Academic Affairs

Text: Provost's Perspectives, An Update from Provost Sheerer


September 9, 2016

Dear Colleagues,

Thank you for your feedback to the first edition of Provost’s Perspectives, my monthly communication to the university community. Please keep your feedback coming, since one of my goals is to improve interaction between Alderman and faculty and staff on our campus. Following are some exciting updates as we kick off the 2016-17 academic year.


As the numbers indicate, we have definitely increased our enrollment. And our transfer student numbers are also higher! Thanks to the enrollment management team for all of their hard work.

The increase in enrollment in our graduate programs is significant. Congratulations to those departments and the Graduate School who made this happen!

The increase in freshmen has pushed CAS to open more sections of University Studies courses. At the start of school, some students were living in overflow areas in our residence halls; but overall, everyone has been responsive and accommodating.

Online Learning

Below I have included a short piece from our new Associate Vice Chancellor for Distance Education, Ron Costello. Some of you may have noticed the lead article in the current edition of The Chronicle on cheating and online courses. I asked him for his thoughts on this topic:

 Since the inception of online learning, concerned faculty, administrators and skeptics alike have frequently voiced concern over academic integrity in online courses. The Internet, by its nature, does offer a veil of anonymity for those who choose to use it in such a way. This leads instructors to ask the natural question, “How do I know the person taking my online course is who they say they are?” A recent article in The Chronicle of Higher Education will likely have even more instructors of online courses asking that very question. The article exposed a market for the purchasing of “ghosting services,” where online students pay a fee to other individuals to take portions of a course, or the entire course for them. The “New Cheating Economy,” as The Chronicle calls it, indeed presents a huge potential compromise to the nature of academic integrity in online learning. However, through some effective best practices in online instruction, “ghosting” can be minimized and even eliminated.

 The first of these best practices sounds simple, but requires some solid technology behind it. Get to know your class. In the face-to-face setting this is easy. However, in the online environment it can be more challenging. Fortunately, with integration between the student information system and the learning management system, it becomes easier. Student ID photos can be imported into class rosters so that the instructor can see who their students are before the class even starts. Instructors should ask their students to introduce themselves in the first week of the course. When asked in a self-introduction forum, students are often willing to share personal photos and stories with their classmates. (I offer students a “free” 25 points for uploading photos to accompany a personal story about themselves.)

 Another strategy is to incorporate synchronous and asynchronous video interactions through tools such as voice thread or online video conferencing. Through these interactions, an online identity within the course is forged. While asking the students to establish an online identity in the course minimizes the possibilities of ghosting, it doesn’t eliminate it. So to answer the question, “What about students who hire a person or persons to impersonate them from the start of the course?” the best method is through proctored direct assessments. Companies such as Proctor U (used by the UNC system) specialize in ensuring the person taking an exam is who he/she claims to be. Identity is verified through a form of ID, such as a driver’s license or passport, followed by a series of security questions. Once their identity is verified, students, as well as their screens, are constantly monitored throughout the course of the exam. Academic integrity within online education is a legitimate concern, but with the proliferation of so many online degree programs at numerous traditional institutions, those concerns are being addressed. And, new strategies and technologies are being developed to continue to address the changes and concerns surrounding academic integrity within online education. 

A Note on ADA Compliance Checks and Captioning

Please be aware that the office of e-learning is reviewing of all of UNCW’s online courses to check for ADA compliance. This is being done to comply with federal law and to provide our students with the best possible accommodations. The findings in this review will not result in any punitive actions taken against any faculty members. Rather, the office of e-learning will assess what resources are needed to bring the course materials into compliance and establish an order of priority for doing so. Our immediate concern is conducting the review and adjusting materials for courses that currently enroll students with documented disabilities. For that reason, we cannot accommodate every video captioning request at this time. Once the review is complete, all identified course materials will be scheduled for captioning and other necessary services to bring them into compliance.

Residency Determination Service (RDS)

In 2013, the General Assembly passed Session Law 2013-360 directing North Carolina college systems and authorities (UNC, NCCCS, NCSEA and NCICU) to create a centralized, uniform process for determining residency for tuition purposes and administration of state financial aid. Individual campuses will no longer determine the residency of a student. Since the law passed, the group created the RDS and it is scheduled to deploy in late 2016/early 2017 for all undergraduate students. All students seeking in-state residency for tuition purposes must use RDS. RDS was built for all students to use with an express process for those seeking out-of-state residency. For further information contact Jon Reece.

Lab School

NC House Bill 1030 requires the UNC Board of Governors, in consultation with constituents with educator preparation programs, to designate eight institutions to establish laboratory schools to serve North Caroline public school students. The lab school mission is to improve student performance in local school districts with low-performing schools by providing enhanced education programs for students and exposure and training for teachers and principals. Each UNC lab school is required to provide expanded opportunities for student support, clinical teaching experiences, demonstrate best practices, instructional innovation and research. Four laboratory schools will begin operation in the 2017-18 academic year and the remaining four begin in the 2018-19 academic year. 

Our Dean of the Watson College of Education, Van Dempsey, is working closely with internal and external constituencies to carefully plan and initiate this mandate from the legislature.

Budget Update

Chancellor Sartarelli has given final approval to UNCW's overall budget for 2016-17. Academic Affairs will now receive the generated faculty positions, academic support money and library money for dissemination to the colleges and academic units. We hope to have these allocations out quickly so that searches can begin.


As announced at the Tuesday, September 7 Fall Faculty Meeting, I extend a warm congratulations to all of our faculty award recipients:

  • Carrie Clements, Board of Trustees Teaching Excellence Award
  • Jessica Magnus, Distinguished Teaching Professorship
  • Amy Kirschke, Distinguished Faculty Scholar Award
  • Stephen Harper, J. Marshall Crews Distinguished Faculty Award
  • Babette Boyd, Lecturer of the Year
  • Amy Long, Lecturer of the Year
  • Patricia White, Lecturer of the Year
  • Steven Emslie, Graduate Mentor Award
  • Megan Hodgson Blumenthal, Excellence in e-Learning Award
  • Janna Robertson, Senior Scholar-UNCW Distinguished Scholarly Engagement and Public Service Award
  • Victor Malo-Juvera, Junior Scholar-UNCW Distinguished Scholarly Engagement and Public Service Award

I wish you the best as classes enter the fourth week, and students engage in deep learning!


Marilyn Sheerer signature

Marilyn Sheerer
Provost and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs