Thompson Rivers University

Curriculum development team awarded national recognition

September 10, 2018

Melissa Jakubec, Open Learning instructional designer

TRU faculty member Melissa Jakubec and the late Dr. Cameron Reid, an Open Learning Faculty member, took an innovative approach to online course design which has led to national recognition. They received the award of Excellence and Innovation in Instructional Design from the Canadian Network for Innovation in Excellence (CNIE) for the Open Learning course ENGL 3991: Voices of Protest and Rebellion in Contemporary American Literature.

Voices of Protest challenges traditional linear course design by creating new pathways for students to navigate their learning choices. This course is offered in a continuous enrolment, independent study model where students can work at their own pace and are not required to interact with other learners.

The course materials are presented in a WordPress site rather than a traditional learning management system. Thomas Sandhoff, E-learning Support Technician for Open Learning, is the talent behind both the website design and creative presentation of text and images.

“We wanted students to engage in a more self-directed model, allowing them increased choice and the opportunity to plot their own journey, guided by an itinerary, through the course,” said Melissa Jakubec, Senior Instructional Designer.

The CNIE-RCIÉ Awards recognizes excellence in innovative educational practices in the use of technology to support and advance learning at regional, national and international levels in a variety of settings. This competition is adjudicated by a committee of professional peers from across Canada.

As an Instructional Designer, Melissa is interested in evaluating the effectiveness of learning activities and exploring design and pedagogical models that break down the barriers and linear confines of the traditional learning management system. Prior to becoming an instructional designer, she taught English as a Second Language for more than 15 years. She believes in providing student-centred, contextualized, and meaningful instruction, as well as in using technology to enhance the learning process.

Cameron Reid was an Open Learning faculty member and course developer. He was also a former sessional in the Faculty of Arts, when his late partner Dr. Rachel Nash first began teaching at TRU. His research interests were in critical pedagogy and contemporary continental philosophy, and his identity was very much grounded in writing. His scholarship, wide-ranging erudition and ability to engage with students brought him into the spotlight.

“We are fortunate to have Cameron’s voice and direction showcased in this course. He wanted to give students the opportunity to choose their own style of learning and shy away from the traditional pedagogy layout,” said Jakubec.

Jakubec and Reid wanted to encourage students to be active learners. The non-linear course design supports creativity and personalized learning. This course also involves principles of an inclusive design giving learners a high degree of control.  

Jakubec suggested that this non-linear approach may be used as a model for other projects where appropriate. One possibility is HIST 3711: Histories of Indigenous Peoples and Canada, a course currently under development.

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