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A student works on her laptop near a window at home.The Government of Canada’s Student Work Placement Program allowed the University of Windsor to hire 41 students to assist in its transition to online classes, online academic support, and much more.

Government program puts students in driver’s seat of virtual learning

When COVID-19 forced Universities around the world to shift to a fully virtual setting, the University of Windsor turned to students to make this pivot on campus possible.

This summer, 41 students across all academic disciplines were hired to assist in the Office of Open Learning; the Centre for Teaching and Learning (CTL); and the Student Success and Leadership Centre.

Together, these diverse and cross-disciplinary teams played a key role in the University’s transition to online classes, online academic support, and much more.

These work-term placements were funded in part by the Government of Canada’s Student Work Placement Program (SWPP), through its TECHNATION (formerly ITAC) Career Ready fund.

“The SWPP program was previously only for off-campus employers,” said Kristen Morris, Manager of Co-operative Education and Workplace Partnerships. 

“This funding opportunity — with up to $7,500 per student of funding now available for post-secondary institutions — not only gave our partners across campus access to needed student talent, but at a time when COVID-related complications in the job market were leading to cancellations of work terms, we were able to add 41 new positions for students across all disciplines.”

The placements have allowed the University to fill necessary gaps, while giving students meaningful work experience. Some students were even paired with specific faculty members in order to provide support during this challenging transition period.

In her position as Online Learning Assistant, third-year business co-op student Sanober Ali shared best practices with the Faculty of Nursing, created scripts based on the University’s eBook, Learning to Learn Online, and produced short videos to assist students in their transition to online learning. 

“I felt lucky to be a part of the University of Windsor's transition to online learning by being able to assist faculty and students with the resources they need to ease the transition,” Ali said.

"Staff members created an extremely warm and welcoming environment and it was a pleasure working with them and the other co-op students. I was able to amplify my verbal and written skills by maintaining contact with faculty and co-workers along with hosting a workshop.”

Morris said that the University and its IT department have used the available funding to hire more students this fall in a continued response to ongoing operational needs.

“This has brought out the amazing benefits of putting cross-disciplinary teams in place and has shown how employers can utilize students to assist in transformational projects. The University of Windsor Co-op and Workplace Partnerships Office is currently supporting its students in the Winter 2021 work term job competition. Students are competing in continuous rounds to determine their work term placement this coming winter.”

Judy Bornais, Executive Director of the Office of Experiential Learning, said  it was a "win-win situation" providing meaningful work opportunities for students while helping make the transition to online learning more successful for students and faculty.

“We are fortunate to have been able to secure over $150,000 from the SWPP funding this summer and look forward to continuing to search for sources of funding to support our students and employer partners," Bornais said.