Riipen Pilot: An On-Ramp to Work Integrated Learning

The Riipen platform as an on-ramp to facilitating work integrated learning experiences. Riipen helps instructors set up micro-experiential projects with community organizations and businesses by finding matches and streamlining ongoing coordination and communication between the faculty, students and partners. This initiative is unique in its focus on integrating small projects into course contexts in alignment with learning outcomes.

[New: Riipen project extended for 2021]

Learn more about the Riipen Pilot Project

To find out how you can get involved at the University of Toronto please email digital.learning@utoronto.ca


Shadi Dalili, Associate Professor, Teaching Stream is one of the instructors who pioneered the use of Riipen in her  course CHMD71 – Pharmaceutical Chemistry. Students in this 4th year course worked alongside research and development at pharmaceutical organizations to consult and create promotional materials.

We spoke with Shadi to ask about her experience with Riipen:

How did using Riipen help meet your teaching and learning goals?

For my fourth year Pharmaceutical Chemistry course (CHMD71H), I had two major sets of learning goals: disciplinary knowledge learning goals (such as research, analytical, and critical thinking skills) as well as transferable, professional development learning goals (such as teamwork, time-management, multi-tasking, communication, delegation, and decision-making skills).

Using Riipen helped meet most of these goals by providing a platform through which I could find an industry partner with whom my students could participate in a project in the field of pharmaceutical chemistry. This allowed them to gain firsthand knowledge on how to research information on molecular modelling and simulations used in the process of drug discovery and development, and then critically analyze this information to prepare a deliverable defined by the industry partner for a particular audience. This allowed them to practice critical analysis skills in appropriately using information for the intended purpose.

Additionally, as they had to work in teams and deliver the project by a set timeline, they used a project charter based on the RACI (Responsibility, Accountability, Consultation, and Informed) matrix used in industry for team projects, to prioritize, delegate, and manage their time as a group. This was a valuable exercise in teaching them interpersonal and communication skills, as well as exposed them to a real-world scenario of how to work as a team and delegate responsibilities.

With whom – community organizations, industry – did you partner?

We worked with Cognigen Corporation, a SimulationsPlus company, that is based in Buffalo, NY. They were established in 1992, and have partnered with leading pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies, the World Health Organization, and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, as well as provided pharmacology consulting and pharmacometric analyses for more than 100 drugs. They aim to advance the science and engineer the systems for model-based drug development, which is more efficient and cost effective in getting a drug to the approval stage at regulatory agencies compared to traditional methods of drug development.

Why did you partner with them?

We partnered with Cognigen Corporation as they had a wealth of experience in the field of molecular modelling and simulations in drug discovery and development, which is one of the topics of the course I wanted my students to get industry knowledge on. In addition, Cindy Walawnder, their VP of Operations who was the contact from the company on Riipen, was extremely helpful and communicative in defining a project for the students that was within their level of understanding and manageable in the period of the course.

How did this experience meet (or not meet) your needs and expectations for your course goals?

This was my first time using the Riipen platform, as was the case with the industry partner (Cognigen Corporation), and as a first time user, it exceeded my expectations of meeting the needs of our course. Many students commented that they thought the project was interesting and valuable, considering it allowed to work with a real company and familiarized them with the pharmaceutical industry. In addition, our students now each have a profile on the Riipen site, with ratings and comments from the industry partner in their portfolio, which I hope will help in their employability in the future.

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For more information contact: digital.learning@utoronto.ca

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