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Office of the Provost

Provost Grants

Distributed Learning Course Development

The purpose of this program is to create state-of-the-art Distributed Learning (DL) courses that will enhance the overall quality, scope, and reach of teaching and learning at the University of South Carolina. This will be accomplished by providing financial incentives, expert instructional design assistance, and technological support to faculty to develop and implement courses for delivery through Distributed Learning methods.

Distributed Learning combines technology with innovative teaching tools and resources to facilitate access to educational content and help students learn. Through DL, students can have guided pathways for discovery, interact with instructional content, faculty, and other students, and be engaged in collaborative activities. Distributed Learning supports the needs of nontraditional and geographically disadvantaged students who may otherwise have barriers to educational opportunities. Distributed Learning includes fully on-line, site-to-site, and blended courses. Blended courses are mixed delivery mode courses which both meet in a traditional classroom, studio or lab and provide on-line instruction. Blended courses which create a "flipped classroom" are especially valuable.

Eligible Principal Instructors

Eligible applicants include all full-time faculty at USC Columbia and Regional Campuses (Lancaster, Salkehatchie, Sumter, Union). It is expected that the faculty member submitting the proposal will serve as the Principal Instructor (PI) for the course the first time it is offered. PIs are eligible to receive funding for no more than one course per grant cycle, except in cases in which a two-course connected sequence (e.g., CHEM 111, 112) might be effectively covered by a single proposal. Prior recipients of Distributed Learning Course Development Grants must have submitted final project reports in order to be eligible for funding under this solicitation.

Eligible Courses

Proposals in response to this year's solicitation must focus on the development or revision of courses that use Distributed Learning pedagogy and technologies to create either fully on-line asynchronous courses or blended courses which produce flipped classrooms. PIs are encouraged to use the Quality Matters Rubric, which is a guide to best practices for distributed learning courses.

Furthermore, the development of courses where 100% of the instruction is fully online is a priority. Proposals for simply adding a few online components to traditional courses, or making minor changes to existing distributed learning courses, will not be competitive.

Funds Available and Project Timeframe

Projects are eligible for funding of up to $8,000 per course project. An applicant may request a period of up to fifteen (15) months, beginning May 18, 2015, and ending August 15, 2016, in which to develop a course and submit it for approval following policies outlined in ACAF 2.03 [pdf].

Expectations during the Grant Period
Principal Instructors receiving awards will be expected to:

  1. Collaborate on a regular basis with an Instructional Designer from the Center for Teaching Excellence (CTE) to design and develop the proposed course.
  2. Consult with the Office of Student Disability Services to assure the course can meet requirements for accessibility according to the Americans with Disabilities Act.
  3. Participate, when possible, in CTE facilitated meetings with other grant recipients to discuss Distributed Learning strategies.
  4. Attend CTE workshops on issues related to Distributed Learning during the term of the grant.
  5. Submit the course for University approval using the Distance Education Delivery form [pdf]. Approval of the department chair and dean is required. If required, the course must be submitted to the Faculty Senate's Committee on Instructional Development for approval. All course creation/revisions must follow University policies as outlined in ACAF 2.03 and its appendices. 
  6. Complete the development of the proposed DL course by the end of the grant term.
  7. Submit a final report (see below) to Senior Vice Provost Lacy Ford ( in the Office of the Provost.


Final Report

The final report for the grant program is a course proposal submitted to the Faculty Senate's Committee on Instructional Development. The final report can be submitted at any time, but is due no later than 90 days after the end of the grant term. Exceptions due to extenuating circumstances must be approved, in writing, by the Office of the Provost.


Proposal Preparation

Each Principal Instructor should submit a proposal that includes a proposal coversheet, a project description, and a budget. These three proposal components should be combined into a single Microsoft Word, or, preferably, Adobe PDF file. The file must be uploaded to USCeRA, as described later in this document.

Complete the proposal coversheet [doc].

Final Report
The final report for the grant program is a course proposal approved by both the Provost's Committee on Distributed Learning and the Faculty Senate's Committee on Curricula and Courses (if the latter approval is required). The final report can be submitted at any time, but is due no later than 90 days after the end of the grant term. Exceptions due to extenuating circumstances must be approved by the Office of the Provost.

Project Description
The Project Description should not exceed 4 single pages using single-spacing, 12 point font, and 1 inch margins in all directions. It should include the following information.

  1. Course Description
    • Briefly describe the course, expanding upon the Bulletin course description as appropriate. Indicate the degree program(s) that it supports. This description should be accessible to faculty in other disciplines.
    • State the specific learning outcomes for the proposed course.
    • If the project involves developing a Distributed Learning course from a traditional course, describe why delivering the course with DL methods is important to the University, academic unit, and/or curricular objectives. If the project involves revising an existing DL course, justify the need to change pedagogy, technology, or other course components.
  2. Proposed Work
    • Describe the Distributed Learning methods that you propose to use to meet and demonstrate the course learning outcomes and/or other course objectives. If you are not sure, describe how you will go about determining the DL instructional materials, teaching methods, student assessment and other course components.
    • If you propose a blended model, describe how time in class will relate to time spent on DL activities.
    • Describe the course development activities during the grant period, including the role played by Instructional Designers or other personnel. Include a timeline for course design, development, and implementation.
    • Discuss other resources available to support the course development, if any.
  3. Principal Instructor Information
    • Describe your qualifications as instructor of record for the proposed course.
    • Provide a brief description of why you would like to develop this particular course for DL offering. If the PI has received a grant from this program before, a copy of the final report from that project must be submitted along with this application.
  4. Other Information pertinent to this project. (optional)

Include a budget and budget justification, not to exceed two pages combined. The budget should itemize personnel, other costs and the total funds requested. The budget justification should describe the roles of personnel to be supported, detail other costs to the extent possible at this time, and justify how travel costs (if any) support course development activities. PIs should follow the budget template [doc].

Allowable Costs

  • Faculty salary support for summer compensation in compliance with university policy as governed by HR 1.81.
  • Course buy-out is limited to $5,000 for one course, inclusive of any associated fringe benefits cost and requires a letter of support from the department or unit chair.
  • Purchase of hardware or software, course content items, data sets or specialized development services for the course. These needs will typically be established while working with the CTE instructional designer during the exploration and analysis phase of the project. An estimate of software and hardware needs should be included as part of the budget.
  • Salary and fringe benefits of undergraduate and graduate students who assist in the course development process. Provide specific details regarding their role.
  • Travel to professional meetings related to Distributed Learning if important to the course design and development processes. Sufficient justification must be provided.
  • Note: All expenditures must be made in accordance with University policies.

Unallowable Costs

  • Compensation for CTE and UTS staff (these costs are covered by the University)
  • Tuition and fees for undergraduate or graduate students
  • Outside consultants or vendors


Proposal Submission and Review

USCeRA Proposal Submission Instruction

Prior to submission, review your complete proposal (Coversheet, Project Description, and Budget) to ensure that it is
contained in a single Word or PDF document, that it contains all of the required information, and is formatted appropriately.
You must submit your completed proposal packet through USCeRA and get APPROVAL from your chair, dean and/or chancellor before 5:00 pm on December 8, 2014. You will receive e-mails from USCeRA indicating when your proposal has been approved by your department chair, dean, etc.

See more about submitting proposals to USCeRA.

Review Process

Proposals will be reviewed and ranked by the Distributed Learning Grant Review Committee. The committee will make recommendations for funding to the Provost and awards will be made by the Provost. The number of awards will be contingent on the number and quality of applications received as well as the amount allocated per application. Decisions will be made based on the quality of the proposal, the reasonableness of the budget, and the likelihood that the proposed course would enhance the quality or extend the reach of USC's Distributed Learning program.

The quality of the proposal and reasonableness of the budget will be assessed based on the following factors:

  • Course Description, Proposed Work and Principal Instructor sections of the proposal are complete and well-written.
  • Course will provide a platform for demonstrating distributed learning best practices.
  • Proposal makes a compelling argument for the need for and use of grant funds.

The likelihood that the course will enhance the quality or extend the reach of USC's Distributed Learning program will be judged within the context of the degree program(s) that it supports. Examples that illustrate merit in this area appear below.

  • Enhances offerings for Carolina Core Curriculum and/or Palmetto College.
  • Reduces classroom scheduling or expands the ability to offer course to more students.
  • Facilitates flexibility of access (time and place) for student engagement with course activities/materials that may only be available at specific hours.
  • Facilitates timely degree completion for students.
  • Assists in development of graduate and certificate programs.
  • Provides the University with a course that has unique appeal, or improves University online competitiveness with other institutions.
  • Offers students greater options for core or required courses for degree completion.
  • Opens courses to students regardless of campus or physical location.