From Coursework to Community: The Journey of the UAGC Honors Program

Concurrent Session 3
Streamed Session

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Session Materials

Brief Abstract

UAGC is a fully online university. The Honors Program promotes active student engagement. Students take courses culminating in service learning, participate in a virtual learning community, and contribute meaningfully to the university with synchronous seminars. Along the way, they develop knowledge and skills in leadership, innovation, global perspective, and civic responsibility.

Extended Abstract

UAGC is a fully online university. Our students tend to be working adults whose focus is on career and professional development. All undergraduate courses at UAGC are five weeks in length, with new sessions starting each week. The majority of the courses are worth three credits and comprised of weekly readings, discussions, assignments, journals, and quizzes. The university prioritizes the foundation for student success and adopts best practices of persistence, completion, student satisfaction, and academic gains of all the students we serve.

Our presentation chronicles the university’s ongoing work revising its Honors Program. These changes are intended to provide students with a more engaging community experience, better enabling the program to achieve its vision of challenging and empowering highly motivated undergraduate scholars to become global community leaders.

The previous design consisted solely of academic enrichment courses focused on fostering leadership, innovation, global perspective, and civic responsibility. The redesign has maintained these focus areas while integrating the high-impact practices (HIPs) of service learning and a virtual learning community and adding a required academic event participation and leadership component, to craft a more cohesive common intellectual experience. These practices take many different forms, depending on learner characteristics and institutional priorities and contexts (Kuh, 2008).  

This presentation will offer participants a case study of this academic transition, including how it was carried out, major milestones, challenges encountered, and initial observations of improved students’ investment and engagement since the revised program was first implemented in July of 2021. It will explore the structure and content of the revised Honors courses, with the more cohesive student experience and enhanced opportunities for student service learning. It will also cover the process of developing a virtual Honors Learning Community space in Canvas (the same LMS where the program courses are offered) and how the space has been used thus far to foster a greater sense of community among Honors students.  Additionally, it will report on the implementation of a program requirement that students in the program participate in and/or lead 15 hours’ worth of academic events (e.g., student roundtables, live learning discussions, clubs such as a science book club and a university’s chapter of Toastmasters, and the university’s student peer mentoring program).

Takeaways from this presentation will include opportunities for participants to

  • Develop an understanding of the processes, challenges, and institutional support when integrating HIPs into an academic program within a fully online university setting.
  • Learn how HIPs such as service-learning and a virtual learning community might help foster meaningful and engaging learning experiences for adult learners.
  • Explore strategies to create an integrated program by extending beyond a traditional course curriculum to include co-curricular learning experiences.

Kuh, G. D. (2008). High-impact educational practices: What they are, who has access to them, and why they matter. AAC&U, Washington, D.C.