Gaining Ground— BCcampus Online Office Hours

In the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic — as institutions, educators, support staff, and students discovered that the immediate future required a rapid transition to online learning — we recognized that the switch might be a bit bumpy for some, so we created BCcampus Online Office Hours. We had no idea how well it would work out.

Post by BCcampus’ editorial team

BCcampus Online Office Hours launched to offer a safe space for educators to chat about what they needed for an effective pivot to online learning. We wanted to help them be confident in the transition, with plenty of information for them to smooth out the bumps and rebuild connections with their students.

“We should be doing this”

“I saw a tweet from one of the folx at OpenStax saying that they were going to do a general office hours session,” said Mary Burgess, executive director at BCcampus. “I suggested to our team that we should be doing this, and they took the idea and ran with it.”

Including our first session, held on March 20, 2020, we’ve completed 17 Online Office Hours, covering the basics of online learning, alternate assessment methods for trades, assessments, and activities in an online environment, facilitating synchronous online sessions, and immersive online exercises.

The first few sessions were designed so that educators could recognize and hear each other during these unprecedented times. The impact of COVID-19 is severe, affecting students and staff financially, emotionally, and in many cases, physically. We saw a need to help everyone as we worked through the issues together.

Creating Connections

“Learning what others were doing in the different institutions across the province,” shared Krista Lambert, project manager at BCcampus, “was a vital part of the early sessions. At BCcampus, we’re helpers. Most of us have direct experience in the post-secondary sector, so we can appreciate the challenges the community was experiencing. We wanted to know what we could do to help them through this high-velocity change. We knew we wouldn’t have all of the answers, but with the level of knowledge and experience in each session, we were confident that we’d find good information to start a smart strategy.”

Practical Problems

“The technical learning component of trades training is possible through online channels,” said Tim Carson, trades open education representative at BCcampus. “The challenge comes in the application of the learning: how do we deal with the labs, shops, simulations, and third-party certifications required to complete the various Red Seal trades throughout the province? Through Online Office Hours, we invited instructors to share some of their best practices and solutions to the challenges they were having with the pivot to online learning. I’m amazed at the volume of hard work that has gone into and come out of the sessions, not just from the instructional designers and learning and teaching centres, but also from the instructors doing the work. Many are taking this on outside of their paid time, solely to help their students succeed.”

Next Up: Mental Health

We’re launching a new series of webinars to focus on mental health, featuring resources and strategies to support the people in our community.

“Our primary goal was to support the staff, students, and faculty in B.C. post-secondary institutions,” explained Robynne Devine, project manager at BCcampus. “We’ve designed sessions to engage with students in B.C. to reduce the stress they’re feeling around financial support, student rights, and online learning.”

“We want to ensure that BCcampus is providing access to resources around mental health and all the stressors related to COVID-19,” said Denise Goudy, director, Collaborative Projects at BCcampus. “Robynne has been key in taking this opportunity to reach out to student representatives and student service leaders, inviting them to lead or help facilitate the sessions.”

Upcoming webinars and recordings from past webinars will be accessible through a new online resource for the B.C. public post-secondary sector to address the increased need for mental health supports during the COVID-19 pandemic. The new site is now available, and BCcampus will be managing it until March 2021, or until the short-term issues associated with COVID-19 have been entirely resolved.

“We aren’t trying to replace the supports that the institutions and the provincial and federal governments are providing,” explained Robynne. “We wanted a resource to guide them to correct and current information.”

Notable quote:

“We have an amazing team of professionals at BCcampus — our employees and secondees. We could not have done this, with this level of success, without their expertise, vision, energy, and passion.”

—Mary Burgess, executive director, BCcampus

“This switch to online learning gives us the chance to rethink our approach to trades training, encouraging us to look at assessments and how they’re completed. For many Red Seal certifications, the pass rate is less than 50%, and there’s a huge dropout rate — especially for women and Indigenous people. By rethinking our approach to pedagogy in trades, we can make substantial improvements in the lives of our apprentices.”

—Tim Carson, trades open education representative, BCcampus

Learn more