uOttawa wins prestigious prize for innovative online course initiatives

Posted on Tuesday, July 7, 2020

Closeup of woman's hands using a laptop.

Online learning has long been an important teaching tool, but it’s never been more critical than it is today. In March 2020, uOttawa moved thousands of students to online learning in just a matter of days. In the coming months, as we continue to deal with the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, ensuring that we are providing world-class online education is top of mind.

In June, the University of Ottawa swept the 2020 Canadian Network for Innovation in Education (CNIE-RCIÉ) Awards, winning prizes in two out of three categories.

The CNIE-RCIÉ, the voice for Canada’s distance and open education communities, awards prizes that recognize innovative educational practices and the use of technology to support and advance learning at regional, national and international levels, in a variety of settings. The competition is adjudicated by a committee of professional peers from across Canada.

“As outlined in uOttawa’s Transformation 2030 plan, one of our goals over the next ten years is to become a more digital university,” says Aline Germain-Rutherford, Vice-Provost, Academic Affairs. “We have made great strides in this regard, in large part due to the pandemic. These prestigious awards are a testament to the quality of the online learning experiences we are able to provide our students, as well as the enthusiasm and dedication of our faculty to grow and innovate.”

Here are the two categories in which the University has distinguished itself:

Excellence and Innovation in Technology Integration in a Partnership or Collaboration

This prize was awarded to a group of University of Ottawa departments for their joint venture, (Re)Designing Blended Learning: A Campus-Wide Collaborative Initiative.

uOttawa’s Blended Learning Initiative (BLI) was put in place across the institution to enhance faculty knowledge, skills, engagement and innovation in terms of course and instructional design. The initiative is meant to disrupt traditional notions about how courses are designed and taught so that new, innovative ways of teaching and learning can emerge. 

“Since technology is playing an increasingly powerful role in students’ lives, blended courses therefore combine the best of online and face-to-face teaching to enrich the student learning experience, while providing many benefits for both students and professors,” explains Alain Erdmer, Director General, Teaching and Learning Support Service (TLSS).

The TLSS equips instructors with the necessary support, resources and technological tools to transform their courses into blended or hybrid courses. They will also accompany teachers throughout the design, implementation and evaluation phases of their (re)design practices.

The BLI ultimately seeks to develop a culture of continuous reflection and pedagogical enhancement, ensuring meaningful, flexible and efficient learning experiences, with higher quality interactions between students and instructors.

The award acknowledges the group’s collaborative efforts to enrich the academic experience with the successful integration of new or existing technology into the learning environment.

As of fall 2019, 497 instructors have participated in the BLI and over 940 blended course iterations have been formally taught. In 2019 alone, this represented 335 distinct blended courses with enrollment reaching just under 13,000 students.

Excellence and Innovation in Instructional Design

This prize was awarded to a group of faculty from the Consortium national de formation en santé (CNFS) – Volet Université d’Ottawa and staff members at uOttawa’s Teaching and Learning Support Service (TLSS) office for their innovative course, Intégrer les données probantes à notre pratique quotidienne : un défi realisable.

“Many health professionals recognize that they lack the skills to search for scientific information, to judge the quality of an article, to understand statistical terms and to interpret scientific literature,” says Dominique Cardinal, training program manager, Consortium national de formation en santé (CNFS) – Volet Université d’Ottawa. “Implementing training that helps them overcome these obstacles and meets the needs of Francophone health professionals is essential for safe, effective and efficient practice.”

This online workshop, recognized by the Ordre de la physiothérapie du Québec (OPPQ), was created as an introduction to evidence-based practice (EBP), and includes several innovative technological approaches that make it easier to learn the subject matter. Plus, the use of graphics, videos and comic strips makes the content more digestible, even playful.

The award recognizes the team for their effective application of new teaching design principles that foster meaningful learning experiences. Since its inception in March 2019, more than 200 professionals working in various Canadian provinces have benefited from the workshop.

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