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Mohamed Bakr honoured with President’s Award for Outstanding Contributions to Teaching and Learning May 17, 2021

Mohamed Bakr, professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at McMaster has been awarded with the President’s Award for Outstanding Contributions to Teaching and Learning.

Mohamed Bakr is recognized for his contributions and dedication to education through innovation, continued excellence in teaching, and enhanced student learning. With the goal of providing his students with a better learning experience, Bakr has made it his mission to fully engage his students and maximize their understanding of different subjects.

“Dr. Bakr is an outstanding contributor to the faculty and a forward-thinking instructor,” says Ishwar K. Puri, Dean of Engineering. “His creativity and passion have helped him foster a strong and lasting connection with his students.”

Centred around what he calls a “moral responsibility to his students” Bakr has developed a multi-faceted approach to teaching. In 2013, he applied a flipped classroom model to his courses, transitioning theory-based components to online publicly available YouTube videos. He has developed over 180 videos which have attracted more than half a million views and counting.

With theory-based components online, Bakr uses precious classroom time for active learning. This allows him to focus on student engagement by using practical, real-life applications to promote a better understanding of course content.

In 2018 Bakr further pushed the boundaries of conventional teaching practices, by receiving a McPherson Institute Fellowship to apply virtual reality to the teaching of engineering courses.

With a vision of improving students’ understanding, Bakr devoted his efforts to developing two tools that apply virtual reality to electronics and electromagnetics. Utilizing this technology in the classroom allows students to carry out experiments in the virtual world, change different parameters, and observe the effects immediately, from the convenience of their homes.

Although he was unaware of this at the time, Bakr’s teaching style and adoption of modern technologies would become even more applicable and relevant during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The initial foundation of this work was laid between 2018-2020. When the pandemic struck, I pushed harder in this area with support from the Faculty of Engineering and I was able to construct a seamless transition to online learning,” says Bakr.

“Perhaps most important of all is the influence that he has had on his colleagues in our department, and within the Faculty of Engineering as a whole, as he has shown us the remarkable impact that these teaching techniques can have on the learning of our students,” says Professor and Chair, Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, Tim Davidson.

Bakr’s innovative approach to teaching is matched with an unwavering dedication to his students and tremendous love of teaching. Positioning himself as an ally and mentor to his students, he believes in providing support to students who may be struggling as well as publicly recognizing high achievement in class.

Bakr’s impressive student evaluations highlight his effectiveness as an instructor. Over the past three years, he has often received a score above 9.5/10 and exceptional written feedback from his students.

As one student writes, “Dr. Bakr has been by far the best professor I’ve had so far in my university experience. He is the true embodiment of what a professor should be. He makes learning enjoyable, cares for his students, and allows students to redeem themselves in an otherwise harsh learning system. He has been exceptional in these troubling times.”

Bakr has received numerous accolades for his achievements in mentorship and teaching, including the Dean’s Teaching Honour Roll from 2015 to 2019 and a Faculty Appreciation Award from the McMaster Engineering Society in 2020.

“I feel honored and humbled to receive this recognition. I am grateful to my colleagues and students who nominated me,” says Bakr. “While I am really happy to receive this award, I believe that the biggest award a teacher can achieve is the respect and love of his students.”

Consisting of a citation of excellence and certificate, Bakr’s award will be presented virtually at the Faculty of Engineering Convocation on Friday, June 18, 2021.