Information about programs and services for Fall 2020 ›
Staff Development

Organizational Development

News

Faculty Fridays: The Value of a Community of Practice

June 24, 2020

Teaching is not a solo art. It’s a practice that thrives on connecting people and ideas. At no time are these connections more important than during a crisis.

When COVID-19 struck and RRC staff and students switched to online program delivery, the instructors behind Red River College’s popular Faculty Fridays teaching blog loaded rocket fuel into their publication schedule and hit LAUNCH.

Their mission: to help keep RRC’s teaching community supported in the face of new technology and difficult challenges.

They began by posting to the blog daily – no small undertaking on top of their regular roles and responsibilities at the College, but a task made easier by reaching out to colleagues and asking readers lots of questions.

Janine Carmichael

Janine Carmichael

“Like most people, we wanted to help,” says Janine Carmichael. “We know our community well, and we knew that colleagues needed a place to give and receive ideas, inspiration and support. If we could contribute to that through daily posts, then we were all in.”

Carmichael, an instructor in Teacher Education and Amanda Le Rougetel, an instructor and coordinator in Communication, began Faculty Fridays off the sides of their desk three years ago. Together they collaborate on all aspects of the blog, keeping a tight focus on the issues uppermost in the minds of their fellow instructors. The instructor-led blog is a unique form of professional development for those who read, comment and try out the shared practices.

The blog welcomes input from everyone, regardless of their role at the College.

“The more people who contribute from different perspectives, the richer and more productive the conversation,” says Le Rougetel. Staff in the College’s administrative, professional and support areas are among the blog readers, “and we really welcome their contribution to the evolving conversation about teaching for learning at the College.”

As the pandemic has progressed, the variety of voices contributing to Faculty Fridays has proven invaluable to staff and instructors seeking a broader view of the struggles faced by their students in the virtual classroom and beyond.

“Instructors want answers to questions like, How do I teach well using technology? How do I cope with students struggling with job loss or financial stress or other problems caused by the pandemic?” says Le Rougetel. “Sometimes a reader from Student Services or ITS, for instance, will have exactly the insight or resource they need.”

Amanda Le Rougetel

Amanda Le Rougetel

When RRC switched to online program delivery in March, both bloggers witnessed the widespread adoption of video conferencing platforms across the College, and recognized a powerful new tool for bringing their community closer together. Out of this, FF@4 was born: a WebEx forum open to all RRC staff every Tuesday and Thursday at 4 p.m. where participants could share experiences, resources and solutions face to face.

The uptake, says Le Rougetel, has been lively. “That’s one of the greatest strengths of a community such as this. A problem shared is a problem halved.”

Faculty Fridays and FF@4 are now on pause for the summer break, but Carmichael and Le Rougetel continue to toss around ideas for evolving and extending their community in the future.

“Regardless of the pandemic, our goal remains the same,” says Carmichael. ”We want to do our part to help nurture and celebrate teaching for learning at the college.”

Carmichael and Le Rougetel also presented at two teaching conferences last year on the blog. “We’ve been told that what we’re doing — an instructor-written blog focused on building a robust community of practice — is fairly unique,” says Le Rougetel. “Other post-secondary institutions want to try it out for themselves. When folks who care about good teaching want to come on board, that’s meaningful validation.”

Ultimately, it might also mean that as COVID-19 forever changes the ways we teach and learn, Faculty Fridays is well positioned to help instructors achieve their A game in the coming terms.

When health care is there

June 17, 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought a lot of change and uncertainty. But one thing that’s stayed the same is Red River College’s Health Centre is here for you.

This mighty team of four was quick to provide support when the pandemic became serious in Manitoba, and has been handling a high volume of inquiries from students and employees ever since.

Ellisha Thunder

“Early on in the pandemic, we were receiving an average of 30 calls a day. People had a lot of questions about whether or not they were at risk, if they should stay home, and were even seeking travel-related advice,” says Ellisha Thunder RN, Health Services Nurse.

The College’s Health Centre operates as a nurse-led clinic. Three registered nurses and a clerical support team member focus on disease prevention planning, running immunization clinics for students, promoting healthy lifestyle changes, working closely with counselling services, and much more.

“I always say that anything that walks through our door, we try to fix it. If a case is beyond our scope of practice, we’ll refer a person to their primary care provider and provide any necessary follow up.”

The team at the Health Centre has been all in when it comes to providing health-care support during the pandemic. At the onset, they reached out to their local public health nurse who referred them to the COVID-19 screening tool they could use. From there, Thunder and her team triaged calls and emails, determining which ones they could give advice on and which ones needed to be passed on to Health Links.

“This virus is new to all of us. In the beginning, it was a frightening time for people as information was changing so often. So even after we went through the screening tool with people, we followed up with them to make sure they knew they were not alone and had a team who was available to them.”

Thunder has over 11 years of experience as an RN, working in areas like emergency care, medical surgical units, intensive care, hemodialysis, and home care – to name a few. Together, she and her RN colleagues at the Health Centre have worked through pandemics before including the H1N1, SARS and Ebola crises.

“We’ve pooled all of our different backgrounds together to make it work. I love bragging about my colleagues because they’re so amazing. We’ve been able to do so much because of the people we have on our team.”

Health-care professionals have undoubtedly been our heroes during this pandemic, but Thunder says the challenges they’ve faced reinforce the deep-rooted passion she has as an RN.

“I can relate to my fellow colleagues on the frontlines who are branded heroes because that is what we do – we put our clients first and our best foot forward to save one client at a time.”

While regular duties of the Health Centre have started to resume, this team is now planning for what our new normal will look like on campus. The health and safety of the College community remains top priority, and this team is working hard to help put safe protocols in place for when it’s time to return to campus.

“We know this is still a scary time, but we also want you to know you have a team who is keeping up-to-date with the latest information from public health officials. We’re willing and available to address your concerns any time.”

Thunder would like to acknowledge her fellow colleagues at the Health Centre: Kelli Kingston RN (Health Services Nurse), Chantelle Friesen RN (Health Services Nurse), and Harpreet Kaur (Health Services Clerk).

A few months ago, Dr. Christine Watson, Interim President and CEO visited Ellisha at the Health Centre as part of her “Where’s Watson?” video series. Ellisha shared how this team is supporting students and employees throughout the COVID-19 pandemic:

Health Care’s Hidden Heroes

June 10, 2020

Courtney Sabo is passionate about Health Information Management and the critical role it plays in supporting our health-care system — especially during a pandemic. She’s equally passionate about her role as a teacher, and proud of how her students are making a difference in the fight against COVID-19.

“Health Information Management or HIM may be a behind-the-scenes profession, but our whole health-care system would crash without it,” she explains. “Without the work we do, our hospitals, our public health, our digital and research sectors in health simply couldn’t function.”

HIM professionals are information management practitioners, researchers and analysts who serve virtually every area of health care. During pandemics such as COVID-19, they dig deep into the data, capturing (for instance) co-morbid conditions that allow public health experts to draw useful conclusions about the disease’s impacts.

“For example, of those patients admitted to hospitals for COVID-19, how many developed pneumonia? How many suffered a cardiac-related condition? And so on. These are questions that can only be answered by the data that is being collected by HIM professionals.”

This data and the conclusions drawn from it can help prepare for a second wave of the outbreak, or an entirely unrelated pandemic. HIM professionals also assist in research or clinical trials related to COVID patients.

The story of how Sabo became a HIM professional, and then started teaching the profession at Red River College, took an abrupt turn in April when the pandemic forced RRC campuses to close. Courses were complete, but not the hands-on practicum HIM students needed to graduate.

Then Manitoba Health offered 14 of the program’s students a job opportunity that supplemented their practicum requirement. Those contracts have been extended until September. The students are collecting data on COVID-19 cases that will help with tracking efforts in our province.

“This gives them the chance to still work and gain some experience that will prepare them for when the HIM jobs start popping up,” says Sabo. “The students were very eager to do whatever they could to help. I keep telling them it’s a (hopefully!) once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to be part of this!”

Sabo admits it’s still hard knowing she won’t be able to share a big moment with her first group of students: shaking their hands at the convocation ceremony. Nevertheless, many of her students tell her they’re using the skills she taught them every day, and they feel inspired by their profession.

“That,” she says, “makes me really proud.”

It takes a village: A shout out to our staff

June 3, 2020

Jodi Pluchinski

Jodi Pluchinski, Director of Safety and Health Services, is a key player supporting the College through the COVID-19 pandemic. Pluchinski is also an integral part of our Incident Management Team, working with areas across the College to help ensure our people and campuses are safe.

Pluchinski has been in the thick of our emergency response to this pandemic, and is grateful to many colleagues she’s worked alongside during this time. In a special Behind the Scenes at RRC story, Pluchinski has written the following words to recognize five colleagues for their contributions:

Nicki Albus, Emergency Preparedness Coordinator

“If people didn’t know who Nicki was before this pandemic, they sure do now. Nicki has been instrumental in leading RRC’s response to this pandemic. Before COVID-19 even had a name, Nicki began planning and putting systems in place to make sure we were ready. As a leader in our Emergency Operations Centre, she’s worked countless hours, brought multiple teams together, and her calm approach is reassuring as we move forward. We still have a long way to go, but I have all the confidence we’ll be successful under Nicki’s leadership.” Hear from Nicki outside the Emergency Operations Centre in this video.

Michelle Tabaka, Administrative Assistant, Safety and Health Services

“Michelle is truly a hidden hero and takes on any task that comes her way. Michelle helped get our Emergency Operations Centre up and running, coordinates the College’s donations of personal protective equipment (PPE) and laptops, and much more. Michelle has managed too many phone calls to count, and always makes sure anyone asking for help gets what they need. She’s gone above and beyond her regular job responsibilities, and we know Michelle will only keep rising to the challenge through this unusual time.”

Patricia Thome, Manager, Building Services

“She may be fairly new to the College, but Patricia’s work to help keep our campuses clean has been outstanding. Patricia is the College’s Manager of Building Services, and she’s been a huge support since the beginning. Early on in this pandemic, Patricia and I would meet every day to make sure we were on the same page of what we were going to need the building services team to do. She makes things happen so quickly, advocates for her team and has added such value to our emergency preparedness response.” Learn more about this team’s work here.

Steve Coates, Materials Movement Logistics Coordinator

“No one can move materials like Steve can! Steve is a member of the College’s procurement and logistics team, and he always pulls through for us when we go to him for help. If a material has to come in to the building or get out, he makes it happen because he understands the importance of what we’re doing. As we stay agile during this busy time, it’s nice to have friendly people like Steve on board who always make time to check in and see how people are doing.”

Craig MacDonald, Director, Information Technology Solutions

“When we have an IT problem, Craig makes it go away. He’s an outside-of-the-box thinker and we’re grateful for his leadership more than ever right now. Craig and the entire Information Technology Solutions (ITS) team have helped us move to new ways of working so quickly. Under their guidance, I feel confident College employees and students will continue to be supported as many of us work, teach and learn remotely. Craig is crushing all the challenges that come his way and I want to extend a very big thank you to him and the entire ITS team.” Learn more about this team’s work here.

A couple months ago, Dr. Christine Watson, Interim President and CEO visited Jodi in the College’s bunker as part of her “Where’s Watson?” video series. Jodi shared how our bunker is used to keep employees and students safe by moving hazardous waste in and out as quickly as possible:

Quick Lessons: Solution Oriented & Creative Mindsets

May 29, 2020

Here we are at the end of May 2020 – and many RRC teams are knee deep in planning and pivoting for Fall and beyond.

Use these tools to help bolster team effectiveness. These can help pull out fresh solutions and support an accountable and trusting environment. These are curated  for leaders and employees alike!

2 min video: Guide teams into a creative mindset (LinkedIn Learning)

3 min read: 3 surprising ways to develop problem solving teams  (Inc.com)

Template: Agenda for a 1:1 meeting with your manager or employee (Reality Based Leadership)

Have an IT problem? Help is right around the virtual corner

May 27, 2020

A lot of words come to mind when you think of information technology – servers, software, email, storage – but the first word that comes to mind at the College is “help”.

That’s because our Information Technology Solutions (ITS) team continues to work hard to support employees and students through the technical challenges the COVID-19 pandemic brings.

Craig MacDonald

“If anyone has an IT issue, our goal is to get them back up and running as quickly as possible. Our team is excited to be in the trenches and creating solutions that really make a difference for the College,” says Craig MacDonald, Director of ITS.

Working, teaching and learning from home can bring about a whole new set of technical challenges. One of the most notable solutions the ITS team has created to support people during this transition is establishing an ITS Service Desk.

“When this crisis hit, we knew we needed to create a solution where people could easily connect with us from their homes.”

The virtual service desk is a person’s first point of contact for any technical issues or requests. When a question comes through, the ITS team troubleshoots issues related to remote access, email, collaboration and video conferencing, equipment needs and more.

Every area in ITS played a part in the set up, and 13 Educational Assistants from the Ace Project Space also quickly jumped in to help support students in their first week back when courses resumed after the College’s Study Break.

“We knew there was a potential for students to be overwhelmed as they adjusted to new ways of learning, and the EAs were a great support to them as part of the service desk. With their assistance, our team was able to focus on the variety of challenges the College was facing to work and teach remotely while they answered questions and responded to requests from students.”

While the service desk is being praised by many employees, MacDonald shares how it’s actually been in the works for a while.

“We were ahead of the curve and well positioned for this. Our team is always anticipating the next thing to come, gathering information and storing it in our back pockets for a rainy day. We were able to establish the service desk in such a short period of time because many of the concepts and technologies used to bring it to life have been developed over the past two years merged with existing resources such as Caselog.”

“Last fall, we participated in the Staff Helpdesk Future Proofing pilot project where a lot of ideas for a virtual service desk were put in motion. We were able to take these ideas that were created for a small scale pilot, and through great individual and collaborative team efforts, were able to develop it into a virtual service desk for staff and students. While working from home, our team members tested and found new ways to support faculty and staff, and really understand what they would need from a virtual service desk.”

Together, this team of over 40 people is working hard to keep everyone going. They’ve provided nearly 100 laptops to employees who didn’t already have one, acquired equipment such as headsets for instructors to deliver online courses more effectively, and more – all while maintaining proper social distancing measures to get these tools into the hands of the people who need them.

This work doesn’t come without its own set of technical challenges, but the ITS team is committed to finding solutions to ensure our faculty, staff and students continue to be supported.

“It’s been a fast and furious time, but the great thing about RRC is how quickly we adapt. I’m so impressed by everyone at the College for stepping up and finding a way to move forward.”

The ITS team has also been testing virtual meeting tools like Microsoft Teams and WebEx for years now. As staff, faculty and students turn to these tools to get their work done, they know where to find help if they need it.

“Our team members are talented, smart and creative. I couldn’t be more proud to work with them.”

Quick Leadership Lessons For You

May 20, 2020

Welcome to a new feature we in Org Development hope will help you cut through the onslaught of advice you may be finding in your inbox on how to work well during COVID.

Each Thursday, we will post 3 short, easily digestible lessons on a single high interest leadership topic. Every item can be read, watched or listened to in less than 10 minutes. All lessons are practical, relevant and high quality.

Why do we focus on Leadership? No matter your role, you are being called upon right now for your daily vision, integrity, decision-making, emotional intelligence, collaboration and communication skills. We realize the power that a bite-sized, insightful boost can provide to support your success during this uncharted time.

Kicking things off, we have this week’s topic: Productivity in Helpful but Gentle Ways

Stay tuned for our post each week. Share and enjoy.

Contact orgdev@rrc.ca with any comments!

Pandemic doesn’t stop students from working on real projects with real businesses

May 20, 2020

While teaching from her home in Gimli, instructor Andrea McCann is connecting students to businesses across North America.

Andrea McCann

McCann teaches applied commerce and management in the College’s Business Administration program. Equipped with an entrepreneurial spirit and the experience of running her own businesses, McCann was eager to introduce a platform called Riipen to her students.

In a nutshell, the platform brings industry and education together, allowing students to work on real projects with real companies in real time. While McCann’s students create marketing strategies in their regular course work, they’re keen to apply their knowledge and skills too.

“Businesses join Riipen when they need help with a project or have a problem they need to solve. We know we have students in our program who can complete these projects, so we want to help give them that experience,” says McCann.

Before taking on a project, McCann connects with business owners through the platform to see if their needs align with course learning outcomes. While many of us are still learning how to work remotely through this pandemic, McCann explains how her students are in a good position to continue working with businesses during this time.

“The first time students meet a business owner from Riipen is through a WebEx or Zoom call, so fortunately that way of collaborating isn’t new to them.”

What has changed, though, is the learning environment. Groups of students who were used to working on projects together in the classroom are now figuring out how to do so from their homes. Right now they’re also facing a number of challenges outside of school because of COVID-19, and McCann is quick to accommodate where she can.

“I realized early on that I had to be flexible for my students. Education will change your life, but it won’t happen if there are too many road blocks in your way. So I want to help remove those road blocks – even if that means simply changing a meeting time because it works better for a group of students.”

Since September, 179 students have completed nearly 30 marketing projects through Riipen. They’re working with all kinds of businesses that are as close to home as Steinbach and as far away as British Columbia, Florida and New York.

McCann is currently connecting with other instructors at the College who are also interested in seeing if the platform can work for their students too. She may be working behind a computer in rural Manitoba, but McCann’s dedication to staying innovative shows us how education can reach beyond borders.

“Entrepreneurship can extend outside of Manitoba. You can work for a company in our province and still be doing business around the world. It’s awesome to see students realize that potential.”

Dr. Christine Watson, Interim President and CEO, recently interviewed McCann as part of her “Where’s Watson?” video series. Hear more about how McCann is leveraging Riipen in addition to regular course work:

Consensus-building paramount in pandemic

May 12, 2020

One common goal united 10 people across multiple campuses in the immediate days after the COVID-19 crisis first hit Manitoba: providing exceptional education for Red River College (RRC) students.

Indeed, it’s the same goal RRC staff and faculty strive for at the best of times, but when RRC implemented a Study Week from March 16-23 in response to the COVID-19 crisis, staff across the College had to quickly determine how best to transition to alternative and online delivery. According to Lisa Jamieson, Chair of Applied Commerce and Management Education, the Business Administration Marketing Team rose to the challenge in a commendable way.

“The team collaborated to ensure our students had access to technology, and re-calibrated content suitable for online delivery,” she says. “They had respectful communication where everyone’s opinion was heard.”

Taking a student and team-centred approach, the group used creative solutions to problem-solve. The team lead, Taiwo Soetan, ensured everyone’s voice was heard.

“Taiwo was the lead and coordinated everything, but he listened to everyone and made sure all the voices were heard,” says Jamieson. “Communication is the big takeaway. Consensus-building and respectful communication – that’s really important.”

The group truly exemplified teamwork when they stepped up to do support each other.

“One person would read a chapter, so not everyone would have to do that,” explains Jamieson. “One instructor had a manual that she’d added all her notes to, and she shared that. There was a lot of sharing of resources and doing the work. People took it upon themselves to share the burden and work together.”

The team used their support systems – they engaged their Chair and found particular guidance from their instructional designer, Sean McCorkell.

“Sean has been instrumental in preparing faculty and staff to use technology for online delivery,” says Jamieson. “He has spent countless hours holding training sessions, coaching individual faculty and staff, and providing solutions for complex problems relating to technology, instructional design, and administration.”

Before the changes that came with COVID-19, McCorkell’s role saw him heavily involved in course re-development: developing online components, course curriculum, and blended learning strategies. In some ways, his experience pre-pandemic helped prepare him for RRC’s nimble shift to alternative delivery.

“We had to pivot that blended learning strategy, and adapt for online learning,” he says. “As we moved to remote delivery, it was a massive training regime.”

McCorkell helped generate a list of resources that were available for alternative delivery. He also became responsible for remote technical support and coordinating a laptop loan program, helping with software installations, developing and facilitating courses, and delivering online exams to more than 180 students.

Although it was a monumental endeavour that involved lots of last-minute scrambling and hard work, McCorkell credits the dedication of the team with rising to the challenge and doing everything they could to support students.

“It’s been challenging. The work has felt overwhelming, but now we’re at the end of the term – what we have done feels pretty good,” he says. “I’m really, really impressed with how our team and faculty has come together. Instead of saying ‘this isn’t working,’ we’re saying, ‘how we can make this work?’”

Beyond the book: RRC’s Library Services turns the page on virtual service delivery

May 7, 2020

A decision to go high-tech two years ago has made it much easier for Red River College’s libraries to offer their services online during the COVID-19 outbreak.

When the virus struck and campuses closed mid-March, RRC Library Services staff were already up to speed, armed with equipment, reliable online databases and systems, and a strong team ethos that made switching remote service delivery as easy as flipping a page.

“We could call that strategic foresight,” says Kerry Macdonald, Library Director. “Two years ago, we started looking ahead to the future, not realizing how close it was.”

The future they were anticipating featured the widespread adoption of new and emerging technologies and open educational resources, as well as responsive physical and virtual spaces with one goal in mind: enhancing the student experience.

Putting those plans into action meant library staff — including 25 regular full-time employees and up to 40 temporary or casual staff — were primed to provide virtual access to resources and reference services, now a necessity as College programs continue remotely in accordance with emergency health measures.

For instance, staff and students who need help with reference and research can contact library staff by LibChat, the Library’s virtual chat platform, or set up a virtual meeting. (The phone still works, too.)

That help can be invaluable to navigating the vast number of resources available.

“We have access to over 700,000 online resources, from streaming videos to journals and electronic books,” says Macdonald, “compared to 48,000 books in print.”

In addition to procuring and processing resources (a task that continues remotely), library staff are continuing to offer a host of supplementary supports and skills, advising on matters of copyright and academic integrity, and tutoring.

After campuses closed in the second half of March, the Academic Success Centre (which is run by the Library) offered over 11,000 hours of tutoring and other forms of support to more than 300 students. TutorTrac, a tutor appointment scheduling software package the library adopted previously, has made handling the volume much easier.

Several programs normally offered in person by Library staff have now gone online, including Diversity Training Workshops. Students in RRC’s International Business and Hospitality/Tourism programs were the first to participate remotely. Lunch and Learn sessions for staff now also take place online.

Library staff have also had their hands full sharing and creating LibGuides designed to help users function better while working virtually or from home.

Eyes ever on the future, they also continue to explore other future technologies, including online assessment and testing.

“I’m really impressed by their passion for serving RRC students and staff — and also for how they support one another,” says Macdonald. When the need to work from home was announced, “we all dove into LinkedIn Learning for training in WebEx and Microsoft Teams, and now we’re all virtual meeting pros. These platforms have proven vital not only to delivering services but staying connected as a team. Staff regularly gather in online tea-rooms to socialize and share ideas.”

The demand for Library Services is almost back to normal after a dip at the start of the pandemic. But while the pace typically slows as the College community heads into summer, the extension of remote program and service delivery may actually boost the need for Library Services, Macdonald says. LibChat usage, for example, has gone up more than 100 per cent since Library Services moved exclusively online.

“We don’t know what to expect as the pandemic rolls on. People could need us even more.”