Motivation for the DLI

The higher education landscape is experiencing fundamental and disruptive change. Many factors, including the increasing cost of tuition, have made college education inaccessible to large parts of the population.

The  advances in technology and learning research are creating a whole spectrum of alternative modes of blended and personalized online learning, that can complement or substitute the standard ways of teaching college students. MOOCs (massive open online courses), competency-based learning, flipped classrooms, badges, and social learning represent only some of the exciting new possibilities.

Boston University is committed to offering a residential education of the highest quality and is actively exploring how emerging educational technologies can be used strategically to increase flexibility for BU students; promote and leverage BU’s strength; improve quality and diversity of BU offerings; extend BU’s reach to prospective students, professionals, alumni, and life-long learners; and create differentiation in an environment of global competition.

DLI Mission and Activities

BU created the Digital Learning Initiative (DLI) to address challenges and harness opportunities associated with the transformation of the higher education landscape brought forth by digital learning technologies.

The Digital Learning Initiative operates in an agile, start-up mode to foster and support strategic learning activities. DLI’s mission is to spearhead the University’s most innovative projects in online learning, uninhibited by pre-existing culture and structures. Among other activities, the DLI:

  • Serves as BU’s liaison with the edX platform
  • Acts as the hub of BU’s MOOC production
  • Facilitates campus-wide digital learning innovation via CETLI/DLI grants program
  • Follows developments in the digital learning space and helps formulate the University’s digital learning strategy
  • Proactively formulates and pursues key digital learning strategic initiatives

Below you will find annual reports which explain in greater detail what the Digital Learning Initiative worked on in 2014 and 2015.

DLI Annual Report 2014

DLI Annual Report 2015

View our most recent Call for Proposals.

The Digital Learning Initiative reports to Associate Provost for Digital Learning and Innovation, Chris Dellarocas.

Meet the Team


Romy Ruukel, Director of the Digital Learning Initiative,  joined BU after program managing at edX, a global e-learning and MOOC platform. A seasoned educator, editor, and project manager, she holds master’s degrees in human development & psychology (Harvard University) and humanities & leadership (New College of California). Throughout her career, Ruukel’s work and research have focused on sociology of education, universal design for learning, and 20th-century social movements.


Vanessa Ruano is a platform administrator who serves as the main liaison and course building support for BU’s edX courses. Prior to joining the DLI, she held various service desk positions at the BU IT Help Center and the Questrom School of Business. Vanessa earned a bachelor’s degree in communication with a focus on public relations from BU’s College of Communication and is currently working on her Master’s in Information Systems with a concentration in project management at BU.

Tim_Profile PicTim Brenner, media production manager, comes to the DLI after more than a decade at Harvard Extension School’s Distance Education Program, where  he worked with instructors on how best to present content online while maintaining a valuable face-to-face experience. His focus on learning led him to earn a master’s degree in education with a concentration in instructional design. With a background in both technology and education, Tim has experienced firsthand how effective planning, thoughtful design, and the use of technology can enhance student success.
Profile_Pic-DianaDiana Marian, project manager, joined the DLI team after coordinating several projects within the Open Society Foundations network. With a background in law and education, she has managed innovative literacy initiatives, including adult education programs and the development of an online tool guiding legal comprehension. She holds a Master’s degree in International Education Policy from Harvard Graduate of School of Education, where she focused on education initiatives for 21st century demands and strategic management of education non-profits.

Profile_Pic-Sue (1)Susan Pett, administrative coordinator, comes to DLI with a variety of experience working in accounting, financial services, systems and web development.  She holds a bachelor’s degree in MIS and management.


tim pic of me

Luis Castro,  communications intern, Class of 2018. He is pursuing degrees at the College of Communications in Public Relations and Journalism.  He is also a staff writer for the Daily Free Press, and President of Alianza Latina. He works to keep the DLI website, blog, and social media accounts up to date, while assisting with media production and project tasks wherever necessary.