May 20, 2020
By Dr. Stacey Duke
Founded in 1906, Louisiana Christian University (LCU) has weathered many actual storms and periods of uncertainty. Located in Pineville, Louisiana the school has served to educate many of our current heroes: teachers, doctors, and nurses. As well as generations of families that serve as pastors, artists, coaches, business owners, community leaders, and many more.
The school has been a “beacon of faith” on the hill in Central Louisiana. While many of the courses taught over the last one hundred and fourteen years have been in the more traditional face-to-face format, LCU has embraced change; from changes in leadership to fashion trends to technology updates. Students at LCU have lived through many major events throughout history including the “Great Depression”, world wars, universal discoveries, and now the “global pandemic”.
Last year, LCU was awarded a 2.2-million-dollar grant from the U.S. Department of Education to help expand online education capacity and quality. Part of this expansion has been the partnership with Canvas as the new learning management system (LMS).
With Canvas, faculty and students are able to access information faster and easier than ever before. Canvas uses embedded tools that allow for greater engagement, relationship building, and faith integration opportunities. Other tools embedded in Canvas allow for greater accountability, reporting, and assessment.
As part of the grant, LCU was able to create a space for faculty to learn, train, and record lecture broadcast from the newly renovated Faculty Development Center located in the Norton Library on campus. This center is supported by the newly created Center for Online Innovation and Development also part of the grant. The campus is supported by a remarkable IT department under the leadership of Mr. Mark Shoemaker, Vice President for IT/CIO.
Dr. Natalie Maxey, the grant’s Project Director, also serves as a full-time faculty member, PPE project manager, and other roles as needed. Her attention to detail has allowed the project to maintain standard project requirements while being forced to rush into early production of online content. Mr. Jason Mercer, the Instructional Designer, has devoted many hours to researching and learning about tools and integration options that will enhance the learning experience.
By utilizing integrated tools, we are creating an inclusive online learning experience. Our new course review tools allow us to develop courses at the highest standard while supporting students at their individual level. We have implemented Quality Matters (QM) training and course review.
According to the QM website, “With online learning, everyone has a goal. Learners need to improve and grow. You work to nurture them with well-conceived, well-designed, well-presented courses and programs. Our goal — as a non-profit, quality assurance organization — is to provide a system to help you deliver on that promise…”
We are intentionally building in “touchpoints” for prayer, relationship development, and a sense of community that fully supports the student. Some of the tools that we are using to build engagement include Microsoft Teams, recorded voice-over PowerPoint, Voice Thread (recorded and engaging lecture), and small groups.
One of our engagement strategies is to create rhythms of due dates and virtual office hours throughout the week to enable meeting times and the ability to create a schedule that works for each student. We are encouraging faculty to use a shorter burst of lectures that are supplemented with videos, activities, and application opportunities that help students not feel overwhelmed with all that they need to do each week.
The original timeframe for the full launch of Canvas is still Fall 2020. However, with the changes in requirements due to COVID-19, we are piloting two programs this summer: the TEACH courses and a few other selected courses. Louisiana Christian University’s nationally accredited TEACH certification program was able to go 100% online this summer due to the availability of Canvas and the course designs created by Mr. Mercer.
Dr. Stacey Duke, Distance Learning Coordinator, believes that the course offerings utilizing the new tools and technology will allow LCU to continue to offer Central Louisiana and beyond with faith integrated knowledge and practical application. Students in every field of study want to learn how to use the knowledge they gain to improve themselves and their communities. They will be able to use what they are learning immediately in many cases.
The LCU faculty have been amazing to work with on this massive undertaking (to change teaching technology). We have logged many hours of training provided by QM, Microsoft, Canvas, and internally. The faculty have sacrificed time with their families and time relaxing in order to train, prepare, and create outstanding educational opportunities for students. The LCU faculty truly work for the glory of God. They pray for students, provide various types of support, and build life-long relationships that have an eternal impact.
The leadership of LCU cannot be overlooked. The Presidential Leadership Team meets weekly to provide the best possible leadership and direction for the campus: students, faculty, and staff. Just as in any other period in history when disaster strikes, our leadership team has provided wisdom, support, and direction to steer LCU towards the future.
May the next one hundred and fourteen years at Louisiana Christian University demonstrate as much positive change, resilience, and godly character as the last one hundred and fourteen years. In 1 Corinthians 9:22 Paul wrote, “I am become all things to all men, that I may, by all means, save some”. Paul’s life and ministry show us that as Christian leaders and educators we should develop the following values: faith, integrity, learning, service, and community. Our vision is preparing graduate and transforming lives. Our guiding principle is to provide liberal arts, professional, and graduate programs characterized by devotion to the preeminence of the Lord Jesus, allegiance to the authority of the Holy Scriptures, dedication to academic excellence for the glory of God, and commitment to change the world for Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit.
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