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Thursday, May 22, 2008

UNCP’s Chief Information Officer Robert Orr earns doctorate

Because technology has evolved rapidly and because teaching and learning in higher education has migrated online, the Office of University Computing and Information Services (UCIS) at The University of North Carolina at Pembroke is one of the busiest places on campus.

Robert OrrThis spring, the University’s Chief Information Officer and Associate Vice Chancellor Bob Orr took time off to accept a Doctorate in Higher Education Leadership from Western Carolina University.

Dr. Orr, who has worked in technology all his adult life beginning with radio, is a lifelong learner.

“Out of high school I earned my 1st class FCC radio engineering license,” he said. “I didn’t start back to school until I was 30 and I’ve been going ever since.”

Beginning with an Associate of Applied Science degree in electronic engineering from Southwestern Community College, Dr. Orr earned a Bachelor of Science degree in communications and a Master of Science degree in human resources from Western Carolina University.

“I enjoyed all of it including the research for my doctoral dissertation,” he said. “I did my undergrad degree mostly one class at a time because UNC employees are allowed one free class per semester.”

Since his first job repairing Apple IIe computers at Western Carolina University, Dr. Orr has worked 25 years in higher education. As a graduate student, his focus and research turned to the newly emerging field of distance education.

“For me, it started with a lecture at a conference on the need for a national learning infrastructure by Carol Twigg, who is president of the National Center for Academic Transformation today,” Dr. Orr said. “She talked about new ideas like lifelong learning. It rang a bell with me and helped me see how technology would play an important role in student learning.”

Bob Orr with wife Kathy

Bob Orr with wife Kathy

Black Line

Dr. Orr’s dissertation is titled “Faculty Perceptions of Institutional Efforts at Addressing Barriers to Faculty’s Success in Delivering Online Learning.” He plans to continue research and work on publishing it.

“I’ve been involved in distance education for many years, and I’ve been lucky to have seen both sides – I’ve taken courses online and taught them,” he said. “Distance education is entering a new phase today.”

Instead of just working to get courses online, universities and their faculty are now working to enrich the educational experiences online, Dr. Orr said.

“Faculty want to get better at it and increase the learning outcomes,” he said. “The literature indicates that teaching online is a more labor intensive experience than classroom teaching.”

At UCIS, Dr. Orr supervises in all technology areas from the helpdesk to Banner, the unified, online database system. This summer, he will help the Office for Advancement join Banner.

“We have all worked for Banner to this point, and now it’s time to make it work for us,” he said. “I predict that – with luck – we can reach our goals of working smarter and more productively as we automate processes and let Banner carry some of our collective workload.”

UCIS is rolling out several other initiatives in the summer of 2008, including Microsoft Office 2007 and a new “unified messaging” system. The messaging system, which is a partnership with Microsoft, Davidson College and East Carolina University, would combine email, voice mail, text messaging, video conferencing and calendaring across the University.

“Microsoft gave us a $40,000 grant to work on introducing unified messaging into higher education,” Dr. Orr said. “I believe it will help us work more productively and it fits nicely with the system’s PACE initiatives.”

UCIS has just brought on board a new director of applications, Adam Marks, and they will relocate to new offices on campus, so good things continue to happen. The only thing that will not remain constant for Dr. Orr is that he won’t be enrolled in any new degree programs, for now.

Attending the “hooding” ceremony were his wife, Kathy and son Harrison. Dr. Orr is the son of Mr. and Mrs. Marvin Orr of Etowah, N.C. and son-in-law of Luther and Shirley Palmer of Burningtown, N.C.

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