Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, WIMTACH has continued its efforts to support its Student Researchers to gain experiential learning, job opportunities, employable skills and industry knowledge of digital health sectors. This series will highlight how students and faculty who work with WIMTACH are managing the ongoing changes to their daily lives.
When the pandemic became a reality in Canada, Blessing Ajiboye, a professor in the Computer Science and Engineering department, found herself without a commute to campus, saving her time in her busy schedule. However, she also found herself without any face-to-face student interaction, driving her to adapt to distance learning completely.
“[Under normal circumstances], you’re able to see the student practising what you’re demonstrating in class. I have the opportunity to move around and navigate to ensure the students are following through. And since I had to do it with coding…I can assist them with debugging [and challenges with scripts]. Now, the students have a way of sending their response in, but it’s time consuming, especially if you have a pool of 20 students. It’s not comparable to being in class.”
The other challenge is peer-to-peer learning. While students can teach each other online, the experience of seeing someone solve a problem or explain a concept is lost. Professors, then, may not be able to respond immediately to the challenges their students are facing. Additionally, making improvements to the teaching delivery methods becomes difficult because the feedback is under different circumstances.
“When you’re in class, you can attend to the student immediately. The students can network with their friends in class. You also need student feedback while you’re teaching. You keep asking them if they understand or have challenges. Once you’re online, you see some few students who say, “I don’t understand” and you have to recap. It’s not like in class when you’re doing the demo and there’s a student who explains to their fellow students. They do that online, but the gaps are still there.”
Blessing is also a Principal Investigator of WIMTACH projects, such TNMG and Tarun Consultancy, both of which were funded under the CVTA program.The TNMG involved the development of a web real-time communications (RTC) and other website enhancements. The Tarun Consultancy project involved creating a web application to connect people’s skills and services to people who need them within communities. For both projects, she chose two of her students with web development experience to support them.
“At the end of the projects, we were able to enhance the skill they already have, the knowledge they have in class [because] they were able to apply it to a real-life case scenario. It’s one thing to learn in class; it’s another thing to apply it. We were able to work on a real-life project as if they were working in the industry. That has given them the confidence that they have the right skill set to compete favourably…”
For herself, Blessing “learned a lot in all the various [WIMTACH] projects” and was able to connect the knowledge she gained on them to the way she engaged with her students at a distance. “As much as possible, as a professor, I put students in my own position. If I were to be a student, what are the things I would be struggling with online? I try as much as possible to carry them through to make sure they’re listening and they’re responding.”
With the TNMG project, for example, the Web RTC work was a topic she was already teaching in class. As a result, the project gave her an understanding of “where students are having issues or missing out when they’re working on it in class.” When she taught her students afterwards, she knew how to engage her students when they were having challenges with the material. She also used both CVTA projects as working examples of her class material during her classes. She also learned how to communicate with her students differently to encourage better team coordination as a result of being a Principal Investigator (PI).
“Learning is a continuous process no matter our age and time. I ‘ve actually learned a lot in all these various projects and based on what I’ve learned, I’ve been able to bring it to the classroom and guide students on how to apply what has been taught in class. I’ve added even more knowledge and even more skill, as well as the ability to coordinate a team of students as a PI. I’ve been able to better understand how students learn. All students have various ways of learning. So, that has helped me a lot to handle students in class. So, we normally have practical sessions. So in coordinating the teams I have in WIMTACH, during projects, I’ve been able to understand that students learn differently. So when I’m handling my practical sessions in class or during lecture time, I’ve been able to understand the way some students reason. Once they ask their questions in class, I’m able to answer them rightly and guide them rightly…”
For students who may be struggling, Professor Blessing’s advice has to do with schedules and organizing times to seek support from professors.
“Make sure they (students) create their own schedule outside of the academic schedule. [Figure out] what works best for them.”They need to also take a note to put down their questions so that they can send emails to their professors or, the next class, ask their questions.”
For more information on WIMTACH projects and services, please visit https://wimtach.centennialcollege.ca/
For updates on WIMTACH’s operations during the COVID-19 pandemic, please visit https://mailchi.mp/d9a20aac07f0/covid-19-update