For Rima Afifi, Paul Gilbert, and other faculty of the Health Equity Advancement Lab (HEAL) of the UI College of Public Health, equity and health care equity are core concepts they hope students will learn.

When they wanted to examine this on a global scale by creating a course that would connect students around the world in real time, Afifi, Gilbert, and others applied to the Innovations in Teaching with Technology Awards (ITTA) for funding.

“I would encourage people to think about applying for ITTA,” Afifi says. “The application process got us excited about the potential of doing something we wouldn’t have tried without this opportunity.”

ITTA is an award program sponsored by the Academic Technology Advisory Council to enhance teaching and learning by supporting innovative instructional technology projects.

For the HEAL team, the award had the potential to support an opportunity to investigate and implement communication technologies to create a global, collaborative course. For students, it provided the opportunity to learn with students and faculty from the UI, American University of Beirut, University of Victoria, and Universidad San Francisco de Quito.

They thought technology could overcome the physical distance, a 10-hour time zone difference, and wide variations in schedules among the partner institutions, and they wanted to investigate what technology would best help meet course objectives. 

They received ITTA funding in December 2018 and quickly got to work.

Office of Teaching, Learning & Technology staff helped the group understand the technology options and potentials, attended several of the classes, and spoke with students to gain a better understanding of the course and help think through the types of technology that might be useful. 

Over 14 weeks, Afifi, Gilbert, and their fellow instructors—Sawsan Abdulrahim, Barbara Baquero, Jason Daniel, Fernando Ortega, Bernie Pauly, Maia Sieverding, and William Waters—team-taught 10 simultaneous classes using Zoom. Students examined the concepts of equity and the impact a country or region has on equity to better understand what can be done to minimize disparities and to advocate for change—locally and internationally. 

With the success of the first course, Afifi, Gilbert, and the faculty at the partner institutions hope to offer it again in fall 2020, with plans to continue investigating and expanding the use of technology to advance the objectives of the course even further.

“It was an amazing opportunity that allowed us to create lasting global collaborations between faculty members and students and to critically reflect on issues of equity, social justice, and our positionality in that space.” she says.

ITTA proposals are due by midnight Monday, Oct. 14. To submit a proposal, please visit the Office of Teaching, Learning & Technology website. Contact Steve Silva at 319-335-5627 or for a consultation or questions about ITTA.