Getting creative with online learning

Posted on August 18, 2020

Online learning is not a new thing. But taking a complete university term online is, for most students and their instructors, quite a novel experience.  The Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science, however, has a not-so-secret weapon for a successful Fall term: the Engineering Teaching and Learning Team.

The Engineering Teaching and Learning Team is a leader in engineering education, with experts in course design, multimedia, teaching approaches and new technologies. Working closely with faculty members, team members provide project management and expertise for using technology and new tools, such as simulations and virtual environments.  The Faculty’s online Bachelor of Mining Engineering Technology program, for example, is considered a best in class online learning experience.

Although the team works regularly with faculty members, the pandemic presented a unique challenge. “We’ve never seen a change in course delivery of this magnitude in our history,” says Dean Kevin Deluzio. “It’s required a huge shift in our approach to course design and teaching methods, but our team was ready for the challenge.”

Along with multi-media and teaching specialists, the team employed 5 interns and summer students to help with course design and to provide feedback on course delivery.  Student Will Day, a Con-Ed student with a Physics undergraduate degree, joined the team over the summer to provide course design and a student perspective. He said that along with finding innovative ways to deliver content, the team felt strongly about helping students create a schedule for learning.

“It’s hard to set up a routine if you are at home and not in scheduled classes, especially if you are a first-year student and have never been to university,” he says. “We’ve been creating schedules and goals for each week to help students stay on track.”

Students are able to take advantage of several innovative learning approaches, including virtual reality labs, and the opportunity to work directly with Teaching Assistants through GoPros and Bluetooth technology. Instructors will also be collecting feedback from students and checking in regularly to see how things are going.

Faculty members have collaborated with the team on their course development and are grateful for the support. “I have been a professor for 30 years, and the ETL team have been transformative in my teaching,” says Jim McLellan, a professor in Chemical Engineering. “They are helping me see new opportunities in online teaching, and have provided professional advice on curriculum and assessment design.”

Dean Deluzio notes that student feedback and participation is key to adjusting to the ‘new normal’ for Fall. “We have done a great deal of planning, but our students are our partners in this process,” he says. “We are in this together – and together we are going to make this the best educational experience that we can.”

Learn more about the Engineering Teaching and Learning team: