Instructor Spotlight: Shiralee Hudson Hill

With classes going online late last year, our educators were thrown headfirst into a brave new world. Students and staff alike are so grateful for our amazing instructors here at the Faculty of Information, and so we at Living the iLife are profiling some instructors whose online instruction have truly stood out to our students this term. 

Every instructor discussed in this series has been specifically nominated by you, their students. 

Shiralee Hudson Hill is an award-winning cultural planning professional with experience all over the world. Closer to home she has worked as an Interpretive Planner and Lead Interpretive Planner at the Art Gallery of Ontario and as a consultant. In the Faculty of Information she has taught the courses “‘Difficult’ Heritages and Precarious Times” (Summer 2020) and “Museums and their Publics” (Fall 2020). In fact, this writer took the former course and absolutely loved it!

Shiralee Hudson Hill (Photo courtesy of Shiralee Hudson Hill)

What has been the most exciting possibility created by teaching online versus teaching in person? 

Besides wearing slippers? I love that you are asking about the silver lining about emergency at-home learning because, of course, teaching online is not exactly ideal. On the one hand, online learning presents new barriers for students, such as access to WIFI, functioning computers, and access to a quiet, comfortable space conducive to focused learning. On the other, online learning also presents new access opportunities: students do not have to worry about the time and cost of commuting, and they have access to recordings of all of my synchronous sessions in case they have to miss class, experience a technology glitch, or would like to review a part of class again. For asynchronous sessions, students can watch and pause sessions at will.

Will this experience of teaching online impact how you approach in-person teaching going forward? 

Hmmm. This is an interesting question because I have not taught a course in-person (although I have been a guest speaker many times throughout the years). My first opportunity to teach came in Summer 2020. I can say the experience of teaching online has given me confidence; whenever I feel a trickle of doubt creeping in (about anything), I remember the weeks leading up to the summer semester in 2020 and those early weeks of teaching. I counter any doubt with the thought if I can create an engaging syllabus, learn how to build a course website in Quercus, learn BBCU, and handle all of the other vicissitudes that come with online teaching, I can learn and do anything. I would also say that if I am given the opportunity to teach in person, I will appreciate the privilege of being in the same room as my students.

How have your students impressed you throughout this process? 

I have been constantly impressed by students’ resiliency, patience and creativity, and they have taught me so much. If you will allow me a slight pivot here, I would like to encourage students to reach out to their professors if they ever feel confused, lost or need any kind of help with their courses (or just need someone to talk to). I had some lovely one-on-one zooms with my students, and I truly appreciated the opportunity to connect and help. Don’t try to go it alone. I know professors can be intimidating. But no matter how many degrees they have, or how many years of experience, they are people (just like you!), and they are here to support you.

What is the funniest thing that has happened in one of your virtual classes? 

Oh my goodness. Do you remember that time (the first or second class of the summer semester?) that I had just paused our class for a mid-point break; I let out an enormous sigh, and then you let me know my microphone was still on? Oh dear! That was funny. [Note from the blogger: I do! It was a very relatable sigh.] But the funniest (and most frustrating) day happened when, because of certain system updates not aligning, BBCU caused my computer to crash at least four times during class (remember that?). I grabbed my phone (thankfully I had downloaded the Quercus app) and just kept sending messages to my class that my system was rebooting. The students were so terrific, they just kept the discussions going, and we all had a good laugh at the terrible, weird, frozen electronic loop BBCU had created with my voice. It never happened again. Now I know to just move us all over to Zoom, but in those early days, we all just persevered and made the best of it.

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