05
May
2020
|
02:52 PM
Europe/Amsterdam

Professor inspired by his students' adaptability and perseverance

Shaun Iles wasn’t sure how his second-year General Arts and Science students would take to having their courses suddenly moved online.

A professor of Sociology and Environmental Sustainability and Education Technology Facilitator with the School of Interdisciplinary Studies, Shaun is no stranger to using technology in the classroom. He has taught many online classes, but all were planned in advance. When faced with having to move all of his classes online, and do it in a week, his confidence evaporated. Shaun was concerned about how the students would be affected by the sudden and unexpected shift. He was surprised by the result.

Shaun’s students were working on assignments that required significant collaboration when the move to online happened in March. The final assignment was a research project that required a significant amount of one-on-one consultation and a lot of group work. To help, Shaun turned to a tool called Discord, which is commonly used by the online gaming community as a forum to discuss strategy.

“These students deserve a huge shout out for their willingness to adapt and persevere, given the uncharted new way of life in isolation.”​
Shaun Iles, Professor of Sociology and Environmental Sustainability and Education Technology Facilitator

The students adapted to it very quickly, and Shaun was surprised at how quickly he could adapt a course that had only ever been delivered face-to-face to be delivered fully online.

“The resilience of my students shocked me. I moved our face-to-face class, which was in the middle of conducting research and learning how to show bivariate relationships through cross-tabulation, to a Discord server for communication and Google Sheets for shared visuals,” said Shaun. “This was terrifying, to say the least, but my students were amazing. I had a virtual classroom of 75 students that was fully functional. Students were communicating and supporting one another through their final assignment of the year, and were having great synchronous learning experiences.

“These students deserve a huge shout out for their willingness to adapt and persevere, given the uncharted new way of life in isolation.”​

Jaclyn Sims was one of Shaun’s students.

“I have never taken a research class before and I was concerned about the upcoming assignments. I was worried that not being able to speak face to face with Shaun might have an impact on my final grade,” she said. “I found a decent balance that worked for me and the user-friendly technology Shaun implemented allowed us to still feel like we were in class.”

​Jaclyn was not alone in her experience, says Shaun.

“Overall, the students that I have had the pleasure of interacting with through this experience have said that they feel that educators are using all the skills that they have available to them so that students will be successful, and they appreciate the extra effort that the Mohawk College staff and faculty are making to ensure a successful semester for all students.”

“However, they are still frightened because most of them have never had to work like this.”

To find out more about Shaun’s experiences with online learning, email him at shaun.iles@mohawkcollege.ca