Students Walking By Hubbard Park

On behalf of the Office of Teaching, Learning & Technology (OTLT), a warm welcome to all new and returning faculty, instructors, and teaching assistants. Every fall semester on campus is exciting, but that enthusiasm is especially accentuated this year with new buildings and road construction at every turn. Anticipation about the new semester is particularly heightened in our digital world as we begin to implement exciting changes in our instructional technology offerings.

During the past two years the OTLT staff and our close faculty advisers have been working to implement a “Next Generation Digital Learning Ecosystem (NGDLE)”. This term was first used in an EDUCAUSE study in 2014 funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The authors found that while current learning managements systems (LMS, at Iowa known as ICON) have become ubiquitous and valuable tools in higher education, a number of gaps impede the evolution toward supporting new “learning-centered” models. The authors contend that the next generation of learning tools must provide seamless integration with other instructional technologies and administrative systems to provide adaptive learning opportunities for student success and analytics to support instructional decisions for both faculty and individual students.

It has become apparent that the tools in ICON likewise have not evolved rapidly enough to support UI faculty teaching innovations. So in January 2015 we took the first step toward supporting NGDLE strategies by joining the Unizin consortium. Unizin member institutions are collaboratively creating systems that will support the vision outlined in the EDUCAUSE study. Iowa is helping to lead these efforts and you can find out more about our Unizin activities at

The first step in the Iowa roadmap to the NGDLE is to migrate ICON to Canvas, a new, more open and flexible course management system. Canvas sets the stage in ICON for the next level of tools that will offer the integrations, analytics and adaptive learning vision outlined in the EDUCAUSE study and set out in our Unizin goals.

Over the summer months we completed most of the work necessary to implement Canvas and I want to personally thank the dozens of faculty who piloted this system for us during the 2015-16 academic year, as well as the hundreds of faculty and TAs who worked over the summer to migrate their courses. I have a great appreciation for the hours of effort instructors have invested in making these changes in their courses. . As the new academic year unfolds, watch for opportunities to learn about and implement more new Unizin tools within ICON.

And please remember that the Office of Teaching, Learning & Technology is here to support your excellent teaching through pedagogical consultation and workshops, as well as robust instructional technology support.

Maggie Jesse, OTLT Senior Director