Monday, May 7, 2018

University of New Orleans Department of English and Foreign Languages Awarded $613K to Enhance Online Instruction and Expand Course Offerings

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The University of New Orleans Department of English and Foreign Languages has been awarded $613,000 to revolutionize the way it delivers digital content for online courses while also expanding instruction in professional writing.  Funding for the five-year comprehensive enhancement project comes from the Louisiana Board of Regents.

Peter Schock, chair of English and Foreign Languages, said the grant is by far the largest the department has ever received, and its impact will be signifcant.

"It will transform the teaching mission of our department, enabling faculty members to more effectively adapt their already lively classroom instruction into high-quality online learning for students at both the undergraduate and graduate levels," Schock said. "Not only the traditional student, but the place-bound and non-traditional student will benefit as well. Simply stated, the resources provided by this grant will support UNO’s strategic effort to increase access to higher learning.”

The grant takes a multi-faceted approach to enhancing course offerings for all students seeking instruction in English and foreign languages—including expanding dual enrollment partnerships with area high schools—but some of its key initiatives include:

* The creation of two state-of-the-art course content studios and a faculty training facility. Faculty will have access to what Poché described as two “one-button” studios, where they can produce quality video content for use in their digital courses with just the press of a button. One of the studios will include what is known as a “lightboard” that will enable the instructor to face the camera and write on a transparent board as they might on a chalkboard. The lightboard’s technology transposes the writing so that it is legible to the online student. The other studio will have a green screen that they can use to superimpose themselves over PowerPoint presentations. An existing space will be converted into a training area where faculty can receive tutorials on the best practices of online instruction. And a current computer lab will be outfitted with editing software that will enable efficient and effective post-production of online courses.

* The implementation of a program that aims to train and mentor faculty in best practices for teaching literature, language and creative writing online. While many of the department’s faculty members are already delivering online instruction, the grant will enable the department to better assess the quality of current course offerings and to incorporate innovative, research-based strategies to engage online students. The grant will help pay for expert consultants to deliver that training on campus. Ninety-five percent of the graduate faculty will utilize these instructional strategies as they develop at least one new online 4000 or 5000-level course and one 6000-level seminar in their areas of expertise.

* The creation and implementation of two new online graduate courses in professional and technical writing and translation studies. By the spring of 2020, the University of New Orleans plans to implement a non-credit certificate and a 15-hour graduate certificate option in professional writing as well as a non-credit certificate and a 15-hour graduate certificate in Spanish. Development of these courses will be undertaken by a new visiting assistant professor who specializes in professional and technical writing and an assistant professor of Spanish, as well as other faculty.

“From general education English courses and first-year writing classes to graduate level studies, this grant touches every aspect of our service to this university,” said Reggie Poché, associate chair of the department and principal investigator of the grant.

Poché began developing the project in 2017 in close collaboration with several members of the department, including Schock and Anne Boyd Rioux, professor of English and graduate coordinator, both of whom are co-principal investigators on the grant. Other collaborators included Nancy Easterlin, professor of English and undergraduate coordinator; Julianna Star, associate professor of French and coordinator for foreign languages; M.O. Walsh, assistant professor of English and director of the MFA Creative Writing Workshop; and Ellen Richardson Lovell, English instructor and chair of first-year writing.

The Department of English and Foreign Languages is the largest department on campus, housing five degree granting programs: B.A. in English, B.A. in Romance Languages, M.A. in English, M.A. in Romance Languages and an M.F.A in Creative Writing. In addition to the nearly 400 students enrolled in these programs, the department touches nearly 3,000 students every semester in its first-year writing courses, foreign languages courses and an extensive array of sophomore general education literature courses.