Adapting our student support strategy during COVID-19
This year has been a unique challenge for everyone, particularly for our students. Many of us have been called upon to adapt our work to these new circumstances and find new ways to provide supports and programming to students.
UM has always had a breadth of resources available to support personal and academic success. This has remained the case during the pandemic, and all student services have innovated to deliver timely, responsive and engaging programs, services and supports during this primarily remote learning period.
The following new initiatives will be piloted beginning in the Winter Term:
- Winter Welcome programming will introduce new students to the resources and programming that first year students need to thrive.
- A Virtual Advising Help Centre, to be overseen by the University Advising Services Coordinator. This will provide to students timely responses to their questions and appropriate referrals to services and supports within a remote delivery model and with extended hours.
- Expanded options for virtual study halls to help with motivation and to help students feel connected to campus.
- More collaborative workshops, with two or more units co-creating and co-delivering sessions that address new and emerging topics of concern for students.
- Proactive outreach to student groups and communities to help them connect with the larger student population, promote their events, and explore ways to partner. A student outreach assistant was hired to help with this project.
- To reach students ‘where they are’, the Student Affairs communication team has expanded its digital communications, including creating engaging content for social media channels and websites, and identifying strategies to extend our reach.
- Online workshops that will address specific questions and areas of difficulty as they are raised by students.
- The Student Counselling Centre hired three new counsellors and one intake/triage specialist, and the Sexual Violence Resource Centre expanded services to Bannatyne campus.
- New students who are starting in January will be invited to participate in the Winter Welcome. Students will be enrolled in online course UM Essentials, will be invited to participate in Prep Days and attend Welcome Day. The program includes incentives and the opportunity to receive co-curricular recognition.
Students need to be reminded by instructors and staff that they can and should access the available UM resources anytime. Students benefit from knowing their options and being advised of new opportunities, services or supports regularly. We can do this face-to-face (virtually), as well as by regular student communications like the Student Weekly e-newsletter, social media and more. Students and staff alike should consider following the student Instagram, Facebook and Twitter channels for regular updates. First year students are encouraged to check out UM Commons for tips and resources designed especially for the first year journey.
Health and wellness play a critical role in academic success and UM offers a wide range of services to support student well-being. There are a number of academic supports available, to help students do their best in their courses. A webpage has been designed to help students thrive in the online learning environment as well. And it’s also important to remind students that just because they’re spending most of their time at home doesn’t mean that students can’t connect with others, bolster their Co-Curricular Records, and build their resumé.
Information on what is open, how and where to access it and other resources that support students holistically can be found on our COVID-19 information for students website.