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Wednesday, August 19, 2009

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UT System Awards $2.5 Million in Grants to Cutting-Edge Undergraduate Teaching Projects

AUSTIN – Eleven undergraduate projects from across The University of Texas System have earned $2.5 million in grants for their use of technology and creative approaches to teaching.

The awards, known as Transforming Undergraduate Education grants, were authorized by the UT System Board of Regents to stimulate new teaching and learning methods; challenge the capabilities of students; and increase cost efficiency and/or reduce instructional costs. 

“These grants aim to transform undergraduate education by targeting the core experiences of teaching and learning: use of technology, curriculum reorganization, interdisciplinary practices, cutting-edge pedagogy – even new learning spaces,” said Francisco G. Cigarroa, M.D., UT System chancellor.

Projects were each awarded roughly $250,000, and will be funded at seven institutions. Two of the projects are collaborative efforts which involve two institutions. 

“All of these projects demonstrate extraordinary innovation and utilize groundbreaking approaches to teaching and learning, and it is interesting to note that more than half of the winning entries involve serious gaming technology,” said David B. Prior, UT System executive vice chancellor for academic affairs.

Grant awardees are:

  • Dr. Monica Evans, UT Dallas/Digital Calculus Coach – Educational game teaches basic concepts of calculus through design, visualization, applied problem solving and immersive entertainment. 
  • Dr. Mehdi Shadaram, UT San Antonio/Transforming Engineering Programs – Creates new math sequence with engineering applications to better prepare students for engineering classes.
  • Dr. John Reynolds, UT San Antonio/Creating Significant Learning – Will develop web-enhanced version of introductory biology and history courses at UTSA and UT Pan American.
  • Dr. Leslie H. Jarmon, UT Austin/Second Life Learning Communities – Makes innovative use of online virtual world technology to increase access to higher education and improve learning experiences.
  • Dr. Lewis E. Calver, UT Southwestern/Gaming Technology in Organic Chemistry – Computer game to enhance organic chemistry performance in disadvantaged/minority undergraduates.
  • Dr. Charles Ambler, UT El Paso/Large Class Dashboard – Digital gradebook will enable faculty to monitor participation, communicate with class members and assist at-risk students in daily activities.
  • Dr. Sacha E. Kopp, UT Austin/Teaching Science to Non-Science Majors – Faculty from multiple disciplines will collaborate to develop and teach new science curriculum.
  • Dr. Michael J. Savoie, UT Dallas/Game-Based Experiential Learning – Gaming/simulation model used to create online learning environment to help develop cognitive and analytical skills in freshmen.
  • Dr. John W. Sibert,UT Dallas/Peer-Led Team Learning – Involves small group, mandatory weekly study sessions led by more senior undergraduate students.
  • Dr. Judy L. LeFlore, UT Arlington, UT Dallas/Gaming Construct for Nursing Students – Will create a virtual clinical experience that will provide realistic setting for nursing students.
  • Dr. Penne L. Restad, UT Austin/Large American History Survey – Draws history department faculty, graduate assistants, instructors and students to create interactive learning continuum.

A more detailed description of the programs is available here.

In all, 50 proposals were considered for the competitive grants, which were narrowed to 11 winning entries using an expert panel from across the UT System. Project outcomes will be shared with all institutions throughout the System to help develop curricula and enhance efficiencies, Prior said.

About The University of Texas System

The University of Texas System is one of the nation’s largest higher education systems, with nine academic campuses and six health institutions. The UT System has an annual operating budget of $11.5 billion (FY 2009) including $2.5 billion in sponsored programs funded by federal, state, local and private sources. Student enrollment exceeded 194,000 in the 2007 academic year. The UT System confers more than one-third of the state's undergraduate degrees and educates nearly three-fourths of the state's health care professionals annually. With more than 81,000 employees, the UT System is one of the largest employers in the state.

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