While student sightings around campus are sparse during the summer months, that doesn’t mean there is less to do.
In fact, it can mean quite the opposite for departments like CITL that count on the downtime to get things done while continuing to support online courses.
Springing into action
The spring semester is a popular time for students studying online.
Comparing the number of undergraduate students enrolled in the recent fall, winter and spring semesters, the spring semester is the largest with more than 1,700 online-only students enrolled. When looking at Memorial overall, online undergraduate and graduate course registrations combined account for almost 40 per cent of course registrations this semester.
As a result of those numbers, support for students and instructors continues during the spring semester, as well as for the compressed six-week summer and intersession semesters.
“Similar to every other semester, our client relations team provides a variety of support to the Memorial community during the summer months,” said Colleen Collett, manager of client relations with CITL.
This includes an online orientation for new online students; frontline support for the Brightspace learning management system and other integrated tools; working with instructors to support their online courses and prepare course sites for the following semester; co-ordination of invigilators; and administration of all midterm, final and deferred exams in online courses.
The team also takes time to plan the fall orientation for online students as well as assist with fall orientation and Welcome Week events on the St. John’s campus.
Technology in the classroom
While virtual classrooms may be filled, emptied campus classrooms allow time for much-needed maintenance of audio-visual equipment.
With more than 250 rooms to maintain and support, summer is a crucial time for CITL’s classroom support team, which begins its summer planning the fall previous. The team uses the summer months to install new technologies; replace equipment; perform preventative maintenance and repairs; upgrade computer systems and software; and ensure every audio-visual system is in good working order for the start of classes in September.
Summertime construction projects also keep the team on their toes with planning design and implementing new audio-visual systems for projects, including the Battery Facility, Animal Care Building and the Core Sciences Facility. They also provide support for the many conferences and special events held on campus this time of year.
“The work we complete each summer helps ensure the audio-visual technologies that are an integral part of a modern university are ready for our faculty, students and staff,” said Todd Constantine, manager of classroom support at CITL.
Beyond the classroom, work also must be done to ensure virtual infrastructure is running smoothly for students and instructors that are learning and teaching online. That includes completing annual maintenance of systems, reviewing feedback from the previous semesters and exploring and implementing new learning technologies in time for the busy fall.
“Implementing new technology involves assessing the technology and how it fits into our environment,” said Thomas Hawkins, manager of technical systems at CITL. “This includes streamlining the interface for our users, connecting it to our other systems such as Brightspace or MUN login, determining what training and support is required, and creating relevant support materials.”
For fall 2018 the team will implement a new electronic peer assessment tool, as well as revisions to tools that students and instructors use to communicate and collect information.
Course and program development
Aside from maintaining and improving technology, CITL works with faculties and schools to develop new online courses at Memorial. This summer, teams are busy preparing 20 new courses that will be delivered online this fall, with a number of other courses being prepared for delivery later in the academic year.
In addition to finalizing new courses, plans are initiated for new online programs, as well.
“We have the opportunity to work with academic units and discuss plans for potential developments in the coming fall and winter semesters, including new online programs,” said Ruth Hickey, manager of CITL’s learning development and design team. “We manage to get a lot of the logistics out of the way in the summer so we can begin the development process for when most faculty members are back on campus.”
During the summer CITL also works to ensure that support resources, training and programs are updated and ready for faculty members and instructors for another academic year. For example, a regularly updated technology resources site provides instructors with guides and resources to help navigate technology and technology changes.
Teaching consultants work diligently to refresh and reorganize programs, such as the Teaching Skills Enhancement Program; create new professional development opportunities for educators; administer the President’s Awards in Teaching and Graduate Student Supervision; and conduct research on teaching and learning issues and approaches.
Some also work with faculties and schools to support summertime professional development initiatives, orientation activities for new educators and curriculum development.
“This year, among other initiatives, our group participated in the professional development days with Memorial’s School of Nursing, the Centre for Nursing Studies and Western Regional School of Nursing,” said Albert Johnson, associate director of educator development at CITL. “These significant projects are ongoing throughout the summer months to help revitalize teaching practice and aspects of the curriculum before the start of another year.”