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Rivier University enhances student success with Davis Educational Foundation Grant

Building on advances made in the past year, the Davis Educational Foundation Grant will support the Rivier student experience.

When the COVID-19 pandemic required educators and students to pivot to online learning almost overnight, Rivier University’s academic community responded to the challenge. Faculty transitioned their face-to-face courses to online and supported students during an unprecedented time. Recognized for their use of technology and plans for the future, the University was awarded a three-year, $233,749 Davis Educational Foundation Grant to continue to elevate student engagement and success through the use of educational technology.

“While Rivier has long employed a web-based platform to facilitate in-class and online learning, in spring 2020 our professors quickly transitioned from in-person classes to online or hybrid classes incorporating new audio, video, and collaboration tools to elevate the student experience,” shares Dr. Brian Ernsting, Rivier’s Vice President for Academic Affairs. “The Davis Educational Foundation Grant will enable us to continue to build on our successes.”

The grant will fund a multi-year project, Teaching, Technology, and Student Engagement. The project’s main goal is to improve student engagement via the effective use of educational technology, which studies have shown increases persistence, graduation rates, and overall student success. Digital tools will focus on cultivating student connections with faculty, peers, and advisors. In addition to investments in hardware and software for technology-enhanced classrooms, the grant supports training for faculty and academic advisors in the effective use of these resources.

“Our students are very comfortable communicating online,” says Kerrie Dahl, Director of Academic and Career Advising. “Rivier professors and advisors work to optimize students’ academic and career experiences to meet their individual needs and career goals. With tools to better understand, define, and communicate the supports and opportunities available to them, we can make a stronger investment in each student’s education.”

The project launched in August with a faculty and advisor workshop presented by Dr. Todd Zakrajsek, an expert in effective instructional strategies, student learning, and technology. Dr. Zakrajsek is the author of Teaching for Learning and The New Science of Learning. He serves on several boards, including Microsoft’s “Technology Enriched Instruction.”

“We have a unique opportunity to return to a ‘better’ normal this fall, to aggressively pursue greater student engagement and success, and to impart new, 21st-century skills via the enhanced use of educational technology,” says Dr. Brad Stull, Grant Project Director, Professor of English, and the Director of the General Education Program at Rivier University. “Strengthening relationships and encouraging greater collaboration in ways most comfortable for our students will enhance the overall learning experience, and, ultimately, the benefits and value of a Rivier education.”