SERT-lite: Mini projects, pilots, and meanderings

Online Learning and Isolation Frustration: Exploring the Remote Learning Student Experience at Ryerson University

Supported by the supervisor of SERT, two undergraduate students at Ryerson University volunteered to conduct a study during Winter 2021 to learn how online learning affected students, a project that quickly expanded to examining how students want the future of their education to be. After more than 12 hours of focus groups and more than 350 students surveyed, the study found several key issues that we believe should be top priority for the university and all learning and teaching staff and faculty. Researchers David Jardine and MJ Wright presented their work to the Ryerson Learning and Teaching Conference in May 2021.

In March 2020, Ryerson University shifted rapidly to an essential services model in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and public health guidelines to reduce the spread of the novel coronavirus. Students enrolled in classes at that time experienced a drastic shift in their course delivery and experience of support services. In the summer of 2020, as we prepared for a Fall 2020 semester delivered almost entirely online, we were interested in learning from students what their experiences were in March and what they anticipate needing to be successful in the upcoming semester. We were also interested in creating a space for students to practice using online communication tools they may be asked to use in their classes. Finally, we hoped to share our results with faculty and staff at Ryerson to encourage them to understand students’ needs. Two research assistants from SERT conducted online focus groups using chat groups and digital collaging to speak with students about their experiences. Read what we learned here.

Pilot Study: Mapping Student Financial Aid with Interactive Digital Collage at the Office of Social Innovation

In the precursor to the SERT:OSI chapter, SERT collaborated with the Office of Social Innovation to conduct a pilot study investigating the impact of student debt on student engagement. We conducted online digital collaging focus groups with participants who expressed their experiences navigating the Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP). This pilot study lead to the creation of the SERT:OSI team in 2021 and our study as part of the Degrees of Debt project.

While working on our main project (SERT 2018-2019) an additional opportunity came to our attention related to the job-search and career exploration
experience for students with disabilities, work being done by the Public Garage Project. This group connected with various stakeholders in Student Affairs at Ryerson for input, and the connection to SERT and its student-led approach to inquiry became mutually interesting. We met subsequently with Aryeh Gitterman and his team conducting this research and were given the background of the project and its goals. Although limited in what we were able to provide by way of deep research, we did agree that, through a simple process of productive conversation that is the hallmark of SERT, we would be able to add something interesting to the story.