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Sheridan finds creative ways to support students during COVID-19

April 06, 2020

Sheridan College has introduced a wide range of innovative measures over the past month to support its students during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Positioning students for success is our number one priority,” said Dr. Janet Morrison, Sheridan’s President and Vice-Chancellor. “Physical and mental health are foundational to learning. As we navigate the challenges presented by COVID-19, we are making every effort to ensure we are serving our students in the best ways possible. This includes maintaining our commitments to excellence in teaching, a robust research culture, collaborative partnerships with industry and other stakeholders, and evidence-based and theoretically-informed student services.”

Highlights of Sheridan’s efforts include:

Alternate methods of curriculum delivery

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. All of this work was completed during the one-week span from March 16-20, when Sheridan suspended classes.

Digital Learning Resources

Sheridan’s Library and Learning Services provides access to thousands of digital resources through databases and other subscriptions. Students are able to receive remote assistance with assignments, citation, tutoring, study skills or academic integrity. Librarian staff are reachable via online chat, and our Learning and Study Tools Hub offers tips and resources for digital learning, time management and other study skills.

The library’s Online Learning Module has logged nearly 900 views, its Working Remotely Guide has been viewed nearly 2,000 times, and the Library & Learning Services team has conducted 223 online tutoring sessions over the past two weeks.

Loaner Laptops

Sheridan has established a Loaner Laptop Program to assist students who may need a computer in order to fulfill their semester requirements. There is no cost to students, who receive their laptops by courier. As of April 6, 346 students had requested the use of a laptop through the program.

Remote Student Support

Sheridan’s services and business operations have transitioned completely to alternative formats, with staff working remotely to support students online and/or over the phone. This includes Accessible Learning, Campus Bookstores, Career Centre, Centre for Indigenous Learning and Support, Co-operative Education, Counselling & Support, Health Services, International Centre, IT Service Desk, Library & Learning Services, Office of the Registrar  (Contact Centre, Domestic and International Admissions and Recruitment, Records and Registration, Financial Aid and Awards, and Systems Operations and Projects), Student Advisement, Student Leadership, Student Rights and Responsibilities Office, and Tutoring.

Each week, Sheridan is making available a Virtual Events calendar, to help students find the support and resources they may require. Our International Centre, for example, has daily virtual drop-in hours via WebEx for students with questions regarding immigration, study visas and more.

Connecting with Students Directly

Free and confidential counselling sessions are available to all Sheridan students via phone or video call. Appointments can be made by email at askanadvisor@sheridancollege.ca or by leaving a voicemail at:

  • Brampton – Davis Campus: (905) 459 – 7533, EXT: 5400
  • Mississauga -Hazel McCallion Campus: (905) 459 – 7533, EXT: 2528
  • Oakville - Trafalgar Road Campus: (905) 845 – 9430, EXT: 2557

In addition to Sheridan’s in-house counselling service, we are also able to connect students to counselling services in 35 languages.

From March 16-31, our Contact Centre has responded to 3,745 inquires to assist students, via phone, email and live chat. Our Centre for Student Success logged 2,758 student interactions, of which 1,045 were with our International Centre.

Proactive, call-out campaigns are also underway, beginning with Sheridan’s international student community, Indigenous students, learners who remain in residence, all existing counselling clients, students with known health challenges, those registered with our Accessible Learning services and any other at-risk learners.

Sheridan’s IT Service Desk has responded to 2,378 email requests, 1,540 calls and 1,413 remote chat support requests in a two-week span. Our Communications team has answered 275 email inquiries. Since March 11, Sheridan’s Twitter account has received more than 900 direct messages and 44,000 questions, comments and shares, while the college’s Facebook account has garnered more than 16,000 reactions, comments and shares.

Two hotlines are available for anyone with outstanding or ongoing questions: careandwellness@sheridancollege.ca and 905-815-4009.

Student Union

The SSU is helping students remain healthy and connected by offering several of its programs online. A guided 45-minute workout with a personal trainer can be accessed through the SSU’s Instagram page, guided yoga and meditation classes are available, and students can participate in online Trivia Nights, Open Mic Nights and campus-versus-campus video game tournaments.

Financial Aid

A COVID-19 Emergency Financial Aid Bursary has been created in order to assist full-time students who have experienced extraordinary financial hardship as a result of the pandemic.

The bursary, which was kickstarted with an initial sum of $1M provided by unrestricted donor support and funding from the Provincial government, will provide up to $1,500 of assistance per student. All employees and alumni were invited to contribute. To date, more than 163 have done so.

Sheridan’s Student Affairs department is also partnering with the Sheridan Student Union (SSU) to bring the SSU’s Food First food bank program online. A limited number of e-grocery cards will be distributed to students identified to be in financial distress and experiencing food insecurity.

Enhanced Communication

Sheridan created a dedicated COVID-19 webpage to keep students informed about the pandemic, cancellations and closures, support services and more. The page, which also links to a robust COVID-19 FAQs section, has been updated more than 200 times and received more than 130,000 pageviews since it was established in February. Since March 2, Sheridan has also sent students more than 20 email updates to ensure they’re well informed about Sheridan’s pandemic response. Many have come from Dr. Morrison, who has also sent out several video and phone messages emphasizing self-care, compassion and support.

“I’m extremely proud of how our faculty, staff and administration have rallied together to support our students during this unprecedented and challenging time,” Dr. Morrison said. “I truly believe our faculty and staff are the best in the business. They’re incredibly student-centered and dedicated to deliver on their commitments to learners.”