Digital Learning Initiative (DLI) Symposium Presenter Profiles

Digital Learning Initiatives and Innovation Throughout the UNC System

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Irene Pittman Aiken
Dean, The Graduate School, UNCP
One University Drive
Pembroke, NC 28371-1510, 910.521.6450



Irene Pittman Aiken, Ph.D., is the Dean of The Graduate School and a Professor in the School of Education at University of North Carolina at Pembroke. She earned a baccalaureate degree in Intermediate Math Education from UNC Chapel Hill, her master’s degree in Elementary Education at UNC Pembroke and a Ph.D. from UNC Chapel Hill in Curriculum and Instruction with a minor in Sociology. A faculty member at UNCP, she has worked in numerous administrative positions including program coordinator, program director, and department chair in the School of Education, and as associate dean and dean of The Graduate School. Among the first faculty members at UNC Pembroke to teach a fully online course in 2001, her scholarship includes over 20 journal articles and conference presentations related to online teaching and learning. She holds an Online Teaching Certificate with a specialization in Online Management from the Online Learning Consortium, and has served in various digital support roles, most recently on the proposal review team for Online Learning Consortium Accelerate Conference in 2018.


The UNCP Master of Business Administration program began a partnership with a third party vendor to assist with recruitment and enrollment efforts. As a result, our MBA online program moved to an accelerated 7-week format with six start dates a year. Through the agreement, the vendor provides marketing, and recruitment for the program. Although our MBA program was experiencing healthy growth already, during the first full year of the accelerated program enrollment grew by 210% (in contrast, Washington Post reported a 6% decrease in MBA enrollment in the US). Through another partnership, vetted, experienced coaches are hired, allowing faculty to teach large numbers of students. Course design is consistent across all courses based on best practices and the School of Business and faculty member is solely responsible for program/course content and delivery.

Initiatives and Innovations to support student success for this effort include:

  1. Accelerated, fully online, asynchronous courses
    – One year degree possible
    – Consistent course template
  2. Six start dates, seven week courses
    – Unique calendar, unique Financial Aid distribution
    – Flexible step-out/step-in schedule
  3. Data sharing with vendor
  4. Using coaches to accommodate large numbers of students in courses
  5. Online orientation for The Graduate School and The MBA program
  6. Developing identical messaging/information with vendor
  7. Tuition sharing

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