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Embracing remote learning at Sheridan

April 29, 2020

While classes at Sheridan College have transitioned to remote delivery amid the COVID-19 pandemic, faculty have been working around the clock to develop and deliver meaningful learning experiences rooted in the creativity and innovation that are hallmarks of Sheridan.

Sheridan’s faculty retooled, rethought and reorganized nearly 3,000 courses and – with the help of Sheridan’s Centre for Teaching and Learning – ensured they could be delivered remotely. With the winter semester now complete, Sheridan faculty are adjusting curriculum to support alternate (remote) course delivery for the duration of the Spring/Summer semester, which commences on May 19.

To help faculty through this process, Sheridan’s Centre for Teaching and Learning, and Library Learning Services developed an Online Learning and Teaching Guide, which offers the tools, practices, and examples to support and inspire an approach that is both relevant and relational for learners at Sheridan.

“This guide is a timely addition to the curated suite of services provided to faculty to support ongoing excellence in teaching as we adapt to the evolving learning context,” says Marian Traynor, Director, Library and Learning Services. “The guide is designed to provide an accessible, well-researched and comprehensive overview of tools and practices that will continue to drive student engagement and learning outcomes.”

As Janet Shuh, Associate Dean of Educational Development and Technology, suggests, “quality and pedagogically driven curricula should not be measured or constrained by the medium, whether that be traditional face to face instruction or online delivery. Rather, they should be driven by other inputs and outcomes such as active engagement, peer and instructor interactivity, and authentic assessment – all principles showcased in this guide”.

Building from traditional classroom practices and pedagogies, this guide highlights Learner-Centered Principles for Higher Education as an organizing framework for our teaching guide since these principles have broad applicability to all teaching and learning contexts and milieus, including classroom, hybrid, and online. These principles, as curated by Natasha Kenny, include:

Actively Engage Learners: Ensure online learning material is stimulating, relevant and interesting; explain material clearly; use a variety of methods that encourage active and deep approaches to learning, as well as adapt to the evolving online learning context.

Demonstrate Empathy and Respect: Show interest in students' opinions and concerns; seek to understand their diverse talents, needs, prior knowledge, and approaches to learning; encourage interaction between instructor and students; share your love of the discipline.

Communicate Clear Expectations: Make clear the intended learning outcomes and standards for performance; provide organization, structure and direction for where the course is going.

Encourage Student Independence: Provide opportunities to develop and draw upon personal interests; offer choice in learning processes and modes of assessment; provide timely and developmental feedback on learning; encourage metacognition to promote self-assessment of learning.

Create a Teaching and Learning Community: Use teaching methods and learning strategies that encourage mutual learning, as well as thoughtful, respectful and collaborative engagement and dialogue between all members of the classroom community.

Use Appropriate Assessment Methods: Clearly align assessment methods with intended course outcomes; provide clear criteria for evaluation; emphasize deep learning; scaffold assessments to ensure progressive learning.

Commit to Continuous Improvement: Gather formative and summative feedback on your teaching; practice critical self-reflection; consult scholarly literature on teaching & learning; identify clear goals for strengthening your teaching practice.

“As we navigate the challenges presented by COVID-19, we remain squarely focused on our students and the quality of their learning experience,” explains Sheridan’s President and Vice Chancellor, Dr. Janet Morrison. “The integrity of Sheridan’s programs and our commitment to academic excellence is unwavering, no matter the medium or mode of course delivery. I want to applaud my colleagues for developing this guide as a tool for bolstering that promise.”

Sheridan’s Centre for Teaching and Learning has also curated a toolkit of faculty resources that can be used to support the deployment of remote learning. Functions and tools such as announcements, discussion forums and virtual classrooms are currently embedded within Sheridan’s Learning Management system. This combined with the extensive Library collection of e-resources serve to enhance the learning experience of students and meet faculty needs for virtual teaching.