University of Minnesota

Enhancement of Academic Programs Using Digital Technology

Request for Proposals

PDF Version

November 5, 2012
(Point of Contact:  Christopher J. Cramer,, 612-626-1215)

Summary:  The Office of the Senior Vice President and Provost invites applications from University of Minnesota undergraduate degree-granting programs for multi-year financial support targeted to the transformational enhancement of their curricula and pedagogy through the leverage of existing or emerging digital technologies.

Background and Goals:  The last decade has seen explosive growth in the availability of digital technologies that can positively impact instruction and education at all levels. Innovators across the University of Minnesota have taken individual advantage of many of these advances to enhance their own teaching and add value to the experiences of their students. With institution-wide experience and resources upon which to draw, the time is now ripe to leverage digital technology and associated pedagogical developments to achieve transformational changes at the program level, as well as at the individual course level. This grant program, together with some newly coordinated central services, will help support comprehensive efforts to enhance the overall quality of individual undergraduate programs, with the focus being to improve the quality and delivery of education to enrolled, degree-seeking, University of Minnesota undergraduate students. Increased efficiency in the delivery of undergraduate education is also a valid goal, so long as quality is maintained or increased in the process.

For purposes of this proposal, "digital technologies" may include curricular enhancements to existing programs through the development of new media or web resources, the creation of innovative strategies for using existing digital technologies, the development of new online or blended course offerings, or the improvement of existing online or blended curricula through development of materials or methods. Among possible pedagogical modifications, programs may be flipped, so information delivery/lecturing is done online and face-to-face classes are more application oriented; programs may shift to highly experiential learning, including service learning, internship models, etc. In these examples, which are by no means exhaustive, there is an expectation of technology integration. More importantly, though, there is the expectation of significant impact on student learning.

The development of a fully online course—or the transformation of a traditional course to an online course (or a blended course)—may be a part of a program's proposal, as may the development of one or more massively open online courses (MOOC's); however, the proposal must show how educational quality will be improved by the MOOC or the online course.  Increasing access to key courses within a program may be advanced as a crucial goal, but, documentation of the need for and benefits of increased access should be provided.

Finally, this call is issued concurrently with ongoing efforts to assemble and align institutional support resources, for which details and contacts are provided below. Successful proposals will indicate how a program will partner with such resources, as one goal of this call is to develop best practices for central support of digital and eLearning initiatives across the University system.

Funding:  Programs may request up to $35,000/year for up to 2 years of support. Based on reporting and progress, funding for a 3rd year may be available to particularly successful programs. Programs should also consider leveraging or soliciting support from other sources to pursue these initiatives.

Eligibility:  Proposals will be considered from any undergraduate, degree-granting program. Proposals are solicited from all campuses of the University.

Deadline:  Electronic copies of proposals are due in the office of the Provost (as pdf attachments to email sent to by 5 PM, Thursday, Jan 31, 2013. Announcement of funding decisions and public release of successful proposals will take place on or before Friday, February 22, 2013.

Format of the Proposal:  All proposals should be structured as follows.

  1. Cover sheet. Identify a single individual who will serve as the lead for all proposed activities, and as a point of contact for information and reporting purposes. Please specify name, position, phone, and email address. Next, the degree program should be named together with specification of the numbers of students graduating with that degree in 2010, 2011, and 2012. Significant enrollments of students pursuing other degree programs should be noted where relevant to the proposal. (Note:  information on program size is to assist reviewers in evaluation; awards will not be contingent on programs being larger or smaller than some threshold; proposals from small and/or emerging programs as well as from established programs are all encouraged.) A reasonably concise summary of the number of faculty and number of course offerings associated with the degree program should be provided (Note: a detailed accounting that attempts to parse cross-listings, shared faculty, etc., is not required—the intent is to provide a qualitative overview.) A short list of anticipated, measurable, key improvements in academic outcomes should be provided. [Download RTF file of cover sheet]

  2. Letters of endorsement from the dean of the college and chair/head of the department within which the undergraduate program resides. If collegiate and/or departmental resources are to be dedicated to the program in support of the proposal (beyond what would otherwise normally be budgeted), they should be specified here; however, such "matching funds" are not required. Statements from chairs/heads should include an assessment of the enthusiasm and commitment to involvement of the program faculty in the activities summarized in the RFP.

  3. Proposal. The proposal should follow the cover sheet and be no more than 3 pages in length. It should describe planned changes in the program curriculum that will leverage digital technologies in order to improve the educational experience of enrolled, degree-seeking, University of Minnesota undergraduate students.  This call for proposals for program improvement recognizes that the quality of the educational experience is not limited to the classroom (or the screen/monitor/headphone) but is associated with other activities that may also be regarded as programmatic in nature—e.g., creative uses of active-learning classrooms or techniques, development of new curricular materials (including new e-resources, student-produced content, etc.), or community-building efforts aimed at program majors—so efforts of this sort may also be included in some proposals.  In addition to outlining initiatives, successful proposals will indicate how results will be assessed and used to guide curricular/programmatic change in the future.

    The proposal should include a timeline with milestones for specific goals and deliverables. Specifically, what indicators of success will be measured and what are the goals for the first, second, third, and final 6 months of the funding period? Very short written reports, summarizing progress and milestones, will be required semiannually. Public presentations of experience and progress will also be encouraged, locally and more broadly, as warranted.

    An institutional goal associated with and being pursued simultaneously with this call is the further development of University-wide infrastructure (personnel and services) that will ultimately support any program hoping to introduce digital enhancement to its curriculum. Thus, proposers are required to identify and exploit opportunities to leverage existing expertise in University service organizations including, presently, the Office of Information Technology, the Center for Teaching and Learning, University Libraries, and the Office of eLearning staff in the Provost's office.  (Contact details are provided below).

  4. Budget:  Detailed annual budgets for up to 2 years of support should be provided together with a justification for all proposed expenditures. The budget justification should link expenditures to those milestones specified in the proposal. Pages associated with the budget and budget justification do not count against the 3-page proposal limit.

  5. Biographical sketches. Brief biographical sketches of the project lead and up to three other key personnel may be provided (no more than 1 page per individual).

    All proposals should be submitted as single pdf files. For text pages of the proposal, all margins must be at least one inch (not counting page numbers and other routine header/footer text) and font sizes and line spacings must be at least 12 pt. Proposals may refer to uniform resource locators (URLs) relevant to their content, but such URLs should not be for the purpose of supplementing that content (rather, they might be examples of existing programmatic efforts, home sites for particular technologies, etc.)

Partnerships and Internal Resources: Units at the U of M designated as possible partners for proposals include:

The University's Information Technology team is committed to providing services that enhance curricula and pedagogy with technology.  Some of these services include faculty development, instructional design, tool exploration, production services, and assessment, as well as partnership opportunities. Key points of contact are Lauren Marsh <>, 612-625-9348, and Christopher Ament <>, 612-624-9002.

The Center for Teaching and Learning also has expertise in technology-enhanced course design and instructional methods. The key point of contact is Bill Rozaitis <>, 612-625-6812.

The University Libraries has expertise in content (acquisition, development, delivery), content devices, publishing, and copyright (see also section below on copyright and intellectual property). The key points of contact are John Butler <>, 612-624-4362 and Karen Williams <>, 612-626-4190.

Additional internal resources and possible partnership opportunities are summarized at and, including especially tools for faculty to use in the development and evaluation of digitally enhanced course materials. Staff in the Office of eLearning within the Office of the Provost have extensive experience in bringing these resources to bear and their backgrounds and contact details are available at

Review Criteria:  Proposals will be judged by a committee of faculty and digital education professionals based on the degree to which they succeed in addressing the following points.

Impact (educational and financial):  Are the proposed changes transformational? Will they lead to significant improvements in student educational experience (top priority), and/or significant efficiencies in course development and delivery (secondary priority). Will they affect many students and/or contribute to lasting UMN infrastructure? Will the proposing program serve as an inspirational model for future related endeavors across the University?

Feasibility:  Are the requested resources consistent with the outlined plans? Have available tools and personnel been successfully identified and, where possible, validated? Are key risks identified together with plans for mitigation should they arise?

Sustainability:  Will introduced changes be readily maintained? Are plans for continued and long-term evolution described?

Program/collegiate commitment:  Is there evidence of widespread commitment on the part of all program faculty/instructors, including especially program/departmental and collegiate leadership? Is the collegiate environment conducive to expansion of initiatives to other programs?

Copyright and Intellectual Property:  The assembly of existing digital instructional materials can sometimes lead to questions associated with copyright. Proposers having questions in this area are urged to consult with Nancy Sims <>, 612-624-1851, of the University of Minnesota Libraries.

The de novo development of digital instructional materials by faculty/instructors working without institutional support will be treated in the same manner as any other development of scholarly content (e.g., a traditional textbook); faculty/instructors are free to exercise their own copyright privileges over such materials.

The development of digital content that involves University resources not otherwise trivially available, contributions of non-faculty staff members, or use of novel instructional software, learning platforms, etc., may, under existing University policies, result in copyright interests shared among individual contributors and the University. Envisioned projects may also result in the development of other types of intellectual property, which would also be subject to existing University policies around ownership and disposition. In such instances, working with appropriate University offices, developers will have the opportunity to coordinate licensing and distribution options (to include distribution under Creative Commons license) of the relevant materials.

Irrespective of other arrangements, developers funded under this request for proposals grant to the University of Minnesota a non-exclusive license, in perpetuity, to all such content, software, etc., including derivative works. Proposers with questions about copyright ownership in grant-funded materials, or intellectual property issues, should contact the Office of the Provost for guidance.  When materials are developed by both faculty and non-faculty staff, ownership issues should be determined prior to receipt of the grant funding.

Assistance with Questions:  Individuals with questions are welcome to contact Professor Christopher J. Cramer <>, 612-626-1215, for further discussion.

More Information

For additional information about this program, please contact
Professor Chris Cramer