This article is the second of a two-part series. Part one summarized the reflections of several physical and occupational therapy faculty and students interviewed at the end of the Fall 2020 semester. This article contains excerpts from those interviewed highlighting positive experiences and personal coping tips.
Professor Sara Saunders erg., PhD, Director of the Occupational Therapy Program
Positive aspect: I learned a lot from the instructors who taught in the winter semester. They were the real heroes who turned on a dime and provided high quality, remote learning experiences for the students.
At first, I was overly ambitious and tried to set up a standing area for teaching but balancing all my equipment was just too difficult to sustain! I quickly discovered that sitting to Zoom-teach is best for me. During class, I now plan a 10-minute break for the students each hour of teaching with a few minutes of silly dance videos, stretching or relaxation activities found on YouTube and then turn the screen off for the remaining few minutes.
The ergonomic assessment portion of the class I taught turned out to be successful even in this remote teaching time. Students met with participants remotely and were able to adapt many home workstations with success.
Personal coping tip: Online classes in my area of interest! I have been able to continue with my ballet classes online which has been helpful for me.
Daria St-Jean, Physical Therapy Student
Positive aspect: One of our professors, Dr. Roig, created podcasts with exercise experts, for our class to use. The podcasts really kept my interest. I felt like I was part of the conversation and was learning material which seemed very applicable to my future practice. It was great. I could listen to them anywhere, even while driving to work!
Personal coping tip: Try to reach out. Being in second-year is hard because we haven’t had the time to make too many friends. Personally, I do have one good friend in the program and just talking to her about everything on a regular basis has been helpful and I am super grateful for it!
Professor Liliane Asseraf-Pasin PT, PhD, Director of the Physical Therapy Program
Positive aspect: I cannot express how appreciative I am for everyone (students, staff and faculty members) going above and beyond to make the program continue as best as possible given these very challenging times. It has been overwhelming; many faculty members have had no break at all since March.
I taught last winter semester and prepared during the summer, so I now have many recorded lectures ready to go. I will be ready for some engaging question and answer periods which can work really well.
Personal coping tip: Without having to drive, park and arrange to go on campus, I have a little more time to attend webinars or events that I wouldn’t have had time to go to. I have attended presentations on technology and teaching strategies and have really enjoyed some of them.
Professor Bernadette Nedelec OT, PhD, Occupational Therapy Program
Positive aspect: I think that there have been some very valuable lessons about our approaches to learning. Our course is structured with three formats: didactic lectures, hands-on workshops and professional reasoning seminars. Over the summer we reorganized the teaching time into recorded lectures, on-site clinical skills workshops and synchronous teaching time using Zoom.Using the Zoom breakout rooms we were able to mimic the active-learning classroom environment and really delve into professional reasoning and the development of reflective practice skills. Being able to assimilate, analyze and integrate knowledge in the breakout rooms was surprisingly successful!
Personal coping tip: A regime of exercise is so important to stay healthy, mentally and physically. I really encourage my students to continue to be physically active.
Julia Chin, Occupational Therapy Student
Positive aspect: I'm beyond thankful that our program has been able to continue in these crazy circumstances. Although our cohort last met in-person in March, I personally have still felt connected with my peers, through out-of-school group chats, as well as through paired and group assignments. Our professors have made themselves accessible to us, promptly responding to our emailed questions and I have been attending virtual office hours or meetings with them, just as it was in-person. I think our professors have done a great job switching over to an online platform and making full use of different platforms to engage us in active and collaborative learning. I also appreciate their efforts to support us as students, by being open to making adjustments mid-semester based on student feedback.
Personal coping tip: I make it a point to head out of my apartment for a walk every day, even if it's just for 5 minutes, to get some sun and fresh air. With the winter approaching, I have also recently joined a group of friends taking turns to lead indoor fitness workouts via group videocall - as a person living on my own, this has been a fun and safe way to socialize!
Professors Joyce Fung PT, PhD and Claire Perez PT, MSc, Physical Therapy Program
Positive aspect: We were lucky. In order to teach clinical skills, we had real patient videos made by our clinical partners, the opportunity to create teaching videos over the summer at the School and weekly on-campus access. For sure, it was a very different and challenging process than before the pandemic but fortunately in the years to come, we can benefit from having a blend of teaching methods. We also performed evaluations in the Zoom breakout rooms using role play and interview case studies. This was surprisingly successful!
Personal coping tip: Reach out to a friend or colleague for help and ideas. We have both become even more appreciative of our colleagues and just to be able to collaborate so well together as the Neuro Team. There are three of us to depend on and support each other through these challenging times. It has been so valuable!
Nayra Abdel Fattah, Physical Therapy Student
Positive aspect: We have been fortunate to be able to go into class and learn, four times a week. We really do feel that the professors have done everything they can to keep us safe and healthy. The pandemic has created a weird sense of time and I have found that keeping a color-coordinated and organized calendar has been helpful in maintaining some kind of normal pace. Just seeing everything laid out before me feels good.
Personal coping tip: l feel for those who are in the first- and second-year because they are not on campus and have not met many people in their program. I would encourage them to sign up for the mentoring program. We are happy to match them up with someone!
Professor Barbara Shankland erg., MSc, Occupational Therapy Program
Positive aspect: Teamwork and collaboration were keys to success. The teaching team for our course collaborated with the SIM Centre staff to develop a program with simulated patients and telerehabilitation scenarios to prepare students for some of the current clinical realities.
I think there will be lasting benefits from this experience as many students preferred the flexibility of recorded lectures.
Personal coping tip: Staying physically active, YouTube yoga classes and maintaining contact with people using virtual platforms such as Zoom has been very important this semester.
Catherine Couture, Occupational Therapy Student
Positive aspect: Without the commute I have a little more time, which allows me to work, cook more healthy meals and organize my time better. Even though I am lucky to be onsite for some classes, it is harder to connect with other students with all the masks, visors and physical distancing. However, there are online events planned by our student associations where you can connect with others. I find that having at least one friend in the program is important, not only for studying, but also to connect with someone who can relate to the ups and downs of the program.
Personal Coping tip: I joined the PTOT Strava group to motivate myself and others from the program to go on runs or bike rides. I do make time to disconnect and go on walks even if it's only for 10-15 minutes and, I also practice mindfulness daily using an app for a peaceful start to my day.
Professors Susanne Mak erg., Occupational Therapy Program and Shaun Cleaver PT, PhD, Physical Therapy Program
Positive aspect: Preparing the course material for remote delivery turned into an opportunity to review all the topics and decide which might actually benefit from a remote delivery format. We are both curious to see how this will transform our future classes. Initially, we were concerned with teaching to over 130 mostly black screens, but when we began, we had a surprising insight: the four or five students who did have their cameras on were a great motivator for us!
We both miss the students and their energy. We now start earlier and end our class later to have the opportunity to talk with students, it’s been a great opportunity to touch base with them one-on-one.
Personal coping tip: (SM) Personally, doing yoga, making bread (kneading dough is very cathartic!) or playing with my dog have been helpful for my mental health! (SC) Its been a tough semester, something I have had to learn is basically how to prioritize my tasks, step back, be grateful and see how best to move forward. This type of reflection is something I am not used to doing daily but has been very helpful in maintaining my mental health
Professor Frangiska Xenopoulos PT, MSc, Physical Therapy Program
Positive aspect: I have learned to use Zoom differently per cohort. For the first-year students, synchronous was much better and breakout rooms worked very well. It was a welcomed opportunity for students to meet their peers. On the other hand, for those further in the program, breakout rooms were not as effective and asynchronous recorded lectures worked better. I had to adapt as the semester progressed, shorten the breakout rooms and ask more questions beforehand to optimize student engagement.
My students had valuable and well appreciated on-campus class time to work on their practical skills. Social distancing created a challenge here, as the students were spread apart in seven rooms instead of our usual three rooms. At times, it took me or the other clinical instructors awhile to get to all the students in each room to review their techniques.
Personal coping tip: With everything changing constantly, I had to be adaptive and creative. The ability to adapt is a skill I appreciate even more now.
Header photo: Occupational therapy students in hands-on workshops with faculty lecturer Daniel Nguyen, erg.
Monica Slanik is a McGill Occupational Therapy alumna and works as an Academic Associate at the School of Physical & Occupational Therapy. Her responsibilities include: communications (media production), program administrator for the Graduate Certificate Program in Chronic Pain Management and Continuing Professional Development.