Banner celebrating one-thousandth customerThe Bb Café provided support in the Blackboard learning management system to its 1,000th guest last week.

Blackboard support service records 1,000 assists since pandemic start

The Centre for Teaching and Learning held virtual celebrations last week as its support sessions for users of the Blackboard learning management system topped 1,000 participants.

Cyndra MacDowall, a professor in the School of Creative Arts, was the 1,000th visitor to the Bb Café. She came with questions and left with answers — and a $50 Amazon gift card. Runner-up Thomas Dilworth, the 999th support recipient, received a $25 Amazon gift card.

“I think the Bb Café is fabulous,” said Prof. MacDowall. “Remote teaching is enormously demanding, and I am so glad that I can easily call on the café folk to help with simple and complex questions.”

She said she found it challenging to teach art online.

“BlackBoard is definitely not built to work for teaching photography, or any other art forms online, so it’s a challenge to conceptualize how to make it work with what I teach. It’s excellent to have the café folk for support as I need them.”

Dr. Dilworth, a professor in the Department of English and Creative Writing, echoed MacDowall’s sentiment.

“I’ve used Bb Café so often, few others would have odds as good,” he said. “To me, you guys have been essential, never mind helpful. I am deeply in your debt, and so are my students.”

The Bb Café was initiated as an emergency response to the COVID-19 pandemic to provide online live support for instructors and their assistants. Since those early days in March, access to the service has grown.

The centre employed six co-operative education students during the summer and fall 2020 semesters, funded by the Student Work Placement Program accessed through the Co-operative Education & Workplace Partnerships office.

The Office of Open Learning has also benefited from federal grants to support the campus in online course delivery, with some of its student employees joining staff in the Bb Café.

Both offices have engaged in employing and training co-op students for the summer and fall semesters and plan to offer more students the opportunity to gain valuable work experience through the 2021 winter semester.

Instructors and their assistants can access the Bb Café at Monday to Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. It will extend its hours of operation during the upcoming exam period. For more information on accessing the Bb Café, hours of availability, or other helpful workshops, visit the COVID-19 Preparedness Workshops wiki page.