Digital technologies have ushered in an era of unprecedented innovation in higher education. Forward-looking institutions are taking advantage of the possibilities offered by technology to revamp all aspects of the student experience. The Digital Education Incubator (formerly known as Digital Learning Initiative, DLI) has been created to support BU faculty and staff in using technology in creative and experimental ways that add value to the BU student experience and help our institution remain a strong, forward-looking global player in years to come.
We fund and co-manage pilot projects that have the potential to positively change the way in which one or more of BU’s schools and colleges deliver value to students, both inside and outside the classroom. The structure of our funded projects and related activities can take many forms. We are deliberately flexible within the boundaries set by the below criteria, valuing bold initiative, collaboration, and the transformative potential of thoughtful ideation.
Select Focus Areas. Change is the new normal. Below, we have identified key areas in a student’s journey that are currently impacted by rapid transformation: (1) the possibility for new credit pathways; (2) emphasis on practice-based learning and skill development with the aid of digital technologies; (3) technology-mediated approaches to mentoring & advising; and (4) increased opportunities for informal and lifelong learning. We are especially interested to receive proposals in the following focus areas:
Focus Area 1: New credit pathways (e.g. MOOCs, X-Series & MicroMasters). The growing cost of education. Rapidly changing job markets. The emergence of “academic boot camps”, coding camps and nano-degrees. Stackable certificates and digital badging. We know that many students want to accelerate their degree programs and be reassured that the skills they’ve obtained ensure a competitive advantage for career success.
Through our current partnership with the edX global learning platform, we seek proposals for XSeries (sequences of related courses or modules that lead to an overarching achievement); and MicroMasters Program, designed for deep dives into a specific career field and recognized by employers for skill relevance. We are also interested in receiving proposals for pilot projects involving alternative credentials, such as digital badges.
Focus Area 2: Project-Based and Work-Integrated Learning. Our students expect BU to prepare them for gainful employment through meaningful learning experiences and skill-development. To align with these expectations, emerging learner-centered pedagogical approaches focus on interaction, groupwork and solutions to real-life challenges. Technology plays a key role in the implementation of these approaches through cloud-based services, apps, and other digital tools that promote persistent connectivity – enabling students, educators and other project collaborators to access and contribute to shared workspaces anytime, anywhere.
Towards these ends, the DEI seeks to support digital infrastructure and uses of technology that facilitate connections between faculty/student teams and outside organizations (corporations, public agencies, etc.) for the purpose of project-based, experiential and work-integrated learning embedded in courses and programs of study.
Focus Area 3: Mentoring and Advising. As our world becomes ever more complex, effective student mentoring and advising are emerging as an increasingly important component of the University student experience. Increasingly, developmental models of advising focus not only on student learning and educational experiences but seek to connect students’ academic interests and skills with their personal and career ambitions.
In the spirit of improving the quality of academic, career and life mentoring/advising we offer to our students, DEI seeks to support the innovative use of digital tools or digitally-enabled processes in the context of advising. Examples of such tools include (but are not limited to) self-assessments & goal-setting exercises, predictive analytics, academic alert & nudge systems, digital guided pathways, flipped advising models and more.
Focus Area 4: Lifelong and Informal Learning. Lifelong learning is education for the knowledge economy. Agile learners aim for continuous personal and professional development throughout their lifetime, pragmatically connecting learning to practice, and embracing the evolving nature of the skills required to succeed in the workforce.
We seek to support innovative approaches to developing capabilities for serving lifelong learners, including (but not limited to) ideas for lifelong learning portals, and developing new/better ways to keep our alumni connected to BU.
Focus Area 5: Emerging Ideas in Digital Education. Adaptive learning technologies, gamification, 21st century skills, mobile learning… Do you have an idea that doesn’t fit into the above categories? We see higher education as an incubator for advancing cultures of entrepreneurial thinking and are always open to discussing any ideas that seek to align BU with emergent trends in digital technologies to improve the student experience.
Proposal Review and Development Process
Generation of Concepts
- Members of DEI will hold four information sessions in October, November and December 2017. These information sessions are designed to walk interested participants through key elements of the project proposal and answer any questions about the project development process. Please see calendar and RSVP form below.
- Those not able to attend the information sessions can direct questions to Romy Ruukel (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Submission Guidelines & Deadline
- Initial Concept Proposals should be no more than two pages.
- Proposals from individuals as well as entire departments/schools are welcome.
- Proposals can be co-authored, but should designate a single corresponding contact person.
- Proposals should provide the following information:
- A description of the proposed course/idea, including a problem statement and a possible high-level project vision (g. “Well-organized, easily accessible and on-demand collection of resources to help students making decisions about their course of study is currently lacking in our department. Through feedback received on student surveys and in-person consultations, we know that this impacts students’ overall satisfaction and college experience. To address the current state, we envision a digital portal that enables communication between all stakeholders throughout a student’s time in our department.”)
- Evidence of support for the proposed idea, such as market demand or availability gap (E.g. “Our alumni surveys have revealed a desire for courses in select professional development areas currently not offered to them elsewhere or in an online format.”)
- A list of similar existing efforts that the project is trying to improve or the unique contribution it attempts to offer. (E.g. “Our colleagues at select universities have solved this problem through implementing adaptive learning modules in their curriculum.”)
- The strategic value the project offers to Boston University. (E.g. “In doing so, we aim to be the first university to offer this course of study online and at scale, attracting the professional sports analytics audience.”)
- The set of people that constitute the project/course team (including any assistants, if known).
- Dates of project team availability for production and initial delivery (including a list of any other work commitments during those dates). Please expect that any project, including a MOOC, could consume a substantial amount of time, often 3-6 months.
- A plan for project evaluation and sustainability (e.g. “If successful in a pilot phase, the project aims to become self-funded in 3 years” or “If successful in a pilot phase, our department/school will ensure its continued funding past the 2nd year of the project.”)
*Please note that new for-credit BU programs must go through the University eCAP process*
Concept proposals can be submitted via our site anytime up until January 19, 2018.
Proposals selected to move to further discussion and potential development will be notified no later than March 1, 2018.
- Scope: The proposed project is responsive to one of the focus areas as outlined above.
- Significance: The proposed project has significant value for our students; successful proposals for the adoption, development or integration of learning technologies demonstrate a connection between the proposed project and strategies that have been shown to enhance student learning and engagement.
- Strategic Value: The proposed project has the potential of creating a strategic advantage for BU and/or enhance the distinctive value of a BU education.
- Sustainability: The proposed project has a) a plan for measuring its success and b) the potential to scale beyond a pilot phase to other classrooms, units, departments and/or schools, either directly or through providing a compelling example for adoption.
- Support: The proposed project is strongly endorsed by participating academic unit(s), and all requisite technical and administrative support have been identified and deemed feasible; academic units commit to supporting the project past its incubation phase if deemed successful.
- For proposals meeting the Selection Criteria, appropriate staff/support personnel will collaborate with the proposing individual/team to assess project feasibility and to identify possible resources needed for implementation (such as investigation of possible software or platform needs, infrastructure and support staff requirements, budget for seed funding, and timeline to implementation).
- Following the above step, select concept proposals will be co-developed into project development plans, including implementation and evaluation milestones, for funding and incubation. If initial discussions regarding the feasibility of the project reveal that the concept proposal is missing significant key elements, such as an assessment of market demand or sustainability plan, we will encourage the concept’s continued development for consideration at a later date.
Funding & Implementation Phase
Both the funding and timing of project implementation depends on the scale and requirements of the proposed idea.
Ideally, projects proposed in this cycle will receive first rounds of funding in Summer 2018, with implementation slated for Fall 2018.
Funding for our previous projects has ranged from $5K for a single small-scale project to $200K for a multi-year, large scale implementation effort.
Submission deadline: January 19, 2018
Notification deadline: March 1, 2018
Development Phase (Spring & Summer 2018)
Implementation Phase (Summer & Fall 2018)
Email: email@example.com Phone: 617-358-8606