Navigating the Fall Term

A Message from the Vice Provost and Dean of Undergraduate Education
jennifer pic

September 2020

Dear UCR Community, 

We begin this fall term amidst social, economic, and health crises of unprecedented scope and impact. I know these tremendous challenges are top of mind for all of us as fall classes approach. I find encouragement in the hard work of our students, staff, and faculty in preparation for this historic term. I also know anxiety remains high. However, the campus community has been resilient. We can continue the same resiliency for instruction throughout the academic year by thinking about three principles: academic excellence, social connection, and mental health.

Undergraduate Education has been working hard to improve support for the academic mission of the university. Our students expect excellent instruction from the preeminent faculty of this campus, and our faculty and instructors want to provide the same quality education that has propelled UCR’s success. XCITE’s new self-paced “The Art and Craft of Remote Teaching” is an outstanding resource for achieving that goal for faculty, instructors, or staff who want to know more about communicating and teaching in a remote environment. Please look at the resources available from XCITE below for more information.

An undergraduate education is enlivened by the connections that students make in the classroom. Conversations with students and faculty about their spring experiences reinforced the critical importance of enhanced academic support services. We have acquired new tools that will enhance that classroom experience. Among them,  YuJa a new end-to-end video solution that integrates directly into iLearn, our learning management system, and is available to all faculty for the fall.  YuJa allows for greater student engagement with faculty, discussion rooms, and social connection among students. Undergraduate Education is also partnering with Mentor Collective to support connecting more incoming freshmen with peer mentors to help improve their college experience. Click this link to read top challenges for students during the spring term due to COVID.

Below you will find more on these topics, so I wish to end by briefly addressing mental health. The last six months have been a time of trauma for many of us, and our students often look to us for support. We are best able to support them when we also take care of ourselves, so I encourage you all to prioritize keeping yourself healthy. 

Fall will undoubtedly bring new surprises. We will have to continue to come together and share our insights, experiences, and wisdom to find opportunities amidst the challenges. I am confident that if we do so, we will find that whatever the challenge, we’ve got this.

Jennifer Brown, Ph.D.
Vice Provost and Dean of Undergraduate Education

Academic Excellence
The Art and Craft of Remote Teaching


XCITE and ITS have partnered to help ensure faculty and students have the tools to continue their high standards for academic rigor and integrity.  We will continue to develop new webinars and share best practices to support faculty and students during this time of remote teaching. Some of these new resources include: 

A limited pilot is underway to begin the 24-month transition to UCR’s new learning management system.  eLearn (Canvas) will replace iLearn (Blackboard).  If you are interested in being an early adopter of Canvas, please visit for more information.
Check back regularly at for the latest information. To request support, visit or email

Visit Teaching Resources

Creating Connections in the Classroom
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Connecting with students and inspiring their curiosity is part of great teaching, but it is also challenging during remote teaching and learning. Here are some ways to advance engagement and communication with students in order to build deeper connections. Some of these resources are available starting in the fall term.

YuJa,  UCR’s new video solution is available now and is fully integrated into iLearn and Canvas. YuJa allows for a great range of interaction and engagement with students. Faculty and students will have a place to store videos, record lectures, host video conferences, live stream, and more. Students have their own accounts in YuJa, allowing them to create or upload videos for presentations, sharing with study groups, or learning communities. Faculty can embed quizzes into recorded videos. YuJa’s video analytics allow instructors to see how much of a video was viewed by their students.

Poll Everywhere - a dynamic, mobile-first, next-generation polling solution for the campus. This system, while retaining the benefits of traditional classroom clickers, utilizes technology to add in additional polling features and can also be used to engage and stimulate discourse in the remote teaching classroom. Poll Everywhere is designed to gauge student understanding of the material and to amplify student learning about difficult concepts in your course.

Slack  is a communication platform that allows for enhanced communication and collaboration, both inside and outside the remote classroom. Courses can add a Slack workgroup, which will allow instructors and students to engage in meaningful conversations, share course material, host office hours, participate in study groups, and communicate outside of class time synchronously and asynchronously. Slack can organize different and unique communication streams through channels to create better clarity and focus. It is a great way to keep students engaged regardless of whether they are on a desktop or mobile device.  Limited Pilot by Invitation in Fall 2020.  Anticipated wider release in Winter 2021.

Connecting Students with Campus
Freshman Collection


The UCR Freshman Collective connects incoming freshmen with a volunteer Peer Mentor to create a sense of community and offer guidance as students acclimate to life in college.  Peers connect via text messaging and without the need to download an app. Utilizing the Mentor Collective platform, volunteers receive mentor training, matching support, notes and resource referrals, conversation starters, conversation nudges, and robust analytics to help keep peer to peer connections strong throughout the academic year. The UCR Freshman Collective will leverage existing peer mentoring networks with minimal effort. For more information, please contact Tom Dickson at



The new website connects students with the answers they need to navigate our remote campus. In collaboration with the registrar, housing, student health, XCITE, financial aid, ITS, and many others, addresses many 'out-of-the-classroom' questions students may have. You can also find ScottyBot, UCR's new student chatbot, waiting to help answer questions and guide students to vital resources at any time of day. During the weekday, live chat support also helps students. We hope you share this resource with students.

ARC Welcome Week Workshops

The Academic Resource Center (ARC) hosts a series of workshops during welcome week that students can register  for addressing common concerns for freshmen and transfer students such as what to do after transferring, how to use zoom, and building relationships with faculty.  For more information on available services for students, please visit Introducing students to the ARC early helps them build connection with campus resources that help students persist and provides a connection with academic support.  For more information, please contact Rena Burton at

Keep Learning

UCR's online learning support site for students, Keep Learning contains remote learning tips, goal setting, and time management resources, online assignment resources, online proctoring information, instructional technology tutorials, resources on free software, loaner laptops, and Wi-Fi hotspots to help students keep connected to their academic experience.

Learn More on Social Connection 

Mental Health & Well-Being


As non-clinical and non-mental health professionals, we can still support other students, faculty, and staff. Be an active listener and a referral source.  Validate what they are feeling, let them know you appreciate their courage to share this information, and that help is available. Please remember to refer students to the appropriate resources.

  • Counseling and Psychological Services
  • Case Management
  • CARE Program
  • Student Health Services
  • The Well
  • Basic Needs
  • Student Recreation Center

Did you know?

Undergraduate Education has created an informal campaign geared towards first time incoming freshmen and transfer students who may not be as familiar with UCR. These resources can also serve our returning students as all navigate the academic year primarily through remote instruction. Our campaign shares a quick message to students. You may have many thoughts going into the fall term but we have thought about the things you need to be successful. Informally, “we’ve got this.” We have asked students about this approach and most share they would enjoy something that stands out from standard flyers. Therefore, our social media campaign will share these messages designed around mental health, social connection, and academic rigor.


We've got academic excellence.

We've got social connection.

We've got mental health & well-being.

We've got this.

Watch this short video.


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