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University Gazette

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Martin, Baker Tilly to present academic review findings to trustees on Dec. 20

The Board of Trustees will hold a special meeting on Dec. 20 to receive the report from an independent academic review commissioned by Chancellor Holden Thorp. Former

Gov. James Martin conducted the review with assistance from national management consulting firm Baker Tilly. Thorp asked Martin and Baker Tilly to explore any and all issues as they saw fit, with no restrictions.

In August, Thorp announced that Martin would lead the independent review of additional academic irregularities that might have occurred before 2007 (last year’s review of African and Afro-American studies courses concentrated on 2007–11).

It is among the efforts undertaken to address academic irregularities discovered in 2011 during the joint NCAA and University investigation of the football program (see go.unc.edu/Ae27C for details about these efforts).

Martin and Raina Rose Tagle, a partner with Baker Tilly, will present the report. Tagle also will present Baker Tilly’s review of the new academic performance policies, procedures and controls the University already has put in place in African and Afro-American studies, the College of Arts and Sciences and the Summer School to help prevent future irregularities.

“It will be difficult in some ways, but it’s an important date for the University and the way for us to move forward,” Thorp told the Faculty Council last week.

These findings will be posted on the Academic Review website, academicreview.unc.edu.

Later in the council meeting, Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost Bruce Carney talked at length about Massive Open Online Courses, known as MOOC’s, and the University’s plans to explore that uncharted territory.

“It’s remarkable how quickly this has appeared and evolved,” Carney said.

MOOC’s, which do not provide course credit, began about six years ago with the nonprofit Khan Academy, an online library of short instructional videos that has since evolved into an enterprise with 3,500 videos leading to more than 200 million lessons.

“The lessons are quite good, although they’re necessarily static,” Carney said.

From there, three primary platforms have emerged. Udacity, a for-profit company founded by Stanford University professor Sebastian Thrun, focuses on science, technology, engineering and math courses, and offers its courses, certificates and assessments for free.

The nonprofit edX is run jointly by MIT and Harvard, with Berkeley, the University of Texas, Georgetown and Wellesley joining recently; each university invests $30,000 in the program. The fixed-term courses include class discussion boards, automated assessments, lectures and quizzes. The first edX course enrolled 122,000 students.

The for-profit Coursera, founded early this year, partners with elite universities to provide the platform on which the individual faculty develop and deliver course content, grading and exams. The business model is unclear, Carney said, but Coursera appears to be driven to provide a larger suite of courses.

MOOC’s are different from Carolina’s new master’s programs in business and public administration, both of which provide small classes and an educational experience like the residential experience. MOOC’s are video lecture-based and geared for the mass audience.

Before Carolina embraces the MOOC’s concept, many questions have to be addressed, Carney said, including the quality of instruction, credentialing for the courses (there is no way to verify who actually takes the exams), course credit, revenue generation and how these courses could help improve residential courses.

It’s important for the University to engage in the conversation, though, he said, because lessons learned can help in redesigning Carolina’s own courses.

The goal is to develop three to five MOOC’s, with some delivered by fall 2013. Carney has appointed a 13-member task force, led by Vice Provost Carol Tresolini, to begin that process.

The world is talking about this,” Thorp said, “and it’s time for us to try it and find the answers to some of these questions.”