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University of Waterloo – Creating a dynamic online learning experience

When the COVID pandemic swept across Canada, the University of Waterloo leveraged its D2L and Bongo solutions to help maintain high-quality teaching despite regional lockdowns. As pandemic restrictions eased and students returned to the campus, the organization decided to build on the success of remote learning by supporting a variety of blended learning approaches.

Client

University of Waterloo

Learners

Higher Education

Platform
  • Brightspace Core
  • Bongo Video Assignments

University of Waterloo builds on remote-learning best practices, enriching in-person courses with video content and finding success with flexible learning opportunities.

Interviewees

  • Dr. Chris Vigna, Lecturer in the Department of Kinesiology and Health Sciences, and Associate Chair of Undergraduate Studies
  • Dr. Noorin Manji, Instructor for Arts First, Stratford School of Interaction Design and Business, and Sessional Instructor for Sociology and Legal Studies

 

Highlights

  • Supports University educators with tools to maintain high standards of teaching throughout the pandemic
  • Enables students to access all course materials, quizzes, videos, and assessments in one place
  • Allows instructors to deliver lectures as video recordings, saving time for one-on-one contact
  • Empowers instructors to engage with more students, enhancing the learning experience
  • Allows students to participate in experiential learning that is more meaningful with more personalized feedback from instructors

Challenge

Delivering Experiential Education

Founded in 1957 in Ontario, the University of Waterloo is Canada’s most innovative university, with a strong focus on experiential learning and fostering employer-student connections. Built on the principles of co-operative education and experience-driven learning, the University welcomes more than 42,000 learners to its graduate and undergraduate programs each year.

To help deliver outstanding learning experiences, the University of Waterloo has long invested in digital technology. For many years, the organization has used the D2L Brightspace platform to support learning experiences for its students, and Bongo to enrich course content with video assignments.

Dr. Noorin Manji, Instructor for Arts First, Stratford School of Interaction Design and Business, and Sessional Instructor for Sociology and Legal Studies, says: “I studied at the University of Waterloo before I took on a teaching role, so I’ve experienced the D2L Brightspace platform as both a learner and a teacher. When the COVID-19 pandemic struck in 2020, the D2L and Bongo solutions were invaluable as we pivoted to fully remote learning.”

As the pressures of the pandemic receded, students began returning to campus. Dr. Manji continues: “What we learned during the pandemic thrust us almost 20 years into the future with respect to educational technology. I aim to build on those advances and augment my teaching with blended learning capabilities.”

University of Waterloo

Solution

Bringing Together Digital And In-Person Learning

The University is harnessing D2L Brightspace and Bongo platforms to bring together the best of digital and in-person learning.

Dr. Chris Vigna, Lecturer in the Department of Kinesiology and Health Sciences, and Associate Chair of Undergraduate Studies, elaborates: “Since the pandemic, the Brightspace platform has become a one-stop shop for students. From a single web page, we use release conditions to offer them all the resources, quizzes, and discussions they need for the week ahead.”

“Breaking down our digital course materials in this way has been well-received by students. I’ve had no technical issues at all—the platform worked perfectly through the COVID period and beyond.”

Saving time for value-added activities

Dr. Noorin Manji comments: “It’s a far more effective use of instructor time to share a video of a lecture rather than delivering the same content over and over. Thanks to D2L and Bongo, we can devote the hours we save to other activities, such as one-on-one student support.

As a new academic myself, the solution has helped me reach more students. Without the D2L and Bongo solutions, that simply would not have been possible.”

Educators across the University are using Brightspace and building up content on the platform rapidly. Dr. Vigna adds: “Like Dr. Manji, I’ve been using the Brightspace platform since I started here as a student. I’ve always found the solution to be extremely intuitive: it’s very easy to figure out how to do new things.”

Brightspace keeps getting better and better: in the 12 years I’ve been using the solution, I’ve seen big improvements in core capabilities such as the HTML editor, quiz engine and evaluation tool. I’m really excited to integrate new blended ways of learning into Brightspace: from snackable videos and informal quizzes to entire lectures and problem-based learning.

Results

Supporting In-Person Learning With Video Enhancements

Looking ahead, some University programs plan to incorporate video enhancements into their learning model.

Dr. Manji says: “In the past, our approach to teaching revolved around traveling to the campus to teach our classes and grade student assignments. When COVID-19 hit, we had to go 100 per cent remote. Now, we have the flexibility to bridge the divide between in-person and remote learning, and to offer the best of both worlds, especially depending on the type of course and the content it entails.”

For example, Dr. Manji sets Bongo video assignments as small engagement points each week for all her first-, second-, third-, and fourth-year students. Presenting to a group in person can be intimidating, especially for first-years—so the one-on-one video option provides students with a safe space to practice. The automated targeted feedback received after a video is recorded also supplies them with areas they could improve to promote further self-directed growth. Additionally, the option to record presentations provides more flexibility for learners who are fitting in their studies around co-op positions, full-time jobs, and other diverse commitments that help to set Waterloo students apart.

Leveraging Brightspace, the University can integrate new learning experiences. Dr. Vigna concludes: “Brightspace keeps getting better and better: in the 12 years I’ve been using the solution, I’ve seen big improvements in core capabilities such as the HTML editor, quiz engine and evaluation tool. I’m really excited to integrate new blended ways of learning into Brightspace: from snackable videos and informal quizzes to entire lectures and problem-based learning.”

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