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WVU boosts digital offerings

CHARLESTON, W.Va. - A restructuring at West Virginia University is signaling the school's efforts to fortify its high-tech offerings.

The school announced last week it would shift its organizational structure to create a new division dedicated to "Academic Innovation." That new division will develop and implement new technologies at the university and in the classroom.

Sue Day-Peroots, currently the dean of Extended Learning, will step in to lead the new division when it is rolled out this summer.

In her old post, she saw the proliferation of online classes at the school: More than 82,000 credit hours were earned online at WVU in 2012. That's 75 percent more than in 2006; 180 percent more than in 1996. WVU now enrolls more than 5,000 students in online courses each semester.

But it's not just about traditional online classes. The new division will deal with those, but its real purpose is to develop new technology for all corners of the university.

"We want a sandbox if you will, where people can experiment and figure out new things," Day-Peroots said. "It's just so logical to do it this way."

That may include a host of new things that are trendy in the higher education community right now - like massive open online courses, or MOOCs.

WVU already offers a handful of the online courses, which are free and open to anyone with an Internet connection. The first MOOC at WVU, a class on communication technology and its relationship to society, was held over four weeks in February.

That project was just a pilot, and Day-Peroots wouldn't commit to the kind of massive undertaking of MOOCs that other universities have taken on, but she did say that they would be of interest to the school's new technology division.

"Certainly MOOCs would be an emerging technology and an innovation in academia so certainly we are looking," she said.

Professors have already been asking about MOOCs, Day-Peroots said, as they've seen other universities across the country experiment with them.

And they're becoming curious about a slew of other new technology fads in higher education too, like flipped classrooms, where students watch a video of a lecture at home and then convene in the classroom to do an interactive lesson.

Up until now, Day-Peroots said, faculty members haven't had anywhere to go with those kinds of questions. That's where the new division of Academic Innovation will come in.

"Now there will be somewhere they can come with those questions," Day-Peroots said. "It's really pulling together all these strings from other parts of the university."

There will be about 60 people working in the department - many of them students "because they bring a fresh perspective."

They'll begin by working on updating the technology in WVU's classrooms over the summer and rebuilding some of the software the university uses regularly. After that, the picture is murkier.

"This world is moving rapidly, isn't it?" Day-Peroots said. "I think that's the greatest thing about where we are and what we're doing . . . because we should constantly be evolving and changing and as things become the norm accepting them."

Contact writer Shay Maunz at or 304-348-4886.

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