USM Receives Grant to Expand Role of Academic Transformation Initiatives

Adelphi, Md. (April 1, 2014) -- The University System of Maryland (USM) will expand its national leadership role in transforming the post-secondary academic model with the receipt of a $200,616 State Systems Transformation Co-creation grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to the USM Foundation.

The USM is one of several state systems of higher education that the Gates Foundation has selected to build on existing practices to substantially improve student access and success and effect change in higher education. The grant will help the USM enhance the efforts of individual USM campuses to make college completion more attainable and affordable.

"With this grant, the University System of Maryland will be able to significantly expand our capacity in the realm of academic transformation and build on the strategic successes we already have put in place. The grant positions the USM to impact substantially more courses and students in this important work," said USM Chancellor William E. "Brit" Kirwan.

In the academic transformation process, universities seek to improve learning by creating the most effective learning environments to ensure students perform well and graduate in a timely fashion. The USM will continue to develop transformation strategies based on a history of success in this area:

● USM's Effectiveness and Efficiency initiative has reduced students' time to degree from 5 years to 4.3 years and yielded $462 million in cumulative savings during its initial decade.  

● The USM Office of Articulation facilitates movement of students between and among USM universities, community colleges, and other institutions. Since its inception, the office has made the credit transfer process more efficient for students.

● Since its 2006 launch, USM's Maryland Course Redesign Initiative has led to the redesign of 82 courses in lower-division, large-enrollment courses that have presented obstacles to students' success. The courses have enrolled more than 24,000 students both at USM institutions and other public and private institutions and community colleges in Maryland. USM is working this academic year with ITHAKA S+R on a Gates-funded project to test integration of content from various online learning platforms into for-credit college courses, including Coursera massive open online courses (MOOCs).

● By supporting best practices of institutional leaders, USM has succeeded in building system-wide capacity for academic innovation, which led to the establishment of its new Center for Innovation and Excellence in Learning and Teaching (CIELT). With CIELT has come the creation of similar offices and centers within the academic affairs areas at each USM institution to function as a collaborative network.

In its work to date in academic transformation, USM has witnessed the vast potential of hybrid classrooms, computer-enhanced learning modules with online tutorials, and MOOCs. Among next steps in its transformation work, USM will continue to lead the adoption of these and other academic innovations system-wide. In addition, USM will help guide the implementation of data analytics on a broad scale at each campus to foster a stronger culture of accountability and data-based decision-making. This strategy is borne from studies that link higher student success rates to institutions that systematically collect (and act on) data regarding institutional performance.

"We understand the importance of evidence-based practice," said Joann Boughman, USM senior vice chancellor for academic affairs. "The USM is delighted to be given this opportunity to continue leading the conversation around academic transformation."

Contact: Mike Lurie
Phone: 301.445.2719