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Blog 5: What are we hearing about opportunities arising from our pandemic response?

Author: Alison Van Rooy, Senior Advisor for Strategic Planning and Institutional Initiatives

In this last post summarizing our conversations about The Future We Want to See, I'd like to share some additional thoughts about what we are hearing about the opportunities arising from VIU’s pandemic response. 

The Strategic Planning engagement process was launched just two weeks before lockdown, and most of our conversations were held through Zoom or email rather than the planned in-person workshops we had planned. In those conversations, many students and employees spoke about the strengths – and struggles – of the new normal. We heard stories about the loss of personal connection as well as its inverse – a greater sense of community and contact. We heard stories from those who were flourishing in the online learning format, and those who were finding the switch difficult. We also heard stories from employees about the strengths, challenges and surprises of working remotely. Calls for keeping some aspects of the pandemic response in place were made, including the investment in connection and community, the flexibility and accessibility of online learning, as well as the keen attention to mental health measures. As VIU plans for the short-term, including the return to study in the fall with a hybrid model of education delivery, our community is already thinking about our longer-term future.

Are there ways we can build on the strengths of our pandemic response for the future? We know that the switch online has already opened up opportunities for working people and rural and remote students to enrol for the first time, and for existing students on all our campuses to broaden their course options without leaving home. Our nimble teaching teams have already been implementing new ways of teaching in the online format and new ways to maintain the personal connection that is so valuable to VIU learners.  Our student support teams are similarly adapting to respond to changing student needs under the pandemic. In this time of disruption, VIU's students, employees, and communities are innovating. This is exactly the spirit in which we need to plan for the next five years.

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