The FLO Bootcamp Experience

Post by Helena Prins, advisor, Learning + Teaching at BCcampus

This has been a very busy summer for educators and those who support them. With many having made an emergency “pivot” to online delivery in the spring, there was a need to do some rethinking and preparation before courses ran again in the fall. At BCcampus, the Facilitating Online Learning (FLO) “family” of offerings has been a big part of our response to this critical moment. Since June, we have offered 17 FLO events, and about 700 educators have shown up to hone their skills!

Some new FLO offerings have emerged, too. FLO Fridays invite talented practitioners to share strategies, skills, and tools to engage students online. This summer, FLO Fridays featured hands-on technical training sessions for the most used web-conferencing tools, as well as sandbox sessions to give faculty time to try things out in a safe and supportive environment.

Another new offering we rapidly developed and deployed in response to the COVID crisis is FLO Bootcamp. The goal was to provide focused, flexible support to help faculty work through and adjust only a few key elements of courses that proved most problematic during the pivot in March, including:

  • overuse of synchronous sessions
  • online proctored exams 
  • establishing and maintaining instructor presence
  • assignment and assessment design

We assembled an instructional design “dream team” of colleagues who have worked in B.C. post-secondary institutions (PSIs) for years, some of whom were also on the front line hosting webinars during the first days of the mad “pivot” to online. BJ Eib, Krista Lambert, and Tracy Roberts collaborated on the design of this short, intense “bootcamp” experience, with early feedback and input from Anne Sommerfeld, Paula Hayden, Tannis Morgan, Ross McKerlich, Clint Lalonde, and Melanie Meyers.

Registration for the first offering of Bootcamp in July filled up in just a few hours. We ran it three times from July to August 2020, working with a total of 75 faculty from all over B.C. on their fall course preparation. This intensive (and fun) four-day course starts with a “Scan and Plan” challenge that invites each participant to take a deep dive into their course as it currently stands and plan on how they will be spending the rest of their time in Bootcamp. Day 2 activities focus on lectures and alternatives, while Day 3 tackles the challenging topic of adapting your assessment approach. Day 4 covers online presence and student engagement. In addition, we hosted two daily drop-in sessions with guests who were ready to answer questions and problem-solve challenges brought forward by participants.

When asked about some of the highlights of facilitating FLO Bootcamp, Terri Bateman from North Island College said that “seeing the connections that were made across institutions and disciplines — the sharing and the empathy” and reading several times that participants felt “less alone” made this a memorable experience for her.

Anne Sommerfeld, interim director of the Centre for Teaching, Learning and Technology at UNBC and one of the facilitators for FLO Bootcamp, is impressed with the resiliency faculty show during these storms and as they support each other.

Participants experienced both detailed course design support and collegial support. During one of the final drop-in sessions, a Bootcamp participant said, “I got something that I didn’t know I needed — that sense of community.”

Another wrote, “Prior to COVID-19, I was 100 per cent classroom-based. The only online delivery method I used was email (not kidding). I hadn’t even taken an online class. I thought Zoom was an aerobics class from the ’80s. Yikes! FLO Bootcamp was rich with information. The asynchronous activities were so well written. I could learn the basics, then go deeper when ready. I LOVED the synchronous sessions. I watched how they used Zoom and employed interactive tools. I learned from other participants. I also saw the importance of building a community for our students.”

And it doesn’t end here! Because FLO Bootcamp was created and shared as an open educational resource (OER), anyone can adopt it and offer it locally — and they are! Tracy Roberts, director of Learning and Teaching at BCcampus, said, “We are thrilled that two B.C. PSIs — UNBC and CNC — have already adopted FLO Bootcamp and will be offering it locally for their faculty before the fall semester. We would love to see more B.C. PSIs adopt all our FLO courses and build local capacity to support faculty on their ongoing learning journey, and to promote well designed and well supported online learning experiences for all students.”

On adopting FLO Bootcamp, Anne Sommerfeld says, “What a great open resource for small institutions to adopt! The ‘heavy lifting’ is done for you, and the resources are ready to go. I am also adapting this model for a teaching assistant workshop, as they need some similar skills.”

A final word from a faculty participant, Dana P., who took FLO Bootcamp not once, but twice this summer: “From the bottom of my heart, thank you FLO team (Anne, BJ, Helena, Krista, and Tracy). You rallied and gave us structure, information, and much-needed support. I am deeply grateful.”

Join us for an upcoming FLO course to discover the difference it can make to your students’ and your own online experience!