“What’s your COVID-19 opportunity?”
That’s what The University of Winnipeg’s Development Studies Director, Dr. Sheri-Lynn Skwarchuk, asked herself this spring. Now, with campus closed, she’s planning on introducing a new form of remote learning to her Applied Child Development (DEV 3001-050) classes this Fall Term.
Simply known as ‘Course in a Box,’ the professor in the Faculty of Education plans on delivering classes through a non-online method. Instead of using a platform like Zoom, she is accommodating students without internet access and also keeping students engaged beyond what would normally be a three-hour virtual class on Monday evenings.
“The course is different from a traditional ‘correspondence course,’ as the materials included are not just a textbook and course outline,” Skwarchuk explained. “It is hoped that students will gain enjoyment from using different materials to interact with the course content, such as the book club assignment.”
‘Course in a Box’ will contain two popularized parenting books and a small packet of course readings. There will also be a thermometer, deck of cards, Post-it notes for use with assignments, and other experiential activities to help students engage with the course content.
The course outline is self-directed with all content for the course contained within the box, Skwarchuk explained, noting students have the option of mailing their assignments, emailing them, or submitting them through NEXUS. As leader of the ToyBox project, this work is also being tied into the course, as students will work with ToyBox mentors by phone or internet to develop community resources for literacy, numeracy, and wellness.
Because COVID-19 has forced her to think differently about teaching, now is the best time to implement this new form of education that focuses on inclusiveness.
“I think it will be a fun way to learn about child development issues while people are home-based,” Skwarchuk said. “And I want to be inclusive by offering the approach to all of my students.”
That inclusiveness ensures that a group of students in northern Manitoba will be able to take the course despite having no internet access.
More than ever, Skwarchuk says it’s her job to be more than just a professor.
“I realize people are going through a lot as they adjust to a new normal, so the first thing I want to do is be a person before a professor,” she said. “So, the first thing I thought was, ‘let’s have fun with this course.’”
Living in these uncertain times has provided Skwarchuk with the unique opportunity to try new forms of learning, and she hopes other educators will do the same.
“Having watched my own children participate in high school and university online learning, good and bad, I know what is happening on the other end of the Zoom call,” she said. “I challenged myself to think of a way that my students could enjoy their learning as I feel child development is an important topic for all.”
“I am not sure if the new course format will work, but the COVID-19 pandemic created this opportunity for me to try it out.”