Monday, March 14, 2022

UAGC Chronicle 4Q 2021 Edition

The UAGC Chronicle is a quarterly publication that is designed to inform and educate faculty while keeping the broader UAGC academic community updated on student successes, events, initiatives, and the people that shape our community of learners and scholars. The contributions we have received from across all departments demonstrate the high level of engagement and dedication to the UAGC Chronicle’s mission. As we strive to increase readership with each issue, we welcome your questions, ideas, and submissions. Learn more here.

The UAGC Chronicle Fourth Quarter 2021 Issue

Friday, March 11, 2022

The Role Scaffolding Plays in Student Success and Faculty Satisfaction

Designing courses that engage online learners to achieve the highest mastery of course learning outcomes is at the forefront of online course development at The University of Arizona Global Campus. During a recent course redesign, the developers sought to incorporate opportunities for the students to learn the information through various modalities, including lectures, interactives, and videos. Additionally, the developers built scaffolded assignments into the course so students could build upon the knowledge they were gaining each week and ultimately master the course learning outcomes. Along with scaffolding the assignments for student success, the developers considered the faculty's ability to provide more detailed and meaningful feedback in a time efficient manner that would contribute to student mastery of course learning outcomes. By designing scaffolded assignments, the faculty can focus on specific elements each week and cumulatively build their feedback throughout the course to support student learning and growth.

This research project was conducted in order to take a deep dive into how incorporating these strategies in course design impacts student success and faculty satisfaction. Through a mixed-methods research project, the researchers will investigate the efficacy of scaffolded course design and how it contributes to both student success and faculty satisfaction. Specifically, the research will consider the following:

1.       How does presenting information through different modalities in an online asynchronous classroom impact student retention?

2.       How does intentional scaffolding of content impact performance on course learning outcomes?

3.       How do course tools that provide guided practice, reteaching, and scaffolding impact faculty's satisfaction when teaching?

4.       How does intentional scaffolding of content impact faculty’s ability to support student success?

5.       How do students perceive their own learning was impacted from the intentional scaffolding of the course content?

6.       How do students perceive the presentation of content in this course in relation to presentation of content in their other courses?

This research will inform decisions about curriculum development to support student success and retention across the university and throughout online higher education.

Jennifer Zaur (Principal Investigator)

Jennifer Zaur is an assistant professor in the Department of Education and Liberal Arts at the University of Arizona Global Campus. She has a BA in Elementary Education and a Master's degree in Curriculum and Instruction with an emphasis in Language and Literacy, both from Arizona State University. She has been an elementary school teacher, a reading interventionist, a teacher mentor, and an instructor of professional development workshops. For the last nine years, she has worked in higher education, focusing on student retention, curriculum development, and best practices in online learning.

Professor Jennifer Zaur

Dr. Amy Johnson (Co-Investigator)

Amy Johnson is a Core Faculty member for the Associate of Arts in Early Childhood Education degree program in the College of Arts & Sciences at the University of Arizona Global Campus (UAGC). She earned a Doctorate of Early Childhood Development and Education from Texas Woman’s University, a Master of Education in Curriculum and Instruction from Chapman University, and a Bachelor of Arts in English and Creative Writing from San Diego State University. Dr. Johnson began her career teaching elementary grades before transitioning into higher education in 2010. She has a heart for marginalized populations and has spent time in Cambodia and Mexico working with individuals who have been orphaned, trafficked, and traumatized.

Dr. Amy Johnson 

Dr. Allison Rief (Co-Investigator)

Dr. Allison Rief is an Associate Professor and Associate Director in the Academic Engagement Center at the University of Arizona Global Campus. Dr. Rief’s research interests include virtual professional learning communities, collaborative and reciprocal relationships with online associate faculty, course design with intentional scaffolding within online learning, and the effects of how flexibility and care impact student learning. Within higher education, she has had experience launching new programs and revising existing programs, developing courses, providing professional development, and working with collaborative teams across the university. Currently, Dr. Rief is a member of the Change Advisory Group, Student Conduct and Community Standards Committee, Forbes Center for Women’s Leadership, Turn the Tide, and oversees the partnership with No Excuses University schools. Beyond the programs she leads, she also serves on Doctoral committees and teaches the Doctoral In-Residence.

Dr. Allison Rief 

Monday, March 7, 2022

Live Learning Through  Asynchronous First-year Experience: Learning from Students

Jennifer Robinson, Ph.D.
The purpose of this research was to understand better and disseminate students' reactions to Live Learning (or synchronous learning) as part of an asynchronous first-year experience course. Live Learning (LL) is optional, except for Information Literacy. However, LL is now gaining traction as a viable alternative to solely asynchronous teaching and learning. Understanding how students react to these sessions is crucial as part of the First-Year Experience High Impact Practices (Kuh, 2008). Without understanding this information, we run the risk of not adapting our sessions to meet the needs of our students and not supporting their persistence to graduation. 

 Information Literacy has traditionally been a completely asynchronous course as part of the general education sequence at UAGC. However, during the 2021 redesign, embedded orientation and LL were added as requirements for students. Embedded orientation is mentioned in conjunction with LL because LL teaches students how to use the online library to complete assignments and how-to-use-the-library modules were traditionally housed in an orientation course. When the decision was made to embed orientation into general education courses to demonstrate the connections between university resources and course progression, LL and the library became a common objective. 

Synchronous learning is a viable option alongside otherwise completely asynchronous learning. Such sessions allow faculty to make public what is often private teaching, especially in asynchronous courses (Yamagata-Lynch, 2014). These participatory learning spaces enable students to feel a sense of connection with the university while demonstrating the value of their presence (Han, 2013) and decreasing transactional distance (Moore, 2013). Students who engage in synchronous learning as part of an asynchronous course engage in scaffolded teaching and learning and begin to think of themselves as participatory learners. Synchronous learning sessions must be well-executed and intentionally designed to promote community, interaction, and dialogue (Conrad & Donaldson, 2011). 

This qualitative case study will share the themes and patterns that emerged from students' voices through the triangulation of three data points:

1. Zoom chat during LL
2. Post LL student surveys
3. A question required on the final project in the course
Conclusions will also offer suggestions for what research still needs to be undertaken. Since the revision team followed the recommendations of creating a well-executed and intentionally designed Live Learning session, we want to ensure that students feel they have benefitted from this required part of the course. This study supports the High Impact Practice of First-Year Experience and supports the Power of One retention and persistence initiative. Through uncovering themes in the data, it will be possible to revise GEN103 and the LL sessions to meet the needs of students and promote retention and persistence toward graduation.

PI for this study is Jen Robinson (Lead Faculty). Co-PIs are Stacy Manning (Core Faculty), Tanya Mooney (Core Faculty), Diane Hilbrink (Associate Faculty), Benjamin Sorensen (Associate Faculty), and Cathlene Dollar (Associate Faculty).

Conrad, R.M. & Donaldson, J.A. (2011). Engaging the online learner: Activities and resources
for creative instruction (2nd ed). Jossey-Bass

Kuh, G. (2008). High-impact educational practices: What they are, who has access to them,and why they matter. Association of American Colleges and Universities.  

Han, H. (2013). Do nonvermal emotional cues matter? Effectof of video casting in synchronousvirtual classrooms. American Journal of Distance Education, 27(4), 17-28.

Moore, R. (2003). Reexamining the field experiences of preservice teachers. Journal of TeacherEducation, 54(1), 31-42.

Yamagata-Lynch, L. C. (2014). Blending Online Asynchronous and Synchronous Learning. TheInternational Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, 15(2), 189-212. doi: 10.19173/irrodl.v15i2.1778

Friday, February 25, 2022

Helping Faculty Become More Culturally Responsive and Equity-Centered in Thought and Action

Students need higher education institutions to see all their identifiers in the classroom and during their interactions. For faculty and staff to see the complete student, they must examine their personal stories, biases, and practices while assessing the impact each could have on the institution's equity work. On many higher education campuses, there has been training with consultants, book studies, and professional development; moving from pedagogy to action is a challenge. However, what is the ignitor for movement from talk to action? What is an effective way to help faculty and staff become more culturally responsive and equity-centered in both thought and action?

This study will first engage in Factuality, a timed online interactive experience that simulates structural inequality in America. While participating in Factuality, participants assume the identities of specific characters encountering a series of fact-based advantages and limitations based on the intersection of their race, class, gender, faith, sexual orientation, age, and ability. Participants will read and discuss the book, From Equity Talk to Equity Walk by Tia Brown McNair, Estela Mara Bensimon, and Lindsey Malcom-Piqueux. As a culminating reflective opportunity, participants will have the option to self-report on their 21-day equity walk, where they will have the chance to demonstrate their equity practices in their learning environments.

Motivation for Doing the Study:


Action is an essential part of equity work, but it can be challenging because it forces us to confront and examine some of our socialization and personal biases. After experiencing several lecture-style trainings and book studies, the researchers were curious if a combination of learning experiences could ignite the action needed to move equity forward. Dr. Handy, a former Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at a private P-12 school, knows first-hand the challenges of shifting a 175-year-old institution forward on equity issues. Dr. Fitzpatrick has diverse experiences helping individuals and organizations ensure their actions are evidence of their commitment to the students, families, and communities that they serve. Together, this team wanted to explore a specific gaming experience followed by the book with an action framework to help provide faculty and staff the ignitor needed to build their capacity and fuel their equity work in thought and action.


Background on Researchers:

Dr. Teresa Handy
Dr. Teresa Handy is a Core Faculty member in the Master of Arts in Early Childhood Education Leadership Program in the College of Education at the University of Arizona Global Campus. Teresa has been a Turn the Tide Facilitator at UAGC, a Power of One Faculty member, and a Donna Beegle Certified Poverty Coach. She earned the Ed.D. specializing in Education Leadership and the Master of Arts in Teaching from the University of Memphis, where she earned the distinction of Outstanding Leadership and Policy Studies Doctoral Student. She earned a Master of Social Work degree from the University of Chicago. Teresa completed her undergraduate work in Sociology and Education at Spelman College in Atlanta, Georgia. She has worked in public, charter, and private schools as an administrator, early childhood and elementary educator, and a learning specialist. She has also served as a diversity consultant, helping local and national organizations develop their inclusion initiatives. Her recent children's book, "There is an Elephant in my Ear," was written for children ages 3-5 to help begin courageous conversations about differences in the preschool classroom.

You may contact her at


Dr. Tamecca Fitzpatrick

Dr. Tamecca Fitzpatrick is the Program Chair for the Master of Art in Early Childhood Education Leadership in the College of Education at the University of Arizona Global Campus. She obtained her Ed.D specializing in Early Childhood Education from the University of North Texas. Her Master's degree in Education and bachelor's degree in Psychology were earned at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville. Her work experience includes positions as an elementary classroom teacher, a Diversity Scholar Lecturer, Professor, and Author.

Tuesday, February 22, 2022

What types of classroom interactions do students want and what do we think they need?

Most academic literature celebrates the benefits of student-to-student and student-to-instructor engagement, which is deeper than simple interaction. However, many students, including those at UAGC, struggle to find time and energy to devote to even the simplest classroom interactions. We plan to survey all UAGC students to discover what they think of the previous types of classroom interactions they have had in the past and what they'd like to see in the future. If they want less interaction, we might want to spend more time educating them about the value of intellectual exchange and if they want more, we might want to design future classes with more opportunities for student-to-student and student-to-instructor interaction. Either way, this information will be important for us in our future course designs.

One of the most important tools UAGC is currently using is Power of One, which attempts to provide students with additional support, by working with them on deadlines and more deeply engaging with struggling students. Our research intersects with the Power of One initiative because part of that effort is designed to better know our students and the various limitations many of them face and ways we can help build their personal and intellectual skills. While we as designers of course content often believe more interaction is beneficial, with students stretched to the brink with work and family responsibilities, what ways can we create learning initiatives that acknowledge their needs, while also creating rigorous courses? This survey will help answer some of these questions.

Cheri Ketchum

Cheri Ketchum is an Associate Professor at UAGC and has been working for the university since 2010. She oversees the communication and journalism programs within the Department of Education and Liberal arts and primarily teaches courses on persuasion and communication and conflict. Her research interests focus on instructor-student engagement, instructive feedback, journalism and popular culture.

Dr. Daria S. Lafave

Daria S. LaFave, PhD is an Associate Professor at UAGC. Her research interests are interpersonal communication, instructor-student relationships in online classrooms, and effective online course design. She has been teaching communication courses at UAGC since 2012.

Elain Phompheng

Elaine Phompheng, MA is an Associate Faculty member at UAGC, teaching courses primarily in communication and information literacy. She has been with UAGC since 2008. Her research interests include online instructor/student engagement, feedback strategies for online instructors, and organizational leadership. Elaine is in the process of completing her PhD.

 Chelsey Yeats

Chelsey Yeats, MA Associate Faculty member at UAGC, has instructed students online since 2011. Yeats primarily focuses on Communication Studies with an emphasis on critical literacy. Over recent years, Yeats has researched and explored establishing positive social presence and developing feedback literacy within the online classroom. Besides teaching and research, Yeats serves as a subject expert for course textbooks and course development.  

Monday, February 14, 2022

Live Learning – Research in Synchronous Meetings in Asynchronous Classes

Online learning provides a great pathway for students in varied circumstances to advance their education – to connect with content and engage with instructors and peers. But a predominantly asynchronous learning environment puts limits on that experience. As online instruction and distance learning platforms attempt to keep up with the advancements of technology, it is crucial that students have access to multiple learning resources to ensure success in meeting their educational goals.

One of the strategies for promoting student success and more meaningful conversations through online courses includes live chat sessions. Ultimately, the goal is to enhance the learning process so that students can gain the motivation and drive that they need to continue their online education. This, in turn, will guide the student in becoming successful in their educational journey. Implementing Live Learning sessions to all sections of a course on a weekly basis will assist students in understanding current and upcoming assessments, not only from the professor, but also from students in later weeks of the course.

The Community of Inquiry framework emphasizes the importance of social presence, which involves an inclusion of virtual office hours as an additional learning source for students. Offering weekly “live learning” video sessions as an additional resource within asynchronous online college courses will increase course satisfaction and learning of the course concepts, thereby, increasing the likelihood of student success and retention.

Since April of 2020, faculty within the Academic Engagement Center have been offering optional live learning sessions. And while the required Live Learning sessions in GEN103 were a direct result of insights and research conducted by this group, those sections are not monitored as part of this research. Data is collected and collated on a number of points – reflecting a deeper picture of the student and their needs.

The outcome will determine if weekly “live learning” sessions can positively impact student achievement and satisfaction. It will also provide insights about how course levels, sequencing, and session schedules may help students access this “live learning” opportunity.

The Professors Leading the Research:

Over the course of her career, Dr. Sonja Bethune has worn many hats in a variety of settings as an educator, administrative manager, as well as a mental health provider. She is a licensed Clinical Psychologist in the State of California in which she has served the mentally ill population in different capacities. However, for the past 10 years, she has been a dedicated professor, course content developer, and supportive colleague for different projects, while overseeing the General Education Capstone course at the University of Arizona Global Campus (previously known as Ashford University). She has demonstrated her passion for teaching through various scholastic accomplishments in which she co-authored a book that focuses on teaching strategies for online instructors. She also co-authored and published a journal article that centers on implicit bias within the online classroom. Furthermore, she has written psychology-related articles for the UAGC Hub Newsletter that emphasize ways of improving one’s mental well-being.

Dr. Nathan Pritts is an award-winning educator, course developer, and faculty mentor with a strong focus on innovation with practical applications. He brings expertise in writing, business communication, advertising & marketing, and online user experience to the General Education classroom to maximize student learning and heighten engagement, infusing curriculum with foundational outcomes bolstered by clear ties to a student's academic and career path. He serves as Professor in the Academic Engagement Center of the University of Arizona Global Campus. Dr. Pritts is the author or co-author of twelve books including Decoherence (Indiana University Press), Film: From Watching to Seeing (3e), Essentials of Academic Writing (4e), and he served as editor and wrote the introduction for Living Online: A Digital Fluency Handbook.

Thursday, February 10, 2022

UAGC Cohort Jumpstart Research Project by Dr. Connie Lower

Dr. Connie Lower
The intention of the UAGC Cohort Jumpstart project is to increase perseverance of entry-point students through the formation and support of a learning community (as defined by George Kuh in “High-Impact Educational Practices”) in a cohort of students as they navigate their first three classes together:  ASH 101, GEN 103, and GEN 102.  Entry-point students frequently express feeling alone, overwhelmed and under supported in their first entry classes.  Placing these students into a supportive cohort with the high-impact practice of a learning community will give them a stable, supportive group for fifteen weeks, thus increasing their motivation and determination to persevere. 

This effort also incorporates the Power of One initiative to improve retention and graduation through increased student/instructor engagement and care by faculty and support services.   The components of Power of One will be used to provide flexibility for student completion of work and enhanced instructor engagement with students.

Dr. Connie Lower Bio

Dr. Connie Lower is a full-time faculty member of the Academic Engagement Center at UAGC.  She has been in an instructor role at Ashford/UAGC since 2008.  She has a Doctorate in Education with a specialization in the Instructional Process and a Superintendent’s Certification from Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville, as well as a Master of Science in Educational Administration and a Bachelor of Science in K-12 education from Illinois State University.  She served as a public school administrator for a number of years before transitioning to higher education. Dr. Lower has always been passionate about teaching and learning, and is deeply invested in providing opportunities for students to attain their goals, whether very young or as adults. “UAGC has students that are serious about upgrading their lives and the lives of their families,” she says, “and the UAGC faculty and staff  are all dedicated individuals who wish to give our non-traditional students every opportunity to succeed.”