UTA’s LINK Research Lab, which specializes in online learning, is expected to close due to loss of institutional funding.
Lab staff have known about the loss of funding after a step-down plan was implemented to phase it out a few years ago and were officially notified they could seek other employment on April 21, learning innovation researcher Matt Crosslin said.
“The timing is particularly challenging,” executive director George Siemens said. “This is the period where every major university across the country and really around the world is moving curriculum online.”
The LINK Research Lab was created in 2013 to promote and amplify UTA’s research into digital learning and knowledge processes. Siemens said he moved from Canada to help set it up.
Following the mission of “what it means to be human in a digital age,” the lab researched technology's impact on the labor market and online education, Siemens said.
LINK has received research grants from organizations like the National Science Foundation and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Initially set up to help serve the university mission, Siemens said they received institutional funding as well.
The lab’s institutional funding became slowly staged out a few years ago when they received notification that LINK would have to become self-funded. A step-down budget was then put in place.
As classes have moved online, Crosslin and associate director Justin Dellinger have been helping teach a majority of workshops on digital teaching and learning.
Crosslin has a background in instructional design and has worked in online learning for a while. LINK was a way for him to analyze what works and what doesn’t work in online education, he said.
As more universities start to examine online learning, director Lisa Berry said in many ways LINK was ahead in researching online learning compared to other universities.
Berry said she really enjoyed the people she’s gotten to work with over the years. Whenever people would leave, she said it would be sad because they were like family.
“We would go to ball games together and have Christmas parties at people’s houses,” Berry said.
One aspect she said she will miss the most is working with graduate students.
Siemens said with the growth of online learning, they had held out hope that institutional funding would be renewed. He said renewal is dependent on what the future administration will want to see, though usually when funding is gone, it’s gone.
Moving forward, LINK resources will most likely move to the College of Science, Siemens said. He is the only lab staff that will remain at UTA, working within the Psychology Department.
“I think it’s a significant loss to the university,” Siemens said. “Hopefully some dean or some faculty member that has resources will recognize the value of that expertise and find a way to allocate resources to keep [LINK staff] on.”