Sacred Heart University receives $25,000 grant toward new “flex-learn” model

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Davis Educational Foundation award is funding new pandemic teaching model

FAIRFIELD, Conn.—The Davis Educational Foundation has awarded Sacred Heart University a $25,000 grant for new class procedures beginning in the fall semester.

The University’s SHU-Flex model will give students the choice to attend live, on-campus classes or live-stream classes from elsewhere. Students also will be able to revisit recorded classes at any time.

“The SHU-Flex allows students to attend in-class, on-campus, live sessions; live-stream those sessions from anywhere; and/or review the lecture-capture of those sessions at any time,” said Michael Carriger, the project lead and executive director for instructional innovation for SHU’s Center for Excellence and Innovation in Teaching (CEIT). “This is essentially learning anywhere and anytime.”

The procedures will assist students struggling to attend class due to the ongoing pandemic, and it has sustainable impacts beyond COVID-19. With the ability to learn anywhere and anytime, students will have more flexibility. This improves learning opportunities for those who cannot attend on-campus classes, such as part-time students and working adults, and those with difficulties learning in traditional, on-campus, lecture-based settings, including students for whom English is a second language and students with alternative learning styles.

Previously, the CEIT tested its new model on a graduate program, collecting positive results. One finding showed significant correlation between streaming and grades: the more students live-streamed classes, the better they did in the course.

“I truly believe that installation of this equipment across Sacred Heart’s campus is well worth the investment,” said Nicole Trudell, manager of instructional technology and support services and SHU-Flex technology lead. “With everything set up and ready to go for the fall semester, students and parents will feel more at ease about the return to classes during a pandemic.”

The Davis Educational Foundation was established by Stanton and Elisabeth Davis after Mr. Davis’s retirement as chairman of Shaw’s Supermarkets, Inc. Its $25,000 grant will be in effect through Dec. 15, 2021, and will fund the acquisition of camera equipment necessary for SHU-Flex. Sacred Heart already has installed the technology required for this new learning model in about half of its classrooms. “The Davis Grant will help support the roll-out by allowing us to outfit additional classrooms with the technology necessary to carry out SHU-Flex,” said Carriger.

The CEIT intends to purchase and install the remaining equipment before the fall semester begins. Faculty will be trained in SHU-Flex throughout the rest of summer and into fall, and there will be instructional design efforts to adapt current courses to the model.

Carriger, who has an academic background in education, management and learning and development, will supervise the faculty training and instructional design efforts. He is writing a paper describing SHU-Flex’s effectiveness and use of the think-pair-share learning strategy in online classrooms. This strategy or teaching tool is a way to have students engage with learning material that promotes learning.

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