UNC System Workshop Strengthens Online and Hybrid Course Design
CHAPEL HILL, NC - Last week, the UNC System launched the first in a series of intensive System-wide workshops, which will provide faculty with information, tools, and experiences to promote successful teaching online. Registration for the second workshop is now open.
The two-week workshop is part of the umbrella Digital Learning Accelerator project, initiated to help UNC System institutions expand options for hybrid teaching or fully online courses. By strengthening online instruction, the UNC System is working to make courses more adaptable to the challenges COVID-19 presents. Funding for the Digital Learning Accelerator comes out of the $44.4 million earmarked to the UNC System through the North Carolina legislature’s allotment of roughly $4 billion in federal CARES Act relief funds.
The UNC System’s Digital Learning Initiative (DLI), working in collaboration with UNC-TV, designed the workshops to be interactive, hands-on, immersive learning experiences. Over the course of seven two-hour modules, participants will engage in structured activities, through which they create usable course assets.
“From the beginning, we have worked intently to develop a program that truly addresses the needs and concerns of faculty and staff from across the System,” explained UNC System Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs and Chief Academic Officer Kimberly van Noort. “Our faculty fellows are playing a central role in the design and delivery of the content. In building the curriculum, we actively sought input from UNC System instructors, the Faculty Assembly, faculty development centers, and students at constituent institutions.”
The resulting content will focus on the essential topics any faculty member will need to get their courses online quickly and effectively. At the same time, faculty and staff with considerable experience teaching online will discover new tools and perspectives that will enhance their virtual classrooms.
The current cohort of participants will be the first of three. DLI will offer the workshop again starting July 20 and again in August. In addition, the workshop materials will be archived and freely accessible to all UNC System faculty and staff.
Dr. Jim Ptaszynski, UNC System vice president for Digital Learning, was expecting a soft launch. Much to his surprise, UNC System faculty and staff have demonstrated a voracious appetite for the content. He points to the enthusiastic response as evidence that faculty and staff are eager to expand their online repertoire.
“Initially, we had set the attendance cap at a modest 100. When we opened up registration on June 26, the workshop was full within an hour. DLI had to raise the cap multiple times in an effort to accommodate all those who wanted in. Currently, more than 600 are participating,” he enthused. “Clearly, UNC System faculty and staff are proactively taking steps to make online instruction even more rigorous and more compelling.”
Every constituent institution is represented in the first cohort, and organizers calculate that the inaugural workshop alone will directly impact 20,000 students across the UNC System. The number of registered participants for the second cohort already exceeds 400.
The constituent institutions are planning to resume in-person instruction in the fall, but the course design workshop and other Digital Learning Accelerator initiatives will ensure that teaching across the UNC System is flexible enough to adapt to the ever-evolving challenges COVID-19 presents. By expanding awareness of available digital teaching technologies and remote learning course design principles, UNC System leadership hopes that these initiatives will have long-term benefits, making University classes more dynamic long after the threat of the pandemic has passed.
UNC System Awards Behavioral Health Initiatives Grant to Nine Institutions
“Study after study shows that supporting student well-being can be the difference between academic success and failure. Building safe and supportive learning environments for our students is more critical than ever in these unsettling times,” said UNC System Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs and Chief Academic Officer Kimberly van Noort. “The programs that these grants support will play an important role creating brighter futures for students across North Carolina and from all walks of life.”
Critical for student success, behavioral health and well-being are also essential to fostering institutional success. Addressing the shifting landscape of behavioral health needs in public higher education is a significant benefit to our University community as a whole.
The 2020 Behavioral Health Initiatives Grant Recipients are:
UNC System Launches Digital Course Enhancement Resources
The course collections are part of an umbrella Digital Learning Accelerator project, initiated to help institutions diversify how content is delivered. By strengthening online teaching practice, the UNC System is working to make courses more adaptable to the challenges COVID-19 presents, expanding options for hybrid teaching or fully online courses. Funding for the Digital Learning Accelerator comes out of the $44.4 million earmarked to the UNC System through the North Carolina legislature’s allotment of roughly $4 billion in federal CARES Act relief funds.
The digital enhancement collections specifically support ten high-demand courses that are common across most UNC System institutions: Introductory Financial Accounting, Anatomy & Physiology 1, General Biology, Calculus 1, Chemistry 1, Chemistry 2, Organic Chemistry 1, Macroeconomics, Microeconomics, and Introduction to Statistics.
Each collection features a range of open access content, from educational texts, videos, slides, software, virtual labs, and other digital materials, which vary depending on the subject matter. Instructors will also find content created to support teaching best practices, including assessment tools, assignments, and strategies for using the digital enhancement resources. Each collection is organized into individual modules so that instructors can choose to adopt portions of the content that best suit their needs.
Ten multi-campus teams of faculty, librarians, and instructional design staff from across the UNC System worked together for over a month to curate content that is focused on student learning objectives and outcomes.
“With more than 70 experts from our institutions working in discipline-specific teams, this project represents one of our largest collaborative efforts in recent memory,” said Dr. Andrew Kelly, senior vice president for Strategy and Policy. “Each collection consolidates decades of accumulated teaching experience and a wide array of perspectives to improve how we serve students at all our institutions—this exemplifies what we can accomplish when we act together as a system.”
These resources have been made available to any faculty member or grad student instructor teaching one of the targeted courses. Availability will continue into the fall and spring semesters. To promote this week’s announcement, the faculty teams have created user guides to each collection, and UNC System leadership has organized a series of webinars to give interested faculty a guided tour through the resources available to them.
“Student-focused and effective yet flexible teaching is our guiding principle. Certainly, our institutions are planning to reopen their campuses in the fall, but COVID-19 presents ever-evolving challenges to instruction. These collections will ensure that the faculty in these high-demand courses remain nimble to student needs,” explained Dr. Kimberly van Noort, senior vice president for Academic Affairs and chief academic officer. “Just as importantly, they will give faculty an expanded repertoire of teaching tools, resources, and best practices that will help make any course more dynamic well into the foreseeable future, long after the threat of the pandemic has subsided.”