7 more cool things that happened in (mostly virtual) classrooms

September 3, 2021 | Campus Life

As we look to the start of the Fall 2021 term, here are seven more of the innovative ways that our faculty and students made the most of an academic year like no other.

1. No travel? No problem – global perspectives remain a critical component of child and youth care


In 2019, alum Erika Altrogge was part of the last group of Child and Youth Care students and faculty members to visit Northern Ireland before the pandemic derailed overseas travel plans.

For over a decade, faculty members and students in the Global Perspectives course in the Bachelor of Child and Youth Care have travelled across the pond to explore Ireland and Scotland's child and youth care agencies and organizations. As the global pandemic continued to quash all travel activities, faculty members got creative. Reaching out to their contacts, they secured pre-recorded interviews with allied practitioners from all around the world, allowing students ample time to reflect on each presentation.

"This was also a space where students were able to showcase direct connections between this class learning, their placement experience, and theories and knowledge learned in other courses, simultaneously and previously," says Dr. Shemine Gulamhusein, assistant professor in the program.

In one assignment, students were asked to explore an agency or organization in Edmonton that serves a community population they were unfamiliar with. "The intention was for students to enhance their exposure to services available for those living beautifully complex intersectional lives," explains Gulahusein.

Gulahusein would like to see this course grow, and continue to include perspectives from child and youth care practitioners and scholars from India, Pakistan, Ukraine, South Africa and more. "The ability to learn from others, to allow technology to enhance our capacities as CYC practitioners is one that this course intends to embrace," she says.

2. A gamified course saves Correctional Services field placements

When the COVID-19 pandemic put a pause on CORR 114, an introduction to field placement course for students in the Correctional Services program, faculty member Fiona Gironella stepped up to help students achieve the same learning outcomes without putting themselves or others at risk. Prior to pandemic restrictions, this course had been a collection of on-campus workshops, institutional and community visits, and group projects that now needed unifying into a meaningful virtual learning environment.

The course became Corrections Epic Adventures, a gamified learning experience. “We sought to integrate gamification pedagogy into the course design as a way to draw upon students’ natural motivators to actively engage them in an informative and enjoyable online learning environment during the pandemic,” says Gironella.

Gironella explains that gamification pedagogy is the application of game theory and mechanics to a non-gaming environment. Elements of the gamified course included a narrative storyline, self-regulation over course progression, tournaments, badges for knowledge acquisition, points awarded instead of percentages, and a leaderboard. The gamified structure empowered students to actively engage as they mastered material they would have normally learned in person.

The feedback was positive, with students citing the interaction – and competition – between classmates as helpful in achieving their learning goals. “Students responded energetically to this novel and fun course design,” says Gironella. “They were invested in completing the course and took responsibility for their progression throughout.”

3. Journalism students honour Albertans who died of COVID-19

Journalism students in Steve Lillebuen’s advanced news reporting class spent a semester writing obituaries to honour Albertans who had died of COVID-19. As part of the Maclean’s They Were Loved project, students in the class used their investigative skills to locate friends and family members who could offer insight and share meaningful details about that person’s life.

Theodora MacLeod, a Bachelor of Communication Studies student, wrote about Gisela Papenfuss, beginning with a description of just how important connections were to the 95-year-old woman who died on October 27, 2020: “Gisela Papenfuss spent her life collecting friends of all ages – human and animal – everywhere she went.”

Interviewing someone about loss is always difficult, says MacLeod, but this particular experience was a new challenge. “It was really a lesson in approaching interviews with humanity,” she says. “There’s a sense of duty that comes with a project like this – I want everyone who reads this obituary to know what a spectacularly strong individual Gisela was, and to appreciate how many remarkable people this pandemic has taken from us.”

4. Bright minds bring computer science ideas to life


The capstone presentations are one of the highlights of the fourth year of the computer science major. Students have flown drones with their minds, developed apps, shared their work-integrated learning experiences and created databases to help local non-profits. Here's a rundown of what they shared in Fall 2020.

At the end of the Winter 2021 term, students shared the ups and downs of their projects and ideas, which included applications to help students connect with professors, analyze COVID-19 data, report dangerous and harmful activities, while other students conducted usability studies and integrated new features into existing software.

5. Science students learn from and contribute to Royal Alberta Museum research

One group in Dr. Woywitka’s class worked with a curator at the Royal Alberta Museum to look at how the pollen record can be used to reconstruct treeline vegetation in the mountains in Banff.

Students got to work with real artifacts and data as they studied the last 2.5 million years of the Earth’s history in Dr. Robin Woywitka’s EASC 324: Quaternary Environments course.

After learning the basics of terrain mapping, pollen analysis and quaternary paleontology, groups of students worked on projects for their clients (three curators from the Royal Alberta Museum), analyzing artifacts and data the museum hadn’t yet had the opportunity to look at.

One group worked to identify and interpret a collection of ancient bones collected from lakeshores in Northern Alberta; another looked at how the pollen record can be used to reconstruct treeline vegetation in the mountains in Banff; and the last group working with the RAM analyzed a database to ensure that ages associated with different specimens were in a consistent format. Throughout the term, groups kept the curators up to date on their progress and presented their findings at the end of the course.

“Integrating work-integrated learning and experiential learning is giving our students huge opportunities,” says Dr. Woywitka. One EASC 324 student received a Undergraduate Student Research Initiative grant to continue the pollen research, another is working with the museum on a project this summer through the Level UP program, and a third will be out in the field assisting Dr. Woywitka with a research project.

6. New ventures in communication studies


After completing his own global entrepreneurship training at MIT in 2016, Dr. Rey Rosales was inspired to develop a new course called BCSC 499: New Ventures in Digital Media.

"The course is important because I want our students not just to think about getting a job after graduation, but also creating jobs for people by launching the next big thing in digital media and communications," says Rosales, department chair of communications and associate professor.

The Bachelor of Communications Studies (BCS) course teaches students how to launch a digital media startup — two of whom have already launched their own ventures, including Sarah Spisak. Spisak is already in the development stage of her networking app for journalists and communications professionals.

7. Theatre shows go on

Due to COVID-19 restrictions, students were unable to perform in front of a live audience. But as the saying goes, the show must go on (and putting on a show is part of the curriculum for Theatre Arts and Theatre Production), and our students gave it all they've got. Check out some of the behind-the-scenes and never-before-seen photos from Into the Woods and Urinetown: The Musical.

Into the Woods design team featured Robyn Ayles (set), Josée Chartrand (costume), Travis Hatt (lighting), Ayles & Hatt (video) and Wade Staples (sound).
Urinetown's design team included T. Erin Gruber (set and video), Marian Truscott (costume), Heather Cornick (lighting) and Travis Hatt (sound).

For the production of Into the Woods, an epic musical that weaves together the plots and characters of classic fairytales, clever staging arrangements ensured the students would stay the required two metres apart when performing. Here, the cast performs the Act 1 finale.
Theatre Production student Adam Bucyk learns the ropes of rigging. Here he works to secure part of the counterweight flying system that allows set pieces, drops or drapery to “fly” into or out of sight.
Jessica Zaugg bewitches in the role of the evil Witch.
Theatre Production student Gavin McLeod tests out the prop table that breaks in half when the Giant destroys the Baker’s house in Act 2 Scene 1.
Rayanne Laycock lets her hair down as Rapunzel.
In April, students performed Urinetown, a musical satire about how a terrible water shortage, caused by a 20-year drought, led to a government-enforced ban on private toilets. The citizens must use public amenities, regulated by a single malevolent company that profits by charging admission for one of humanity's most basic needs. A hero, played by Tadhg Barker (above), decides that he's had enough and plans a revolution to lead them all to freedom.
Though the students were unable to perform in front of an audience, they learned how to use microphones and the importance of sound design.
Students perform the opening number, Urinetown!
Costume designs by Marian Truscott for Urinetown. Theatre Production students incorporated masks into the costumes to ensure the performers could be safe on stage.
The poor start to revolt in order to overthrow the evil corporation that controls the public amenities.



8 cool things that happened in our (virtual) classrooms

See how faculty and students made the most of an academic year like no other. 

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