A New Way to Learn

Posted on Friday, July 3, 2015

Hybrid course winners

From left to right: Gisèle Richard (graphic designer), Erwan Peres (programmer), Richard Pinet (director), Hassan Aoude (professor), Anne Patry (instructional designer), Daniel Dostie (graphic designer), Karine Poghosyan (web developer).

A team of uOttawa employees have won the 2015 CNIE-RCIÉ Award of Merit for their excellent work in turning the course CVG2540 (Mechanics of Materials I) into a hybrid course, a new format which combines classroom instruction with online learning. The project was carried out by instructional designer Anne Patry, Professor Hassan Aoude, and their team of experts from the University of Ottawa’s Centre for e-Learning.

The course won an Award of Merit in the category “Excellence and Innovation in the Integration of Technology in Instructional Design/Teaching and Learning”. The award was announced at the CAUCE (Canadian Association of University Continuing Education) and CNIE (Canadian Network for Innovation in Education) conference “Beyond Diversity: Learning and Working in an Inclusive World”, which was held May 27-29, 2015 in Winnipeg, Manitoba. Center for e-Learning staff member Jeanette Caron accepted the award on behalf of her colleagues.

Anne Patry was the instructional designer in charge of this project, and she worked alongside Professor Hassan Aoude, who teaches the course. She explains: “I know absolutely nothing about civil engineering! But regardless, I was introduced to the language of mechanics of materials and I worked with a passionate professor and very motivated students! Both Professor Aoude and his students assured me that, in engineering, one needs a lot of practice. With the online exercises, students can go at their own pace and come to class with precise questions about what they learned; I believe this worked really well. Technology was integrated into the course to present theory (through videos) and also to provide model representations (students see step-by-step examples, and then complete practical exercises).

 CVG2540 is an important course for second-year students in both civil and mechanical engineering. It was offered to 110 students in the winter 2015 semester in its new hybrid format—50% in class and 50% online. The online component taught concepts through YouTube videos, step-by-step visual examples, PowerPoint slides, and quizzes. All online media was created in accordance with Ontario accessibility laws, giving students the option of downloading accessible documents and transcriptions of videos. The application which housed the course, Blackboard Learn, offered forums where students could ask questions, and get answers from both the professor and fellow classmates. The professor was also able to track each student’s progress through this application, and distribute weekly homework assignments.

 Ms. Patry, who has worked at the Centre for e-Learning for 14 years, describes her role in this project: “I work with experts of the subject matter in order to design a course offered in hybrid format or completely online. This means in terms of teaching principles, as well as the integration of technology in university education. Instructional designers are in charge of managing our projects and teams (professionals in graphic design, programming, web development, photography and audio/video).

Students were surveyed twice, and 84% of them were satisfied or very satisfied with the hybrid course. They appreciated many things, such as the amount of examples, the freedom to complete their work at their own pace and at a convenient time, the ability to spend less time in class, and the explanatory videos.

 In 2012, a panel of uOttawa experts began to analyse the growing trend of online and hybrid learning, and found that both students and educational institutions saw benefits in this new technology. In their report (French only), they stated that “retention rates rise, recruitment initiatives produce better results, and early findings are showing that using such an approach can improve the marks of students”.

 The Dean of the Faculty of Engineering, Dr. Claude Laguë, applauds Professor Aoude, Ms. Patry, and the team: “Congratulations for this well-deserved recognition. This innovative project perfectly embodies our faculty’s motto: ‘Imagination – Vision – Innovation’.

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