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John Falchi to Lead Quality Matters at the System Office

Dear UNC Digital Learning Community,

I would like to thank Michelle Soler for her commitment and dedication to the Quality Matters (QM) initiative and community over the past several years. Michelle has helped to lay the important ground work for the System’s continued success in adopting QM. Thank you Michelle.

John Falchi, Director of Special Projects, will be taking on this important work going forward as it is moved under the Digital Learning Initiative at the System Office. I have asked John to work closely with the community and help us to increase QM’s sustainability, scale and affordability across our universities. While QM is important now, it will only increase as we grow our online presence in the future.

Please reach out to John if you any suggestions concerning Quality Matters or wish to play an active role in creating its continued success.

Thank you for all your contributions to the success of Quality Matters at your university.

I hope you are having a great summer!


James Garner Ptaszynski, Ph.D.
Vice President, Digital Learning
Division of Academic Affairs
910 Raleigh Road | Chapel Hill, NC 27514

Impact of AI-enabled Fourth Industrial Revolution on Higher Education

Dr. Curtis Charles, Microsoft’s Data Scientist, delivered a vision for the 4th Industrial Revolution (4IR) enabled by Artificial Intelligence (AI) and its implications for Higher Education during the 2019 DLI Symposium. On March 28, 2019, Times Higher Education, in collaboration with Microsoft, released survey results associated with university leaders’ and technology experts’ predictions on the impact of 4IR on higher education. Their findings are summarized in the chart below. Spoiler alert: The researchers found that “fears of robots lecturing to ever-smaller cohorts of  students do not compute”.

Many knowledge nuggets were offered in this article, but the one that struck me the most was: “Last year, for instance, Darpa, the US government’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, pledged $2 billion to develop next-generation AI systems capable of “contextual reasoning”. In my opinion, the amount of this pledge demonstrates the promise of AI and acknowledges one of the key challenges/opportunities to advancing AI, contextual reasoning. Today, AI-enabled adaptive learning and writing evaluation and assessment systems, for example, play at the lower learning objectives/assessment level (Bloom’s Taxonomy) for mastery. In short, if DARPA is successful, the ability for AI-enabled learning systems to reason within context will create greater efficiency and effectiveness of these systems to guide deeper learning and assessment frameworks.

Thanks to our partners at Microsoft for sharing this report with the UNC digital learning community!



Fall 2018 DLI Working Meeting Outcomes

On October 25th, the UNC System Office hosted a Digital Learning Working Meeting at the Carolina Club in Chapel Hill. Sixteen UNC institutions were present, with more than 60 campus faculty and staff participating, including representatives from each institution’s faculty development center, faculty assembly, and provost offices.

Dr. Joan Lorden, UNC Charlotte Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs, led off with an inspiring presentation on The Association of Chief Academic Officers’ (ACAO) Digital Provosts Program.  This was followed by a presentation by Gates Bryant, Partner at Tyton Partners, on the business case research they are conducting for the System.  Dr. Jim Ptaszynski, Vice President for Digital Learning, facilitated group activities related to the development of new faculty roles, professional development and value propositions to support innovations in online learning.  Wrapping up the day was John Falchi, Director of Special Projects, who facilitated a group activity on brainstorming a framework for a two-day Digital Learning Program planned for March 26 and 27, 2019.

The outcomes of this meeting have led to a deeper understanding of adaptive courseware and the implications for System-wide adoption. The spring 2019 DLI Conference will feature follow-up demonstrations and labs related to adaptive learning systems. In addition, a UNC System Working Group will be established to continue to investigate these issues during the second phase of its DLI planning as part of the group’s charge to explore emerging learning technologies and pedagogy.

Participants at the meeting created an instructional, technological, and support services framework for faculty teaching online that will be used to guide the System-wide digital learning initiative and focus on serving the North Carolina underserved student personas. We are currently fleshing-out the  DRAFT faculty persona framework and will post it to the DLI Blog shortly.

Working in small groups, participants identified many great ideas for the Spring 2019 DLI Conference tracks, demonstrations, labs, and topics, with an emphasis on interactive sessions that highlight emerging learning technology case studies and hands-on (“petting zoo”) experiences. This input will be used by the DLI Conference Committee to design a request for presentation proposals (System-wide and vendor) and associated requirements. 


UNC Charlotte’s Provost, Dr. Joan Lorden to Share Digital Fellows Program Resources at Fall DLI Working Meeting

UNC Charlotte Provost, Dr. Joan Lorden will share her work with 30 provosts across the U.S. to advance the appropriate use of digital learning.   Dr. Lorden recently completed the Digital Fellows Program from the Association of Chief Academic Officers (ACAO), sponsored by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. One goal of the program was to pilot the use of next generation digital courseware and then curate best practices and resources that can be shared with other institutions. In this session, Provost Lorden will share the lessons learned and the resources that the UNC Community can leverage at their institutions. 

Faculty Insights: Scaling Adaptive Courseware

This video offers a brief overview of faculty, consortium, and McGraw-Hill adaptive courseware initiatives. Dr. Karen Vignare of the Personalized Learning Consortium (PLC), which comprises 237 institutions and 43 systems, introduces the PLC’s work on leveraging effective learning technologies. Dr. Tamar Goulet, faculty member at University of Mississippi, discusses adaptive courseware for biology and “adapting to adaptive learning”. Dr. Tim Fleming, Georgia State University, discusses his approach to data-driven and collaborative selection of adaptive courseware; he specifically focuses on strategies for piloting and scaling this technology. Tom Hinkley, MHE’s Director of Solutions Architecture, discusses the company’s mission for designing and developing effective learning technologies that allow instructors to highlight measurable learning outcomes so that “learning takes center stage”.

UNC Wilmington: Virtual Clinical Site Visits

Dr. April Bice of UNC Wilmington discusses increased student access to faculty to conduct site visits using virtual conferencing technology in a Nurse Practitioners Program. This approach, Dr. Bice explains, has reduced faculty travel time by 60 hours, eliminated $2,000 in travel costs, and reduced travel by 5800 miles. As a result, faculty are able to spend more time interacting in with students in their courses and addressing student-specific learning needs. Dr. Bice also discusses how digital games are used to increase student mastery for conducting clinical site documentation.