As the COVID-19 pandemic became an unavoidable reality in the spring of 2020, approaches to teaching and learning were forced to shift dramatically. In recognition of their tireless work in facilitating the transition to online/distance education, Professors Ellen Zweibel and Craig Forcese have been named as recipients of two newly-established awards for innovation and leadership.
The Award for Most Innovative Project in the Provision of Distance/Online Education has been awarded to Professors Zweibel and Forcese jointly for their leadership of “Project Moonshot”. Over the course of the summer, a team of over a dozen teaching assistants or “Tech Fellows” received training, read articles, watched video tutorials, and did dozens of tests to be able to assist professors and students with various aspects of online teaching. Their research, efforts and dedication helped the Common Law Section prepare for the fall term. Professors were able to meet with Tech Fellows to set up their courses, test out online features and practice teaching on the virtual platforms.
Additionally, Professors Forcese and Zweibel created the Brightspace course "Strategies for Adapting to Online Teaching" for Faculty members as a space to share webinar recordings, tutorials, tips and other documents to support professors in their teaching. Whether it was demonstrating how to build assessments on Brightspace, sharing tips to discuss and play-out mock law cases with students, or adding subtitles to videos to make recordings more accessible, the Brightspace course had it all.
The innovative Project Moonshot calmed fears about online teaching during the 2020–2021 academic year, which in turn enabled professors to focus their energy on course content, class inclusivity and their students' success, rather than the technical aspect of virtual learning. In addition to Professors Zweibel and Forcese, Maryse Sullivan, Specialist in Educational Development and Digital Learning at the University’s Teaching and Learning Support Service, played a crucial role in training tech fellows and teaching assistants on Zoom and Brightspace, as well as supporting professors with the pedagogical and techno-pedagogical aspects of teaching. The Common Law Section also thanks the following students who served as Tech Fellows: Lucas Azzopardi, Kateryna Borodenko, Sabrina Chang, Laura Garcia Vargas, Giovanni Giuga, June Gleed, Camille Godin, Eryn Heidel, Olivia Hu, Harleen Kaur, Ritesh Kotak, Abby Lenner, Thomas Naciuk, Emilia Nowakowska, Mona Shadid, Lauren Thompson, Oliver Van Dusen, and Justine Wong.
In addition to the award for innovation, Professor Zweibel was also named as the recipient of the Leadership Award, which recognizes her outstanding leadership and commitment in responding to the transition to distance and online education. Professor Zweibel has long been a trailblazer and leader in blended learning. In any given semester, she tirelessly dedicates herself to improving the student experience and consistently tests new ways of delivering knowledge.
Professor Zweibel is the Director of the First-Year Dispute Resolution and Professional Responsibility Program, an experiential learning program that delivers a mandatory first-year course to all JD students enrolled in the English JD degree. Professor Zweibel founded the course in early 1990. In 2020, she rebuilt the entire course—both at the macro and micro-level—to ensure that the learning objectives, competencies, and delivery were suitable for online-delivery. All of this was done with her signature style of ensuring rich and robust learning experience for students.
In addition to these efforts and her contributions to Project Moonshot, what truly sets professor Zweibel apart is her personal dedication to the Faculty as community, as well as her support and mentorship of individual colleagues. During the summer, she hosted a series of group meetings with colleagues to discuss their teaching needs. She subsequently met with many colleagues and spent hours individually coaching them on their course design, often testing and retesting various forms of student-assessment. She has been particularly supportive of our Part-time Professors, who teach some of the largest courses in the Common Law Section. Through her personal commitment, Professor Zweibel contributed to redesign of virtually every course that is offered at the Faculty of law.
Congratulations to Professor Zweibel and Professor Forcese! The Common Law Section cannot thank you enough for your tireless dedication to the students and faculty members that make up our community!
The Transition to Online and Distance Learning Awards were established by the Office of the Vice-Provost, Academic Affairs, in collaboration with the Teaching and Learning Support Service (TLSS). A special celebration to recognize the winners will take place on April 29.