Information Technology Services Launches Hybrid Hub – The Varsity

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U of T’s Information Technology Services (ITS) recently launched the hybrid hub, a webpage with information for faculty and staff about services and supports available for hybrid working. Hybrid work involves both in-person and remote components.

The purpose of the hybrid hub is to provide the support needed for effective hybrid work by informing the U of T community of the services that are already available to them.

The decision to return to in-person learning for the winter 2022 semester has received significant backlash of the University of Toronto Faculty Association (UTFA), students and faculty. Following the announcement, a number of students took to social media to demand more hybrid learning options of the University.

For the remaining winter semester, some faculty adopted a hybrid teaching model that attempted to accommodate student demands for a safe learning environment as well as the university’s decision to resume in-person teaching. .

However, many members of the U of T community have expressed technological and pedagogical concerns about the shift to blended instruction.

In a previous statement at the university, Terezia Zorić, president of UTFA, had pointed out the additional workload that an instructor would take on by facilitating hybrid courses. She added that a professor might not have the resources to run virtual and in-person classes. The task of acquiring the skills and resources necessary to facilitate effective blended learning would increase their workload.

The Hybrid Hub attempts to mitigate this problem by compiling all available resources into a single web page.

The hybrid hub also describes the technology support for running effective hybrid meetings. The web page describes Audiovisual guidelines for meeting rooms, video conferencing solutionsand tips for running a hybrid meeting.

The platform lists the Connect + Learn briefings as a resource. Enterprise Applications and Solutions Integration (EASI) – which is part of ITS and is responsible for managing U of T’s IT systems – offers these Connect+Learn sessions to help staff and faculty effectively organize hybrid meetings. Sessions cover methods and equipment to improve engagement and room setup. Additionally, the sessions provide training for Microsoft Teams, OneDrive, and SharePoint online platforms, as well as VPN technology.

On the webpage, ITS also includes the EASIs Return to work report, which provides the university with recommendations on how to facilitate a gradual return to campus through the implementation of hybrid work elements. EASI released the report in December 2021, ahead of the university’s plans to increase in-person activities in February 2022.

The Hub also discusses the importance of information security when working in a remote or hybrid environment. The web page provides a set of information security guidelines to ensure online safety, as well as tips for maintaining security and privacy for Microsoft 365.

In a statement to the university, Franco Tavern, associate professor in the human biology program, highlighted the benefits of online learning: “Most of us have become accustomed to holding certain things online (like meetings or councils) which work very well and are very practical and accessible.” He continued: “It’s always nice to meet students in person, but I’ve never had so many meetings with so many students in the past 2 years in my career…and that’s a good thing. “

Still, Taverna ultimately sees blended learning as a challenge, explaining that “[students] online during session don’t have as good experience [as those in-person].”

“It’s easy to just stream lectures online with something like Zoom — but it’s very difficult to moderate good engagement with students online when you’re in class,” Taverna wrote.

Sherri Helwig, Chair of UTFA’s Teaching Stream Committee, also shared her views on blended teaching in a statement to the university.

Helwig noted that “the resources available to faculty and librarians are not the same across the university” and “different learning environments…teaching approaches and learning outcomes may require very different resources.”

She further explained that “online resources that inform hybrid teaching can certainly be beneficial, but they are only part of a larger and more complex puzzle.” Helwig suggested that it would probably be quite difficult for professors to design each class in such a way that there was enough engagement for the audience in different kinds of settings. Depending on the faculty member, the appropriate technology and resources to facilitate a blended course may not be available.

According to Helwig, UTFA believes that “faculty members should be able to make decisions about the most appropriate mode of delivery for the courses they teach.” However, the association does not believe this is currently the case at the U of T.

When asked about the hybrid hub, she noted that the site seems to focus on providing relevant resources for staff, rather than faculty or librarians. She explained that more local resources such as “information UTSC Center for Teaching and Learning (CTL) Where UTM Teaching and Learning Collaboration (TLC)could be valuable additions to the web page.

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