CETLI Report and Next Steps

in News, Noteworthy
July 15th, 2013

TO: Boston University Faculty
FROM: Robert A. Brown, President; Jean Morrison, University Provost
DATE: July 15, 2013
SUBJECT: Report of the Council on Educational Technology & Learning Innovation and Next Steps in Organizing BUx

We are writing to update you on the results from the work of the Council on Educational Technology & Learning Innovation (CETLI). The council was formed last fall to advise us on how digital learning platforms might change residential education and expand our capacity to educate new communities of learners. CETLI’s report and our initial charge to the committee are now available to BU faculty on our internal website.

We want to thank CETLI and its co-chairs, Elizabeth Loizeaux, professor of English and associate provost for undergraduate affairs, and Azer Bestavros, professor of computer science and director of the Hariri Institute, for their thoughtful and diligent efforts to produce this report within the span of an academic year.

We believe the report makes a compelling case that advances in digital learning software environments, internet availability, and hardware technology are the means for a fundamental transformation of how we may improve the quality of residential education and reach new cohorts of students beyond our campus. The report makes a number of important recommendations about how Boston University should proceed to explore and possibly adopt digital educational technology, “strategically, purposefully, and with caution.” The guiding principles for the strategy are summarized in Part One (page 7) of the report.

Our plan is to discuss the majority of the recommendations made by the council early in the fall 2013 semester. However, several of the CETLI recommendations align directly with current actions we are taking to move forward with the creation of BUx — the Boston University platform within the edX Consortium — and with outreach to engage faculty in the development of digital learning experiments that will inform our strategy.

In the report, Recommendation #1 is that we create a Digital Learning Initiative (DLI), a faculty-led, professional team that will spearhead the University’s initiatives in online learning and that will be responsible for the development of MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) that we will offer as part of our involvement in the edX Consortium. We are moving to establish the Digital Learning Initiative and we are pleased to announce that Professor Chrysanthos Dellarocas of the Department of Information Systems in the School of Management has agreed to serve as the first director. Professor Dellarocas is an internationally known scholar in the fields of online reputation and social media and is current chair of the Department of Information Systems in SMG. In his role as director of the DLI, he will report to University Provost Jean Morrison. An Executive Committee composed of Beth Loizeaux, Azer Bestavros, and Tracy Schroeder, vice president of information services & technology, will assist the provost with the oversight of DLI, which will be housed in the Hariri Institute for Computing and Computational Science & Engineering.

In addition to building a team that will lead our efforts in the use of the edX platform and in creating our first MOOCs, the DLI will be responsible for working with faculty members to launch digital learning experiments funded by the seed grant program sponsored by CETLI. Over the next few months, we will assemble the professional staff of the DLI with the goal of launching full operations at the beginning of the fall semester. We will launch the seed grant program with an initial budget of $400,000 that will be distributed during the fall.

There are other important recommendations in the CETLI Report that we will consider and possibly implement in the fall. A number of critical policy questions arise with the adoption of digital learning environments and the University’s commitment of significant resources to the development of digital materials. One is how to define ownership of digital material that is produced with the use of University resources. A second question is how to define the boundaries of faculty teaching in the context of new opportunities for participating in digital learning for nontraditional student cohorts and other entities. We will ask the Faculty Council and the Faculty Policy Committee of the University Council to take up these issues in the fall with the goal of adopting clear policies.

There is much work to do to understand and realize the potential of digital learning to improve and expand the educational programs at Boston University. The CETLI Report proposes commitments we should make, and we are implementing the first of these. We look forward to the discussions in the fall as we consider the other initiatives in the report.

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