When Cape Breton University Professor of Education, Rob Power, visited his office on Monday, March 16, his goal was to pack up his things so he could work from home for the foreseeable future. With the spread of COVID-19, schools and universities across the country had begun transitioning to online learning. As he was gathering his laptop, a thought struck Rob – the students in his Integration of Instructional Design and Technology course would be the perfect people to help their fellow teachers adjust to remote education.
The course is part of the Master of Educational Technology program, offered in partnership with Memorial University. Prior to the closures, the students in this online course had been working on the research for their final papers. Before leaving his office, Rob sent a note to his students offering them the chance to shake things up. Students could either continue with their research as planned or refocus their final papers and work together to create an eBook for teachers facing the sudden shift to online education.
Rob, along with nine of his students, completed the eBook “Integration of Instructional Design and Technology to Support Rapid Change” in just about two weeks. The team was proud to work together to share the lessons they had learned and the strategies and tools they had gathered, to help their fellow teachers adjust to the new landscape of the field.
Gary Gallant has been working in the Halifax Regional Centre for Education as a teacher and school administrator for more than 20 years, and says he had been giving a lot of thought to his own transition to online learning when the idea for the eBook came about. “It seemed like a natural fit to combine my university coursework with my own professional planning,” he says. “We are all adjusting to these unprecedented times and all we can do is try our best to communicate clearly and continue to provide learning opportunities for students.”
Jamie Girouard, a student from Vancouver, says when Rob floated the idea of an eBook it sounded like far too big of a project for the tight timeline. “I was daunted at first,” he admits. “But I feel very lucky to have worked on such a relevant topic. This project invited us to pivot our thinking in reaction to a major shift in educational design, and to actually put our coursework into practice in ways that could benefit many. It was a very authentic learning experience.”
For student Karl Hildebrandt, the book was a way of giving back. “I’ve gotten so many ideas for things to do online from Twitter, other students and colleagues as well as fellow teachers here in Manitoba,” he says. “I know many staff at my school are probably struggling with the thought of teaching online and I look forward to being able to provide the resources to help them out.”
Coming from educational backgrounds themselves, the students understand the value a resource such as this can have for teachers as they make this adjustment. Newfoundland student, Jennifer Mugford, says that although learning has moved online, it’s more important than ever to incorporate the human element in instruction. “It’s entirely possible that the interactions the learners have with you are the only human interactions they’ll have that day,” she explains. “But if you’re suddenly teaching from home, go easy on yourself. Just find a few good ways to communicate with your learners and maintain the same reliable approaches you used in face-to-face teaching.”
Rob says he is incredibly proud of his class for stepping up to the plate to produce something so beneficial. Developing the eBook was an opportunity for his students to connect their studies to a real-world issue and make a difference beyond simply meeting course requirements. “Our Education programs at CBU aim to prepare expert, resilient teachers who are going to be leaders in their classrooms, schools and communities for years to come,” he says. “Creating resources like this helps them to start showing that leadership now. Their expertise is exactly what their colleagues need to help overcome the challenges that are currently being faced.”
The eBook is available online and can be found here.