The United States Sports Academy gathered 27 of its residential and non-residential faculty members for training on Canvas, the university’s new learning management system, and other improvements to its sports education programs for the 2013-14 academic year.

The Academy, the only freestanding university of sport education since its inception in 1972 and the largest graduate school of sport education in the world, plans to launch Canvas Sept. 3.

The Academy's faculty met at the Daphne, Ala., campus on Aug. 9 to begin preparation for the new academic year.

Faculty were also introduced in-depth to ProctorU, a new reliable and a convenient alternative testing solution that allows students to take their tests in the comfort of their own homes and at their own computers while a human proctor monitors them via the web.

In addition, faculty members reviewed the Academy’s new partnerships with Alabama Southern Community College, which also uses Canvas, and StraighterLine. Both institutions give new college students two unique ways to transfer into the Academy’s bachelor’s programs faster and at a lower cost.

Dr. T.J. Rosandich, the Academy’s vice president and COO, also provided an overview of the data that’s collected for measuring institutional effectiveness and judging of outcomes learned by Academy students as they go through the program. The data are critical to the Fifth-Year Report required for accreditation by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS).

During his welcome speech to kick off the day-long training Friday, Aug. 9, Academy President and CEO Dr. Thomas P. Rosandich also covered a number of issues currently impacting higher education, such as state authorization, ebooks, financial aid and student debt, tuition hikes, MOOCs and President Barack Obama’s Affordable Health Care Act.

Dr. Rosandich also congratulated the current faculty for their hard work and dedication to the Academy’s students. He emphasized how critical both the residential faculty chairs and distance learning faculty are to the school’s retention of students.

“There are a lot of challenges in higher education and our faculty is critical to helping us meet them,” he said. “Our current group of faculty members are certainly the best we have ever had. I’m thankful to them for their outstanding performances.”

The Academy's recent faculty training included several past academic department chairs and deans. In this photo are (left to right): Dr. Ric Esposito, Dr. Donn Renwick, Dr. Craig Bogar, Dr. Jordan Moon, Dr. Thomas P. Rosandich, Dr. Bryan Wallace, Dr. Lawrence Bestmann, Dr. Brett Simmermacher, Dr. Mike Spino, and Dr. Tedd Phillips.

One challenge the Academy faced this year was upgrading its online education to Canvas. Begun in 2008, the Utah-based company, boasts 300-plus colleges, universities and school districts as users. Some benefits Academy students will notice:

• Students can access their sports courses on any computer device, including smartphones or tablets through Mobile Apps. Through the Apps, students can view grades, check course progress, participate in discussions and post and receive text, audio or video messages.
• Students can choose how to receive notifications or messages from faculty, other students and the school, such as through texts, Facebook, Twitter or emails.
• Canvas’ SpeedGrader allows students to receive better and quicker feedback on assignments from faculty because there are more tools and the system is integrated with the rubrics. All this is done without downloading or uploading files.
• Students will never have to worry about Canvas shutting down Academy courses for maintenance or upgrades because the company hosts the system.
• Canvas employs a modern, intuitive design that is easy to navigate and use for the Academy’s students, faculty and course developers.

Faculty members, such as Edward Sakiewicz, who has more than 25 years experience in the business of sport, were impressed with Canvas after an afternoon of training.

“Canvas is critical to helping the Academy stay ahead in education,” he said. “It gives us a lot more ability to serve our students and the ability to serve them almost in real time.”

Jordan Moon, a former chair of sports exercise science who now serves on the distance learning faculty, also praised the Canvas platform.

“This is definitely better and students will notice a big difference,” he said.