Amanda Garcia and Burcu Karabina win online course design award

Friday, June 3, 2022

A team of two math faculty members has won the Excellence in Online Course Design award for the 2021-22 academic year.

Amanda Garcia and Burcu Karabina are teaching faculty with the Math Undergraduate Office and were nominated for their work designing the online course MATH 237: Calculus 3 for Honours Mathematics.

The two work closely together as part of the faculty’s Digital Assets Group (DAG), providing support for the development of online courses and the creation of digital assets. Garcia and Burcu’s winning course included hundreds of 2D and 3D images, twenty-seven videos and narrated slideshows explaining and demonstrating key concepts with animations.

The Excellence in Online Course Design award is an initiative of the Centre for Extended Learning and recognizes exceptional and innovative course design and the highest pedagogical standards.

See below for a special Q&A with Garcia and Burcu about designing a stellar online course.

Amanda Garcia and Burcu Karabina

Amanda Garcia (l) and Burcu Karabina (r), faculty members with the Math Undergraduate Office and winners of the Excellence in Online Course Design award for the 2021-22 academic year for their work on the course MATH 237: Calculus 3 for Honours Mathematics.

Q: What are some key considerations for designing an online course that are different than face-to-face courses?

From a student perspective, it’s important to make sure that our students are receiving the same quality of learning experience as in face-to-face instruction. It’s not necessarily about replicating every aspect of in-person instruction, but rather identifying which elements are important to the student experience (e.g. community building) and weaving them into the course.

From an instructor perspective, online learning can allow students to learn at their own pace and gives them some independence and flexibility relative to face-to-face instruction. This also gives instructors some freedom in choosing an engaging combination of synchronous and asynchronous components. Thinking about these pieces, choosing the right platforms/educational technologies, and fitting them together into a complete course experience is both fun and challenging.

Q: How did you go about developing skills for designing online courses?

We were extremely fortunate to work with an amazing team from the University of Waterloo’s Centre for Extended Learning: Micheline Lang, Rachael Verbruggen, Subasha Wickramarachchi, Cristelle Rovedo and David Skoryk. We learned a lot about best practices in online course design from them, and they supported our vision for the course every step of the way, even when COVID jumped into the mix.

We both have previous experience with programs from the University’s Centre for Teaching Excellence (Amanda is a graduate of the Certificate in University Teaching Program).

We’re also both very engaged with the scholarship of teaching and learning. We regularly attend and present at conferences and have completed an Advanced Certificate in Online Teaching and Learning.

Another important thing we learned along the way while working on this course is how important it is to include the student voice in the course development cycle. Having student eyes on the course components as they get developed is critical to student-centred design.

Q: What is something every student should know before they take an online course?

Time management is key! Online learning offers a lot of freedom and flexibility, but that can sometimes work to your disadvantage if you lose track of things. Making a schedule is a great way to stay on top of the workload.  

Q: What is the significance of this award for your pedagogic practice?

This award is a recognition that our course design approach of creating interactive textbooks (which include in-line questions, interactive applets, text, video and slideshows) combined with synchronous activities centred around community building is working well.  

Q: Were there specific supports that helped you along the way?

We really appreciate the time and resources provided for the creation of this course. The faculty invested in extra developer time from the Centre for Extended Learning and our contracts, with a reduced teaching load and regular non-teaching terms, allowed us to put the necessary hours into this course. Putting together a course of this calibre required a lot of collective time and effort. We are grateful that the university saw the value in these investments and hope that it continues to do so moving forward.