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Xavier University of Louisiana

Advancing Faculty Expertise Through Instructional Continuity

  • 6 Min Read

Xavier University of Louisiana overcame faculty unfamiliarity with D2L Brightspace tools during the COVID-19 pandemic by developing #LearnEverywhereXULA (LEX) and #LEX Advanced (LEX Advanced) through the Center for Advancement of Teaching and Faculty Development. Leveraging Brightspace, these initiatives provided training and resources for instructors, ensuring proficiency beyond the pandemic and enhancing face-to-face courses. Xavier University is a recipient of the 2024 D2L Excellence Awards for its efforts in comprehensive faculty training without increasing staff or budget, offering a scalable model for other universities.


Xavier University of Louisiana



  • Brightspace Core
  • Daylight Templates
  • Accessibility Checker
  • Respondus LockDown Browser
  • VoiceThread
  • Release Conditions
  • Intelligent Agents
  • Awards
  • Quizzes


Janice Florent, technology coordinator & Brightspace trainer, Center for the Advancement of Teaching and Faculty Development


  • 96% completion rate of LEX courses, enhancing Brightspace proficiency
  • 93% of post-LEX courses aligned with quality matters standards, showcasing effective remote teaching practices
  • 94% of learners rated workshop quality as good or outstanding, indicating high participant satisfaction
  • 91% of users expressed intent to apply learnings in teaching or professional life, demonstrating practical value
  • Badging and certification demonstrate sustainability, enabling faculty to become advanced Brightspace users within existing resources


Preparing for Instructional Continuity

Like many other higher education institutions, Xavier University shifted to emergency remote teaching in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Given that Xavier University had only adopted Brightspace as its learning management system in 2017, many of its faculty were still unfamiliar with the variety of tools available within the system. Furthermore, since it wasn’t required until the pandemic, some of their faculty had never used Brightspace at all.

Xavier University’s Center for the Advancement of Teaching and Faculty Development (CAT+FD), despite limited staff and budget, was better prepared than one might suspect, thanks in large part to the foresight of one staff member.

For years, Janice Florent, technology coordinator, had advocated and offered support for “instructional continuity” using the university’s learning management system. This approach was developed in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, with an eye not only toward natural disasters but also for all manner of outages and interruptions.

In the spring of 2020, CAT+FD faced the challenge of training over 200 faculty members to design effective remote classes amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Our faculty had a wide range of expertise, from superusers to those who’d rarely clicked a mouse. We held office hours around the clock and addressed similar questions over and over. We knew there had to be a more effective and efficient system for training instructors,” shared Florent.


Pandemic Phase 1 Response: #KeepTeachingXULA

Prior to the pandemic, approximately 5% of Xavier’s courses were offered online. A team of five staff members, CAT+FD was tasked with quickly offering training and resources to get faculty ready to move their courses online.

To meet these challenges, workshops, specialized training sessions for departments in their spaces, drop-ins, and one-to-one consultations were offered. In addition to the resource and support materials that were previously available for faculty, a wiki resource called #KeepTeachingXULA was developed, including Brightspace support.

Pandemic Phase 2 Response: #LearnEverywhereXULA

With the return to campus in the fall of 2020, a significant number of online courses are offered for those who were not ready to be back on campus.

By making full use of Brightspace’s Daylight Templates, CAT+FD designed LEX, a fully online, self-paced course created to demonstrate and model the pedagogical practices and standards that facilitate effective remote instruction. To support instructors teaching in these formats, LEX also highlighting the various options available through Brightspace.

CAT+FD developed eight modules based on the quality matters general standards, with each module tailored to emphasize the tools available in Brightspace. By the end of the course, they had modeled every tool within Brightspace, allowing faculty to see the effective use of the tool from a student perspective.

As faculty, we rarely get a chance to see examples of online courses and the full breadth of tools available to us. Following my training, I have been able to create online course pages that enliven and empower students’ educational journeys rather than merely echoing what’s in the classroom. By crafting meaningful assessments following each module, we get to experience the course as students and see the benefits of diverse course activities.

assistant professor, Department of History, Xavier University of Louisiana

Xavier’s Sustained Response: #LEX Advanced

In the quest to deepen faculty proficiency with Brightspace, CAT+FD introduced LEX Advanced, building upon the foundational LEX course. This ongoing initiative explores advanced design and automation features within Brightspace, empowering faculty to enhance instructor presence and streamline workflows.

The LEX Advanced courses were lifesaving during the COVID-19 lockdown, providing a solid foundation for less technically savvy faculty in Brightspace skills. Delving deeper into Brightspace’s capabilities not only enhanced my technical skills but also enriched my pedagogical approach, allowing me to create more user-friendly, accessible and efficient courses.

associate professor, Department of Biology, Xavier University of Louisiana

Recognizing the need for sustainable training methods amid limited resources, CAT+FD integrated LEX Advanced modules within the existing LEX course. Each advanced topic, initially presented as a workshop, is recorded and transformed into a self-paced module. This approach not only eliminates the need for repeated workshop offerings but also ensures accessibility to training materials for all faculty, including new hires, in times of disruption.

LEX Advanced covers a range of topics, including designing courses to facilitate learning, enhancing engagement through collaborative learning activities and optimizing assessment strategies. With workshops and modules addressing diverse needs, such as video lectures, accessibility features and integrations like Respondus LockDown Browser and VoiceThread, faculty gain comprehensive insights into leveraging Brightspace effectively. 

To incentivize participation, faculty earn digital badges upon completion of each workshop or corresponding module, culminating in a LEX Advanced certificate after acquiring four badges. The certification system, designed for scalability, offers progressive levels, encouraging ongoing professional development. Leveraging Brightspace functionalities like release conditions and Intelligent Agents, CAT+FD automates badge issuance and course communications, minimizing staff workload.

The certification process has allowed me to progress at my own pace, integrating new learnings into my courses as I advanced. The opportunity to include these certifications in my faculty update is an invaluable benefit, providing tangible evidence of my commitment to professional development and excellence in online teaching for my application for promotion to full professor.

associate professor, Department of Biology, Xavier University


#LEX Impact

LEX courses enhanced CAT+FD’s efficiency, enabling a small staff with a limited budget to fulfill a significant institutional imperative and provide comprehensive support to the entire faculty.

Through LEX, 96% of Xavier University faculty across all academic departments who completed the course not only acquired knowledge about effective remote teaching but also gained practical experience in utilizing all available Brightspace tools.

“There was a notable increase in Brightspace tool usage. Prior to LEX training, few faculty utilized the Quizzes tool, whereas now, many utilize its advanced features, even in face-to-face courses,” shared Florent.

By leveraging Brightspace tools in course design, 93% of courses developed for remote teaching showcased faculty efforts to create effective online classes, aligning with their LEX training and meeting quality matters standards.

Results from a post-completion survey revealed that 93% of respondents expressed a likelihood to recommend LEX to a colleague, indicating a high level of satisfaction and endorsement for the training program.

#LEX Advanced Impact

Through the implementation of the LEX Advanced certification, a significant number of faculty opted to explore the tools available to them in Brightspace, particularly those utilized in the creation of LEX but not explicitly taught.

Completing the LEX Advanced certification has been instrumental in transforming how I design and implement my courses on Brightspace. The knowledge gained about tools such as Release Conditions and Intelligent Agents has made my courses more accessible, aesthetically pleasing and engaging for my students.

lecturer, Department of Languages, Xavier University

By offering two workshops each semester and developing corresponding modules in the course—each focusing on different pedagogical methods and the Brightspace tool best suited for it—CAT+FD managed to cater to the needs of faculty across the university.

Upon completion of a workshop or module, participants received a badge within Brightspace. To date, 205 LEX Advanced badges have been awarded. Among these faculty, 22 received the first LEX Advanced Certificate after completing four workshops and/or modules. Seven attained Level 2 certification by completing eight workshops and/or modules, and four achieved Level 3 certification by completing 12 workshops and/or modules. Notably, one faculty member reached Level 4 certification, the highest level attained thus far, by completing 16 workshops and/or modules. Consequently, institutional expertise has been cultivated, and colleagues actively share newfound knowledge within their departments.

CAT+FD consistently evaluates all workshops and events, with LEX Advanced consistently receiving positive evaluations. Out of the 80 responses received since the workshops began, 94% rated the quality as good or outstanding and 91% expressed being somewhat or extremely likely to apply the information presented in their teaching and/or professional lives.

“As the only historically Black and Catholic university in the United States, Xavier University has a strong mission to develop its students into leaders for a more just and humane society,” concludes Florent. “The LEX courses paid special attention to include a ‘Xavier Touch,’ our faculty’s mission-driven commitment to support every student. These initiatives not only equipped instructors to navigate disruptions but also sustainably advanced continuous improvement in online learning, empowering students on their educational journeys.”

Two colleagues sitting at desk in front of a laptop
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