Back to School in 2020: A Q & A with Virtual Help Desk Navigator, DawnDena

Dylan WoodcockBlogs

Heading back to school in 2020 looks a lot different than other years. So, we thought it would be a good idea to share some insights with you about what to expect on eCourses (our portal to online learning in Manitoba), whether you are a returning user or exploring your options for the first time. And, we also wanted to drop in a little extra encouragement for the upcoming term.

eCourses Manitoba gives you access to more than 1200 online courses at post-secondary institutions across the province. As Manitoba’s universities and colleges plan for the strong majority of their course offerings this term to be delivered online for ‘Back to School’ in 2020, our portal to online learning continues to be one avenue through which you can craft your education, despite these challenging and uncertain times. eCourses puts many of the online learning options that are available into one central hub. This makes finding courses more streamlined and accessible. But students often have many questions about the platform and how it works.

And who better to talk to for eCourses tips and tools of the trade than our beloved DawnDena (DD) Gordon? DD is one of the longest-tenured CMB staffers and the original Help Desk Navigator. She has a passion for student success, but also is one of the kindest people around. She combines a widespread awareness of online learning and general health and wellness to serve as our in-house guru for eCourses and quirky inspiration in general. We dare you to ask to see her shoe collection.

DD recently took time out of her schedule for a little Q & A, about eCourses, online learning, and staying strong and focused in the age of COVID-19.

DD smiling

VHD Navigator DD Gordon recently shared her insights on learning and life (photo: Nevada Kirby).

Q: Can you talk a little bit about how learning is different this fall?

Learning always includes the added pressures of family, friends, and community. This year it seems to be even more of an issue. Balancing – finding space and time in your life to concentrate on your education – will be hard this fall. Learners are always juggling school, work, parenting, and the usual things. But now, they’re doing so with an added social pressure. We have to work harder than we’re used to. We have to take care of ourselves and stay healthy.

Q: Why is eCourses an important platform to consider in addressing these challenges to learning?

One advantage of eCourses is that it lets you consider options at other institutions if courses get full at your home school (the institution at which you are completing your program). Or, eCourses is great if you want to explore options that your institution doesn’t offer.

Another big benefit is always that if you want to take a course at another institution, you save on some of the fees that you would otherwise have to pay. That reduces the stress that students would otherwise feel because of costs, time management, and general searching for courses.

You can also look at course transfer equivalents – something that appeals to lots of students as they require flexibility in their schedules. Sometimes, as they strive for that balance, taking a course through a different institution works better with their schedule or interests.

Q: We’ve been asked a lot on the online chat about how sometimes, offerings on eCourses are listed as unavailable, but they are still being offered online through the institution. Why is that?

Because of COVID, institutions have decided to only have courses on eCourses for the upcoming year that were specifically designed as online offerings prior to the pandemic. So it’s a good idea to check the particular institution websites and course catalogues for their full offerings. This is something that is also still changing regularly as plans evolve for the fall. But given how widespread online learning is for going back to school in 2020, it is highly likely that the course you are looking for will still be offered. Even if your eCourses account lists an offering as unavailable, you can still apply for a Letter of Permission and go through the registration process directly through the institution. And we can help through our chat if you have questions about any of this. Overall, it’s a user-friendly platform with lots to offer.

Q: What would you say to a student who is feeling stressed about the upcoming term?

Breathe. Breathe. It’s going to get better. We are all dealing with stress and pressure. If you reach out to us, we will try and give you resources and support or refer you to someone who can give you the answers you are looking for. That’s our goal. We have myself and two other Virtual Help Desk Navigators who will respond by email or live chat. We pride ourselves on being able to find answers that guide students through the post-secondary system.

Q: What’s something sort of fun or quirky that you have undertaken during the COVID pandemic, that you weren’t doing before?

I took up Tae-Kwon Do. My son was doing it, the classes moved online, and then the instructor asked if parents wanted to do it. I have a yellow belt!

*Author’s note: a yellow belt means that DD will crush you – but only if you get between her and a pair of fancy shoes.

laptop open to learning

Widespread online learning will be the standard for back to school in 2020 (Unsplash).

Q: September is not that far away. I’m feeling worried about having to wait for my LOP requests to be processed. What’s the behind-the-scenes process once I request a LOP?

Rest assured that as soon as you request a LOP, things get moving. Emails get generated and auto-sent to appropriate people. The process is very quick and gets underway as soon as you click that button! But it can take up to six weeks, so try your best to get your requests done well in advance.

Q: What advice would you give to someone learning online for the first time?

Try to give yourself more time than you think you need. This will help you stay on top of things. If you can, find someone in the same boat as you – it shouldn’t be hard to do that this term! If you can learn with a buddy, go through your exercises and assessments, you will have a lot more fun getting through it.

It is important to remember, as cliché as it sounds, that we really will all get through this together.

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Hundreds of courses, one website. eCourses Manitoba works with Manitoba’s public universities and colleges to connect students with online courses across subject areas. Our staff makes this possible by supporting students every step of the way. Visit eCourses today to start browsing courses. Craft an online education that works for you.