Funded Projects

The DALVision Academic Innovation initiative is designed to support and encourage the expertise and ideas of faculty members and program staff in curricular and program development. It is led by the Academic Innovation program of the Office of the VP Academic supported by the expert knowledge in the Centre for Learning and Teaching.

The latest grants for 2016-17 from this initiative is supporting projects designed to implement and evaluate new methods in course delivery, curriculum design and management and other elements of the academic experience.

Funded Projects 2016-2017

A River is a Great Thing

Team Lead: Dr. Deborah Stiles
Faculty of Agriculture

This project is Phase I of a course design workshop. Aim is to determine feasibility, logistics, potential content and format of a compressed-format, train-travel-involving, cross-listed multi-, trans- and inter-disciplinary course in Rural Studies/Humanities, tentatively titled, “A River is a Great Thing.” Phase I, “reconnaissance,” is a two person team engaged in brainstorming and meetings with organizations and individuals in the Miramichi region of New Brunswick, the potential site of the course on April 22-25, 2016. Phase II of the workshop involves faculty and experts (see also “Final Note” at end of the Course Design Workshop document, attached) meeting with groups and doing a weekend “dry run” of “THE RIVER” course on August 19-22, 2016, for which funding for the train travel has already been secured.

Heritage Studies: experiential learning and potentially a new certificate

Team lead: Dr. Jerry Bannister

Abstract: We plan to develop new courses offering our students experiential learning opportunities through placements in the local heritage sector and/or through directed undergraduate research projects. We also wish to explore the possibility of incorporating these new courses into a Heritage Studies certificate program. 

The Dalhousie University Inaugural BioBlitz

Team Lead: Dr. Lara Gibson

Abstract: The Dalhousie University Inaugural BioBlitz will bring together students, experts, and members of the wider university community to survey all the organisms found on the Studley Campus during a 48-hr event. While there have been other BioBlitz events in Nova Scotia and on Canadian University campuses, there has never been one at Dalhousie, or one that has focused exclusively on an urban environment. The event will pair experts with undergraduate students to systematically survey the campus and tally the number of different species found. Data from the BioBlitz will enhance the current Natural Environment Plan and be used in existing classes.  Participating students will gain opportunities to develop inquiry and discovery skills, as well taxonomic skills. They will become familiar with the common species found on campus and develop a greater appreciation for the campus as a natural environment. Finally, it will provide opportunities for students to develop teamwork skills, make new friends, and have fun.

International Genetic Engineered Machines (iGEM)

Team Lead: Dr. John Rohde
Microbiology and Immunology 

Abstract: The international Genetically Engineered Machine (iGEM) competition is a synthetic biology competition that involves designing a project, carrying out experiments using synthetic biology techniques, not taught or mentored in a discrete package in any courses offered to Dalhousie University undergraduates, and then sharing the results in Boston at the iGEM Jamboree. It is estimated that by the year 2020, synthetic biology will be a $40 billion industry yet there are only a few universities in the world that offer classes to prepare students for these jobs. iGEM provides undergraduate students the opportunity to develop the skills necessary to compete, not only at the Jamboree, but also in the industry. The 2016 Team is composed of students ranging from second to fourth year with interests in microbiology, chemistry, biology, marketing and bioinformatics. The Jamboree (Oct 27-31) provides a platform for students to present their research to an international audience and make networking connections with students with similar research interests. The project designed for this year has industrial implications since the research conducted over the summer by the undergraduate students will involve developing a biofuel producing bacterium. The mission of our iGEM team is to promote undergraduate research and initiate industrial outreach.

An Open Textbook for Introductory Analytical Chemistry

Team Lead: Dr. Peter Wentzell

Abstract: An emerging trend in higher education is the increasing use of open teaching resources, which allow greater flexibility in the development of teaching materials specific to a particular course and greater cost savings to students.  To be competitive with commercial textbooks, however, the materials presented need to be of high quality.  The present proposal seeks to improve an original textbook in analytical chemistry developed at Dalhousie to a level where it will be a much better resource for our own students, and also be more suitably positioned to enter into the sphere of open academic publications.  Funds requested will be used to employ a student to develop a library of original illustrations, photographs, graphical figures and tabular data to greatly enhance the quality of the present textbook.  This will contribute to improving the quality of Chemistry 2201, an introductory course in analytical chemistry with an enrollment of around 130 students.  This is historically a challenging course, required by Chemistry and Biochemistry students, and there is great interest in improving student success and retention.  Additionally, it is intended that these enhancements to the textbook will enable its distribution to a broader academic audience, thereby enhancing Dalhousie’s reputation.


MicroRNA as Gene Seekers

Team Lead: Debra Grantham

Abstract: Student engagement and retention increased by allowing students to conduct research in a second-year undergraduate class rather than waiting until an Honours project. New module will modernize  our current Sordaria lab and taster gene PCR lab. The new BIOL2030 lab will study function of human DNA rather than fungal DNA (Sordaria lab) and quantitative PCR rather than qualitative data (taster PCR lab). Students will, through guided enquiry, practice experimental design, reading research papers, current lab techniques, and scientific writing skills. Innovative in that it replaces techniques developed in the 1950s with those developed in 2000s, and cookbook-style experiments with known, predictable results replaced with inquiry-based investigation with unknown results. Fulfills pedagogical goals of active learning, inquiry-based learning, and authentic research.  Skills learned will prepare students for work in modern research laboratories, both in academic or commercial settings, and foster creativity in thinking as well as economic opportunities. Inclusiveness of students is encouraged by allowing them to choose among a diverse group of possible gene targets of interest to specific or general  human populations, and to defend their choice to their peers.  Student assessment spread over smaller value pre-tests, drafts and finally a formal report. Effectiveness assessed by pre and post-course surveys.

Intercultural Telecollaboration

Team Lead: Dr. Diana Pifano
Department: Spanish and Latin American Studies

 Abstract: We aim to secure funding for the development of a course that uses telecollaboration as framework for teaching Spanish. Our pilot program will use open-access digital communication platforms to bring together a group of approximately 25, intermediate and advanced, Dalhousie Spanish students and their peers at the University of València (Spain). Students will work collaboratively, on a series of activities that develop oral and written competence through information sharing, comparison and analysis, and collaboration and product creation. This framework will provide opportunities for repeated communication with native speakers, as well as intercultural exchanges between participants. Such interactions would greatly enhance students’ learning experience and possibly contribute to retention, as they provide exposure to near-natural communication without the need to travel abroad. Additionally, courses that use telecollaboration foster engagement and autonomous learning, and provide models for the practical application of foreign languages in a format that highlights their value as transferable and marketable skills. This course would be one of the first of its kind in Canada, as this is an innovative pedagogy developed primarily in Europe and the United States. Beyond this pilot project telecollaboration could be adapted to all existing language courses, and become an important part of our curriculum.

Excel in Cell

Team Lead: Mindy McCarville

Abstract: The “Excel in Cell” programme will increase success and engagement of students in BIOL 2020 by providing both proactive and reactive components to help students develop strategies to assess their understanding and build critical thinking skills before and after midterm assessments. An online question bank will be developed and an experienced Teaching Assistant will provide structured course help via weekly drop-in help sessions. Struggling students will be invited to participate in post-midterm interventions consisting of exam wrappers, a tutorial session, and an opportunity to work through exam-related content. This structured support system may improve student success, retention, and degree completion

Religion and Spirituality in the Y Generation

Team Lead: Dr. Christopher Helland
Sociology & Social Anthropology

Abstract: Drawing from three extremely popular SOSA courses, this project will develop a pitch for a 6 episode television documentary examining the religion and spirituality of the Y generation.   Along with the TV show, an Online course and textbook will also be developed as accompanying teaching material. If successful, this would be a dynamic experiment incorporating new media as key pedagogical tools to connect with a wired generation.

International Summer Institute on Migration and Identity in Canada and Europe

Team Lead: Dr. Robert Finbow
Political Science

Abstract: The Dalhousie International Summer Institute on Migration and Identity in Canada and Europe will be the first dedicated Dalhousie course to provide international and Canadian students a unique trans-Atlantic context in which to critically examine and compare policies and approaches on one of today’s most critical issues.

The objectives of the Institute are threefold:

• to test the Summer Institute model for the first time in FASS.
• to provide students with a rich learning opportunity that includes seminar-style discussion, interdisciplinary teaching expertise, a diverse international group of classmates and an opportunity to undertake original research.
• to strengthen Dalhousie’s partnership agreements with European universities and establish a new partnership with the Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21.

Additionally, as a vehicle for recruitment, it will showcase our faculty, our research centres and our location to qualified students from Canada and abroad.

If successful, the Institute will serve as a model for an annual course on this theme, for future Institutes in other disciplines, and for stronger relationships with our partner institutions.

Lecture Captioning for Tricky Topics: Introductory Psychology & Neuroscience

Team Lead: Dr. Jennifer Stamp
Psychology and Neuroscience

Abstract: Technological advances have dramatically changed the landscape in education, so that learners have many more available supports. The availability of resources, such as recorded lectures, allow students to revisit material and work at their own pace, which enhances their ability to control how they interact with material. The current proposal aims to add an additional support to recorded lectures (called Tricky Topics) in the form of text captioning for Introductory Psychology & Neuroscience. Captioning can enhance comprehension of lecture content, particularly for students with disabilities and non-native English speakers. We have already started captioning lectures as part of curriculum review for two, first-year, distance courses and require additional funds to complete this initiative.

Law & Development Course

Team Lead: Dr. John Cameron
International Development

Abstract: This project will create and evaluate a new course, “Law and Development” (INTD 3101.03) to be delivered simultaneously through in-classroom and on-line formats. This course will be one of five new on-line courses to be offered by the IDS Department in Summer 2017 as an initiative to increase summer enrollments, respond to demand from Dalhousie students who do not live in Halifax during the summer, and to fill important gaps in the IDS curriculum. Experience with the design and delivery of this course will also strengthen the capacity of the IDS Department to deliver other on-line courses and blended courses (in-class + on-line) in the future by sharing the lessons learned with other faculty members in IDS and FASS. The course will also both academic and practical hands on learning opportunities for students interested in professional work in the fields of international development and law. The evaluation component of the course will use course-related data to assess the learning outcomes of the in-class and on-line sections of the course with the goal of strengthening both over the minimum 3-year duration of the course (2017-2019).

Remark-able Course Design

Team Lead:  Dr. Angela Crane and Dr. Jennifer MacDonald

Abstract: In 2006, the Dalhousie Chemistry Department implemented a custom first year chemistry program, Concepts in Chemistry. Over the past decade, students have thrived in first year chemistry through clear, concise course objectives and expectations. However, where the program is lacking is in the number of low stakes opportunities for students to gauge their own understanding of the material through completely independent assessments, such as in-class quizzes.  Furthermore, an increase in the number of graded assessments would, at current practices, still suffer from an absence of timely performance feedback of these independent assessments to the students.  The timeliness of TA feedback to students, as well as the consistency by which lab reports are graded, has also been highlighted as being an area of the laboratory portion of the course that has room for improvement. For such additions and improvements to be made to the course, we are proposing to use Remark Office OMR software in order to implement a partial redesign of the First Year Chemistry program.  Being mostly automated, Remark Office OMR will allow us to provide students with grades and feedback within 2-7 days following an independently performed assessment.  Another advantage of Remark Office OMR is that large amounts of data can be collected and processed within a fraction of the time it takes to grade or input data manually. The quantity of independent assessments, coupled with the reduced timeline for feedback (grades or otherwise) will allow students to target gaps in their own chemistry knowledge through early identification of trouble topics.  On the other hand, instructors will be able to collect information about where students are struggling (through collecting of attitudinal or grade data), and produce resources to address such issues before formal assessments (ie tests/exams), and identify, more readily and consistently, students for the Faculty of Science Early Alert program.  Overall, we see this as being of huge benefit to the students in the first year program, as well as providing instructors with more insight into student misconceptions, hence strengthening our already unique first year chemistry experience.  At this time, we have already begun to use Remark Office OMR for our tests and final exam, which has garnered positive feedback from students and instructors.  However, for the redesign elements we are proposing to be truly effective, we are in need of a high throughput scanner in order to expedite the process and allow for multiple large scale scan per week, rather than three per semester.

Art from the Margins: A Case Study in Undergraduate Research

Team Lead: Dr. Mona Holmlund

Abstract: This is a pilot project for the creation of an experiential learning/undergraduate research fund for FASS students. I would like to engage students in the process of completing a manuscript for peer review. This text would ultimately form the basis for a course exploring de-colonizing strategies in the classroom, ways to Indigenize the curriculum and offering students the opportunity to explore their own regionalisms. This project will foster undergraduate research into de-colonizing methodologies.  It is a hallmark of a world-class research university that research and teaching are interwoven.  This project aims to take that tenet into practice by making students full partners in course and textbook development and the research that informs both. My hope is that this process, its outcomes in publication and course development, will foster a collegial culture grounded in diversity and inclusiveness. In addition, a student-centred, collaboratively-designed and innovative curriculum will doubtless have a greater chance of success in both recruitment and retention.