By: Jeffrey Low
Students, staff and faculty all have a role to play in helping students succeed with online learning, and supporting students also means supporting instructors and faculty, says McMaster’s Student Success Centre.
Building on the results of the MacPherson Fall Experience Report, released in November 2020, the SSC’s academic skills team has responded with expanded online resources and services, individualized peer-to-peer support, and creative solutions to help staff and faculty connect students with further supports.
“I think the survey is a call to action for us to continue to work together with staff and faculty in supporting students as well as one another. It’s an inventory of where we’re at and where we need to be,” says Gina Robinson, associate dean and director of the SSC. “Raising awareness and encouraging students to use these resources is more important than ever.”
Launched following McMaster’s first-ever fully online term, the survey identified a number of challenges with online learning, including technology issues, Zoom fatigue and feelings of demotivation. Many students and instructors noted that additional support and skill development could help improve experiences during the winter term.
To address these challenges, the SSC has developed a list of resources and strategies that instructors can use to help their students succeed. These include:
- Online Learning Infographic
- Online Learning Support
- Academic Skills Programs
- Academic Skills Prep Series
- Academic Skills Animated Video Series
As well, the SSC has the following tips for instructors working online:
- Take advantage of multiple platforms (Avenue to Learn, Microsoft Teams, social media, presentation slide decks, etc.).
- Request a custom SSC workshop that fits with course goals.
- Add links to academic skills programs in automatic email responses and presentations.
- Incentivize resource-seeking behaviour: Offer students a bonus mark for attending a writing session or skills development workshop. (For each Wednesday Workshop students attend virtually in Winter 2021, their name will be entered into a draw to win a $200 Campus Store gift card.)
While online learning can be challenging, it can also help students become better learners, and can encourage staff to “expand programs and help bridge the learning gaps,” says Jenna Storey, academic skills program coordinator. “Helping students become better students is what we’re passionate about at the SSC.”
That means collaboration is key to ensuring students succeed in an online environment, shares Kim Dej, associate vice-provost, faculty.
“I am so happy with the strong collaborations that we have across our many academic and support units that centre the students’ experience.”
Instructors and faculty can contact firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss individual needs related to academic skills development and support.