University College, Long a Leader in Remote Learning, Now Key Advisor as All Courses Moved Online

University College, Long a Leader in Remote Learning, Now Key Advisor as All Courses Moved Online

By Anna Cohen
image of RWU student working remotely on laptop

PROVIDENCE, R.I.    As students and faculty across RWU’s campuses have moved online, many for the first time, University College faculty and staff are drawing on three decades of robust remote, hybrid and in-person teaching and learning methods.

UC’s deep experience and expertise in these areas has meant a smooth transition of programs, and positions its team as key advisors as the broader RWU community goes virtual.

image of Jamie Scurry, University College Vice President
Jamie Scurry

“While we appreciate the magnitude of the transition many colleges are making right now, this is familiar territory for us at UC. We’ve been doing this for 30 years, bringing robust distance learning and hybrid learning opportunities for our students. We're glad to share our expertise in these areas across RWU during this critical time.” University College Vice President Jamie Scurry said.

“We feel very prepared for this moment at UC, however it is a transition for many of our students including many who are working on the front lines of this crisis and we are here for them,” Scurry said. “We are working to ensure that we move with them and support their learning amid so much change in their lives.”

UC’s programs are designed to meet the needs of a diverse, multigenerational student body, with online and hybrid (in-person and remote) courses. Whether through its wide variety of academic offerings, a 20-year military partnership, or the Center for Workforce and Professional Development’s (CWPD) numerous non-credit certificate programs and professional development courses, UC creates options for students to build their own pathway to success. Many programs are fully online.

“I love the integration of technology and teaching,” said Myrta Ventura, Instructional Design Specialist at UC, in Providence.

image of Myrta Ventura, Instructional Design Specialist at RWU's University College
Myrta Ventura

With faculty trained and experienced in remote learning, UC’s adaptation of some 40 hybrid courses to join 60 online courses this spring semester was described by Ventura as a “smooth transition.” Now, UC is leveraging its experience to support remote learning practices for the remainder of the semester, and has built a hearty offering of summer courses for both matriculating and visiting students.  

“There are a whole host of reasons why UC students need the opportunity to learn online rather than face to face.” said Kelly Donnell; previously the Dean of the School of Education for RWU’s Bristol campus, Donnell now serves as UC’s Program Director for Early Childhood Learning.

“When I transitioned to UC, I dove into what it means for learners to have a valuable and engaging experience remotely. There are lots of resources out there that our instructional design team has been really great about supporting us with,” she said.

Remote Learning: The Teaching and the Tech

Before teaching online or hybrid courses, each faculty member completes a certification course in remote learning offered by the Instructional Design team. Donnell completed this course twice, and says it got her to where she is now in her approach to online learning.

“In the course, you have to go through the nitty gritty of the pedagogical and technological approaches to teaching online. You really get a well-rounded approach to integrating content knowledge,” said Ventura. “We’ve been increasing professional development opportunities with a focus on technology skills. As people get more comfortable with that, they will start to get curious about additional skillsets or learning activities they can do with their students to create fully engages opportunities online.”

With the majority of UC faculty members already certified for online education, Ventura was able to focus her recent efforts on assessing and supporting student needs for remote learning. “This is the catalyst we’ve been needing to utilize all the tools and opportunities for holistically addressing the needs of all students through remote learning. All the faculty that I have worked with have thought of providing an equitable education at the core of their approach,” she said.

Ready for Expanded Summer Offerings at RWU

As UC looks to the summer, it will continue its commitment to serving all students through an expanded offering of summer courses. With a variety of summer session schedules starting in May and June to meet the needs of current RWU students and visiting students, RWU is prepared to provide opportunities for continued online learning for the broader community.

“The aim is to be responsive to the times. RWU is certainly a destination for online learning,” said Jeffrey Meriwether, Associate Dean of the School of Humanities, Arts, and Education. “Gena Bianco, the Dean of UC, has been instrumental in this effort. We’ve been able to learn from her experience in how UC runs its summer programming. We’ve done a great job of working together for the benefit of the university.”

Faculty, Students and Staff: Do you have a story of innovative distance learning at RWU? Email us at