“When I was your age …”

“When I was your age …”

Most instructors and students who experienced the 2019-2020 and 2020-2021 academic years will remember these years. They’ll pass their stories down to future generations. "When I was your age …", "Remember when … ". Much like the current stories about the Spanish flu of 1918.

In March 2020, college and university life everywhere changed dramatically from face-to-face learning to online learning and then, in some cases, to small group learning. Some students had to suspend formal learning altogether as they grappled with the new realities that COVID-19 presented.

Instructors new to teaching online had to ask themselves:

  • How do you motivate students and keep them motivated when you and they are working from home, possibly with all kinds of distractions? (We’ve all seen photos and videos of children, cats, and dogs photobombing Zoom sessions.)
  • How do you keep students engaged during a pandemic when isolation may be getting them down?
  • And how do you keep students connected, since we know that building relationships between instructor and student and among students themselves is a key factor in student success?

Instructors had to adapt their in-class teaching strategies and materials quickly and shape them to online learning in ways that addressed these questions. This is no easy task: what works in a class of students interacting with each other does not work in the same way over Zoom or Microsoft Teams. And print-based materials do not translate easily to an online format.

Students had to adapt too. They faced issues like:

  • Managing technology (from having access to a computer, being computer literate, and dealing with internet connectivity)
  • Dealing with distractions (children, study space, scheduling)
  • Staying motivated when studying from home isolated from their peers
  • Overcoming a lack of connectedness coupled with feelings of isolation
  • Understanding exactly what was expected of them.

As an onlooker, I saw the instructors and students from Aurora College face many challenges and rise to the occasion. I saw many students coming together in spirit and providing support to each other and to others. I saw students stepping up and accepting new responsibilities, like working or volunteering at COVID testing sites or being trained to deliver vaccines.

Instructors and students demonstrated diligence, creativity, and resilience. The college provided laptops; programs introduced more on-the-land classes; instructors developed new ways of teaching; students adapted to different ways of learning; together they created innovative ways to celebrate student graduation.

As another academic year draws to a close, we congratulate all the instructors and students for the successes they’ve achieved in two school years like no others.

Crystal Catholique, from Aurora College, was part of a group of students who used a video to mark their graduation, since they couldn’t celebrate in-person. "You still watch it today and this will remind us forever of what we had to go through when we should have been graduating together."

When you tell your children and grandchildren about your experiences, we hope you remember the strength that people demonstrated as they navigated a global pandemic.

- Helen Balanoff, Project Manager

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