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University of Saint Joseph Receives Large Grants to Support Innovative Classroom Learning

University of Saint Joseph. Photo credit: Ronni Newton (we-ha.com file photo)

The University of Saint Joseph in West Hartford recently received $125,000 from the Davis Educational Foundation.

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Faculty and students at the University of Saint Joseph (USJ) are benefitting from two grants received from the Davis Educational Foundation established by Stanton and Elisabeth Davis after Mr. Davis’s retirement as chairman of Shaw’s Supermarkets, Inc.

A grant for $96,970 will be disbursed over three years for 36 USJ professors (nearly 25% of all faculty) to attend a seven-workshop series on Universal Design for Learning (UDL), in collaboration with the Goodwin Institute for Learning Innovation. Faculty are trained in incorporating UDL principles into the courses they teach and the USJ culture as a whole, thus increasing accessibility to educational activities for students of all abilities.

The development of an Active Learning Classroom facility with new furnishings and educational technology further helps faculty put the principles into practice. For example, professors may expand the variety of formats they use to present information with greater accessibility by adding interactive apps to their regular lectures.

Associate Professor of Nutrition and Public Health Lisa Fanelli, OTD, OTR/L, is a member of the first group of faculty to be trained. She noted, “As an inaugural faculty member of the UDL Institute, I have gained a deeper understanding of the learning process and appreciate the science of inquiry at another level. I have applied the UDL principles in my assignments with favorable student feedback thus far. I am extremely thankful for this professional development opportunity at USJ.”

With an 8:1 student-faculty ratio and all classes taught by faculty, rather than teaching assistants, USJ has earned a reputation as a university that prioritizes the quality of student instruction. During the past decade, USJ has dedicated significant resources to its Teaching and Learning Center, including Davis Educational Foundation seed funds and federal Title III Strengthening Institutions grant funds. These have supported increased professional development opportunities for faculty and high-quality educational technology in USJ classrooms.

A $25,000 Davis Presidential Grant for Alternate Academic Delivery, awarded in recognition of the challenges of reopening during the pandemic, funded a faculty workshop series on Hybrid Flexible (HyFlex) pedagogy and covered the purchase of a virtual laboratory science program to supplement HyFlex courses in anatomy and physiology.

The HyFlex model is a method of course delivery that allows students to participate in person or remotely, with the understanding that they may need to switch modalities throughout the semester. While USJ’s faculty are skilled in engaging students, and many are adept with a variety of technologies, designing a HyFlex course presented new challenges. Faculty had to learn how to engage both face-to-face and remote students simultaneously.

According to Associate Professor of Counseling and Applied Behavioral Studies Kathryn Henderson, Ph.D., “The activity on Course Mapping was especially useful on how to organize and thoroughly consider each element that goes into redesigning our existing courses into the HyFlex format. I use tips from the workshop on a weekly basis in my classes, particularly those on effectively facilitating small group discussion in virtual breakout rooms.”

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