By Anna Wdowczyk
For those of us who somehow found ourselves missing the Sheldon & Tracy Levy Student Learning Centre this semester, it might be worth looking into Ryerson’s virtual study halls.
Although you can’t have a nap on a prized bean bag chair at these events, you can still receive academic guidance while studying from home.
“We want to make sure that students feel that there’s a community while they’re learning,” said Madelyn Steed, an academic support manager at the Ted Rogers School of Management (TRSM). She said virtual study halls were organized over the summer to help students work productively and share goals with one another.
Ryerson’s Real Institute, a facility that specializes in supporting students who are learning English as a second or additional language, also offers similar events. According to a tweet, their study halls provide participants with “a distraction-free online study space” where students can connect with peers.
Peer Academic Coaches (PACs) are available during the study halls hosted by TRSM. Steed said at the beginning of each session, “the peer coach also sets a goal and shares what they’re hoping to accomplish” over the two-hour-long period.
Isha Zahid, a PAC and second-year business student, said that after sharing her goal with participants, she encourages all students to privately share their own S.M.A.R.T. (specific, measurable, actionable, realistic and timely) goals with her in the chat box.
She said there have been a few cases where students reported not achieving their goals, adding that this happens if students get distracted by other things, like social media or emails, while working online. To prevent this, Zahid said she recommends students stay on the Zoom call with her and turn off their phones to eliminate distractions.
Zahid said the purpose of a virtual study hall “is to provide students with a library environment.” But students are allowed to check back in with supervisors at any time for additional guidance or if they just want to leave early.
“During COVID-19, I think we all need an extra, but gentle, nudge toward keeping our days productive and value-full”
According to Steed, “this all links back to our philosophy that learning is social and even more so now that we’re not learning physically together.”
When it comes to the students who don’t end up succeeding within the two-hour window, Zahid said she begins by asking what the problem was before suggesting resources so she can tailor her response.
For example, if a student admits they had a hard time absorbing course material, then Zahid said she would recommend tutoring sessions, as these study halls don’t offer tutoring.
How can students participate?
The study halls facilitated by TRSM’s Academic Success Centre are geared towards business students, but Steed said they “never turn [anyone] away.”
These events run from Mondays to Thursdays, according to the TRSM Academic Success Centre website. Students who wish to engage don’t need to pre-register. They can just enter the Google Hangout at whatever time they wish to join.
The website states that on most days these sessions take place from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., with a two-hour-long gap from 12 to 2 p.m. But on Wednesdays, the study halls end at 4 p.m. instead.
“At the best of times, it can be difficult to sit yourself down, create a concrete goal and then accomplish it, and during COVID-19 I think we all need an extra, but gentle, nudge toward keeping our days productive and value-full,” said student success facilitator Sandy Carpenter in an article on the TRSM website.
“The session is informal, so we don’t just talk about our goals, we also ask and answer learning questions and advice for learning strategies,” Carpenter said.
Zahid said after sharing a goal with others, “you feel the motivation to get it done.” She added that the events are “very productive” for her personally.
Participants don’t have to join from the start of a study hall or stay until the end—they’re allowed to come and go as they please.
Ryerson’s Real Institute hosts virtual study halls twice a week, it said in a tweet. Students who wish to participate can join on Thursdays from 9 to 11 p.m. and Fridays from 3 to 5 p.m