Increasing support for students during COVID-19
by Robin Morden.
New student counsellor positions and a digital virtual care tool will be created to expand the wellness service offerings for co-operative education students at the University of Waterloo. The new services come at a time of heightened uncertainty for students, as rapid changes in response to COVID-19 compound the stresses associated with co-op terms.
Starting in spring 2020, the new counsellors will provide one-on-one counselling to prepare students for the challenges they face during work terms — including complications arising from the pandemic. Students will have faster access to mental health and wellness support through phone and virtual consultation. The digital tool will enable students to interact securely with campus wellness practitioners using video-calling technology.
“The health and well-being of our students is and will always be our top priority,” says Feridun Hamdullahpur, president and vice-chancellor. “Our world is currently being faced with a tremendous amount of change and uncertainty and our students are not immune to these pressures. Waterloo is here for them. The creation of these additional counsellor positions will ensure that our remarkable students are well-supported whether they are taking advantage of a co-op position or working diligently on their academics.”
The counsellor positions are made possible by a generous $1 million gift from Neil and Gisele Murdoch, parents of Waterloo alumni.
“The University of Waterloo is a world class institution featuring a renowned co-op program,” say Neil and Gisele Murdoch in a joint statement. “Student mental health is important to us and our family. We are pleased to support this mental health initiative to ease student stress and promote mental well-being throughout the transitions inherent to the co-op experience.”
Read more about the impact of this gift, and learn how you can help.
Provost addresses instructors via video
'These are unprecedented times and I know the University is asking a lot of you as instructors to make the shift to distance teaching in a very short amount of time," Provost Jim Rush said in a video memo circulated to instructors yesterday. "I’m grateful for your extraordinary efforts to complete the winter term in such difficult circumstances."
"Simply put, we all thank you."
"As instructors, we need to stay committed to engaging our students in their academic pursuits. This includes being available, virtually, to conduct instructional activities – holding office hours, responding to student inquiries, guiding the completion of course assignments – to support students as they navigate the term."
"I want you to know that you are not alone in trying to understand the ways you can meet these challenges. Colleagues with deep experience are sharing information with you and are ready to support you throughout these times."
Academic leaders offer guidance on remote instruction
“Following the Provost’s message, we wanted to tell you about some coordination of information and supports the University is providing to instructors who are learning to deal with remote instruction,” says a memo from David DeVidi, associate vice-president, academic and Jeff Casello, associate vice-president, graduate studies and postdoctoral affairs circulated yesterday afternoon.
"Firstly, as you prepare for your spring course delivery, we want to emphasize a few points.
By remote instruction, we do not mean that we expect all courses to include the advanced technical elements of the fully online courses developed with the support of the Centre for Extended Learning. Such courses take months to prepare even with expert support. Most instructors do not have the time, expertise, or CEL support to create such a course between now and the start of Spring Term.
That, however, does not mean that students cannot have learning experiences in your courses that rise to the high standards the University of Waterloo delivers. By focusing on what the key learning objectives of your course are and the mechanisms you have available to allow students to achieve them, you can ensure that your course contributes what it should to the education of your students.
We are launching a new teaching and learning support team
Due to increased demand for teaching and learning support, the University is taking steps to coordinate supports and provide a single point of contact. The Centre for Teaching Excellence (CTE), Centre for Extended Learning (CEL), Instructional Technologies and Media Services (IST-ITMS), and the Library have formed a Teaching and Learning Support Team.
The team offers useful advice for instructors on the Keep Learning website. The site is regularly updated with resources about how to do remote teaching successfully. Here is what they sent in response to our request for their top three tips for remote teaching:
- Design courses that will work when you and all your students are in different locations and potentially different time zones and minimize reliance on synchronous activities that you are used to in face-to-face courses. High production standards (e.g., like CEL online courses) are not expected.
- Most assessments will be open book, so focus on enabling students to do more than demonstrate past learning and adopt assessments that encourage them to synthesize and extend their learning.
- Use educational technologies that are supported centrally or by your Faculty so you can get help and your students are exposed to fewer different technologies, which will help to maximize their success and reduce their cognitive load – remote courses will be a new experience for many students in the spring term.
Please also remember to rely upon one another for ideas, guidance and support during this period. Colleagues in academic departments will be a valuable resource during this period. In fact, we’d like to recommend a personal experience from James Skidmore that he shared in the Daily Bulletin this week.
A new help contact for course design, teaching and more is coming
Instructors will be able to request course design, teaching strategy, or course reserves assistance through a centralized help contact which will be up and running later this week.
Our goal is to forward questions directly to someone who can provide the support you need, whether it’s a CTE liaison, a CEL consultant, a Librarian, or someone in another support unit such as the Writing and Communication Centre, AccessAbility Services, or Print + Retail Solutions. Details will be posted on the Keep Learning website.
Technical support questions should continue to be sent through firstname.lastname@example.org.
By combining the expertise of these units, instructors will have access to practical and timely support as they plan courses that provide a positive student learning experience during this challenging time.
Repository of communications to instructors
In recent weeks instructors have received many communications from: a variety of sources. To help you keep track of these communications and resources we have set up a repository on the COVID-19 website. You will find both the central communications to instructors as well as messages from the Faculty in which you are teaching."
Concept goes virtual and other notes
"Concept is evolving and adapting to continue to offer great entrepreneurial resources for students through these socially distant times," says a note from Concept. "There are brand new prizes for both the Concept $5K Finalists, and the audience members who join in on the fun. Since the finalists can’t deliver their pitches to a live audience, they have moved to YouTube and all pitch videos are now live! The video that receives the most likes by April 3 will be crowned as the first ever Concept People’s Champ and receive $500 for their startup idea so be sure to check out all the pitches and help choose the favourite."
Beyond the $5K Finals, Concept will continue to offer virtual coaching sessions, having plenty of swag giveaways, and keeping you updated on everything going on in this new virtual world. Check out the full update on Concept's blog.
"Turnkey currently is assisting the Student Food Bank during the pandemic – by assembling hampers and as always distributing them to Students who need them," writes Student Life Centre Director Scott Pearson. "Demand hasn’t changed and with not as many donations sites on campus available and less people on campus, we are getting far fewer donations."
The donation box is available 24 hours a day in the SLC's lower level across from CIBC.
"We have a particular need for breakfast items, canned fruit and snacks," Pearson writes. "Hampers are available 24 hours a day from the Turnkey Desk on the main level."
Pearson also reports that Greyhound has temporarily suspended service to and from the University of Waterloo effective Sunday April 5. Service will depart from Kitchener’s Charles Street terminal, however the ticketing agency is closed due to COVID-19. Ticketing remains available online or at Turnkey SLC.
GO Transit continues to service the campus, although they have adjusted their schedule to reflect the current situation.
Feds Used Books has transitioned to an online delivery model. Feds Used Books products can now be purchased online and shipped right to your door.
Several more Good Buddies of the University
"Submitting pictures of my coworker for the foreseeable future, Stanley the Miniature Dachshund," writes student Maliyah Bernard. "He’s helped me cope with the many recent changes, including online learning and teaching. I think he should get his Master's Degree too!"
"This youngster has decided computer time is snuggle time," writes Scott Nicoll, manager, space planning, of his feathered friend. "She is new to the family and needs a name. Suggestions welcome."
"Meet Emma," writes Laura Zikovic, instructional digital media developer at the Centre for Extended Learning. "Emma turned 18 this month and despite having some mobility issues due to her arthritis, she is the sweetest little kitten at heart. She will sit behind my office chair and meow at me, asking for help to get up. I’ve since placed her bed on the side of my desk to discourage her tendency to curling up DIRECTLY in front of my monitors. Emma is a great example that no matter what is happening outside, she is content with the blessings she has inside."
"This is a picture of my pupper helping or maybe hindering my studying," writes student Racheal Monte.