Civic Ethos: Philosophy of Civic Engagement

March 11, 2021

This story is part of a series entitled “Teaching in the Time of Covid.” The series explores how the UTSA Honors College transformed its experiential curriculum into a virtual curriculum and how the pandemic has shaped students’ experiences within the virtual classroom. The curriculum emphasizes interdisciplinary work in Service Learning, Professional Development, Intellectual Achievement and Research, Cultural Exploration, Engaged Living, and Skill Development. In this article, we highlight an interdisciplinary course that guides students in developing their personal philosophy of civic engagement. We hope you enjoy the series! – Jill Fleuriet, Acting Dean, UTSA Honors College

Civic Ethos is a required Honors College course that introduces students to different approaches, philosophies, and ethics of civic engagement and helps them identify their own personal commitments to civic engagement. Traditionally, this one student credit hour course was taught in a face-to-face environment, but with COVID-19, the course went on-line and asynchronous (no set meeting time).

The two individuals in charge of the re-design were Erik Oviedo and myself. Our combined experience helped us creatively transform the course. Oviedo, Terry Scholars director and an Honors College counselor, brought a high level of content expertise from his experience teaching the course the previous year. When asked how he was able to adjust his existing face-to-face course to make it work on-line, Mr. Oviedo said, “Trying to make sure there is a greater availability for the students is key so they can reach out and ask questions. Equally important: making sure you upload plenty of videos to explain certain topics!” I brought best practices in digital learning to the table. Earlier in the summer, I taught an on-line asynchronous course (Writing for the Screen) and completed Quality Matters and UTSA Academic Innovation training in digital learning and course design. We designed the course so it would be easy to navigate, from a student’s perspective and included a navigation video and a week-by-week course menu to facilitate this. To add a personal touch, Oviedo and I (and our Reader/Graders) all provided videos introducing ourselves to the students.

As a final project in the course, students applied the knowledge they have gained by creating a proposal and a poster for a future service project, based on their own passions and interests. In the past, students presented their posters and proposals in-person for a grade. In our class, this past semester, instead of presenting in person, students presented virtually, in a video, which they posted to the blackboard site.

Our hope is that students will take the service project ideas they created in this course, and implement them out in the real world, after the class ended.