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November 2, 2020

When the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic shut down most of the world earlier this year, it wasn’t only workers and businesses who were affected, but also postsecondary students. Like many other students around the world, Humber College students had to shift online for classes.  Humber’s prospective students began to prepare for it. For many students, it meant a disruption to their educational and social experience while job prospects became more uncertain for students as a whole. 

To help students prepare for the transition to an online world as well as provide a way for experiential learning during a global pandemic, Humber College designed and launched the Beyond COVID-19: Global Systems Gap Challenge. The challenge took place from June 15 to July 17, 2020. 



The five-week challenge saw 302 current and prospective Humber students and 88 students participated from global partner institutions stretching across six continents from New Zealand to Peru. The goal of the challenge was to have participants utilize a system thinking mindset to examine complex problems in the world today within the wider context of COVID-19 and identify gaps that could lead to potential future solutions.  

To achieve this, students from various countries, backgrounds and programs were assigned in virtual teams to collaborate with one another.  Each student team was guided by two mentors from Humber - volunteer Humber faculty, staff or representatives from one of Humber’s community partners. At the end of the initiative, groups delivered five-minute presentations on their analyses. Eight Teams were chosen as winning submissions, by an expert panel of community and industry partners.  Teams were rewarded with Humber prize packages valued at up to $500 CAD. 

In total, close to 500 people including students, mentors, trainers, and industry experts were involved in the Global Challenge and collaborated virtually from 27 different countries. All students received a Certificate of Completion from Humber. 



The challenge achieved its objective:  To develop participants’ skills in collaboration, research, communication, critical thinking, and team building. Throughout the challenge students reflected on the skills they developed through the framework of the Humber Learning Outcomes (HLOs). These skills are of added importance in today’s changing world where the majority of work is conducted online and where virtual collaboration skills are in high demand. 

“I strongly recommend the Humber Global Systems Gap Challenge to any student, faculty or staff member interested in developing skills in systems thinking,” said Lara McInnis, Special Advisor, Humber Learning Outcomes. “My goal as a mentor was to foster leadership skills in students by welcoming diverse perspectives and encouraging self-reflection in research, time management, communication, and critical analysis. This collaborative experience gave us the tools to address wicked problems through a system thinking approach, helping us build towards equitable and sustainable solutions,” said Mclnnis.

The challenge project was enhanced with professional development sessions (run by Humber’s Office of Applied Research and Innovation; Career and Advising Services; and the Faculty of Business).  Because students had the opportunity to work with peers and mentors from around the world, they were able to expand their network – a remarkable achievement given the current focus on working from home.   

“This one-month journey was very insightful as I worked on a live project on a global platform,” said Nav Bhatia, a Global Business Management student at Humber. He further added, “I got a chance to work with a team comprised of members from all over the world. This challenge helped me grow professionally, as well as personally. I also learned more about virtual meeting tools, as the challenge was completed completely remotely.” 


stats from the participants and mentors in the Global Systems Gap Challenge. 

A few stats from our participants and mentors in the Global Systems Gap Challenge. 



The Global Challenge was a first-of-its kind program that contributed to students being able to create social or environmental change on a global scale.  At the same time, Humber continued its vision of developing global citizens by expanding its certifications and programming; growing student participation in virtual international mobility opportunities; and expanding experiential learning and work integrated learning opportunities with partnered academic schools. The challenge also contributed to the achievement of one of the outcomes in Humber's Strategic Plan, “creating career-ready citizens through the creation of these experiential learning-focused opportunities.” 

“Humber has a deep commitment to global learning and engagement,” said Rebecca Fitzgerald, Associate Director of International Mobility and Strategic Partnerships. “The skills, values and behaviors that prepare students to be engaged citizens and collaborative problem solvers in diverse, interconnected communities are of critical importance for both the global workforce and the progress toward a more inclusive, just and sustainable world,” said Fitzgerald.


participants in a Zoom call

Just one of our many teams (Team 20) connecting with their mentors for their weekly check-ins.