Faculty of Education technology experts Scott Powell and Kevin Orr with staff member Megan Kienzle.

When students couldn't come to the classroom at the University of Lethbridge (U of L) after the COVID-19 pandemic hit, the Faculty of Education had to take the classroom to the students by going online. This transition was made with nary a bump, thanks to the foresight of the faculty’s technology team of Scott Powell and Kevin Orr.

The Zoom technology that forms the basis for online education had been in use by the faculty for several years when the pandemic arrived. “When we had to go to Zoom, it was a very smooth transition,” says Orr, who introduced Zoom to the faculty after he and Powell had tried several other communication applications.

The task of teaching faculty members how to use Zoom fell to Orr, who crafted a 23-page manual which later wound up helping other U of L faculties adapt to the technology.

Kevin and I try to be more proactive than reactive,” says Powell. “We try to anticipate what the needs will be. We don’t just fix what’s broken. We try to bring in new things and stay ahead of the game.”

That approach paid dividends when the arrival of COVID-19 forced sudden changes on society, including educational institutions.

“When the pandemic hit, we were already more prepared than most other universities,” Powell notes. “We already had it figured out, so others turned to us for our knowledge and guides.”

That’s not to say there haven’t been challenges for the digital dynamic duo. Classroom teaching had returned last September, but the arrival of the Omicron wave meant going back to online instruction in January.

“It was bananas for at least a month and a half,” says Orr, as he and Powell had to switch from classroom setups to connecting home-based instructors and students online once again.

The work to solve technical issues is also made more difficult when everyone involved is working from home. It’s a challenge, says Orr, “trying to diagnose and help people online through Zoom. It’s a lot easier when you can just rush to the classroom.”

The pair’s efforts go beyond helping instructors teach classes online. They are working to implement software that will provide two-way feedback for videos of students teaching in their practicums to share with their professors and peers.

“It’s not a replacement for supervision but an add-on,” Powell says, noting it will be tested this semester with the aim of having it ready to go by next fall.

Whether instruction is done in classrooms or online, Powell and Orr endeavour to keep up with the evolution of education, which changes with the advancement of technology. With that in mind, they try to ensure the U of L’s classroom environment prepares students for what they will face when they embark on their teaching careers. That includes working to make Education classrooms more modern and innovative.

“That’s what we try to focus on,” says Powell. “What are the schools doing? What are the classrooms like that students will be going out to teach in? We try to stay at least caught up with the schools and sometimes get ahead. We want our people to be fully prepared for what they will see when they get out there.”

Writer: Dave Sulz
Photo: Rob Olson

Faculty of Education Staff Series:
Jaimie Iwaasa: Juggling the demands of career, studies, and family
Kirsten Livingstone with Cheryl Lynch-Staunton: The CurrLab—a place with things you wouldn’t necessarily have in your school

Learn more about the Faculty of Education:
Portfolio of stories (2019-present)
Legacy Magazine (2008-2019)

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For more information please contact:

Darcy Tamayose
Communications, Dean's Office, Faculty of Education
University of Lethbridge
darcy.tamayose@uleth.ca
Twitter: @ULethbridgeEdu and @ULethEduGrad
Website: uleth.ca/education
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