Remote Teaching Support Fund strengthens York's approach to virtual learning

When the pandemic first hit, the move to remote learning was a challenge, but one that could be tackled with the tremendous efforts of faculty and staff, and the help of programs and infrastructure in place at York. When it became clear that the shift to online learning would extend to additional terms, more investment was needed to enhance virtual offerings. To help the York University community meet this unprecedented demand, the Office of the Provost and Vice-President Academic launched the Remote Teaching Support Fund.

Lisa Philipps

Provost and Vice-President Academic Lisa Philipps

“In the first wave, Faculties did an incredible job of delivering the winter term virtually,” said Provost and Vice-President Academic Lisa Philipps. “As we began to look ahead at upcoming terms however, we wanted to make sure that they were able to apply for funds to help instructors and students respond to any pressures they faced and have what they needed to be successful.”

With this investment, the School of the Arts, Media, Performance and Design (AMPD) was able to bolster support for instructors through AMPD Computing services. The help was needed as faculty expanded their online course complement from 80 to 800 virtual courses in the fall and winter 2020/21 terms. Staff were also able to work closely with an instructional technology coordinator to support course delivery with Moodle, create online course structures and engage more directly with students.

Similarly, the Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professionals Studies was tasked with the virtual delivery of over 2,400 undergraduate and 420 graduate courses in the summer, fall and winter terms. Hiring an online educator to work with the associate dean of teaching and learning allowed them to have the technical training needed to deliver virtual seminars, large format lectures, tutorials and graduate teaching. Extra eLearning support team members were also hired to help staff understand how to better engage in online platforms like Moodle and Zoom.

The Faculty of Science created virtual labs for biology, chemistry and physics courses. They were able to hire a student from the School of Arts, Media, Performance and Design specializing in film production and editing, as they recorded procedures and lab activities for online courses.

A woman on the couch with a laptop

To help the York University community meet demand for virtual learning tools, the Office of the Provost and Vice-President Academic launched the Remote Teaching Support Fund

In the Faculty of Environmental & Urban Change, over 30 instructors and teaching assistants accessed one-on-one supports for remote teaching and learning. Help centred around creating online assignments, recording lectures and tips to keep students engaged in remote learning.

The Schulich School of Business planned to take 130 courses online in the summer and over 300 courses virtual in the fall of this year. With a significant number of international students accessing programming from different time zones, live sessions were balanced with asynchronous elements. The fund supported them in hiring champions to work over the summer to help convert courses to these new formats.

Osgoode Hall Law School used funds to host many one-on-one Zoom and Moodle training sessions for instructors and students. This support allowed Osgoode to ensure that their Information Technology Service remained highly responsive to students’ needs as they navigated the Virtual Private Network (VPN) and other platforms.

At Glendon Campus, two bilingual faculty members offered personalized support to 40 instructors and helped them both navigate Teaching Commons resources and create eClass pages in Moodle. These services have benefitted close to 1,500 students who have accessed over 80 online courses.

The Lassonde School of Engineering launched an Educational Innovation Studio and they have been bringing together experts with backgrounds in instructional, assessment and experience design, as well as skillsets ranging from academic integrity, educational technology, videography, animation, digital media and gamification. Their initial focus was on creating safe spaces for innovation and trying out new techniques in teaching and learning to improve student experiences at the course level. The next phase of this work will involve hiring educational innovation champions and shifting to greater refinements at the program and departmental level.

York University Libraries also has plans to create new online government and policy learning eLearning modules for political science and policy students that will include video resources and interactive features. A new position is being created to focus on leveraging content from existing research resources, such as the Government Information Research Guide and finding ways to enhance critical thinking and engagement with these materials.

As more projects like these are happening across campus, supporting the York community with the shift to virtual remains a top priority. As much awaits for 2021, some important groundwork has been laid to ensure that instructors and students can adjust and stay closely connected. 

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