Digital Learning Professional Development Strategy for Colleges of Education

In 2018, NCICU and the Department of Public Instruction (DPI) entered into an agreement “to develop and implement a comprehensive professional development strategy and solution for teachers and for students in educator preparation programs for the use of technology and digital resources as teaching tools for K-12 students.”  This agreement has been extended a number of times, allowing the NCICU DLI Work Group to continue to meet regularly to collaborate on aspects of the professional development strategy with digital learning partners, DPI, Friday Institute, and The University of North Carolina. 


North Carolina has long been a national leader in the development and promotion of personalized digital learning in its schools and outlined its commitment to this Initiative in the State’s Digital Learning Plan in 2015.  Much of the focus of the State’s Plan had centered on the transition of digital learning in K-12 schools and related professional development opportunities for K-12 teachers.  Full implementation of the State’s vision, however, also included a focus on digital learning within North Carolina’s institutions of higher education.

In 2017, the North Carolina General Assembly recognized the need to expand the State’s commitment to digital learning to include a focus on professional development opportunities for faculty at the State’s Educator Preparation Programs (EPPs).  In the State’s FY ’18 budget, the legislature provided DPI with funds for a Digital Learning Initiative. DPI subsequently awarded a grant to North Carolina Independent Colleges and Universities (NCICU) to spearhead the initiative. NCICU implemented a work group with representatives from five of its 31 EPPs and named Denise Adams as work group coordinator.

Denise Adams

“Given the unique role and significant responsibility of North Carolina EPPs in preparing K-12 teachers in the digital-age, it makes sense that the EPP faculty themselves should also be well-versed in digital learning.  NCICU welcomed the opportunity to be involved in creating a professional development strategy for EPP faculty to help achieve this goal,” said Adams.

The NCICU Work Group, in collaboration with DPI, the Friday Institute, and the UNC System, collected data from the 15 UNC and 31 NCICU colleges and universities; held a Digital Learning Research Symposium; and met numerous times to discuss solutions. After 18 months of work, the group proposed a professional development strategy and digital learning competencies for EPPs, and a final report was submitted to DPI.

The plan’s digital learning competencies include four areas of focus: Leadership, Digital Citizenship, Content & Instruction and Data & Assessment, which mirror the same four DLCS as in K-12 schools.

Leadership: EPP faculty will demonstrate leadership in accelerating their integration of digital teaching and learning.

Digital Citizenship: EPP faculty will model and teach digital citizenship by ethical,
respectful, and safe use of digital tools and resources that support the creation of a positive digital culture.

Content & Instruction: EPP faculty will know and use appropriate digital tools and resources for instruction.

Data & Assessment: EPP faculty will use technology to make data more accessible, adjust instruction to better meet the needs of a diverse learning population, and reflect upon their practice through the consistent, effective use of assessment.

EPP Faculty can earn digital learning competency badges in any or all of the four areas of focus to add to their professional development portfolio.


Highlights of the work produced by the NCICU DLI Work Group in 2019 include:

  • The creation and dissemination of Digital Learning Competencies (DLCs) for North Carolina Educator Prep Program (EPP) faculty.
  • In conjunction with the Friday Institute, the development and delivery of a streamlined Digital Learning Progress Rubric for EPPs, which was sent to each NCICU and UNC EPP in February 2019.
  • An assessment and analysis of current digital learning practices within North Carolina EPPs utilizing the streamlined Digital Learning Progress Rubric for EPPs.
  • The creation and submission of  a professional development strategy (rooted in the DLCs) for faculty in approved EPPs, to support the use of technology and digital resources.  In accordance with the agreement with DPI, NCICU submitted this strategy, entitled “Professional Development Strategy: Digital Learning Competencies for Educator Preparation Programs Through Micro-credentialing” to the State Board of Education on June 14, 2019.
  • In partnership with a similarly-formed UNC Work Group, continued refinement of the professional development strategy and the preparation for second Digital Learning Symposium to be held at Elon University on February 14, 2020.





Digital Learning Intiative