAR Studies website.

Dunin-Deshpande Summer Pitch Competition winners announced

The winning pitches of the ninth Queen’s Innovation Centre Summer Initiative (QICSI) have been announced with seven teams receiving funding.

This year’s edition moved online and hosted its biggest-ever cohort with more than 170 participants from around the globe and 42 teams taking part in QICSI and the newly-launched SpreadInnovation (COVID-19 innovation) challenge.

By introducing the SpreadInnovation Challenge stream, the Dunin-Deshpande Queen’s Innovation Centre (DDQIC) stepped up to provide opportunities for students and community members who had lost opportunities due to the pandemic. Specifically geared toward COVID-19, participants were tasked with building a solution for one of the pressing challenges facing our healthcare systems, livelihoods, economies, and communities. Teams were provided more than 100 days of free online training, mentorship and support from the QICSI program.

The Final Pitch Competition

After 16 weeks of hard work, 11 teams from the QICSI and the SpreadInnovation Challenge QICSI competed alongside two regional ventures in the Dunin-Deshpande Summer Pitch Competition.

The virtual format of the final pitch competition allowed DDQIC to invite a judging panel of esteemed Queen’s University alumni hailing from the Boston, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Kingston innovation ecosystems. The judging panel was comprised of Gururaj "Desh" Deshpande (Sc’79), founder and chairman of Sparta Group LLC and founder of the Deshpande Foundation; Lauren Long (ArtSci’11), senior software engineer at Google; Anton Toutov (ArtSci’11), founder and chief science officer at Fuzionaire; and Brian Dodo (Sc;’16), founder and principal designer at BmDodo Strategic Design.

Bino Books, founded by Andena Xhiku (Comm’21), Danielle Baxter (ArtSci’19), Sydney Terry (ArtSci’20), Jessica Dassanayake (Comp’20), won the Grand Prize of $20,000, and received $10,000 in additional funding.


Learn more about all the finalists and their projects.

Team of students assisting instructors with technology issues

With move to remote teaching and learning, Student Educational Technology Assistants are in place to provide extra tech support.

Student Educational Technology Assistants
A team of six Student Educational Technology Assistants are ready to help Queen's University instructors during the transition to remote teaching and learning. Clockwise from top left are: Peter Van Diggelen, Cleon Aristo, Cal Graham, Kierra Whetstone, Janelle Lee, and Nolan Breault.


Queen’s University has created a teaching technology ‘rapid response team’ to help instructors as they continue to transition their courses to a remote teaching and learning model.

The team of six Student Educational Technology Assistants , all current Queen’s undergraduate students, are set up and ready to assist faculty members who may need extra support, from setting up an onQ course and using Turnitin, to creating groups on Teams or Zoom and adding captions and editing lectures videos  through Camtasia, Stream, and Ensemble, and much more.

The initiative, an investment in supporting instructors, is a collaboration between the Offices of the Provost and Vice-Principal (Academic) and the Principal, and is administered by the Centre for Teaching and Learning. The service is offered across the university and supplements the technical support already offered in the faculties, as well as the work of the Centre for Teaching and Learning over the summer to prepare instructors.

The students have now completed their training and are working full-time until the start of the academic year. Each team member will be available 10 hours a week during the Fall and Winter terms.

“This initiative meets a need that was quickly identified during the initial transition to remote teaching and learning in March and was recognized as a need across the university,” says John Pierce, Vice-Provost (Teaching and Learning). “There is a growing reliance on technology in instruction and these new technologies have become a part of the everyday operations of the university. As a result, we have to adjust to support that heavier reliance on technology to convey the curriculum.”

The spread of COVID-19 and subsequent closures of in-class sessions earlier this year was an unprecedented challenge, Dr. Pierce adds. In analyzing the initial response areas of improvement were identified and the university is responding.

Organizers decided to go with a student team for a number of reasons, including that they can provide an important perspective in the remote teaching and learning model. The university is also committed to providing jobs for students during a difficult employment environment given the current situation.. The Centre for Teaching and Learning received 179 applications for the six positions.

There is also an internship for another current student through the Queen’s University Internship Program. It’s an opportunity to gain valuable work experience for all involved.

“Another important aspect is that many students adapt well to technologies and therefore are very flexible and adaptive in their learning to a changing situation,” he says. “In addition, this experience allows them to develop transferable skills, that are relevant to education but that are transferable outside the academic environment.”

To get assistance from a Student Educational Technology Assistant, contact the Centre for Teaching and Learning. The request form is available on the right side of the page, by clicking the first red arrow.


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