Humber College makes student commitment to online learning

This fall, many Humber College classes look different. Blackboard, a virtual learning management system, has replaced dry erase boards. Class debates are taking place through online discussion forums instead of in person.

But while the learning environment has changed, what hasn’t changed is Humber’s commitment to students’ success. In fact, says the college’s dean of students, it’s been strengthened through the development of virtually adapted supports and new initiatives to help address challenges students might encounter during the pandemic.

“I think we’ve really demonstrated our commitment to listening and putting students’ experiences first and foremost,” says Ian Crookshank. “In March, there was an urgent need to communicate COVID information. What we heard from students was that, in addition to having financial concerns and feeling more anxious and lonely, they wanted ways to connect with peers, faculty and services.”

Humber responded by acquiring additional funds for bursaries and grants, helping students access affordable technological tools and creating a four-part Student Commitment. This promises the college will offer students a great online learning experience, help keep students connected, foster an inclusive environment and do its best to be flexible.

Developed with contributions from deans, senior academic team members and faculty, Crookshank says the Student Commitment contains promises students can depend on.

“The commitments are steadfast. How we achieve them may change,” he says. “We want to be responsive to what’s going on in their lives, but the other honest part is that we’re all learning on this journey.”

To ensure an effective digital learning experience, for example, Humber has repurposed many of its programs for an online delivery. Courses were created using a common set of design principles — simplicity, usability and accessibility — to ensure consistency and equity of access.

Instructors also included activities and tasks that inspire thinking and creative applied learning experiences in a virtual setting.

“One way we’re supporting faculty and students who may be teaching and learning online for the first time is with our recently developed Learning Kits,” says Crookshank. “For students, the kit includes a snapshot of the operational perspective of working with the technology, and it covers how learning and skills might be different in an online environment.”

Simultaneously, Humber worked on generating opportunities for students to have meaningful interactions with professors, staff and classmates. This included a heightened social media campaign and adapting all services that students would typically encounter on campus into a virtual model.

“Normally, you’d walk into the Advising and Career Services office to meet with an academic advisor,” says Crookshank. “Students can now book a phone or video advising appointment instead and also access our other student services this way.”

Further fostering connections is Humber’s unique call-back program. Through a form, students indicate that they would like to speak with someone from Humber, and an appropriate staff member reaches out to connect them to any services they might need. Crookshank says the initiative provides students with a one-touch point to services and supports.

“We are currently evaluating how to scale the program because in the summer we connected with 7,000 students, and now we are looking at 27,000 students,” he says. “We want offer the most effective means of keeping students connected.”

Humber’s fall Student Success survey, which provides students with an opportunity to evaluate the college, as well as the college’s strong partnership with its student union also present avenues for crucial dialogue.

“What we’ve heard is students value how transparent we are and they feel the college cares. In that way, we’re meeting our aim of letting students know we’re still here, we still support you, we still got you,” says Crookshank.

Learn more about Humber’s Student Commitment at humber.ca/updates/student-commitment.

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