A revolution in teaching

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Jamila Sam and Jean-Cédric Chappelier have won the Credit Suisse Award for Best Teaching 2015, which recognizes the best contribution in the area of teaching at EPFL.

For some students, spending hours in a lecture hall listening to a professor is a thing of the past. Several programming courses offered at EPFL have been totally transformed thanks to Jamila Sam and Jean-Cédric Chappelier. In recognition of their exemplary contribution in the field of teaching at EPFL, the pair will receive the Credit Suisse Award for Best Teaching.

For the past two years, their students have been experiencing a new style of teaching delivered over the internet in the form of videos, tutorials and quizzes that they can do at their own pace. When they do go to class, it is not to learn new material but to take what was presented online into further detail. This concept of ‘flipped classroom’ requires a considerable investment on the part of the instructor. This is the method Jamila Sam and Jean-Cédric Chappelier used to create four MOOCs – online courses that they customize, which take weeks of preparation and filming. Making these courses fit the traditional curriculum is a real pedagogical feat for the pair, who have been working together for the past 15 years in the School of Computer and Communication Sciences.

Improved performance

The results of these novel courses speak for themselves. Because they are actively involved in learning, students are more motivated and do better on exams – and this is particularly true of students who were struggling. For example, 16 per cent more students received a passing grade during an exam given in 2014 compared to the same exam in 2007.

The success of this new approach is largely thanks to Jamila Sam and Jean-Cédric Chappelier’s passion for their work and the enjoyment they derive from passing along their knowledge. Both instructors believe that working together helps sharpen their teaching. “We are able to criticize and inspire each other’s work as we strive to develop new methods,” said Jamila Sam.

The two instructors have also created a new course, “Computers, calculations and communications”, meant for all first-year students. The Credit Suisse Award for Best Teaching recognizes not only Jamila Sam and Jean-Cédric Chappelier’s innovative approach but also the major impact their efforts have had on educating EPFL students.

Adapted from article by Sarah Bourquenoud, EPFL Mediacom

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