The College of Arts and Sciences is launching SHUsquare, an on-line platform in support of the curriculum goals of the University’s signature First-Year Seminar program. “It is our virtual public square,” said Seamus Carey, dean of the College of Arts & Sciences. “It is a place where students and faculty can share ideas, resources and their work across disciplines and where our students will have a place to find their own creative and intellectual voices.”
The First-Year Seminar, which is required of all first-year students at the University, is a foundational course in writing, oral communication and academic research. The on-line platform, which is currently being piloted by 12 First-Year Seminar classes, is designed to facilitate interdisciplinary connectivity and to develop important fluencies in writing and communication.
English Instructor Marie Hulme was tapped by Dean Carey to develop and implement the project. She points to its potential to foster the habits necessary for students’ success as global citizens in the 21st century. “Tools that enable a rich interaction between different communities, such as interdisciplinary discussions across seminars, are essential to cultivate curiosity, reflection and collaboration,” she said. “These tools are important to the lives and future careers of our students. SHUsquare provides our First-Year Seminar students with a place to develop digital writing skills through their contributions to blogs, online discussions and wikis. The technology complements their innate need to have a rhetorical purpose and an audience for their writing.”
Beyond that, Hulme added, SHUsquare is a vehicle for facilitating creativity and media literacy by allowing students to incorporate audio and video elements into their written and oral work. “SHUsquare recognizes the importance of multimodal approaches to writing to create sophisticated, engaging messages,” she said.
“SHUsquare is developing informational fluencies important to academic rigor and integrity,” Carey noted. “Professors are guiding students through the ethical and effective use of a variety of media and helping them develop essential skills of discernment with regard to online resources used in their work on the site.”
Gary Rose, chair of the University’s Government & Politics Department and of the First-Year Seminar selection committee, is excited about the interdisciplinary nature of the site’s hubs, or shared discussion forums, that allow for the cross-pollination of ideas among seminars. In addition, he values the opportunity for students to engage their classmates, and even faculty, outside the classroom and to keep conversations going long after class ends.
“We want to have a constant flow of intellectual activity on the site. We want to impress upon our students that learning takes place whether class is in session or not, and that is something I know that SHUsquare is going to accomplish – another reason I’m so excited about it,” he said. You can view an interview with Rose about the project at http://youtu.be/jV4pfiHJgw4.
Carey’s vision for the initiative is to provide students with a place where their ideas, their work and their voices matter. “SHUsquare provides a platform for intellectual discourse that will enliven our teaching and learning and provide students with the opportunity to find and express their own unique voices,” he said. He points to SHUsquare’s support of the overarching goals of a liberal arts education and those of Sacred Heart University, in particular. “Our mission here at Sacred Heart is to prepare thoughtful and engaged learners who will become leaders in an increasingly interconnected world. SHUsquare is a powerful extension of that mission.” View Dean Carey’s SHUsquare welcome video at http://youtu.be/IJ6Aby5I6Rs.