Online Learning at ND

May 01, 2013

Dear Colleagues,

I write in my capacity as Notre Dame's new Chief Academic Digital Officer.
I've been tasked with developing a university-wide digital strategy,
overseeing online learning platforms and partnerships, and fostering digital
innovation among faculty, staff, and students. Within my scope are our
public-facing online offerings such as MOOCs (massive open online courses),
adaptive and blended learning technologies for on-campus use, online
professional/graduate and undergraduate programs, and the many emerging
digital tools for teaching and learning. This work is made immeasurably
easier by the wealth of talented staff, faculty, and students already at
Notre Dame.

Online learning has been much in the news in the last twelve months.
Although colleges and universities have been delivering instruction at a
distance for many years, emerging technologies now promise to deliver
high-quality online education that can be as rigorous and interactive as
traditional on-campus instruction. When located within a comprehensive
digital strategy, online learning can expand the mission, research, and
teaching goals of the University without eroding the cherished bond between
faculty and student at the heart of the Notre Dame experience.

In the fall, Provost Tom Burish wrote in regards to Notre Dame's ongoing
discussions with a consortium of excellent universities (including Emory,
Washington U. in St. Louis, Northwestern, UNC, Boston College, and Brandeis)
and 2U<http://www.2u.com>, a leading provider of online learning
experiences. The focus of these conversations was to explore the possibility
of offering online a small number of high quality credit-bearing
undergraduate courses.  Always firmly in view during this process was the
need to preserve instructional quality, academic integrity, and faculty
autonomy. Following a detailed review of the consortium by the Provost's
Office, the College Deans, faculty focus groups, the Office of Instructional
Technology, the Office of the General Counsel, and the Office of Budget and
Financial Planning, Notre Dame joined Semester
Online<http://www.semesteronline.org> officially ten days ago.

In Fall 2013, Semester Online will offer 11
courses<http://semesteronline.org/courses/>, two of which will originate at
Notre Dame. Peter Holland, McMeel Family Professor of Shakespeare Studies in
the Department of Film, Television & Theatre, will teach Shakespeare and
Film<http://semesteronline.org/courses/shakespeare-and-film/>. Candida Moss,
Professor of New Testament and Early Christianity in the Department of
Theology, will teach The Rise of Early
Christianity<http://semesteronline.org/courses/the-rise-of-christianity/>.
Already Peter and Candida are working with 2U's content studio to design and
create outstanding new teaching materials in support of these courses.  I
look forward to sharing updates as these dynamic courses take shape.

Semester Online courses are paid, for-credit, undergraduate-only
opportunities of very high quality. Notre Dame students may enroll in
Semester Online courses at partner schools; however, the authority to accept
transfer credit towards graduation or major requirements remains with each
College or Department at Notre Dame.

In the weeks to come, my office will be increasing the visibility of these
courses and implementing a user-friendly process for student registration,
enrollment, and accreditation. Also we will be taking concrete steps to
solicit the guidance, insights, and engagement of the faculty as we continue
our work in this exciting partnership.  Please look forward to the
following:

.         A portfolio of custom-created Semester Online teaching materials,
platform/technology demonstrations, and other concrete illustrations of
these courses in development.

.         A FAQ site for students, faculty, and staff detailing the
registration, financial aid, and accreditation processes for Notre Dame
students.

.         A meeting of faculty interested in teaching Semester Online
courses, and of those with questions about the venture.

.         A hands-on faculty workshop devoted to teaching with digital tools
at Notre Dame, irrespective of Semester Online.
Consortia and other academic partnerships are often fraught with
uncertainty. Online learning cannot and should not replace the personal bond
between faculty and student at the heart of university teaching. Quality
online programs, however, can expand our digital footprint and give our
students engaging new options in their intellectual formation.
As we share illustrations and experiences drawn from these initial online
courses as well as our other initiatives, I hope we will create a robust and
wide-ranging conversation on campus about teaching, and the pedagogically
appropriate use of digital tools therein.

As we work together to build the digital path forward at Notre Dame, I will
always be happy to field questions or respond to concerns. Please email me
at elliott.visconsi@nd.edu<mailto:elliott.visconsi@nd.edu>.

Yours sincerely,


Elliott Visconsi
Chief Academic Digital Officer
Associate Professor of English & Concurrent Associate Professor of Law
University of Notre Dame
574/631-7461


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