The Faculty Executive Committee met Monday to discuss the University's strategic plan, the effectiveness of digital learning and the allegations against concussion research conducted at UNC.
Robert Blouin, executive vice chancellor and provost and Todd Nicolet, vice provost of digital and lifelong learning, joined the committee at its meeting in South Building.
Blouin updated the committee on the status of the University’s new strategic plan. He said he hopes the plan will launch in January, and that student and faculty involvement with the plan will be important for its ultimate success.
“You can’t successfully pursue a strategic plan from the top down,” Blouin said.
Blouin also said he hopes the strategic plan will inspire cooperation across departments.
"We already have a network," Blouin said.
Blouin also spoke about the University’s goal of investing more in digital learning by expanding the number of courses offered online.
Blouin said both current students and alumni will need greater access to digital learning. Recent UNC graduates are likely to have as many as 10 or more jobs in their lifetime, he said, and will need credentials and certifications they weren’t able to receive during their undergraduate careers. They can more easily obtain these credentials through online classes, he said.
“I don’t think we’re taking full advantage of the application of technology to augment our teaching and learning,” Blouin said. “I don’t think that we’re fulfilling our promise that we make to students.”
Some faculty were concerned about the effectiveness of digital learning. Cary Levine, a committee member representing the art and art history department, said digital learning may be more useful for subjects that require a lot of rote memorization, as opposed to subjects like art history, in which classes tend to be more discussion-based.
“A lot of people are skeptical,” Levine said. “What some of us do in class is hard to measure.”
Nicolet spoke about the importance of the University’s digital learning program, which is slated to expand in coming years. Nicolet said online classes often don’t deserve the bad reputation they may receive.
“You can have good outcomes,” Nicolet said.
Jennifer Larson, a committee member representing the English and comparative literature department, said she was surprised by the high quality of discussions her students had in an online course she recently taught.
Larson said she thinks the increased quality of discussion came from students having more time to think about discussion points.
“They were much more willing to engage with difficult topics,” Larson said.
Concussion Research Allegations
The committee also briefly discussed the apparently faulty concussion research conducted by researchers at the Matthew Gfeller Sport-Related Traumatic Brain Injury Research Center.
A group of more than 100 sports injury researchers signed a letter denouncing a paper published in The Journal of Scientific Practice and Integrity, which accused researchers at the Gfeller Center of failing to disclose the presence of ADHD and learning disorders among UNC football players who served as study groups for some of the center's research.
Lloyd Kramer, interim chairperson of the committee, said that as the story continues to unfold, the committee may need to address it.
“One of the troubling aspects of it is that there’s a general attack on expertise in society at large,” Kramer said.
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