The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way many of us do things in our personal and professional lives, including post-secondary education. Michelle Barker and Josephine Mo are both registered in The Chang School of Continuing Education’s Certificate in Publishing and were taking in-person courses in the spring that were moved online shortly after the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic and the Ontario provincial government declared a state of emergency.
Like many students, even if they’d taken online courses in the past, they soon found themselves having to abruptly transition their mode of learning. Here is their experience with that transition as well as some tips on how to juggle work, school, and personal life.
Michelle started the Certificate in Publishing two years ago and has done a mix of online and in-person courses. But she admits that online learning suits her learning style better. “Online learning is very conducive to my preferred learning style,” she says. “I’m a reflective learner so I like to have time to engage with the material.”
Josephine was taking one in-person course in the Winter term starting in January and another in the Spring term. But one month after her spring course started, lockdown forced her courses online. Josephine said the transition wasn’t too difficult, despite the fact that everything was in flux. “I was surprised and impressed by how quickly my instructors transitioned to online courses,” she says, adding that one of her instructors put all of the lesson plans into an online module while another recorded her speaking materials in an audio file.
To stay in touch with other students and their instructors, both Michelle and Josephine relied on The Chang School’s discussion forums, where they can ask questions to their fellow students and instructors at any time. Josephine says she likes this open format better than in person as she isn’t restricted to the three hours that she’d be in a classroom.
Michelle, who works at Ryerson University’s Department of Housing and Residence Life, said the pandemic upped the intensity of her role dramatically. The switch to online made it easy to fit her learning around her busy schedule.
“I had to pivot my own learning style. I used to like to take a project and dig into it and finish it in a couple of days but that wasn’t going to happen anymore,” she says. “During the spring and summer, I had to be intentional about putting my learning around work. I broke up projects into little pieces and scheduled out what I could do on my lunch break or before I jumped on my computer for my job at 9:00 a.m.”
Josephine was also working full time at an internship during lockdown and had to transition her school and work life from office and campus to home. She credits making a schedule helped her keep track of her tasks. “I had to create my own structure,” she says. “I kept to a schedule to train my brain for focusing on course modules and engaging in online forums.”
Prior to registering in the Certificate in Publishing, Josephine was employed at a professional association for eight years. During that time, she discovered her passion for editing when she copy edited a manuscript that her manager was co-authoring. She left that organization to pursue her passion and started her certificate last September. One of the main reasons she initially signed up for the certificate was that the courses were offered in the evenings and online, which, like Michelle, she finds very accommodating for people who work during the day.
Since starting the certificate, Josephine says she’s been able to directly apply her knowledge and skills that she’s learned in the program. Likewise, Michelle’s role has allowed her to use her new skillset to support her team in clarifying their messaging, which is especially important right now to communicate the ongoing changes due to the pandemic to students.
Despite the uncertainty around the pandemic, both Michelle and Josephine are on track to finish their certificates by December this year.
“I love online learning,” Michelle says. “It’s great for a 9 to 5 job person. It’s much more flexible.”
For Josephine, the way The Chang School and her instructors handled the transition was very accommodating to her work-life balance.
“They added a very human side to the whole situation,” she says. “Not just panicked and stressed but caring and empathetic.”