Students say these profs nailed their online courses

Posted on Monday, August 24, 2020

Compilation image of professors

Before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, 56% of uOttawa students had never taken an online course. So, when all classes moved from in-person to virtual formats in March, it was a big adjustment for many. To help guide you in your quest to find the right online courses this fall, here are a few uOttawa profs who knocked it out of the park when it came to remote learning, as chosen by our students.

Prof. Alexandra Pettit (Biology): The guru of learning in small chunks

Portrait of Professor Alexandra Pettit

“Professor Alexandra Pettit, in my opinion, did one of the best jobs transitioning to online teaching,” says Sayem Chowdhury, a first-year student in Health Sciences who took Introduction to Cell Biology (BIO1140) last winter.

“Pre-recording her lectures and posting them to YouTube was a great idea. There were no interruptions and it was incredibly informative. Plus, rather than posting an entire lecture (1.5 to 3 hours), she broke them up into 20 to 30-minute segments. I found this to be the greatest part of her online teaching. The videos were amazing — not too long that I lost interest and easy for me to go back and review certain topics if needed.

“Personally, I learned more from this format. I was more productive and more motivated to study. Studying in multiple small chunks, usually 30 minutes at a time, with breaks in between, is the best way for me to learn and retain information.

“The way she implemented the final exam was amazing too. Rather than timing us, she gave us a case study to test our knowledge. The exam was not easy, but it felt fair, which helped me mentally. It’s hard enough as it is to study for classes at home. It felt as if Professor Pettit cared about us and understood the struggles we had.”

Prof. Paul Saurette (Political Studies): Creative and resourceful

Portrait of Professor Paul Saurette

“It's always difficult for a professor to get students to engage during a 9 a.m. course — and even harder when it’s being taught online — but Professor Paul Saurette did such a great job,” says Ayat Ibrahim, a third-year student majoring in political science who took Modern Political Thought II (POL3012) last summer.

“Whether he was getting the class to join him in singing ‘Happy Birthday’ to a student (as chaotic as it sounds) or starting the class by reading a children’s book to us (stellar by the way), he made it worth waking up in the morning and discussing modern political thought. 

“Professor Saurette did a great job accommodating many different learning styles. He explained the course content really well, outlined his expectations for students and allowed a lot of room for us to progress, learn and discuss throughout the term. He constantly took feedback on what students enjoyed, and his flexibility and ability to adjust made it work well for everyone.

“When providing feedback for marks, he recorded voice notes for each student, letting us know what we did well and what improvements to make on future assignments. He put a lot of effort in communicating well with his students and the effort paid off immensely.”

Prof. Angel Foster (Health Sciences): Clear expectations = less stress

Portrait of Professor Angel Foster


“When COVID-19 disrupted in-class learning, it did not hinder our ability to finish assignments or access course material,” says Alina Yli-Juuti, a fourth-year student in Health Sciences who was taking the blended course Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health (HSS4111) with Dr. Angel Foster when the pandemic hit last March.

“There was very little stress regarding what the expectations were, as Dr. Foster had laid them out so clearly right from the start. Her feedback was extensive and helpful, and my writing style and research skills greatly improved over the course of this class. Dr. Foster truly is a world-class researcher, professor and human being, and uOttawa is seriously lucky to have her.

“Aside from being one of the most progressive, relevant and important courses that I took during my time at uOttawa, the way Dr. Foster approached the course was, in my opinion, perfect. Her syllabus listed everything that we would need to read for each week, which allowed students to get ahead on readings and manage their own time. Also, these readings were not from a textbook, they were relevant journal articles which enhanced class discussions and truly improved my understanding of the material.”

Prof. Tansy Etro-Beko (Philosophy): Attentive and thorough

Portrait of Professor Tansy Etro-Beko

“Professor Etro-Beko was the best!” says Natasha Béchamp, a first-year student in Psychology and Criminology who took Raisonnement Moral (PHI 1502) last winter.

“She enhanced my online learning experience by doing exactly what she did beforehand — she made sure every student understood the lecture. She used a service called Echo, so that we could follow her PowerPoint slides while she gave the lessons, just like she did in class. Before she moved on from one topic to another, she made sure no one had questions and that everyone understood. She was very thorough with explanations and would give multiple examples if needed. 

“It felt like she took our education seriously. She didn’t get lazy and leave us to teach ourselves. She put in the work and the effort to teach us like she would in class, even though it required her to learn and adapt to a new way of teaching. I can’t express how much of a difference this made!”

Prof. Rim Jaber (Telfer): Helpful course packs and a positive attitude

Portrait of Professor Rim Jaber

“A professor that immediately comes to mind when thinking about great online courses is Professor Rim Jaber, who taught Business Analytics (ADM2302) during the winter term,” says Christopher North, a third-year student in Human Resource Management.

“I especially enjoyed her style of teaching because she shared many helpful videos, she was available for questions and she recorded every single one of her lectures after the shift to online learning.

“She also sent us ‘course packs’ that we would read or watch before attending the lecture to prepare ourselves for what she was going to tackle during the lesson. Her course packs had many practice questions to help us study as well. She was also kind enough to waive penalties for handing in assignments late, so long as we handed them in within a reasonable delay.

“She was really cheerful and made me feel happy to be in her course despite the unfortunate circumstances. Overall a very reassuring person throughout the semester — consistently signing off with ‘Keep smiling!’ It was a good reminder to keep persevering.”

Prof. Ruaridh Gardner (Math): Inclusive and approachable

Portrait of Professor Ruaridh Gardner

“Professor Gardner was extremely accommodating,” says Vivienne Cruz, a second-year student in Software Engineering who took Introduction to Linear Algebra (MAT1341) last winter.

“He uploaded his lectures on YouTube for us to watch before the live lectures, since some of his students live in different time zones. That way, everyone had the chance to learn the course content at a time that works for them, which was very considerate and convenient.

“Right from the start, he was very consistent in terms of his teaching style, which made the transition to online learning very easy. During the live lectures, we could ask him questions or go over course material, and he had ‘office hours’ every week. Even online, he was very approachable. It's clear he truly cares about his students and wants them to succeed!”

Prof. Guergana Mileva (Psychology): Engaging and adaptable

Portrait of Professor Guergana Mileva

“Professor Mileva was understanding, approachable and great at adapting her online lectures because she took into account students’ opinions and concerns,” says Shania Wong, a fourth-year Psychology student who took The Psychology of Adolescence (PSY3105) over the summer.

“I was worried about taking online courses over the summer, especially going into fourth year. I'd never had online courses before, and the transition made me nervous. But Professor Mileva was always available to talk to students. She genuinely cares about their mental health, especially during the pandemic.

“Her assignments and exams were all fair and reflected what she taught in her lectures and in the slides. She always gave concise guidelines, which eased my worries about grades for an online course.

“She also really made the most out of using Adobe Connect. She answered anonymous questions in the Q&A chat and gave clear explanations. We watched interesting videos related to the lectures and referenced real-life statistics and articles. She also put up polls relating to the course content and tied it to our personal lives, which was really engaging and greatly enhanced my learning experience!”

Prof. Geneviève Bazinet (Music): The power of communication and compassion

Portrait of Professor Geneviève Bazinet

“When classes were quickly moved online, Professor Geneviève Bazinet made sure to always keep her students up to date,” says Miriam Batal, a fourth-year student in Film Studies who took La musique de cinéma (MUS 2710) last winter.

“She always made sure to take extra time during our Adobe Connect meetings to answer all our questions thoroughly (even if the same questions were asked multiple times). She responded to emails quickly and even invited students to virtual one-on-one meetings if needed.

“This was my first time taking a music class since high school, so I was kind of rusty with terminology. Nonetheless, Professor Bazinet gave me valuable feedback, taking time to help me with assignments. In doing so, I could succeed and bring my understanding of the material to the next level.

“Since this was a cinema and music class, it was important to have both video and audio working properly — and it did. Ok, at the beginning there were some technical issues, but they were sorted out quickly. We used the chat to ask questions during the lectures, and if she saw it was an urgent question, and many students had the same one, she would stop the lecture to answer it.

“As it was a stressful time for most students, Professor Bazinet was considerate with the workload and acknowledged that we might be going through various stresses and anxieties. This consideration allowed her students to go to her online lectures knowing that she wanted us to succeed and do the best we could under the circumstances.”

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