Named one of the Best HBCU’s in the country by BestColleges.com, Fayetteville State University (FSU) is a public, historically black university in Fayetteville, North Carolina and part of the University of North Carolina System. With nearly 350 faculty, FSU serves more than 6,700 students.
In addition to 33 bachelor’s and 18 master’s degrees, Fayetteville offers 12 undergraduate and 2 graduate online degree programs. Blending quality, accessibility, and flexibility to meet the needs of its large nontraditional student population, FSU’s online programs have integrated Harmonize, a suite of discussion and collaboration tools, with Canvas to power better engagement for the nearly 70% of students taking online courses.
Fayetteville State University’s mission is to provide quality education to its students through a liberal arts foundation and specialized professional training — especially important for its sizable adult learner population.
With half of its students over the age of 24 and more than 80% commuting, FSU serves a large population of military veterans as well as working students juggling the challenges of full-time jobs and family responsibilities. To better support its nontraditional students, the University sought to deliver an online experience that could engage students more deeply in their learning, while providing flexibility, expanded access, and the same high-quality learning opportunities its on-campus programs provide.
To better connect its distance learners and foster a better sense of classroom community for these students, Fayetteville State looked to:
FSU is focused on building stronger student engagement in its online programs. To do that, the University began exploring the tools and resources that would help instructors make their courses more engaging, while saving time and without burdening them with more work.
In addition to emerging technologies, FSU implemented Quality Matters (QM) standards. Quality Matters is a non-profit quality assurance organization helping institutions deliver high-quality online offerings using best-practice rubric standards. FSU’s Office of Faculty Development also began offering a variety of online course design, delivery, and student engagement training -- including ongoing workshops focused on online and hybrid teaching pedagogy, accessibility, and improving communication with students.
Coupled with this professional development, instructors in more than 20 online courses started using Harmonize to facilitate more interaction and collaboration. Harmonize is used across multiple disciplines, including science and nursing, performance & fine arts, social work, criminal justice, and FSU’s nationally ranked online MBA program.
Harmonize has allowed instructors to increase student participation in their online course discussions using multiple milestone due dates, improve the quality of student contributions using discussion rubrics, and more easily evaluate the quality of student work using auto-grading and plagiarism integration capabilities.
For FSU students, the key to a better online learning experience centered on access and connection. Students wanted to interact and engage in their courses in ways that felt modern and familiar to how they already communicate online. To do that, the University leveraged the robust discussion and rich multimedia capabilities of Harmonize to better connect students and get them excited about their learning.
From the ability to easily create & add videos and audio snippets to discussion posts to annotating other’s videos and communicating directly with peers, Harmonize made it easier for students to engage in online discussions and collaborate with classmates. Plus, its familiar looking interface and modern discussion board layout helped reduce the technology barriers that often prevent distance learners from fully participating.
In addition, Harmonize made it easier for instructors to break students into groups to discuss specific topics, as well as to support student facilitation so that students could take the lead on guiding conversations with their peers. Facilitating student-student collaboration this way has given students more opportunities to share their work with one another, both giving and receiving richer feedback.
In addition to enabling instructors and creating a better pathway for students to engage, FSU looked for a solution to seamlessly integrate with existing course technologies, including its LMS, Canvas, and plagiarism detection tool, Turnitin.
Unlike previous solutions the institution used, Harmonize integrated easily and fully with both Canvas and Turnitin. With Single Sign-On as well as integrated auto-grading and plagiarism detection, instructors could now use a discussion & collaboration tool purposefully designed to increase engagement in their courses, while saving time and eliminating the many manual tasks often associated with using disparate systems. Simple setup, less clicks, and a more cohesive experience with course technologies for both students and instructors have helped increase adoption across disciplines and drive student satisfaction ratings
Our faculty are shifting away from traditional online discussions toward something that better supports today’s modern student. With Harmonize, we can engage our students in more meaningful discussions and better connect them to campus — that’s critical for our large adult learner and commuter student population.”
Without the built-in social interaction of traditional classroom learning, online learners — particularly adult learners and nontraditional students who may never step foot on campus — can feel disconnected both from their learning and the broader campus community. To curb the sense of isolation that online learning can create, instructors used Harmonize to create more opportunities for students to interact with their peers.
In a survey of students using Harmonize in their courses, 81% said Harmonize is easy to use, especially when it comes to communication with peers. Students also indicated that using Harmonize increased their participation in the course.
“Harmonize makes my courses more interesting and makes me more eager to actually do the discussion.”
“Harmonize is simple, and you can easily click on someone’s assignment to read and give feedback.”
“It’s fun to use and helps create more interaction between my peers and instructors.”
Similarly, in a survey of faculty using Harmonize in their courses, instructors indicated feeling better equipped to increase engagement in their courses. Built-in communication capabilities, like Q&A, chat, and discussions, made it easier to interact with students. Plus, the full integration with Turnitin and Canvas eliminated manual tasks and saved instructors time so they could focus their energy on instruction rather than course administration.
By creating more opportunities to interact in their online courses and supporting an inclusive approach to different learning styles, instructors were able to increase participation and engagement, which helped foster a stronger sense of community for students.
Harmonize gave our faculty all the extra things that they couldn't do with previous tools and that made all the difference for student engagement. Better integrations, easier grading, rich multimedia and video discussions got both our instructor and students more engaged across the board.”
- Dr. Claudette Fuller, Instructional Designer, Office of Faculty Development