Targeting academic excellence
Founded in 1925, Xavier University of Louisiana (XULA) is a Roman Catholic university in New Orleans, Louisiana. XULA is recognized as one of the nation’s top historically Black colleges and universities. With a 93% placement rate, XULA remains Louisiana’s top institution for graduates successfully entering the job market. XULA offers a wide range of programs in medicine, science, and the humanities, and has maintained its high-ranking status in sending African American graduates on to successfully complete Med School. Xavier also remains ranked among the top ten in sending African American graduates to medical school.
Dr. Elizabeth Yost Hammer, Director at the Center for the Advancement of Teaching and Faculty Development at XULA, explains, “Our mission is to prepare our students for positions of leadership in creating a more just and humane society. We strive for student attainment and success in everything we do, and in recent years, digital tools have become an increasingly important part of our approach to teaching.”
For more than a decade, XULA relied on a learning management system (LMS) from Blackboard to provide digital tools for its learners and faculty. However, as the popularity of mobile devices exploded, the university saw an opportunity for a new approach that offered a responsive and user-friendly mobile experience.
“After considering a number of leading LMS vendors, we decided to build our new digital learning capabilities on D2L’s Brightspace platform,” continues Dr. Elizabeth Yost Hammer. “We engaged our students throughout the evaluation process, and their feedback was very clear. With its responsive and user-friendly mobile experience, the Brightspace platform stood head and shoulders above the rest.”
For example, one junior biology pre-med major wrote: “I actually enjoy the Brightspace platform a lot better. I feel like it’s just more efficient; it’s easier to navigate, and I also like that they have the helpful videos to find where everything is at.” Similarly, a sophomore public health major wrote, “I like the Brightspace platform… it’s easier to work; everything is right there at your fingertips. You can see everything, and it looks really good—I like the design of it.”
Tackling an unprecedented crisis
When the COVID-19 crisis hit Louisiana in early 2020, XULA realized that the Brightspace platform would need to play a critical role in enabling students to continue their education despite the restrictions imposed by the pandemic.
Dr. Jason Todd, Associate Director at the Center for the Advancement of Teaching and Faculty Development at XULA, comments, “Some of our faculty had been using the Brightspace platform to share class materials and create quizzes for their students—but many of them didn’t have firsthand experience in building entire courses on the platform. We knew we had to act fast to equip our people with the necessary skills.”