Digital Innovation Moving Texas Forward

Concurrent Session 1
Streamed Session

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Brief Abstract

This session introduces the Division of Digital Learning (DDL) at the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB). The mission of the DDL is to provide leadership and advocacy for digital learning in higher education and promote, sustain, and advance a quality digital learner experience positioning Texas as a world leader.


Dr. Michelle Singh serves as the Assistant Commissioner of the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board’s Division of Digital Learning, the newest division at the THECB. Dr. Singh is a leader in the field of digital learning and is currently serving as Chairperson of the Board for the Texas Distance Learning Association, previously served on the United States Distance Learning Association Board, as Chair of the Texas A&M University System Council for Academic Technology and Innovative Education, Chair of the Learning Technology Advisory Committee for the THECB and Chair of the South Texas Higher Education Regional Council. Throughout Dr. Singh’s 20 plus year tenure in higher education, she has received numerous accolades and awards for her contribution to the advancement of the field of digital learning including the USDLA International Outstanding Leadership Award, the TxDLA Don Foshee Leadership Award and Outstanding Commitment to Excellence and Innovation in Distance Learning. She was also recognized for the TAMUCC College of Education and Human Development Achievement Distinction, and recently received the Corpus Christi Top Under 40 honor. Dr. Singh attained a Bachelor’s degree and a Master’s degree from the University of Texas-Pan American and a Ph.D. from Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi. Dr. Singh is a strategic visionary who is internationally sought for expertise in the topics of digital transformation, optimization and modernization of data and technology, change management, and the ecosystem of digital learning.

Additional Authors

Dr. Julie Schell is the Executive Director of Learning Design for the School of Design and Creative Technologies (SDCT) at The University of Texas at Austin, where she is also a Clinical Professor in both the Colleges of Education and Fine Arts. She is a prominent expert learning experience design (LxD) and educational innovation. She uses her expertise in learning science to teach design thinking to residential students at The University of Texas at Austin and learners at other universities, K-12 institutions, and Fortune 500 companies nationwide. Julie has unique expertise in standing up successful LxD startups in university contexts. Before joining SDCT, Julie served as the Director of TEXAS OnRamps, a statewide initiative coordinated by The University of Texas at Austin. For five years, Julie's strategy and creative vision led to the dramatic growth of OnRamps from 150 student enrollments in 2012 to over 15,000 in 2017. Julie has more than 20 years of experience in higher education and has held positions at the nation's top research universities, including Yale, Stanford, Columbia, and Harvard. In 2014, Teachers College at Columbia University identified her as an Early Riser in Higher Education for her original contributions to the field. Schell's scholarship focuses on the science of learning, pedagogical innovation, and technology. Julie has worked on LxD initiatives with thousands of national and international faculty. She has led pedagogy and student learning projects on site in Aruba, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Denmark, the Dominican Republic, Germany and throughout the United States. She has also designed and implemented pedagogical innovation projects online for universities in Hong Kong, Malaysia, Saudi Arabia, Singapore and South Africa.

Extended Abstract

Providing a holistic digital learning ecosystem is of growing importance in an increasingly digital world. Digital learning has become common place in higher education over the past several decades. Notwithstanding the advancements in digital learning, definitions and standards vary greatly making it difficult for educators and institutions to effectively discuss and implement effective policies and best practices.

Over the past two years the COVID-19 pandemic has brought digital learning to the forefront of higher education. Multiple research methods are being employed to better understand the effects of the pandemic, including state-wide surveys and a design research engagement. These initiatives inform effective resources for educators and students, including a digital clearinghouse. This digital clearinghouse will serve as a primary means to enhance pedagogical innovation, stimulate digital transformation, promote digital solutions, connect communities, encourage scholarship, share resources, and make possible holistic, quality digital learning experiences.

Levels of Participation:

This session will provide an interactive forum for conversation regarding the state of digital learning today and innovations coming in the near future. Attendees will participate in a discussion regarding the scaling of best practices, creating programs for institutional capacity building, and promoting sustainable partnerships.

Session Goals:

Targeted research initiatives demonstrate the importance of creating a diverse digital ecosystem which supports students, educators, and administrators. Digital Learning provides the opportunity to create equitable and inclusive spaces. The presenters will discuss ways in which they are driving innovation, change, and equity through partnerships and networking.