My recent experience as a co-op student working for the Online Learning Community (OLC) has been both valuable and meaningful to me. It was a chance for me to be part of a team of passionate people who strive to maintain and expand the OLC at SFU, a platform where everyone can share experiences, knowledge, perspectives, ideas, and connect with others within the community.
The OLC website has been a community-based source for many years and the new OLC website was launched recently. This change has brought its own benefits and challenges that the team is working to address while developing new features and expanding partnerships at the same time. As a team, we worked closely together in a hybrid/remote setting to accommodate the ongoing pandemic. Everything from the first introduction, documentation, technologies, and the processes were properly laid out for both in-person and remote work.
I have to admit that I was not sure how team collaboration in an online setting would work at first. I had some doubts about an online co-op experience and its learning outcomes. But as we got closer to the start date these fears started to diminish because I received more information and clarification from the employer. There were a couple of emails, instructions, and process definitions sent by the team manager to prepare me for the first day of work. Everything was well planned and thought through, so I was able to quickly follow along and get up to speed with the team. Through this experience, I learned new skills about the tech role at OLC and remote work that I like to share.
Working remotely gives you the flexibility to work comfortably from where you like. It’s important to try to find and dedicate a physical workspace to help minimize distractions. For virtual work, set up your computer or laptop and make sure the charger and a wired internet connection are accessible. Pay attention to your table and chair and set up the height properly because seating for prolonged hours affects your body.
During remote work, it is important to be responsive in the communication channels and respond to messages on time. If there is an interruption in your connection or any other technological failures, let your team members know through a message or phone call.
Ask for help or clarifications if you can’t find them through research on your own. I know that sometimes the idea of sending a message in chat to ask for support can be intimidating, through my experience, this has helped me and my team resolve issues faster. Learning a new skill while using it in a new setting has its own challenges and communication is the key to resolving this maturely. Also, if you work part-time, it is important that you communicate that with your team so that they are aware of your work schedule and the meetings can be planned without conflicts.
We try to avoid mistakes and prevent them from happening, but we have to admit that the occurrence of errors is inevitable. It does happen sometimes and the impact can be significant, but I think that it’s important to notify your supervisor as soon as you notice it and own the mistake. Ask for instructions and ways that you can help to solve the situation.
It’s important to have fun with your team and build a sense of belonging within your new team, even if it’s a four-month co-op. Our team at the OLC had weekly meetings where everyone gave could give quick progress updates and share their future work plans, as well as ask questions and share ideas. Then we played games for an hour, which was a chance for us to enjoy a virtual social hour filled with laughter. I enjoyed these team-building activities, and they gave me the chance to know my team.
Finally, I like to mention that this coop experience was my last coop in the undergraduate program. I am grateful to have amazing coop opportunities and to be supported by the coop program. These coop experiences helped me exercise my knowledge and skills in real-world situations, learn new skills, build my network, ask questions, receive feedback and gain support throughout this process from my employers. If you are looking for a co-op position, I would highly recommend starting your application preparation early and getting in touch with a co-op advisor. The earlier you start gives you more chances of securing a co-op position for the semester.