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New phase of student support features deeper virtual offerings

Student life and academic support, career and co-op services move online in record time
By: Michelle Grady
April 06, 2020
A zoom meeting with students and a therapy dog

Students looking to access the supports they had on campus need look no further – many student life and academic supports have already moved online. Photo credit: Student Life.

Ryerson teams that provide career and co-op services, learning support and student experiences have risen to the challenge, moving quickly to shift their services and touchpoints online to keep students connected in this uncertain time. “There’s anxiety from our staff about the impact this could have on the pursuit of our students’ careers, there's nervousness about what the next frontier looks like,” says Caroline Konrad, Career and Co-op Centre director. “And we’ve been working around the clock to ensure that we’re able to put in place the tools that they need to move forward in this new world of ours.”

To meet the needs of all students, including a significant commuter population, it’s been a goal for the teams to shift services online even before the pandemic. “Creating programming that’s accessible to everyone is a key focus of ours,” says Konrad. “We want students to have access, regardless of where they’re based, and when they require it. But a silver lining is that this has been an eye-opening experience – to see what more we can be doing online and how we can continue to expand this programming.”

Exploring options and getting creative

The Student Learning Support team that helps students build academic skills, offered virtual and phone appointments prior to the pandemic, so transitioning to virtual sessions was straightforward. “Increasing that access was key for us, and it just so happens that we don’t have any other choice right now,” says Kaitlyn Taylor-Asquini, Student Life & Learning director. “From Student Life, we’ve been exploring options and getting creative. In addition to moving previously scheduled in-person programming to an online format, we’ve been hosting a mid-day movie each day through Netflix Party as well as daily virtual check-ins to reduce the isolation.”

For students wondering what services they can still access and how they can connect if they’re feeling isolated, the Career and Co-op Centre and Student Life & Learning have the following options available to all students:

  • The Career & Co-op Centre is now offering its services virtually to students, employers and faculty and staff partners. For students, in addition to 1:1 appointments, this includes co-op site visits, workshops and online panels with recruiters. Book an appointment or sign up for a workshop, external link.
  • The team is now hosting virtual therapy dog sessions, and new sessions will be posted on ConnectRU.
  • Connect with fellow students through two new offerings: daily Community Check-ins and the Mid-Day Movies hosted by Student Life and Learning Support. Staff and student-staff will be online and available for anyone to tune in and ask questions or talk to someone. All events can be found on the RU Connect website.
  • Connect with the RU Student Life Instagram, external link and join the team’s next live yoga session, where they are offering free 30-minute classes to any students who want to participate. RU Recreation is also hosting live yoga classes through their Instagram account, external link.
  • RU Student Life played with Instagram Live yoga sessions during the first week of the school's closure, with more than 300 users turning in for a fitness lesson. Ryerson Recreation is now hosting regular weekly fitness opportunities on their @rurecreation Instagram Live – explore the schedule on their website.
  • Participate in the team’s storytelling efforts during this strange time by sharing your (Dis)Connection story through their website, and watching other submissions.

The department’s COVID-19 taskforce is busy looking at the next phase of student support for the campus. “We have to prepare for similar situations in the future,” says Konrad. “We’re taking what we’re learning today to deepen and evolve our virtual offerings.”

Taylor-Asquini says the uptake of online sessions has been extraordinary. “The first week working remotely really challenged us to consider our programming and how to best engage students. In the days following, we've seen an uptick in programming with a majority of our appointment slots filled. Our students are quite adapted to living virtually, so we’re seeing the trend moving back to business as usual.”

This is one story in a series about how Ryerson University departments have successfully faced the challenges presented by COVID-19.  

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