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July 28, 2020

WGU, CUNY Partner to Prepare Faculty for Online Learning this Fall

Collaboration supports online course design and student engagement strategies as CUNY prepares for the Fall 2020 semester

SALT LAKE CITY – Western Governors University (WGU) and The City University of New York (CUNY) today announced a four-part webinar series—Helping Bring the Classroom to the Screen—for CUNY faculty members as they expand their strategies to engage students in online and hybrid learning environments. 

A May 2020 report by Hanover Research for WGU of 26,000 college and university students nationwide, parents, faculty, and staff showed that only 43 percent of undergraduate and 54 percent of graduate students felt comfortable taking online courses during COVID-19. A great majority (71%) of undergraduate students reported that a temporary transition to online classes will have a negative effect on them, while less than half (37%) of faculty felt that students are prepared to participate in online courses.

This WGU/CUNY partnership builds on CUNY’s own spring/summer 2020 faculty development offerings, which includes the School of Professional Studies Online Teaching Essentials workshop, an ongoing series of 3-week trainings that by the end of August will have reached more than 2,000 of the University’s world class faculty. The WGU/CUNY web series is designed for CUNY faculty who have some online teaching experience and provides a forum to refine their expertise in an engaging community of practice.

Funding for the series comes from a short-term planning grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in support of WGU’s work during the COVID-19 pandemic to assist public colleges and universities that serve a broader population of low-income students and students of color.

“The support provided by this professional development program will enable an additional 300 CUNY faculty and instructional staff to further improve the online- and hybrid-learning experiences of our students throughout the University,” said CUNY Executive Vice Chancellor and University Provost José Luis Cruz. “While many CUNY faculty had taught online prior to the Spring 2020 semester, this four-part webinar series, thanks to the generosity of our partners at Western Governors University and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, will help them further develop their online teaching strategies, as remote learning continues to play a transformative role across the higher education landscape.”

Led by WGU Academic Engagement Director Deb Eldridge, CUNY Hostos Community College Professor Ernest Ialongo, and CUNY Associate Dean for Undergraduate Studies G. Michael Guy, the web series provides concrete techniques and methods on topics that include best practices for student success online, pedagogical principles specific to online courses, effective discussion strategies and student engagement in general, and how to effectively guide student research online. It is entirely voluntary and offers a stipend upon the successful completion to those who participate. 

WGU is the nation’s first online, competency-based university and today is the largest, with more than 123,000 students and 190,000 graduates. The nonprofit university has more than 20 years of experience in research and development in online course design and delivery, assessment design and proctoring, and student mentoring and support. 

“It has always been the mission of CUNY and WGU to prioritize the positive experience and outcome of students,” said WGU Regional Vice President Rebecca Watts. “With the grant funding, we were able to combine forces to focus on student success and bolster faculty as they continue to broaden their individual approaches to engage students online.

“We are grateful to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation for providing the funding to address the intense pressures students and faculty are facing during this time of intense change.”

About CUNY 

The City University of New York is the nation’s largest urban public university, a transformative engine of social mobility that is a critical component of the lifeblood of New York City. Founded in 1847 as the nation’s first free public institution of higher education, CUNY today has seven community colleges, 11 senior colleges and seven graduate or professional institutions spread across New York City’s five boroughs, serving 500,000 students of all ages and awarding 55,000 degrees each year. CUNY’s mix of quality and affordability propels almost six times as many low-income students into the middle class and beyond as all the Ivy League colleges combined. More than 80 percent of the University’s graduates stay in New York, contributing to all aspects of the city’s economic, civic and cultural life and diversifying the city’s workforce in every sector. CUNY’s graduates and faculty have received many prestigious honors, including 13 Nobel Prizes and 26 MacArthur “Genius” Grants. The University’s historic mission continues to this day: provide a first-rate public education to all students, regardless of means or background.

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