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The resilience of students’ commitment amid a pandemic

When face-to-face classes were cancelled and York University announced their emergency transition to online platforms, our Institute’s aim was to attempt something ambitious — enable students to continue their learning in a manner that does not derail their future plans.

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"Remote learning has untapped potential to support student achievement in terms of its affordability and access"

As we end our term after over a month of fully online classes, remote learning, digital screens, zoom meetings, and extracurricular activities have all become the norm. In the middle of this global pandemic, Academic English learning has innovated and adopted a new mode of instruction and delivery.

“In a short amount of time, students were able to adapt…with an incredible amount of resilience and responsiveness”

In a short amount of time, students were able to adapt alongside their instructors in transitioning online with an incredible amount of resilience and responsiveness. Opening channels of non-academic communication with our students was necessary to ensure their safety and wellbeing.

Instructors have encouraged students to share their feedback weekly about their online learning experiences in order to learn how to meet their needs more accurately. The feedback shows that students are adjusting well.

Many of our students have expressed gratitude for being able to stay connected to their academic community without having to put themselves or their loved ones at risk. Students have also expressed their gratitude for saving time by not commuting and the ease of scheduling that is facilitated by online instruction.

These conveniences are especially important amid a pandemic when many students may be preoccupied with other more pressing concerns and anxieties such as income, travelling home, change of residence, or sick loved ones.

Remote learning also has untapped potential to support student achievement in terms of its affordability and access. As this pandemic has increasingly shown, digital learning options for students have aided the ways in which they learn because of its focus on engagement, compassion, and flexibility.

“Physical education and even swim classes have shifted online”

Increasingly, physical education and even swim classes have shifted online. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology launched two online classes that will count toward the PE requirement: “Foundations of Physical Fitness” and “Wellness Foundations: Stress Management, Nutrition, and Fitness.”

The common reaction is, how do swim class move online? “Graduating seniors can fulfil their swim test requirement by completing an online program that teaches water safety and introduces swimming fundamentals,” Carrie Moore, MIT’s director of physical education and wellness, noted in her statement.

Our Institute prides itself on having an exceptionally well-connected community presence, even in these distressing times. From having daily Academic Success Workshops to Student Clubs and Virtual Coffee Meets, community care and student-centred learning continues to be our ethos.

The digital shift has encouraged instructors to experiment with different styles of pedagogy in order to still convey the same high-quality instruction in new and ever-developing mediums. It has forced instructors and staff to practice nimbleness and revise their methods of teaching to centre students’ understanding, care, and ease.

Adjusting to a completely different rhythm of what is considered a normal teaching environment urges students, staff, and instructors to invent ingenious ways of community care, problem-solving, and managing resources —  it has required us to redefine our “normal.”

Our Institute depends on the adaptability and the exceptional efforts that the staff, students, and instructors have shown during this time. It is in times of distress that our educational institutions are tested, and our priorities are questioned as we learn how to act with resilience and care.

“The digital shift has encouraged instructors to experiment with different styles of pedagogy”

Remote learning has pushed instructors into uncomfortable new spaces. Yet, they use this discomfort as a lesson in working together and inviting their students into this new journey with them.

The success of digital learning speaks not only to the excellence of the joined efforts of instructors and staff but also to the commitment and dedication of our students. Educators continue to find rich opportunities for collaboration and critical thinking and learning, even amid a pandemic.

The shift in the education sector to online learning and digital platforms, accelerated by the pandemic, proves that with adequate preparation, planning, and support, there can be many more learning opportunities and avenues opened for larger groups of people. These innovations will bring us closer to the hope of having a community-centred and equitable education system.

Isaac Garcia-Sitton is director of International Education & English Language Institute (YUELI) at York University’s School of Continuing Studies in Toronto.



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