Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Innovative academic initiatives improve career readiness among UTSA students

Innovative academic initiatives improve career readiness among UTSA students

(L-R) Melissa Vito, Jonathan Gutierrez, Claudia Arcolin, Marcela Ramirez, Mayra Collins and Elyse Ramirez from UTSA Academic Innovation are joined onstage by OLC Chief Academic Officer and Vice President of Learning Angela Gunder.

DECEMBER 16, 2022 — Marcela Ramirez, UTSA associate vice provost of Teaching, Learning & Digital Transformation (TLDT), has been awarded the Bruce N. Chaloux Scholarship for Early Career Excellence from the Online Learning Consortium, a Boston-based collaborative of higher education leaders promoting advancements in digital education.

The award recognizes educators like Ramirez who are in the early stages of their careers and have made significant contributions in online instruction. It is the latest accolade for the UTSA Department of Academic Innovation, which is furthering its reputation for sparking new classroom and curricula practices and design, pioneering educational technologies and expanding faculty development programs.

“The Academic Innovation team works closely with our partners on campus to maximize the power of a college degree and to transform the UTSA academic experience,” said Academic Innovation Vice Provost Melissa Vito. “Currently, we’re ensuring that the cutting-edge classroom technology in the new School of Data Science is ready for students at San Pedro I when it opens in January.”

The TLDT is also preparing to open its new hub, the Academic Innovation Center (AIC). Located in the Multidisciplinary Studies building on the UTSA Main Campus, the center will offer students and faculty the opportunity to experiment with new academic technologies and pioneer teaching strategies.

In the AIC, students and faculty will learn how virtual reality technology can aid classroom instruction, Adobe tools can be leveraged to build career-ready skills, and engagement strategies can result in deeper learning.

Academic innovation has been recognized for a variety of initiatives over the last several years. UTSA was highlighted in the 2022 EDUCAUSE Horizon Report for its approach to refurbishing and revamping dozens of classrooms. The project, a collaboration between academic innovation and UTSA Facilities and Business Affairs, developed four new classroom models that each featured distinctive configurations that advance hyflex learning environments, improve accessibility and expand access to digital and physical spaces.

TLDT’s Digital Accessibility team supported and enhanced digital accessibility by integrating Ally into UTSA’s learning management system. The Ally tool scans course materials and provides feedback to faculty about how to enhance their materials to be accessible to all students. Since its integration, Ally has helped expand digital accessibility for an estimated 14,391 students.

With students returning to campus after the pandemic, academic innovation documented a change in classroom behavior and the continued blurring of modalities. These changes prompted TLDT to implement several new programs to help faculty engage with students who had been isolated during emergency remote instruction, strengthen bonds between faculty and students, and help students garner career-ready skills.

The Teaching and Learning Reimagined grant supported faculty efforts to reimagine their courses across modalities—from face-to-face to hybrid to fully online teaching. Working with UTSA Student Success, the TLDT created the First-Year Student Experience and Faculty Engagement mini-grant to provide faculty with resources to engage students and connect them with their peers in nonclassroom settings.

Since 2019, when UTSA became an Adobe Creative Campus, TLDT has worked with faculty to integrate the tools into curricula to increase student engagement and digital literacy. However, the power of these tools goes beyond graphic design or video editing. According to a first-of-its-kind study by Civitas Learning, faculty’s strategic integration of Adobe tools into coursework created the broadest and deepest evidence of impact on student outcomes, including higher GPAs and stronger persistence from semester to semester.

“Academic innovation’s success is only possible because of the deep relationships we’ve formed with students and our outstanding faculty,” said Ramirez. “I’m confident that other institutions will increasingly look to us as an example of a thriving, innovative public university that prepares today’s students and tomorrow’s leaders.”

Brett Copeland



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of The University of Texas at San Antonio.

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UTSA Today is produced by University Communications and Marketing, the official news source of The University of Texas at San Antonio. Send your feedback to news@utsa.edu. Keep up-to-date on UTSA news by visiting UTSA Today. Connect with UTSA online at Facebook, Twitter, Youtube and Instagram.


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