Global Pandemic Puts OpenEd’s Expertise to the Test through Online and Remote Course Delivery

Posted on Tuesday February 23, 2021

At the University of Guelph (U of G), online learning through distance education (DE) has become a popular option for many students, especially during the current global pandemic. As a leader in online education, U of G is positioned to continue delivering innovative and high-quality online courses.

Online courses at U of G are intentionally designed for online delivery by a team of distance learning specialists in Open Learning and Educational Support (OpenEd). The team is led by Natalie Green, associate director, distance education, who is well versed in educational theory and technology.

“Our team approach and collective years of expertise in the design and development of online courses allows us to build high-quality learning experiences,” says Green. “We design and present content in multiple ways to accommodate specific learning needs and build engaging materials for all students.”

Every DE course is created with student-centred principles including usability, engagement, accessibility, and presentation. Course materials are sequenced and organized in a way that allows students to navigate course expectations and progress through materials with a level of independence.

“Online courses are designed with flexibility in mind,” says Green. “Students are able to study at a time and place convenient for them and engage with course materials at their own pace—all courses are created with a learning schedule to keep students on track.”

U of G has offered online courses since the early 2000s and is a leader in online education both provincially and nationally. In 2019, 43 courses and modules were developed or redeveloped, and 221 degree-credit courses were offered.

OpenEd also supports face-to-face course delivery. The CourseLink platform, U of G’s learning management system, houses all online degree and non-degree offerings, as well as most of the face-to-face course websites.

Lena Kushnir, associate director, educational technologies, manages Teaching & Learning Technologies (TLT) at OpenEd. Her team is comprised of elearning technology assistants, instructional technology specialists, and technical support staff. Highly skilled and experienced with various forms of educational technology, Kushnir’s team supports instructors, students and staff across campus. 

In March of 2020, TLT was required to act promptly in response to the public health emergency. Instructors were given one week to transition their face-to-face courses to remote delivery to ensure students were able to safely and effectively finish their last few weeks of courses.

“It was a concerted effort from my entire team, along with other teams in OpenEd,” says Kushnir. “We worked quickly to set up an interim support site for instructors to get them through the final weeks of classes during a crucial time in the semester, including the exam period.”

After the winter semester concluded, Kushnir’s team began working on a more robust and comprehensive Remote Teaching & Learning site for both instructors and students.

Our goal was to create a space for both instructors and students that offers guidance, resources and support in all areas of remote teaching and learning,” explains Kushnir.  “Our goal was also that the new site encouraged thoughtful, purposeful design and redesign of course materials, activities, and assessments, with the intentional approach to integrate teaching technologies.”

In an effort to accommodate public health emergency restrictions, the University moved the majority of fall and winter semester face-to-face degree and non-degree courses to remote delivery, and almost doubled its online offerings. 

Visit the OpenEd Student Portal to learn more about the courses and programs available through online and remote delivery at OpenEd.