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Digital learning innovator to lead new research at UT Arlington

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Thursday, January 9, 2014

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Media Contact: Traci Peterson, Office:817-272-9208, Cell:817-521-5494, tpeterso@uta.edu

News Topics: classes, education, research, staff

George Siemens, an internationally known expert and theorist in the field of digital learning, has joined The University of Texas at Arlington to lead a lab exploring the critical demands new learning technologies place on higher education.

George Siemens

George Siemens

The laboratory is called the Learning Innovation and Networked Knowledge Research Lab, or LINK Lab. It will open this spring.

Siemens also is the director of the MOOC Research Initiative, a project focused on Massive Open Online Courses that has been supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Siemens was one of the originators of open online education. He taught one of the first open online courses in 2008 while a professor at Athabasca University in Alberta, Canada.

"Dr. Siemens is internationally respected for the enthusiasm and wealth of knowledge he brings to making higher education relevant in the digital age,” said Samuel H. “Pete” Smith, vice provost for digital teaching and learning at UT Arlington. “His new position will give students and faculty at UT Arlington the opportunity to interact with one of academia’s best investigators. It also will allow our University to collaborate with other research institutions at the forefront of student success, digital teaching and learning."

Siemens led a December conference at UT Arlington during which researchers and educators from the United States, Canada, and Europe shared information about Massive Open Online Courses, their successes and shortcomings.

“UT Arlington has a very strong online learning component and is well regarded not only in Texas but also nationally,” Siemens said.  “Systems like UTA are unique in that they’re taking a blended or hybrid approach to online education and that’s where the gap in research exists, where we don’t really understand how a university should support students who are taking classes both physically and in an online environment. There are some great opportunities there.”

In addition to numerous presentations and consulting appointments around the globe, Siemens is the author of two books: “Connectivism: A Learning Theory for the Digital Age” and “Knowing Knowledge.” He is co-founder of Learning Analytics and Knowledge, a yearly conference, and the Society for Learning Analytics Research.

Some of the areas the new LINK lab will explore include:

  • Understanding how traditional universities’ role is affected by online learning and the need for and feasibility of systematic change.
  • Exploring the effectiveness of alternative teaching and learning models such as competency-based programs, badging or certificate systems and their relationship to the university.
  • Examining the growing influence of data and analytics on higher education practices.

Siemens said he looks forward to working with UT Arlington faculty to expand and enhance their use of technology and to bring emerging tools to campus.

The New America Foundation, based on Washington, D.C., has honored UT Arlington as a Next Generation University in part for its success with online degree programs. More than 10,000 students were enrolled in online classes and degree programs this fall. The largest of UT Arlington's online programs are offered by the College of Education and the College of Nursing.

The University of Texas at Arlington is a comprehensive research institution of more than 33,300 students and 2,300 faculty members in the epicenter of North Texas. It is the second largest institution in The University of Texas System. Total research expenditures reached almost $78 million last year. Visit www.uta.edu to learn more.

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The University of Texas at Arlington is an Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action employer.

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