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

Student Learning Experience

A successful transition for RARC

The Regional Assessment and Resource Centre continues to help students with invisible disabilities or mental health challenges prepare for postsecondary education.

A teen girls uses a laptop
Due to the outbreak of the novel coronavirus the Regional Assessment and Resource Centre (RARC) moved its introductory workshop for two of its programs online. (Unsplash / Annie Spratt)

For the past 15 years the Regional Assessment and Resource Centre (RARC) at Queen’s University has been helping high school students with invisible disabilities such as specific learning disabilities or mental health challenges prepare for the transition to postsecondary education. As with practically everything else, COVID-19 has forced a change of plans with how the program is delivered.

The two programs involved – On-Line to Success (OLTS) and Successful Transition Online and Mentoring Program (STOMP) – are both primarily provided online over a six-week period. However, one of the key ingredients for both has been a two-day introductory workshop that is conducted in-person and allows the participants to meet with RARC staff as well as their peers in the program.

Under the current circumstances this was no longer possible, so the staff and clinicians at RARC pivoted quickly and, with the support of IT Services at Queen’s, moved the introductory workshop online.

With this being a first there were some concerns on being able to replicate the vibrancy and engagement of the in-person experience.

Thanks to the team effort, the results have been very positive.

“Because we were not able to have our face-to-face workshops this year, we’ve added new video content to the website, including recording our presentations, adding video introductions for all moderators, conducting one-on-one phone and video calls to students and starting a weekly interactive riddle contest with prizes,” says Marie McCarron, Clinical Services Manager. “We are also starting some group conversations over Zoom to facilitate more student-student interaction.”

Safe transition

OLTS and STOMP are designed specifically to target and address areas that research has shown are problematic for students with learning disabilities, ADHD, ASD and/or mental health disorders as they make the transition to postsecondary education. There are several modules in OLTS and STOMP that cover different topics such:
• Understanding yourself
• Differences between high school and postsecondary education
• Researching your school/Finding your way around/resources
• Study Strategies
• Time Management/Scheduling/Work-Life Balance
• Accommodations at postsecondary
• Self-Advocacy

For this group of students, having a safe place to talk with peers and to feel less alone is important, McCarron adds. The programs have proven very successful, with participants enjoying a much higher overall success rate in post-secondary than their disabled peers who did not participate in such a transition program.

One of the strengths of the program is its online flexibility; it allows participants to manage their own schedules, become accustomed to online learning environments, and complete the course at their own pace over a six-week period.

“The online format works quite well, as it allows students to take this course on top of their schoolwork, without having to do it during the summer or on weekends. They are able to choose when it fits in their schedule, whether it’s during a spare or in the evenings, or on weekends if they want,” says Alison Parker, Transitions Coordinator at RARC. “It also allows students to go at their own pace, which is especially useful for students with disabilities that effect their reading, writing and attention. For some of our students, there is also some comfort in being able to type out answers – to review them before they share, and to offer a little less spotlight and attention then if they were speaking in front of a group. Many of our students also realize that completing online courses is an incredibly useful skill as they approach post-secondary school, and they’re happy to take this opportunity to test it out.”

Learning opportunities

The program also receives support from teacher candidates from the Queen’s Faculty of Education who moderate the course as part of an alternative practicum placement provided by RARC. The placement also provides the teacher candidates with valuable experience in the areas of online teaching and learning, and training in how to support students with learning disabilities, ADHD, Autism Spectrum Disorder, and mental health disorders who are participating in an online learning environment.

“To me, this course offers a win-win to both teacher candidates and students with disabilities” says RARC clinical director, Allyson G. Harrison, an associate professor in the Department of Psychology. “The teacher candidates receive direct instruction and practice in learning how to deliver content online and to assist students with disabilities as they navigate this platform, and the high school students need to learn the skills of how to interact and participate in an online environment.”

University 101

Dr. Harrison says that the beauty of the online programs that RARC has developed is that the content could easily be used to assist all students making the transition to university.

“Almost all of the content of this transition course is like the University 101 courses offered in many institutions in the U.S., and would make transition to a university environment easier for most students. The fact that we’ve modified and improved this course with student input over the past 15 years means that it is extremely engaging, dynamic, and easy to do,” she adds. “We’d be happy to share this course with any department or program on campus, and given the current COVID-19 crisis this might be an ideal time to expand what the university offers to all incoming students”.

Over and above the two transition programs, the RARC team also developed an online transition resource guide to help all students in Ontario with disabilities make the transition from high school to college or university.

RARC operates as part of the Queen’s Division of Students Affairs.

To learn more about the programs and services, visit the Regional Assessment and Resource Centre (RARC) website.

Helping local organizations navigate economic hardship

Smith School of Business partners with City of Kingston to support area businesses impacted by COVID-19.

Downtown Kingston
The Kingston Region Business Support Network is set to provide local organizations with assistance to navigate economic challenges posed by COVID-19.

Smith School of Business at Queen’s University is joining forces with the City of Kingston and Kingston Economic Development to provide student and faculty resources to help local businesses, not-for-profits, and social enterprises navigate and survive the impact of COVID-19.

“Our local businesses and not-for-profits are integral to the character of Kingston and the truth is they are struggling right now,” says Kingston Mayor Bryan Paterson. “They need every resource we can muster as a community, and so I’m very proud to see this program come together and so quickly. I believe this will serve as an incredible resource for our community.”

Under the banner of the Kingston Region Business Support Network, the effort offers free services, including student time and skills, and community classroom learning sessions with faculty on topics designed for local business needs.

“We are grateful to be a part of the Kingston community and are ready to help local organizations as they cope with the extraordinary impact of COVID-19,” says Brenda Brouwer, Dean, Smith School of Business. “These are our neighbours, friends, employers of our students, and the businesses, stores, and services we rely on day-to-day. We want to contribute what we can to help them through this difficult time.”

Tapping into Student Resources

Through a matching platform, interested businesses can tap into the time, expertise, and skills of Smith students, which can range from research, strategic planning, and digital development, to sales, marketing, design thinking, and applying for grants. Once registered, businesses are contacted by a student consultant to confirm specific needs and to match with appropriate resources.

Participating students come from across Smith’s programs, from undergraduate to professional masters and graduate level research programs, and bring a diverse range of skills and experience suited to assisting businesses small and large. Each student consultant is supported by a Smith faculty member.

Confronting COVID-19 Read more articles in this series

“Kingston is tremendously blessed to have the wealth of talent and expertise within our post-secondary institutions at Queen’s and St. Lawrence College,” says Donna Gillespie, Chief Executive Officer, Kingston Economic Development. “During these incredibly challenging business times, leveraging these assets and supporting our business community together is paramount to address immediate needs and how we, as a community can support and prepare businesses for the path to recovery.”

Community classrooms with experts

As part of Kingston Region Business Support Effort, Smith School of Business faculty and instructors will also host free webinars designed specifically for regional businesses to help tackle their day-to-day challenges.

The initial online Community Classroom Learning Sessions will take place on April 22 and April 29. Peter Gallant, Adjunct Assistant Professor of Strategy, Innovation, and Entrepreneurship will lead the first webinar entitled Cashflow During Coronavirus: Strategy and Tactics for Business Survival and Recovery in the Age of COVID-19. The second, entitled Anticipating the New Normal: Critical Changes to Plan Today will be led by Ken Wong, Associate Professor and Distinguished Professor of Marketing.

Registration for these sessions and information about future sessions can be found on the website. Planned topics will include negotiation with banks and creditors, and innovating and pivoting.

“The efforts being made by people and organizations across the Kingston region to respond to the challenges brought on by COVID-19 are inspiring,” says Patrick Deane, Queen’s Principal and Vice-Chancellor. “I am especially proud of our faculty, staff, and students who have been engaged on healthcare’s front lines, assisting local businesses, and contributing crucial research and development expertise to help our community through this difficult period.” 

A team effort for dissertation defence

A student in the Department of History was one of the first ever at Queen's to defend her dissertation remotely.

Photo of Sanober Umar after successfully defending her dissertation over a video conference on Microsoft Teams
Sanober Umar after successfully defending her dissertation over a video conference on Microsoft Teams.

Queen’s has had graduate degree programs since 1889, but is still having new firsts in its approach to graduate education. Over the past few weeks, the university has held its first remote defences of theses and dissertations. One of these defences was for Sanober Umar, who on April 6 became the first PhD candidate in the Queen’s Department of History to defend her dissertation using Microsoft Teams.

Nine people joined the video conference, including Umar, her committee members, a facilitator, and a staff member from IT Services for support. Most were in Kingston, but one person joined from New York City and another from Halifax.

"Even though it was a momentous occasion, I felt surprisingly calm going into my defence. Mainly because I received so much support from Barrington Walker and Saadia Toor, my supervisors; Adnan Hussain, Graduate Chair in the Department of History; and Betsy Donald, Associate Dean in the School of Graduate Studies. Because of their help, I was able to focus on preparing and didn't have to worry about whether the new situation would affect my defence," says Umar. "The advisors at the Ban Righ Centre, who have provided me with so much support throughout my time at Queen's, also helped to keep me calm in the days before the exam."

A successful remote defence

Shortly after learning that classes were transitioning to remote delivery, Umar says she was contacted by Hussain, who let her and the other graduate students in the department know that there were plans in the works for holding defences and exams remotely. The School of Graduate Studies (SGS) also reached out with the same message. “I never had to worry if my defence or degree would be delayed,” Umar says.

Making sure no technical glitches got in the way, David Smith, a staff member in IT Services at Queen’s, stayed on the video call for the duration. All the committee members were also eager to make sure that the defence could focus on Umar’s dissertation rather than whether everyone’s technology was working properly. So they all agreed to join the virtual meeting half an hour early to sort out any potential issues.

Typically, successful defences end with a celebration of the accomplishments of the student. While there could be no in-person gathering, the facilitator of the defence did bring out balloons and a congratulations sign to recognize Umar’s achievement. As her dissertation studies global Islamophobia in the second half of the twentieth century, Umar appreciated having this light-hearted note after discussing such a serious topic for three hours.

Best practices for remote thesis examinations

As Queen’s continues to practice physical distancing, it will rely on this remote format for administering graduate exams and defences. And SGS is providing support and guidance for all students and departments. It has put together a guide to best practices for remote exams which were followed during Umar’s defence, helping to ensure it went off without a hitch.

“Queen’s is one of the first schools in Canada to compile best practices for remote thesis examinations. And we have already seen many departments put them to use as they hold their first-ever remote defences,” says Betsy Donald, Associate Dean, School of Graduate Studies. “I served as the facilitator for Umar’s defence, and it was a pleasure to see her thrive in the remote setting.”

To read the SGS best practices guide for remote thesis examinations, see their website.

Making the most of the summer

Queen’s online course offerings are proving to be very popular with students facing summers disrupted by COVID-19.

Photo of a person using a laptop.
Faculties at Queen's are seeing an increased demand for their popular online summer courses.

COVID-19 has abruptly changed summer plans for many students across Queen’s, as many employment and internship opportunities have been put on hold. To help students make the most of this unexpected gap, the university is ready to connect students with a host of popular online courses and programs around campus.

Arts and Science Online (ASO) has the largest enrolment out of the units offering online degree credit courses at Queen’s. It’s aiming to become even more accessible to students through measures like increasing enrolment caps for popular classes, extending the application deadline and start date for summer courses, and by expediting the application process for prospective students and visiting students from other universities, such as allowing them to submit unofficial transcripts to support their applications. To support the larger class sizes this summer, ASO will also be hiring an additional 40 graduate students as teaching assistants.

“From last year, there is already a 25 per cent increase in course enrolments in Arts and Science Online. We understand that many students suddenly need to find new plans for their summer, and we are working hard to make accommodations while maintaining the high level of education that we are known for. Whether students are looking to earn credits toward their degree or explore an interest, ASO has something for them,” says Bev King, Assistant Dean (Teaching and Learning), Faculty of Arts and Science.

Arts and Science Online has a long track record of offering innovative online education. Students in ASO can take courses in a wide variety of disciplines, including art history, drama, astronomy, computing, and psychology. Courses in ASO are taught by Queen’s faculty members who often teach in-person courses on similar topics. Their courses are open to Queen’s on-campus and distance students, and students from other higher-education institutions who apply.

Launching careers remotely

The Smith School of Business has also been making their programs more accessible for students facing a summer of physical distancing. Notably, they have adjusted their popular Graduate Diploma in Business (GDB) program so that it is now delivered remotely.

The GDB course is designed for recent graduates from any discipline and gives them a chance to build business skills that can help launch their careers. Credits earned in the program can also be transferred to a Smith MBA program, and completion of the program could qualify students for entry into other Master’s programs at Smith. Throughout the program, students also work with dedicated career coaches who provide mentorship and build important professional skills, such as communication, resiliency, and emotional intelligence.

“This is the seventh year for Smith’s Graduate Diploma in Business. In four intensive months over the summer, students gain a deeper confidence in all areas of business through ten masters level courses plus professional coaching, communications skills, training in high performance teams, career planning, and more so they stand out as a great job candidate,” said Jim Hamilton, Distinguished Faculty Fellow of Sales Management, and Director Graduate Diploma in Business at Smith. “We are excited this summer to deliver the program fully remotely using our teaching studio technology and virtual support. It will be a completely immersive and engaging experience that a student can do from anywhere.”

Health Sciences online

Like ASO, the online Bachelor of Health Sciences (BHSc) program is already seeing growing demand for its courses this summer. Compared to 2019, enrolments are already up 71 per cent. Queen’s undergraduates are driving most of this increase, but there are also many students from other institutions requesting to enroll.

To accommodate more students, the BHSc is adding more courses. Originally, the program planned to offer 18 courses, which was already an increase over the 15 offered in 2019. But now they will be adding 3 to 5 more courses on top of the 18. The preferences of students are being considered as the BHSc plans for this expansion. They have asked for feedback from students about which courses they are most interested in taking, and they have received over 100 responses so far.

“Seven years ago, the Faculty of Health Sciences made significant investments to develop state-of-the-art, fully online courses that would become the foundation of the Bachelor of Health Sciences program. The result is that we can now offer a diverse array of courses online, enabling us to respond to the student demand because of this COVID-19 pandemic. We are very pleased to be able to help the students out,” says Michael Adams, Director, Bachelor of Health Sciences.

The BHSc is designed for undergraduates who are interested in pursuing the health professions, and it offers online courses on a wide range of topics, including infectious diseases, pharmacology, physiology, and global health. This academic year, it launched an on-campus version of the program, which received over 4,000 applications for its first cohort.

Queen’s Faculty of Law

Having seen several years of steady growth for the Certificate in Law, the law school is continuing to see increases in enrolment in both individual courses and the Certificate program itself as the summer nears. Queen’s students represent about 60% of students in the program, but off-campus students, both undergraduates and lifelong learners, are a growing cohort for the program. Law 201, Introduction to Canadian Law, is a perennially popular course, but speciality courses such as Aboriginal Law and Intellectual Property are rapidly accruing interest and enrolments as May nears. 

“We have increased our caps for most courses, hiring more teaching assistants from our Juris Doctor and graduate students,” says Hugo Choquette, Academic Director of the Certificate in Law program. “We are continuing to invest in course renewals and improvements for the courses, and the quality of the courses are reflected in their growth both on- and off-campus. We’ve also extended our program enrolment deadline for Queen’s students by a week, to April 27, to accommodate this higher level interest.”

The Faculty’s online Graduate Diploma in Legal Services Management is also seeing growing interest among legal professionals with a series of courses to train legal professionals in business skills ranging from financial literacy to project management. One of its summer courses, LSM 840 – Working With Teams and Managing People – has proven especially relevant in the current context.

“The COVID-19 epidemic has, among other things, highlighted how important leadership and management skills are to weathering a crisis,” says Shai Dubey, Academic Director of the Graduate Diploma in Legal Services Management. “We’re reaching out to small and mid-sized law firms with a series of tools, created by the course developers, to help them with remote team management and mentoring, and seeing a strong positive response and interest in this course, as well as the other courses in the program.”

Exploring online programs

For more information about Arts and Science Online, visit the ASO website.  Learn more about the Graduate Diploma in Business on the program’s website, or find out about other programs that Smith delivers remotely on the school’s website. The website for the BHSc has information about both the online and on-campus versions of the program. 

If you are interested in summer online courses in other academic areas, see the website of the relevant faculty or school to learn more about their programs.

Library’s virtual doors open to students, researchers

More Confronting COVID-19 Stories

Queen’s University Library continues to provide remote services during the university’s response to COVID-19.

While library locations remain closed at this time, the Queen’s University Library is very much open online, with many supports and resources available to students, faculty, and staff, as outlined on the library’s COVID-19 website.

“We are committed, as ever, to supporting students and researchers and providing a wide array of information resources and services to enhance and facilitate online course instruction and research,” says Michael Vandenburg, Interim Vice-Provost and University Librarian. “This is an unprecedented time, and while it is a major shift, I would like the community to know that the library is well-equipped to provide additional online resources and support, and library staff are hard at work to ensure that everyone has what they need.”

Remote Learning

Library staff have been keenly focused on supporting instructors with the transition to remote learning. To help students in the Faculty of Law access resources they need to complete their work, the Lederman Law Library has reached out to Canadian legal publishers to provide students and faculty with expanded access to key online legal resources. As a result, law students and faculty now have online access to The Canadian Guide to Uniform Legal Citation (also known as the McGill Guide) through personal WestlawNext accounts until the end of the winter term, and Irwin’s Law E-Library is now available campus-wide until the end of the calendar year.

Accessing Library Resources

In Bracken Health Sciences Library, librarians are responding to questions from clinicians searching for more resources on COVID-19 and pandemic planning, and adjusting to provide library services, including instruction on searching databases and citation management, online via Zoom instead of in-person in classes. Across the library, subject specialists are working with researchers remotely to provide the ongoing support needed to continue and complete projects. Library staff are available to answer questions about how to access these resources.

Library staff also continue to work directly with students to ensure they have what they need for coursework or capstone projects to complete the term. All library eReserves are still available to students via OnQ and students and faculty members can email library.reserves@queensu.ca to discuss any changes to reading lists and options for accessing materials online.

“We are doing as much as we can to make this challenging time smoother for students and faculty members,” says Heather McMullen, Associate University Librarian. “We encourage the community to reach out for library support, and to ask us for help if they are facing obstacles in their research and teaching.”

The library’s online resources, including e-journals, e-books, databases, and much more, continue to be available and subject librarians and specialists are available remotely to answer any research questions or inquiries. They can be reached through the Ask Us service or directly via email.

The Copyright Advisory Office has created Copyright & Digital Delivery guides for instructors who are digitizing course materials: Quick Guide and Detailed Guide. Online consultations are available with Mark Swartz, Copyright Manager

Currently, there is no access to print collections but the library is reviewing options for providing access. There is no need to return books to the library at this time, and late fines will not be charged. The library continues to provide Interlibrary Loan services for electronic materials only. Due dates for materials currently out on interlibrary loan will not be enforced, and late fines will not be charged.

More information is available on the library’s COVID-19 website.

Finding new ways to support

Student Affairs is coming up with new ways to help students stay connected with Queen’s and adjust to remote learning.

Photo of person using laptop
Student Affairs is working to offer their services remotely.

As students adapt to life away from campus, they may be looking for ways to feel connected to the Queen’s community, or they may need support. To meet these needs, many units in Student Affairs have begun to offer services that students can access remotely, no matter where they are.

“Students are quickly adapting to a new academic situation, and Student Affairs is doing everything it can to support them. We still have many services in place that they can rely on for help in a range of areas, including health, wellness, and academic support. Being away from campus doesn’t mean students are disconnected from Queen’s,” says Ann Tierney, Vice-Provost and Dean, Student Affairs.

Engaging students online

While many units within Student Affairs typically use in-person consultations, workshops, and activities to connect with students, they are now finding innovative ways to engage online. A number of groups that offered one-on-one appointments, like Career Services, Student Wellness Services, and Student Academic Success Services, are now offering appointments through online video conferencing platforms.

Other groups, like the Student Experience Office and Faith and Spiritual Life, are experimenting with ways to hold community-building activities online. Through services like Zoom, students will be able to gather to play trivia, share their experiences studying remotely, and generally stay connected to the Queen’s community.

“Everyone in Student Affairs has shown great creativity in thinking of ways to adapt the services we offer to an online environment. We will continue to experiment and innovate as we work to ensure that we’re meeting the needs of Queen’s students during this time,” says Tierney.

Remote services

To learn more about the services available to students, visit the Student Affairs COVID-19 website.

The units within Student Affairs that are offering services remotely are:

Athletics and Recreation

Ban Righ Centre

Career Services

Faith and Spiritual Life

Four Directions Indigenous Student Centre

Office of the University Registrar

Undergraduate Admissions and Recruitment

Student Academic Success Services

Student Conduct Office & Non-Academic Misconduct Intake Office

Student Experience Office

Student Wellness Services

Queen’s University International Centre

Yellow House

Zooming into remote learning

Remote teaching the latest stop in a four-decade pedagogical journey for Faculty of Law Professor Nick Bala.

Law professor Nick Bala learns how to use Zoom

Professor Nick Bala (Law) trials remote teaching with Zoom conferencing software earlier this month, supported by IT staff member Theresa Afolayan, with student Zach Rudge. 

Nick Bala, a professor in the Faculty of Law, has been putting technology to use in the classroom since the mid-’70s, sharing handwritten course outlines using the then-novel photocopiers. Four decades later – with a career incorporating everything from VHS to DVDs, overheads to PowerPoint, and email to secure web storage for notes – he's transitioned seamlessly to teaching online in the context of a global pandemic. 

On Monday, March 16, Bala delivered his Family Law lecture using Zoom, a remote conferencing platform.

“I really like the interactive nature of Zoom,” he says. “I could see who was ‘in the class’ and just knowing students were there helped me engage. In the past, I have pre-recorded and used voice over PowerPoint, but I prefer Zoom because I can present slides and have the students engage right away.”

During the Family Law lecture, students could still ask questions on the platform.

“They could share with the whole class or ask in a way that only I would know the student and question. I would say: ‘Oh here’s a question that just came up,’ then read it and answer it.”   

Bala used Zoom again on March 18 for both Family Law and a 38-student Contracts class.

“I’ve taught these Contracts students all year and I know them all by name, so I think we were all quite comfortable,” he says. “While you can’t just replace an in-person class, given where we are in the year, this is a very good method for finishing the course. In the smaller class, the students were more willing to participate using their mics, and we were able to do some ‘Socratic teaching.’ I could also use anonymous polling of the whole class, which is actually better than in person since other students can’t see who is putting up their ‘electronic hands’.”

For his third course, the upper-year Family Law Placements, some students have decided to continue to meet with lawyers and clients in the community, but for most, the last three weeks of placements are suspended. Those students will be writing reviews of some family-law-themes-related YouTube videos and streaming movies, one of those being A Marriage Story available on Netflix. (Bala’s handwritten course outlines were nicknamed by his classmates as the ‘Nicky notes.’ Now, he’s offering his students “Nick’s Netflix picks.”)

Setting up for the change, Bala received training from Theresa Afolayan, one of the school’s IT support assistants.

“I taught my first Zoom class from my law school office with an IT person ready to assist, but not needed,” Professor Bala says. “After that, I knew I could do it anywhere, and I am shifting to home as part of social distancing. The technology is extremely user-friendly. Our IT staff have been extremely helpful to us in continuing our teaching program.”

Bala has already increased his emailing and phone calls with students, and during the study and exam period, he will have “virtual office hours.”

For now, he says, “We’re ready to zoom along.”

Supporting academic success from a distance

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Queen’s has academic support for students as they transition to remote learning.

Photo of student working on a laptop
Students looking for academic support as they learn remotely can turn to Student Academic Success Services. (Unsplash / Thought Catalog)

As students are in the process of learning how their courses are going to change with the transition to remote learning, they may be wondering how best to learn when they are no longer in physical classrooms. But being away from Queen's campus doesn’t mean that they are cut off from the academic support resources that are usually available to them. Student Academic Success Services (SASS), a unit in Student Affairs, is still providing help to students through online resources and one-on-one writing and academic skills appointments.

“Students are being asked to make a sudden change in the way they take their classes, and that can be a stressful situation. At SASS, we want Queen’s students to know that we are still here for them, and that we have resources available that might make this big adjustment to remote learning a little easier,” says Susan Korba, Director of SASS.

Remote consultations and online resources

Students who are new to remote learning may be especially interested in reading the guide for distance students on the SASS website. Through sections on topics such as being an active participant, taking responsibility, and getting organized, the guide gives students an overview of how to adjust to learning outside a physical classroom. Having a sense of helpful academic strategies and approaches can give students a greater sense of control and autonomy in an unfamiliar and potentially stressful situation.

SASS is also continuing to offer its one-on-one consultation program. Students can book appointments for personalized assistance with writing, academic skills, and English as an additional language. While these sessions are usually in person, they will now be held only online to protect the health and safety of the Queen’s community.

Graduate students can continue to take advantage of SASS resources, as well. They can book online appointments for writing, academic English, and learning strategies to work on anything from a section of their dissertation to presentation skills to procrastination and motivation.

“As all Queen’s courses quickly transition to remote learning for the end of the term, instructors will likely be using a wide variety of methods to finish teaching their courses. But no matter what new form classes will take, SASS has resources for students that will help them finish the semester with confidence,” says Korba.

Exploring support options

For more information about the resources SASS is offering during COVID-19, see their website.

To learn more about all the different resources that the Division of Student Affairs is still providing to students, visit the Student Affairs COVID-19 website.

Adjusting to remote teaching

More Confronting COVID-19 Stories

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Update on Queen’s University Library services and operations

Queen’s University Library is in the process of reviewing all interactions carried out at information service desks to determine what service levels will be maintained and how they will be delivered. However, a number of locations are closed until further notice, including:

  • 1966 Reading Room (Douglas)
  • Fireplace Reading Room (Stauffer)
  • Maps & Air Photos (Stauffer)
  • Queen's Research Data Centre (QRDC)
  • Union Gallery
  • University Archives
  • Watson Hall LINQ
  • W.D. Jordan Rare Books & Special Collections

If you require reference help, it is available online. Please use the Ask Us service for all reference questions.

For students completing coursework and faculty preparing to deliver by alternative means, please contact your Subject Librarian who can work with you remotely.

For more information visit the Queen’s University Library website.


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