Taylor Institute for Teaching and Learning
When COVID-19 halted in-person classes, UCalgary not only kept going, it became a global model for online learning
Remote doesn’t mean alone
On March 13, 2020, UCalgary announced that in-person classes were temporarily suspended — and all teaching and learning would become a remote enterprise — due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Overnight, tens of thousands of students and hundreds of professors, instructors, teaching assistants and other staff were faced with a new world of online post-secondary education. For many, it was an anxiety-inducing prospect. Questions abounded: How would the cadence of assignments and lectures change? How do you test and assess students virtually? What about practicums and lab work? And how could we possibly figure this out fast enough to keep things rolling in the crucial final month of a semester?
While it wasn’t designed with a global pandemic in mind, UCalgary’s Taylor Institute for Teaching and Learning became a paragon of competence and preparedness for handling a situation that could easily have turned the university upside down.
Amanda O’Rae, a professor in the Faculty of Nursing, made the serendipitous decision last fall to pursue the Taylor Institute’s Teaching Online Program (TOP). “I’d been aware of what the Taylor had to offer and wanted to better use some tools that I already had access to,” says O’Rae. For her, having TOP — an immersive, six-week program to help instructors enhance their online teaching and learning skills — under her belt gave her confidence, as did an invitation to join an online cross-campus “think tank” facilitated by the Taylor Institute to help anticipate and iron out any wrinkles as the semester progressed. “I knew right away that it would be okay, and that my students could engage in experiential learning, even online.”
As well, certificate or not, O’Rae knew from her brief exposure to the Institute that it was a powerhouse of expertise and connections that would provide nimble, practical support across campus. “The teaching experts at the Taylor Institute, and the platforms and help they offer — they created a real feeling of, ‘You’ve got this,’” she says.
Indeed, that feeling — and evidence of its validity — soon extended far beyond UCalgary’s campus. Within 48 hours of UCalgary announcing suspension of in-person classes, the network of experts at the Taylor Institute managed to create an accessible teaching-continuity website for transitioning in-person courses to online — a platform that was picked up nationally and internationally.
At a critical moment when a lot of universities were bumping along, trying to figure things out, we already had this robust network to count on.
Dr. Leslie Reid, PhD’02
Vice-Provost of Teaching and Learning
“This university was one of the first out of the gate, globally speaking, to provide a trusted source of information and support for remote learning,” says Dr. Leslie Reid, PhD’02, vice-provost of teaching and learning. “At a critical moment when a lot of universities were bumping along, trying to figure things out, we already had this robust network to count on.” Instructors from around the world have reached out to access the Institute’s resources.
For all its extraordinary challenges, this unusual time proved what many faculty and students already knew: that the Taylor Institute is an essential hub for propelling excellence in teaching and learning — no matter how it’s delivered.
What Giving Gives Me
We wanted to create this teaching institution because making education more efficient and effective is the secret to success for a university. It takes great skill to be an effective teacher, and I’m very proud to be a part of helping do that.
Don Taylor, Hon. LLD’07
The Taylor Institute was created by a gift from the Taylor Family Foundation
Sparking curiosity, transforming learning
The Taylor Institute for Teaching and Learning was established thanks to a gift from the Taylor Family Foundation. The building opened in 2016 and has proven our campus community’s unparalleled commitment to enriching the quality and breadth of learning to drive expansive growth in teaching and learning programming, research, and initiatives.