Adapting to Scale: A Multifaceted Partnership Model

Concurrent Session 2

Brief Abstract

The University of Central Florida (UCF) has invested a considerable amount of capital in adaptive learning and uncovered a novel way to scale it. In this session, panelists will share insights into a ‘multifaceted partnership model’ that has paved the way for developing comprehensive adaptive learning solutions efficiently at scale.

Sponsored By


James (Jim) is the Program Coordinator of UCF's Affordable Instructional Materials (AIM) initiative and an instructional designer on UCF's Personalized Adaptive Learning (PAL) team. He manages UCF's Pressbooks network and runs a multi-institutional Realizeit (adaptive learning) workgroup. A good portion of his day-to-day duties involves collaborating with faculty and other supporting entities around campus to bring open and/or adaptive projects to fruition.
Thomas Cavanagh, Ph.D. is Vice Provost for Digital Learning at the University of Central Florida. In this role he oversees all classroom technology and the distance learning strategy, policies, and practices of one of the nation’s largest universities, serving 68,000 students, where online learning represents more than 47% of the university's annual credit hours. In his career, Tom has administered e-learning development for both academic (public and private) and industrial (Fortune 500, government/military) audiences. He has been recognized with a number of awards including the WCET Richard Jonsen Award, the USDLA Outstanding Leadership Award, and been named an Online Learning Consortium Fellow. He is a frequent speaker at industry conferences and serves on a number of national advisory boards. He is also an award-winning author of several mystery novels.
I drive institutional initiatives involving Cengage Unlimited across all higher education market segments and the National Geographic School group K12 sector. Serving as the face of Cengage and Cengage Unlimited in industry and policy conferences in the states I serve lets me keep my Cengage customers on the front edge of innovation while maintaining evidence-based efficacy.
Dr. Baiyun Chen is an Instructional Designer at the Center for Distributed Learning at the University of Central Florida. She leads the Personalized Adaptive Learning team, designs and delivers faculty professional development programs, and teaches graduate courses on Instructional Systems Design. Her research interests focus on using instructional strategies in online and blended teaching and learning, professional development for teaching online, and application of emerging technologies in education. On related topics of online instruction, she has published 19 peer-reviewed journal articles and book chapters and delivered more than 50 presentations at international and local conferences and events. She has also served as the Co-Managing Editor of the Teaching Online Pedagogical Repository. In 2016 and 2017, Dr. Chen co-facilitated BlendKit, a Massive Online Open Course (MOOC) on Becoming a Blended Learning Designer. As an Online Learning Consortium Institute faculty, she has designed, developed and taught the Blended Learning Mastery Series: Research into Practice.

Extended Abstract

Presentation Description & Goals

Panelists will offer insights into the dynamic storyline of their collaborative efforts over the 2018 academic year. The goals of the panel session are to:

  1. Discuss the rationale for this partnership

  2. Reflect on the benefits for students, faculty, university, and beyond

  3. Share implementation procedures and challenges

  4. Recommend key strategies that have been developed or evolved from the initiative

The session will be moderated by Baiyun Chen, Ph.D., PAL Team Lead, Center for Distributed Learning (CDL), and the panel members for this session include publishing and EdTech executives, university administration, faculty, and the principal instructional designer for this project. The name and title of each panelist are as follows:

  • Ellen Mayes, Sr. SE Regional Key Account Manager, Cengage

  • Jerri Norris, Business Dev. Director, Institutional Sales, Cengage

  • Frank Claffey, Chief Product Officer / Co-Founder, Realizeit

  • Chafika Landers, Director, Client Engagement, Realizeit

  • Thomas Cavanagh, Vice Provost, Digital Learning, UCF

  • Tarek Buhagiar, Instructor, College of Business, UCF

  • James R. Paradiso, PAL Instructional Designer, UCF

This is a highly interactive session: The moderator will facilitate four rounds of discussion regarding rationale, benefits, challenges, and strategies, and each participant will have access to an editable Google Doc with presentation content and resources to which they can add questions, ideas, suggestions and additional resources throughout the session. The participants will have access to these resources after the session for their personal reference.


The University of Central Florida (UCF) is a metropolitan research university that includes 13 colleges and offers over 200 degree programs. Currently UCF is the largest university by enrollment in Florida and one of the largest universities in the nation with over 66,000 students with representation from all 50 states and 152 countries. UCF is strategically implementing adaptive learning to improve student success in large-enrollment gateway courses and courses that have traditionally had unacceptably high levels of D and F grades and course withdrawals (DFW); a venture, while noble, has confronted its share of obstacles.

While finding ways to scale adaptive learning at UCF is not a novel idea, making grand leaps has proven elusive. That is until a perfect storm of events unfolded that could change that narrative for years to come. This undertaking required the steadfast work of a complete range of stakeholders, from high-level publishing company and educational executives to those adept at the technical workings of Realizeit (the adaptive platform), and, finally, the expertise of a seasoned subject matter expert (SME) and instructional designer (ID). These relationships have formed a first-of-its-kind partnership at UCF that is paving the way for similar future endeavors between publisher, platform, and institution.

Use Case

The primary challenge with developing adaptive courses in Realizeit (or any content-agnostic system) is preparing the learning materials. For example, authoring a tremendous amount of content and redesigning courses using an unfamiliar platform are daunting tasks, as they not only require highly-skilled faculty/SMEs, but an enormous amount of time and resources, which can easily discourage instructors who already have a full workload.

Fortunately (in a good number of instances), faculty have the support of IDs to help with course design and delivery, as well as a wide range of publishing companies that offer exemplary content in the form of electronic textbooks, learning assessments, and platforms to house such content. Therefore, the support certainly exists, but the extent to which these entities communicate with each other is highly variable.

In the case of UCF and its contingents, a lack of continuity was evident and efforts were often being duplicated due to a lack of communication between those who had vested interests in the overall process / workflow of the course in question: While the aforementioned stakeholders were having individual conversations with each other, they were missing out an a larger opportunity to work together.

This ‘larger opportunity’ was the impetus for the multifaceted partnership model and will be the primary focus of this panel discussion.