McGill University hired 169 students to work as Remote Learning Assistants (RLAs) for the Fall 2020 semester, new technical support positions designed to promote digital skill development and assist instructors with the shift to remote delivery of courses.
This student work placement program was collaboratively developed by Teaching and Learning Services (TLS), Scholarships and Student Aid (SSAO), and Career Planning Service (CaPS), and was 75% subsidized by TechNation, a Federal Government funding partner. The RLA positions provided an opportunity for remote student employment at a time when so many students had lost their jobs due to the pandemic.
What does a Remote Learning Assistant do?
RLAs support one or more faculty members and instructors to adapt academic course material for remote delivery. RLAs may be asked to perform a variety of different support tasks, such as:
- Record demonstrations, field, or lab experiments using basic video equipment or a Smartphone.
- Edit videos using basic editing software (i.e., Camtasia).
- Assist instructors and guest speakers with the use of multiple tools during Zoom sessions.
- Assist instructors with adapting the structure of course materials in myCourses, adding materials, and configuring activity tools.
- Act as technical facilitator in Zoom sessions, particularly in large classes.
- Provide students basic technical support during Zoom sessions.
What are the benefits for instructors?
RLAs are a great resource to support instructors with technical challenges that arise with the transition to remote delivery. Beyond addressing problems, RLAs can also help instructors try out different interactive tools to increase student engagement. RLAs can be a time-saver—instead of instructors having to learn new technologies on their own, RLAs can take the time to figure out how everything works before helping instructors efficiently integrate the technology into their course.
What are the benefits for students?
These paid positions are recognized as a work-integrated learning opportunity on McGill University’s Co-Curricular Record, under the Enriched Educational Opportunities category. RLAs received student employee onboarding and technical training, including access to myCourses Essentials for RLAs, a self-paced tutorial site where RLAs could pose discussion questions to TLS Learning Technology Specialists.
Through weekly reflective activities, RLAs shared that they gained technical skills, such as experience with new programs, functions, and tools, as well as personal development, such as skills related to problem solving, time management, and leadership. Students described that the most satisfying aspect of their role as an RLA was feeling useful to both instructors and students.
Given the success of the first semester, McGill extended the RLA program into Winter 2021 to continue to improve the experience of instructors and students with remote learning. While the RLA program will no longer be subsidized after Winter 2021, Faculties can hire RLAs on their own and TLS will be pleased to train them.