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Virtual Classroom Tips from SHIFT

SHIFT launched onto the UT Austin campus in fall 2019 with a goal: to make student wellness and mindfulness around students’ alcohol and other drug use a priority for the entire campus community—students, staff, alumni, administrators, and faculty. The initiative’s first pilot brought SHIFT into Signature Courses. Forty-three faculty members, dedicated to their students’ wellbeing and development, integrated SHIFT’s 40 Assets for the 40 Acres into their courses with tremendous results:

  • 90% of students reported that their Signature Course encouraged them to seek support from UT Austin faculty or staff
  • 90% of students reported that their Signature Course instructor made them excited about learning
  • 89% of students reported that their Signature Course made them feel part of a caring university community

The 40 Assets for the 40 Acres are evidence-based factors that protect students from the risks associated with substance use. Though a few Assets call for discussion around alcohol and drugs, most Assets focus on building the connections, skills, attitudes, and mindsets that reduce misuse and its negative consequences. Examples include:

  • Trusting relationships with faculty members and teaching assistants
  • Development of interpersonal skills to navigate difficult topics and conversations
  • Deep dives into assignments that allows the student to showcase what they have learned through creative or artistic expression
  • Emphasis from the instructor for students to practice self-compassion and build self-efficacy

With the world’s and campus’ responses to the COVID-19 pandemic, SHIFT recognizes that Signature Course faculty face the challenge of teaching and caring for students at perhaps the most challenging time in their students’ lives. Academics, housing, jobs, daycare, and social connections are uprooted. To help instructors envision what student wellness could look like in their online courses, SHIFT offers tips and recommendations to bring the 40 Assets into the virtual classroom. These suggestions may fit neatly with your current practices, spark creativity, or reaffirm your current instruction and pedagogy.

If you have any questions about the 40 Assets or the SHIFT initiative, please contact Jeffrey Mayo, Assistant Director of the First-Year Experience Office and SHIFT Academic Pilots Lead. SHIFT is currently recruiting for fall 2020 Signature Course faculty and is available for consultations to discuss the 40 Assets in online and in-person learning environments. Follow SHIFT on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter .