Could not download file: This paper is available to authorised users only.


P.N. Waldron-Moore, R.V. Akbar

Xavier University of Louisiana (UNITED STATES)
Following the devastation of Hurricane Katrina on New Orleans and her negative impact on institutions of higher learning in the city, faculty at Xavier University were moved to turn their attention to new ways of continuing the university’s mission. That mission is to promote a just and humane world and prepare students for leadership in the global community. Since our institution was under about six feet of water and many of our classrooms were rendered inoperable and because our students were scattered far and wide, we explored the potential for distance teaching with the technological resources we had. Two factors made our options viable. First, as a mostly undergraduate university (but with an important graduate component), answerable to a bright and dedicated student body, we recognized that we had to do something to meet the challenge of millennial learners whose technological competence and whose readiness to try new learning technologies inspired us to think creatively. Secondly, we had the technological expertise and the faculty commitment necessary to interface new pedagogies with technological access. Via the engagement of methodologies such as oral histories and service learning, innovative program areas (e.g. in women’s and environmental studies), and new portals for communication (e.g. Blackboard and Passport), we successfully transformed our institution from water-logged classrooms into virtual, engaged, learning environments. As a result, we found that having students share reflections/critiques on Blackboard and engage in other virtual classroom activities encouraged them to learn at their own pace while interacting with each other one-on-one, understanding each other’s perspectives more deeply, recognizing where their lives and experiences intersect and, ultimately, developing a better sense of self and a greater tolerance of others. That experience enriched both faculty and student in immeasurable ways and taught us all a valuable lesson about commitment and tolerance.