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Lenovo and Carolina collaborate on grants program

In a further demonstration of its commitment to and support of the University, Lenovo partnered with the UNC-Chapel Hill Center for Faculty Excellence, ITS and others in Fall 2017 for its launch of the Lenovo Instructional Innovation Grants program.





Administered by the Center for Faculty Excellence, the Lenovo grant is a competitive award program that supports UNC-Chapel Hill faculty members who are interested in experimenting with new learning technologies and creating their own digital content, applications and instructional methods. Focus areas include collaborative learning, active-learning spaces, global education. Awards are based on criteria of innovation, applicability, and size and scope of impact to teaching and learning.

In 2017, Lenovo announced that the CFE will receive about $400,000 over four years to support instructional innovation on campus. The funding is part of the University’s renegotiation of the Carolina Computing Initiative contract with Lenovo.

“Through the CCI contract, every purchase of a Lenovo product directly from Lenovo provides funds for UNC faculty to explore innovations in the use of technology in instruction,” said David Eckert, Director of Managed IT Services within ITS User Support & Engagement. “Whether it’s a mouse, a monitor, a laptop or a server, it all counts and it all comes back to our faculty and students.”

Lora Eckler

To date, the Lenovo Grant has funded 10 individual research projects with the majority focusing on emerging technologies in education. Funded projects include the facilitation of group-based diagnostic exercises for medical residents, immersive simulations of Nepalese Buddhist temples, 3D interactive image modeling to support dental education, and text concordance software tools being used to help teach and preserve the Cherokee language. One of the strategic themes that informed funding decisions about last fall’s initial round of proposals was the importance of a sustainable foundation for future experimentation. For example, several grants awarded will support the developing campus infrastructure for augmented and virtual reality applications.

ITS Teaching & Learning has led the administration of the new grants program, leveraging the pedagogical expertise and faculty relationships of the Center for Faculty Excellence and other partners such as University Libraries and OASIS. Following news of Lenovo’s generous gift, the planning team led an aggressive summer outreach program to gauge instructional innovation interests in units across campus. Those results informed the 2018-2019 call for proposals. ITS Teaching & Learning occupies a prominent instructional support role on campus at the intersection of pedagogy, technology, and learning space. Its active participation in programs such as this one helps ensure that future ITS services and infrastructure remain responsive to the University’s evolving instructional needs.

This collaborative effort is significant for ITS and for Lenovo.

“For Lenovo, this is greater than a traditional customer/vendor relationship,” said Lora Eckler, Account Executive with Lenovo’s Southeast Education Sales, including UNC-Chapel Hill. “The partnership between UNC-Chapel Hill and Lenovo (IBM) dates back to 1998 and the inception of the highly successful Carolina Computing Initiative (CCI) program. It’s a longtime relationship that we’re proud of, and we hope will continue to grow. To further the partnership, we looked for areas where we could bring additional value, and we believe the CFE grant does that.”

Emerging technologies in education are “of critical interest to both UNC-Chapel Hill and Lenovo, and we’re excited by the long term outcomes,” Eckler said. “One of Lenovo’s corporate focus areas is education, particularly promoting Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM). In collaboration with partners like UNC-Chapel Hill, and with initiatives like the Lenovo Grant, we expect to see continued meaningful contributions to education.”

Bob Henshaw

UNC-Chapel Hill and Lenovo each benefit, Eckler said. “For UNC-Chapel Hill, additional funding supports the mission and efforts of a world-class research community. For Lenovo, having a view into the technology needs and interests at one of the top research universities in the world helps us shape future offerings.”

“Ultimately, it may be current and future generations of students who benefit the most from Lenovo’s partnership with the University,” said Bob Henshaw, ITS Liaison to the Center for Faculty Excellence. “Our faculty members are excited about using digital technologies to make their courses more relevant and engaging for students. Investing in our faculty members and their ideas helps sow the seeds for wider adoption of successful innovations on campus. We also hope that the University’s reputation as a leader in instructional innovation will be enhanced by the results of the grants program.”

“Working together,” Eckler said, “we will continue to add value to the educational experience at UNC-Chapel Hill and in so doing, our collaboration also benefits North Carolina, our country and the broader global community.”

Key Partner(s): Center for Faculty Excellence, Lenovo, OASIS, University Libraries, User Support & Engagement
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