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US: Saint Leo University offers free webinars for students and faculty

Pilot program expected to expand this fall due to overwhelming popularity 

How do you understand journal articles? What’s the best way to use Turnitin and other online resources? Can you follow the American Psychological Association (APA) style guide to cite sources in a research paper?

Students who know the correct answers to questions like these will enjoy their classes more and earn higher grades. That’s why Saint Leo University, one of the top universities in Florida, offers the free eCOACH Online Learning webinar series.

According to Dr. Shannon Farris, member of the psychology faculty at Saint Leo and creator and presenter for the webinars, this pilot program started last year and currently includes four webinars that are given four times every eight weeks.

To accommodate both traditional students and non-traditional students in various time zones, the webinars are offered during the day and then repeated again in the evenings. Students can ask questions and receive answers during the webinar thanks to the use of a live video feed and the Blackboard Collaborate platform.

“We found the live format helps the students feel connected and cared for by the university,” explains Dr. Farris. “Overall, the webinars uses hands on approach to help students become familiar with supplemental resources that will provide the support they need to be successful from one term to the next.”

These live webinars were originally created for non-traditional, undergraduate students taking general education courses from Saint Leo’s Education Centers. The program was expanded to all 15,000 students during the 2011 Fall Semester and participation quickly grew to include graduate students, faculty members and traditional undergraduate students.

One goal for the program is to provide students with the resources and tips needed to increase their skills in writing, research and presentations so faculty members have more time to teach their content and focus on their student’s learning. This goal appears to be met since, “faculty are attending right along with students and all groups want more frequent webinars,” adds Dr. Farris.

While the webinars are free for all Saint Leo students and faculty, pre-registration is necessary. All webinar participants receive a copy of the PowerPoint slides and all resources used in the presentation. The titles of the webinars that are currently offered include; How to Research Online and Understand Journal Articles, Basic Tools for Writing Papers and PowerPoint/Prezi Presentations, APA Format and Citations and How to Use Turnitin and Other Online Resources. 

Plans are underway to expand the series by providing a full academic year’s worth of programming, and by making special outreach efforts to new students and faculty beginning in the Fall 2012. Unique, student-focused programs such as this one have helped Saint Leo University become known as one of the top universities in Florida.

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