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New series gives U of R instructors opportunity to showcase remote teaching expertise

By University Advancement and Communications Posted: November 23, 2020 10:00 a.m.

On November 18, the first Welcome to My Remote Course seminar was held. The first presenter, Dr. Samantha Lawler, showcased how she has been navigating the delivery of her Astronomy 101 course.
On November 18, the first Welcome to My Remote Course seminar was held. The first presenter, Dr. Samantha Lawler, showcased how she has been navigating the delivery of her Astronomy 101 course. Photo: Zoom

The COVID-19 pandemic has created many sudden changes to the ways that students learn and instructors teach. Despite significant adjustments, notably the shift to remote learning, University of Regina faculty members have been finding innovative teaching solutions for the benefit of their students.

Welcome to My Remote Course is a new, free online seminar series created by University of Regina’s Centre for Teaching and Learning in collaboration with the Centre for Continuing Education. In each 30 to 45-minute Zoom presentation, U of R instructors will showcase their remote teaching style in an open forum setting.

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Dr. Alec Couros
Photo: U of R Photography

Dr. Alec Couros, Director of the Centre for Teaching and Learning, envisioned the series as a way for faculty members to learn best practices in remote teaching through collaboration with their peers.

“Most instructors do not get to see their colleagues teaching, so this series offers a common space to share expertise and learn from each other,” says Couros.

As the Fall semester has progressed, Couros, whose research involves the integration of technology into education, would frequently hear about the interesting and creative approaches that his fellow faculty members had taken to successfully transition their course offerings to a remote setting.

“Even with all of the challenges, many instructors have adapted quite well,” said Couros. “We had a few instructors that were consistently mentioned for their innovation and wanted to give them a platform to share their ideas.”

One of those faculty members is Dr. Samantha Lawler, an Assistant Professor of Astronomy at Campion College and the first presenter in the seminar series. Throughout the shift to remote learning, Lawler has found that opening up additional feedback channels has allowed her to make necessary changes to the way she offers her courses.

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Dr. Samantha Lawler
Photo: U of R Photography

“When you are teaching in person, you receive instantaneous feedback,” says Lawler. “Now that we are remote, giving students many opportunities for written feedback has allowed me to do my job better.”

Through the feedback she receives, Lawler is able to be flexible for each of the course she teaches instead of utilizing a one-size-fits-all approach.

“Some methods, like having more short assignments instead of fewer longer ones, are well received in all courses,” says Lawler. “And using more group discussion in a larger class may fail, but be very successful for smaller classes.”

Due to the pandemic, the majority of University of Regina courses with lab components have been forced to move virtually. For Lawler’s Astronomy 101 course, she didn’t want to sacrifice the impact of looking at the stars through a telescope and was able to find a solution that keep students safe – and save them money.

“We wanted to continue with an interactive component, and found some really excellent online open access exploration programs,” says Lawler. “I had to rewrite the labs, but the results have been very positive.”

Although Lawler has been able to successfully adapt her course curriculum to remote learning, she is excited for the Welcome to My Remote Course series in pursuit of creating the most engaging learning environment possible for students.

“I am really looking forward to seeing what other instructors are doing and what has been working for them,” said Lawler. “Collaboration and sharing methods will help us all be better teachers in the online world, where we're stuck for now."

The Welcome to My Remote Course seminars are primarily targeted towards University of Regina faculty members, but Couros noted the value they present for K-12 educators, as well as students and parents of students interested in learning more about the courses.

“Anyone from the public is open to register for these seminars,” said Couros. “People want to know more about remote learning and should be a part of the discussion as to how it is changing.”

Two additional presentations have been scheduled for November, and several more are currently in the planning stages for early 2021:

Couros believes that showcasing a diverse set of instructors will help to equip faculty members with new tools to ensure that their students can continue to receive the same benefits of in person learning, remotely.

“We are looking at featuring instructors from every faculty as the series goes on,” says Couros. “This seminar series will go a long way to creating a collaborative community at the U of R around teaching and learning.”