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Concordia celebrates faculty’s commitment to classroom innovation

New fund supports 22 course and program transformations
May 14, 2014
By Lucas Wisenthal and Tom Peacock

Curriculum Innovation Fund participants The twenty-four participants in the Curriculum Innovation Fund, along with Provost Benoit-Antoine Bacon (front row, left) and Catherine Bolton, vice-provost of Teaching and Learning (front row, centre). | Photo by Concordia University

Concordia is quickly moving forward with the Curriculum Innovation Fund (CIF).

This university-wide initiative supports faculty in their explorations of course and program transformation with the aim of providing Concordia students with dynamic, engaging learning experiences.

On May 1, the project’s leaders and participants came together to celebrate 22 successful CIF proposals.

Following a soft launch in the fall, 11 projects — including eight courses and three programs — were approved. The first official call for proposals concluded in March; now 11 more projects are receiving support from the fund.

Benoit-Antoine Bacon, provost and vice-president of Academic Affairs, is proud of the program, as it supports faculty as they bring their best classroom ideas to life.

“We received a really strong mix of applications in these first two rounds, with everything from suggestions for new programs from the Faculty of Engineering and Computer Science to a trans-faculty initiative from Fine Arts and Arts and Science, in the form of a community-centred project in Montreal’s southwest,” he told a crowd of more than 50 great invitees, including CIF recipients, deans and departmental chairs at a special event on May 1.

The CIF’s 22 proposals span the academic spectrum.

Catherine Bolton, vice-provost of Teaching and Learning, says they are precisely the sort of project the fund — part of Concordia’s Academic Plan — was created to support. “The post-secondary landscape is in a process of great change right now. We want to respond to it so we can position our students ahead of the curve.”

To that end, the fund has accepted projects that fall under four overarching themes: blended/online learning, multidisciplinarity, sustainability, and community engagement.

Stephen Yeager, an assistant professor in the Department of English, is developing an online and in-class course that examines Old English through the lens of fantasy writer J.R.R. Tolkien.

“I'm hoping that the Tolkien angle will encourage students to study the language, because it's really cool, really fun and really interesting. And it will help them understand Tolkien a lot better,” Yeager said.

At the John Molson School of Business, the Department of Management is introducing an MBA class designed to explore sustainability issues faced by businesses.

“We have chosen to integrate sustainability into our MBA program directly by bringing students to organizations and leaders that are wrestling with it every day to make a difference,” said Associate Professor Raymond Paquin.

In a multidisciplinary project pitched by Kathleen Vaughan, an associate professor in the Department of Art Education, Concordia’s “Studio Inquiry” course will be transformed into what she describes “an intensive, dynamic exploration of contemporary creative and pedagogical practices, with a recognized and innovative visiting artist as course instructor.”

The Department of Journalism, meanwhile, has highlighted community engagement by rethinking its long-standing graduate diploma to fit the demands of modern-day news publishing.

Associate Professor Lisa Lynch explained that it will evolve “from a skills-focused vocational program into a ‘global journalism’ program designed to fit a changing demographic of students and the changing needs of the profession.”

Bacon believes that the CIF’s 22 projects are contributing to a bright future at Concordia — and beyond.

“We are very happy to be able to recognize and support the care and attention that you have brought to our students, so that their education and experience at Concordia is one that will stay with them for the rest of their lives,” he told the project leaders. “We can’t wait to hear about the results of your classes and programs next year.”


The Curriculum Innovation Fund has two tracks: course transformation and program transformation. Learn more about the CIF.

Concordia’s Curriculum Innovation Fund: the projects

So far, 22 proposals have received the CIF’s support.

Blended/online learning


Course (online, 300-level): Tolkien’s Old English
Project lead: Stephen Yeager
Term accepted: November 2013
The innovation: Stephen Yeager: “The new online course will introduce students to Old English by examining specific passages in The Hobbit, the Lord of the Rings trilogy and other J.R.R. Tolkien works inspired by classic texts. I'm hoping that the Tolkien angle will encourage them to study the language.”

Creative Arts Therapies

Course (online): Introduction to Creative Arts Therapies
Project lead: Yehudit Silverman
Term accepted: March 2014
The innovation: Yehudit Silverman: “This first online course in creative arts therapies offers an unprecedented opportunity for a vast variety and international scope of virtual classroom spaces, virtual tours and interviews with creative arts therapists in action in their workspaces.”

Art Education

Courses: ARTE423 — Practicum in the Secondary School I and ARTE 425 — Practicum in the Secondary School II
Project lead: Juan Carlos Castro
Terma accepted: March 2014
The innovation: Juan Carlos Castro: “The establishment of an online video forum would move the practica component of our program to a hybrid online/offline model that will provide specific and appropriate pedagogical support in a ‘just-in-time’ and ‘on-demand’ learning environment.”

Community engagement

Communication Studies

Course: COMS 570 — Intermedia
Project lead: Emily Pelstring
Term accepted: November 2013
The innovation: Emily Pelstring: “This project redesigns the intermedia production course in the graduate diploma program to emphasize community engagement and professional networking through a collaborative project with the National Film Board of Canada, which asked students to use digital storytelling platforms to engage a micro-community.”

Computer Science and Software Engineering

Program: Professional Doctorate in Computer Science and Software Engineering
Project lead: Brigitte Jaumard
Term accepted: November 2013
The innovation: Brigitte Jaumard: “Students in the program will conduct independent research while working closely with sponsor organizations. The idea is to offer students better training with respect to the way they will work and conduct research in an industrial environment.”

Mechanical Engineering

Course: MECH 390 — Mechanical Engineering Design Project
Project lead: Ion Stiharu
Term accepted: November 2013
The innovation: Ion Stiharu: “Some students find it hard to make the connections between the knowledge they acquire during the first three years of our program and problems associated with a real-life design task. The most important aspect of this course is the alignment of the requirements in the design project with the practice in a real company.”

Studio Arts

Program: L’Oeuvre Ouverte (periodical group discussions around individual MFA student practices)
Project leads: François Morelli and Eric Simon
Term accepted: November 2013
The innovation: Eric Simon: “Our aim is to promote a different kind of dialogue outside of the regular seminar format and encourage the students to experiment more by removing the evaluation component from the process.”


Program: Diploma in Global Journalism
Project leads: Dave Secko, Jim McLean, Andrea Hunter, Mike Gasher, Donna Nebenzahl, Peter Downie and Lisa Lynch
Term accepted: March 2014
The innovation: Lisa Lynch: “Our team is transforming the department’s diploma program from a skills-focused vocational program into a ‘global journalism’ program designed to fit a changing demographic of students and the changing needs of the profession.”


Course: THEA 312 — Current Canadian Theatre
Project leads: Raymond Marius Boucher and Dirk Gindt
Term accepted: March 2014
The innovation: Dirk Gindt: “The support from the CIF will be used to hire an additional teaching assistant for the course and to implement tutorial sessions to stimulate students' critical thinking and communication skills at an advanced level. This will ensure that our students are competitive when entering the job market and applying for graduate school, and also attractive to funding bodies.”


Program: Learning Linguistics through Science Education Outreach
Project leads: Alan Bale, Dana Isac and Charles Reiss
Term accepted: March 2014
The innovation: Alan Bale: “This project will allow Concordia students to deepen their own understanding of class material by creating presentations and organizing mini-workshops that introduce CEGEP and secondary-school audiences to the mathematical and logical properties of the human mind.”


Art Education

Course: ARTE 606-9/806-7/1 — Studio Inquiry
Project lead: Kathleen Vaughan
Term accepted: November 2013
The innovation: Kathleen Vaughan: “This will transform the course into an intensive, dynamic exploration of contemporary creative and pedagogical practices, with a recognized and innovative visiting artist as course instructor, in a project linked to the Encuentro — a top-tier international artistic and scholarly event that draws graduate students from across and outside the university.”

Fine Arts

Course: FFAR 250 — Keywords: Reading the Arts Across the Disciplines
Project lead: M.J. Thompson
Term accepted: November 2013
The innovation: M. J. Thompson: “We’re seeking to build a comprehensive ‘FFAR — 250’ website that will serve as an information hub, recruitment tool and intellectual home for the 900 Faculty of Fine Arts students who register for this required six-credit course annually.”

Film Studies

Course: FMST 216 — Methods in Film Studies
Project lead: Masha Salazkina
Term accepted: November 2013
The innovation: Masha Salazkina: This introduction to scholarly methods of research and writing about film early in the program is aimed at getting students to understand their own learning process, or processes, in relation to the scholarly practices in the discipline that they have chosen.”

Centre for Interdisciplinary Studies in Society and Culture

Program: PhD in Humanities
Project lead: Marcie Frank
Term accepted: November 2013
The innovation: Marcie Frank: “My project develops the program's curriculum by adding two innovative courses: Research Methods for Research Creation, piloted in summer 2014 by Monika Kin Gagnon with her course Archiving the Ephemeral (also linked to the Encuentro, which Concordia is hosting this year), and Research Methods for Digital Humanities, piloted in fall 2014 by Darren Wershler with his course Distant Reading and Related Methods.”

Studio Arts and Art History

Course: PTNG-DRAW 399/499 — Painting and Drawing Special Topics: Portrait and Likeness
Project leads: Cynthia Hammond and Eric Simon
Term accepted: November 2013
The innovation: Eric Simon: “Few structures presently exist to encourage Studio Arts and Art History to act on our mutual desire to have more projects, more dialogue, more time together. Our project provides the crossover that students need, as artists working in the gallery circuit or as critics and curators addressing contemporary art.”

Centre for Engineering and Society

Program: Innovative and Critical Thinking in Science and Technology
Project leads: Carmela Cucuzzella, Deborah Dysart-Gale and Bill Reimer
Term accepted: March 2014
The innovation: Deborah Dysart-Gale: “This is a project-based, cross-faculty course aimed at discovering new processes for developing community-driven technological solutions to rural problems. It will ultimately serve as the Capstone experience of an interdisciplinary undergraduate minor/graduate certificate in innovation process currently under development.”

Art History, History, Theatre

Course: ARTH 611, HIST 670W/870W, TDEV 498O — The Right to the City: Cross-Disciplinary Pedagogy and the Politics of Montreal’s South-West
Project leads: Cynthia Hammond, Steven High and Edward Little
Term accepted: March 2014
The innovation: Cynthia Hammond: “This co-teaching endeavour will be a cross-disciplinary introduction to the post-industrial urban landscape of Montreal’s Pointe St. Charles neighbourhood. Each course will facilitate a form of creative output — urban interventions, audio walks/memoryscapes and site-specific theatre — which will be shown together at an end-of-term event.”

Computer Science and Software Engineering

Program: Programs in Entertainment Technology
Project leads: Peter Grogono, Serguei Mokhov, Sudhir Mudur and Miao Song
Term accepted: March 2014
The innovation: Sudhir Mudur: “The objective is to combine artistic, scientific and software training to produce graduates who can work on projects involving several disciplines, including computer science, graphic arts, computer games and performing arts (theatre, film and television).”

Chemistry and Biochemistry

Course: CHEM 293 — Structure Determination of Organic Compounds
Project leads: Christine DeWolf, Heidi Muchall and Sébastien Robidoux
Term accepted: March 2014
The innovation: Sébastien Robidoux: “The project seeks to ensure early exposure to organic spectroscopy, including essential hands-on training for all undergraduate students with highly sophisticated, bench-top experimental methods, which will serve as a basis for advanced-level training in chemical structure determination.”


Electrical and Computer Engineering

Courses: COEN 390 — Computer Engineering Product Design Project and ELEC 390 — Electrical Engineering Product Design Project
Project lead: William Lynch
Term accepted: November 2013
The innovation: William Lynch: “Engineering education often focuses on how to design systems or things. In contrast, this project will have its emphasis on what to design on specification.”


Course: Experiential Sustainability Orientation for MBAs
Project leads: Raymond Paquin and Paul Shrivastava
Term accepted: March 2014
The innovation: Raymond Paquin: “We have chosen to integrate sustainability into our MBA program directly by bringing students to organizations and leaders that are wrestling with it every day to make a difference.”

Loyola College for Diversity and Sustainability

Course: LOYC 201 — What is Modernity?
Project leads: Matthew Anderson, Matthew Barker, William Bukowski, Melanie McCavour, Ayaz Naseem, K. Lynes, Karen Langshaw, Rosemarie Schade, Paul Shrivastava, Peter Stoett and Philip Szporer
Term accepted: March 2014
The innovation: Rosemarie Schade: “This course will use blended learning (online and classroom), experiential learning and flipped classrooms to confront larger questions around the ‘self’ and the ‘world’ from the perspective of multiple disciplines.”

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