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Learn how Queen's is planning for our safe return to campus.

Student Learning Experience

Connecting with England from home

The Bader International Study Centre is offering some perks of study abroad to students at home.

Photograph of a student having a Zoom call with a peer mentor through the Bader International Study Centre.
A student connects with a peer mentor online through the Bader International Study Centre.

The Bader International Study Centre (BISC) has plenty of appeal for students looking to combine the Queen’s experience with international learning. At the BISC, students enjoy small class sizes in the incomparable surroundings of a 15th-century English castle and have easy access to many British and European cultural institutions.

As a study abroad centre, however, the BISC faced unique challenges when COVID-19 made it impossible to welcome students in person. In response, the centre’s faculty and staff have found innovative ways to bring the study abroad experience to this year’s cohort of students enrolled in the BISC.

“When COVID-19 hit, we had discussions to articulate what makes the BISC experience valuable beyond studying overseas in a castle. Through engaging our faculty, students, staff, and alumni, we identified our core qualities and have tailored our remote programming to emphasize them,” says Christian Lloyd, Academic Director of the BISC. “We look forward to welcoming students back to England in the future, but, in the meantime, they can still enjoy the tight-knit community, small class sizes, and global perspectives that define the BISC.”

To deliver the BISC experience from overseas, the centre developed online courses with small class sizes that feature virtual experiential learning opportunities through British cultural and science institutions. Students in a biology course, for example, have learned through online materials at The Wellcome Genome Campus in Hinxton, while students in a film course have used virtual collections at the Hove Museum in southeast England.

The BISC has also turned to new ways to form community. They have provided each student with a personal success coach, a staff or faculty member who meets with the student regularly to help them set goals for the semester and find the wellness resources available to them. Making sure students connected with their peers at the start of the term, the BISC organized a virtual escape room set in several of the atmospheric rooms of Herstmonceux Castle. The vibrant student-club scene at the BISC has also continued in the virtual environment.

“Everyone is really bonding together. Even though we’re spread out all over the world, we’ve formed a community and know each other by name. Student Services has done an amazing job running events to give us the chance to ‘hang out’ outside of classes,” says Kyra Mevis, a first-year student in the BISC program. “The professors have also been so kind and accommodating, and have really gone above and beyond to make their classes the best they possibly can be.”

Increasing access to the BISC

The BISC has even brought their programming to a new audience, as their flagship first-year course is being offered to first-year and upper-year Queen’s students not enrolled at the BISC for the first time. BISC 100 focuses on “Thinking Locally” in the fall and BISC 101 explores “Acting Globally” in the winter. By teaching interdisciplinary methods of primary source analysis – using materials from the Herstmonceux Castle archives – the course lays the groundwork for many different programs students might go on to pursue at Queen’s.

“This fall, we have 50 students in BISC 100 from the main campus, and they would not have had a chance to take the course before. We’re pleased to make the BISC and its resources more accessible and aim to continue to find new ways to expand our reach even after we can welcome students in person again,” says Lloyd.

Enrolment for the winter term opens on Nov. 9. Students can enroll in BISC 101 whether or not they have taken BISC 100 in the fall. Queen’s upper-year students can also enrol in the BISC upper-year courses that will be offered online for winter term 2021.

Learn more on the BISC website.

Removing barriers to higher education

Queen’s unveils new strategies to champion greater equity and diversity in recruitment and admissions of undergraduate students.

Queen's students socializing
The new equity, diversity, inclusivity, and Indigenization strategies are set to be implemented for the current admission cycle. (File Photo, University Communications)

In August 2020, Principal Patrick Deane set forth the university’s commitment to address systemic racism as it exists within the institution. Co-signed by more than 20 of Queen’s senior leaders, the Declaration of Commitment to Address Systemic Racism acknowledged the need for the campus community to understand and confront structural prejudices, pledging to undertake a range of actions beginning immediately.

“Persistent racism, systemic as well as individual, has brought our society to a crisis point,” states Principal Deane in the declaration. “Queen’s University is not immune to this pervasive and destructive force that silently influences the shape and functioning of our culture and institutions, entrenching longstanding abuses of power that have diminished the humanity of Black, Indigenous and racialized people. Each of us has a role to play in addressing racism.”

As part of this commitment, the university pledged to identify and eliminate barriers within university policies, procedures, and practices related to the recruitment and admission of racialized students, and enhance efforts and initiatives to diversify the student population.

This week, Queen’s marks a milestone in this ongoing effort with the announcement of new strategies designed to advance equity, diversity, inclusivity, and Indigenization (EDII) in undergraduate recruitment and admissions.

“These actions demonstrate an immediate and meaningful commitment to enhance access to Queen’s for BIPOC and other underserved and underrepresented student populations,” says Ann Tierney, Vice-Provost and Dean of Student Affairs. “We will gather more information about the diversity of our applicant pool which will inform our admissions processes, we are introducing a major new financial aid program that recognizes leadership in racial and social justice, and we will be establishing more peer-to-peer support during the recruitment process.”

The strategies were developed by a multi-disciplinary group of staff, faculty, and students, and were approved by the Strategic Management Group and endorsed by the senior leadership team.

“These initiatives will change how we recruit and admit underrepresented and underserved students,” says Chris Coupland, Chair of the Undergraduate Recruitment and Admission EDII Task Force, formed this past summer to identify and address issues affecting diversity in the student population. “We are excited to move forward in partnership with faculties and schools, and with students who will be connecting directly with applicants and their families and supporters.”

The strategies are set to be implemented for the current admission cycle, and include:

New applicant information options

During the admissions processes, prospective students will have the option to complete a new Equity Admission Self-Identification form designed to support the university in gathering and understanding new data about campus diversity. The form, which was developed in consultation with Queen’s Human Rights and Equity Office, allows students to submit self-identifying information for use by admissions staff as additional consideration when assessing applicants who meet minimum academic requirements and have completed all program prerequisites. The data collected will also be used to inform outreach and recruitment initiatives.

In addition, applications to Commerce, Health Sciences, and Nursing will include revised supplementary essay questions that allow applicants to write about life experiences while demonstrating support of the university’s values of equity, diversity, inclusivity and Indigenization.

New merit- and needs-based financial awards and aid

Additional merit- and needs-based academic awards are being developed to provide financial aid to applicants who identify as underrepresented.

The first of these will be a new multi-year scholarship and bursary program. The Commitment Scholars Award will be granted based on demonstrated leadership in, and commitment to, racial, social justice, or diversity initiatives in high school or the local community, and will include wraparound financial, academic, and career support supports. This major award builds on the success and impact of the Promise Scholars program. The Commitment Bursary will be awarded on the basis of demonstrated financial need. In addition to new awards, promotion of existing awards for underrepresented applicants will be increased.

New Equity Ambassador Program for applicant support

An Equity Ambassador Program will be established to offer peer support to prospective students. Applicants will have the option to connect with current students in paid positions who can share insights into navigating the admissions and financial aid processes, as well as studies at Queen’s.

These strategies are the first major changes to roll out following the declaration. They will be followed by additional changes and additions over the coming months as Queen’s leaders move to advance all of the initiatives it outlined.

Read the Declaration of Commitment to Address Systemic Racism on the Queen's Gazette.

University launches new electronic platform for course assessments

Queen’s University has launched a new tool that will enable students to provide constructive feedback to course instructors on their experience of teaching, using any smart device or computer. The Queen’s University Survey of Students’ Experience of Teaching (QSSET) replaces the old, paper-based University Survey of Student Assessment of Teaching (USAT).

“The move to an electronic survey is particularly timely in the current teaching environment, in which courses are mostly delivered remotely,” says John Pierce, Vice-Provost (Teaching and Learning). “We heard clearly from our students that they wanted an improved and more accessible format to report what their experience of learning was like, and we are pleased that QSSET is now in place to meet that request.”

The new survey, which was piloted successfully in a number of courses in past academic years, solicits student responses in four areas: Student, Instructor, Course (content and materials), and Course Infrastructure (learning environment). The questions in each section can be answered on a scale from “strongly agree” to “strongly disagree”, but there is also the new opportunity for students to offer open-ended comments in each section and on the survey overall.

The results of each survey are anonymized to protect student privacy. The survey results are used by instructors and academic department heads to help guide improvements and to assess the performance of instructors. Only the responses to questions in the “Instructor” area may be used directly in assessing the instructor’s teaching effectiveness except where the instructor has requested that responses to questions in the “Course” section also be considered.

It is anticipated that a sub-committee of the Joint Committee to Administer the (Queen’s-Queen’s University Faculty Association) Agreement (JCAA) will conduct an ongoing review of the design of the survey and the questions. The sub-committee will also recommend additional questions tailored to reflect the different pedagogies of Faculties and Schools.

QSSET is scheduled to launch in November, during the last four weeks of classes in the fall term. Students will receive an email with a link to the survey, and have one week to complete it. They will receive a separate survey for each course in which they are registered. More information is available on the new QSSET webpage.

Course takes a closer look at COVID-19

A mask sits on top of a computer keyboard
Students in Samantha King's HLTH 334 The Politics of Health and Illness course are taking a closer look at COVID-19 and its wide-ranging affects while it is still happening. (Unsplash/Dmitri Karastelev)

As the pandemic began to spread around the world earlier this year, Samantha King, a professor at Queen’s University’s School of Kinesiology and Health Studies, saw an opportunity to elevate her course HLTH 334 The Politics of Health and Illness – taking a closer look at COVID-19 and its wide-ranging affects while it is still happening.

Previous iterations of the course also addressed viruses, vaccines, and epidemics but COVID-19 is current and front-of-mind for practically everyone. New information is constantly coming in but the focus of the course hasn’t changed – teaching students how health and illness are not simply biological individual experiences but collective social phenomena with political implications.

New textbook looks at bioethics and COVID-19
Staying current is an important aspect of creating a textbook for post-secondary education.
The newly-published This Is Bioethics, co-authored by Udo Schuklenk, Professor in the Department of Philosophy and Ontario Research Chair in Bioethics, and Ruth Chadwick, Professor Emerita of Cardiff University, addresses some of the ethical questions surrounding COVID-19 as well as many other fundamental questions, concepts, and issues within the rapidly-evolving area of study.
Within the chapter on public health, the authors approach the ethical implications of the response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The section looks at topics like triage decision-making, whether health care professionals have a duty to treat if PPE is absent or suboptimal, as well as the ethics of flattening the curve given such a policy’s harmful economic impact on people’s lives, and whether vaccines for this virus should be mandatory.
“Ruth Chadwick and I were fortunate (or unfortunate) enough to put the finishing touches on this book when COVID-19 turned into a pandemic,” Dr. Schuklenk says. “We quickly decided to add relevant content in the public (and global) health ethics chapter so that students reading the book would find content that already responds to our current life situation. Unsurprisingly, many student questions and discussion contributions are COVID19 related.”
Dr. Schuklenk also produced video lectures for each chapter which are currently being used in a Queen’s Arts and Science Online course.

With a new plan, Dr. King quickly got to work identifying source material while utilizing a similar theoretical framework used in the course previously. She also had to develop the course for a remote learning model, with Queen’s moving most of its program online due to the pandemic.

“This course is really about trying to understand that the way we organize our society impacts how people experience health and illness,” Dr. King explains, adding that students generally enter kinesiology and health studies programs with an interest in improving the community’s overall health. “I am trying to get students to think about the relationship between their own experiences of the pandemic and larger social patterns and relations of power, and to understand that the virus didn’t come out of nowhere, that it came out of a particular context and that how we respond to it is not inevitable.”

Finding relevant and quality material for the course wasn’t a problem. More time-consuming was sifting through the massive amount of information regarding the latest developments that is constantly being put out and updated. But, with a lot of reading, Dr. King was able to select meaningful, interesting and accessible articles, academic and popular, for the students.

In moving the course to a remote learning model Dr. King has employed both synchronous and asynchronous components. Students also have an opportunity to meet with her at least once a week and also participate in smaller groups with a TA.

“The structure is working out well and that is as much about the small class size as it is about the remote learning,” she says. “I might continue to divide their tutorials into smaller groups once we return to face-to-face learning. Students are talking more and the conversation is more organic even though they are in little boxes on the screen. In the bigger lectures I have to work harder to get them to participate, but putting them into breakout rooms, then asking them to report back, helps with that.”

One of the areas of particular interest within the course are masks and why some people are open to wearing them while others are extremely opposed. This is where politics have played a major role.

“We are doing a semester-long project on masks and I am trying to help students understand how decisions about masking are not only about public health but connected to bigger political ideologies.,” he says. “Studying masks and people’s attitudes to them offers a powerful lens into what’s happening in the world right now, politically, economically, and socially.”

The findings are then being shared through a blog being created by the students themselves. The hope is that the material being posted will benefit those that access it.

“I haven’t done a blog as part of a course before,” Dr. King says. “I decided to do it this time because I thought if we are doing all this work to learn about COVID-19 and explain it to each other, we really should share it with the public too.”

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


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