Authored by: Hayden McKenna
On November 10, 2021, the University of the Southern Caribbean (USC) participated in the first symposium on quality in higher education organized by the Inter-American Division (IAD), Department of Education. The symposium, timely themed “Pedagogical Experience in a Pandemic”, drew participants, contributors and presenters primarily from the 13 Adventist universities that serve within the very culturally diverse IAD territory.
The presentations and video submissions focused on a wide range of topics, and included the sharing of interesting research findings germane to the pedagogical innovations higher education has had to grapple with under pandemic conditions in different socio-cultural contexts. Institutional strategies and personal reflections were also shared.
USC Provost, Dr. Wanda Chesney, and Mr. Imo Rameses Bakari, an Instructor in the School of Social Sciences, USC, made presentations at the symposium. Dr. Chesney’s presentation titled “Sustainable Adaptation and Resilience: USC’s Response to the Covid 19 Pandemic”, focussed on USC’s responsiveness to the abrupt imperative to transform all instructional activities at the university to ICT assisted remote learning, following a state mandated cessation of in-person instruction in the entire education system in Trinidad and Tobago. Crediting the pre-pandemic, extant work and capacity building efforts of the School of Distance Education, the Instructional Development and Design Unit and the Institute for Educational Technology, Chesney pointed out that USC turned out to be more prepared for the pivot than it had estimated. Yes, there were logistical and resource challenges to overcome and some of them have proven in time to be quite stubborn, however USC made an imperfect but creditable pivot losing only one week of the teaching semester in March of 2020. The willingness of USC’s teaching faculty to quickly adapt to the hard, sometimes intrusive adjustments to the new normal also was roundly commended by Chesney.
Mr. Bakari’s presentation under the title “My Personal Development” was an inspirational testimony of resilience, optimism and opportunity. Bakari pointed out that the pandemic brought with it opportunities for tremendous growth. Using his own experience, Mr. Bakari testified that he grew exponentially by tapping into a range of webinars and other educational opportunities that were opened up in unprecedented ways during the pandemic. He was even able to earn a Diploma in Global Leadership. In Bakari’s lemons-to-lemonade presentation, he also shared practical tips he has been using to cope with pandemic fatigue. Among them are reading, exercise, gardening and prayer and meditation. Mr. Bakari corroborated Dr. Chesney’s praise for existing structures at USC that swiftly intervened to mitigate the pain of the pivot.
Ms. Del Phillips, an Associate Professor in the School of Business and Entrepreneurship contributed a video submission to the symposium. It summarized her own experiences in confronting the hasty transition from face to face to fully remote teaching and learning. She also shared some of the strategies and tactics she has been employing to keep her students well served and engaged. She has learnt the use of online tools, games and applications to support her efforts at collaborative teaching and learning.
Phillips also shared the ways she has had to re-imagine how she plans and prepares for her classes and the discipline remote teaching requires of the teacher.
Other USC attendees included Dr. Allison Campbell-Sanderson, Chair of Humanities and Mrs. Lois Baynes, Director of the Student Advisement Centre.