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Kevin Oliver

Head, Department of Teacher Education and Learning Sciences


602M Poe Hall

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Dr. Oliver has served on the faculty in NC State’s College of Education since 2005, and was promoted to full Professor in 2017. He assumed the role of Department Head of Teacher Education and Learning Sciences (TELS) in the fall of 2022. He previously provided program-area leadership as Coordinator for Learning, Design, and Technology (LDT) degree programs (undergraduate, master’s, doctoral) and certificates (learning analytics certificate, e-learning certificate). He has been an active mentor to LDT doctoral students, graduating thirteen doctoral students as chair, three as co-chair, and presently chairing six doctoral committees. He previously served as Coordinator for a College of Education Distance and Remote Learning Task Force during the pandemic. Prior to arriving at NC State, Dr. Oliver served as Co-Director of the Southeast Regional Technology in Education Consortium affiliated with the SERVE Regional Education Lab (REL) at UNC-G, providing technical assistance to technology divisions within six southeastern state departments of education (2002-2004). He also served as an Instructional Design and Evaluation Specialist with the Educational Technologies faculty development group at Virginia Tech (1999-2002).

Research Description

In 18 years at NC State, Dr. Oliver’s research has focused on three areas: 1) technical-analytical approaches to represent cultural-historical information and disinformation toward enhanced understanding and empowerment; 2) quality distance learning and virtual schooling; and 3) STEM learning in informal after-school settings. He has received more than $3 million in externally funded grants and contracts as PI or Co-PI (e.g., NSF, Gates Foundation, Burroughs-Wellcome Fund), and leveraged additional internal funding from DELTA, FRPD, and other sources. He has co-led since 2011 a study abroad program for in-service teachers in Raleigh-Durham funded by the Triangle Community Foundation’s Borchardt Fund. The program has trained 170 teachers to create technical cultural representations using varied tools and approaches in an international context; preparation that helps teachers practice more culturally-responsive teaching back in their own classrooms with an increasingly diverse student population (see, Oliver, Wiseman, and Greer-Banks, 2021). Drawing on a particular mode of cultural representation from this study abroad program (locative media), Dr. Oliver co-leads the Locative Press Lab in the college, working with teachers and community partners on locative media projects such as locative and virtual tours (see Russell School Tour).

Dr. Oliver was named a UNC System Faculty Fellow for the calendar year 2022, and studied technology-intensive spaces across the 16-university system and how they supported innovation. He is currently listed on the Fulbright Specialist Roster with a four-year tenure (October 2021 through October 2025) and is eligible to be matched with short-term projects designed by host institutions globally through the Fulbright Specialist program sponsored by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA). He also serves as an officer (Treasurer) with the North Carolina chapter of the Fulbright Association.

Editorial Boards


Ph.D. Instructional Technology University of Georgia 1999

M.Ed. Educational Media and Instructional Design UNC-Chapel Hill 1993

B.S. Communications-Advertising University of Tennessee 1990


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Date: 08/01/19 - 7/31/24
Amount: $1,599,339.00
Funding Agencies: National Science Foundation (NSF)

Recent years have seen a growing recognition of the importance of computer science experience for today's K-12 students. Knowledge of computing is essential for students' success throughout their academic and professional careers. Engaging elementary students in computational thinking through the creation of rich interactive computational narratives offers an innovative approach to building students’ computational thinking practices and interest in computing. This project will engage students in a broad range of computing activities centered on creating digital interactive narratives. The project will see the development of a narrative-centered maker environment that introduces computational thinking into upper elementary science education emphasizing connections to the Next Generation Science Standards.

Date: 11/01/19 - 12/31/23
Amount: $241,565.00
Funding Agencies: Triangle Community Foundation

Cultural Investigations and Digital Representations for Educators (CIDRE) is a professional development program for K-12 teachers and administrators. The goal of the program is to prepare these educators to better integrate cultural lessons into teaching through the aid of media and technology to ultimately build greater cultural understanding among students in their classroom or institution. The program is funded by the Triangle Community Foundation's Borchardt Fund which underwrites costs for approximately 15 Triangle-area educators per year (Chatham, Durham, Orange, and Wake counties) to participate in professional development and two weeks of international travel in a designated host country. Approximately three Saturday classes are held at NC State before and after traveling abroad. Further work time, planned group excursions, and free time in the host country, allow educators to conduct investigations into cultural themes of personal interest, practice digital representations of those themes (e.g., multimedia maps, AR/VR, writing, documentary, analytics), and reflect on effective approaches to teaching culture with their peers. The $60k annual award will cover a minimal amount of faculty effort and summer salary, lodging in a host country (the largest expense), airfare for instructors only, some travel expenses for participants, transportation costs (city transit passes, coach reservations), ticket costs for cultural attractions, and a minimal amount of food for classes. The PI and Co-PI will: plan and teach class activities; arrange food for classes; maintain a web site and portfolio pages for participants (; schedule a two-week trip abroad for participants including reservations for hotel, transportation, and cultural attractions; and prepare an annual report to the foundation due each September 15th.

Date: 12/31/15 - 12/31/23
Amount: $279,904.00
Funding Agencies: Triangle Community Foundation

This project prepares teachers to adopt technology-enabled strategies for: 1) connecting with other cultures through global collaborative projects, 2) crowd curating cultural media collections, and 3) reflecting on cultural understanding through written and multimodal works. Finnish culture will serve as the focus for this work, with fifteen teachers selected in each of three years for a two-week immersion in Finland with advance and on-site coursework used to frame the experience.

Date: 02/01/20 - 8/30/23
Amount: $177,468.00
Funding Agencies: Burroughs Wellcome Fund

The project "Programmed Robotics in the After-School Makerspace: A Four-County Initiative" is proposed by the College of Education and the College of Science's Science House at NC State University. The project builds on lessons learned in two successful SSEP-funded makerspace projects with which project staff are affiliated, "Innovative Exploration of Science and Technology" (2015-19,, and "Makerspace Challenges" (2017-2020, While this prior work has focused in depth on makerspaces in two individual schools (Wake Young Women's Leadership Academy, Newton-Conover Middle School), this proposed project would seed more targeted makerspace activities into the wider western Piedmont Unifour region (up to 24 different middle/high schools across Alexander, Burke, Caldwell, and Catawba counties). The project targets one middle/high school in each county each year with expressed interest in starting or expanding a maker club. A summer institute with training on four programmed robotics platforms (Cubelets, Sphero, mBot, LEGO EV3) is provided for two student leaders and one teacher from each of the eight schools with follow-up maker club meetings at each school during the year where further students (minimum of 10 per school, 240 across project) engage in associated makerspace challenges with robotics. The northwest office of The Science House is located at the North Carolina Center for Engineering Technologies (NCCET) to which clubs in this project will take field trips to visit different engineering labs, and around which clubs in this project will gather for a culminating student showcase each spring to share their work and engage in competitive challenges. The project also leverages a Slack community among teachers and students to share materials and pose further original challenges to other teams, and the FlipGrid social space for students to reflect on and share their robotics work with feedback/comments from peers and adults. STEM career opportunities in the Piedmont Unifour region include the heavily mechanized manufacturing industry (over 425 manufacturers in Catawba County alone, and new data centers in the NC data center corridor (e.g., Apple, Bed Bath & Beyond-Catawba County, Google-Caldwell County). While mechanization has reduced some previously available jobs, career opportunities exist for those who can install, troubleshoot, and program robotics, and who can program servers and manage data. It is important for students to know how to work with robotics, as recent reports indicate they will increasingly be found in the workplace and replace as many as 800 million jobs by 2030 ( Hence, this project trains teachers and students to work with programmed robotics platforms in particular that are common to makerspaces and that can be merged with probeware for data collection/analysis, providing students with exposure to related engineering technology and computer science in preparation for work in these sectors.

Date: 11/01/15 - 6/30/19
Amount: $177,428.00
Funding Agencies: Burroughs Wellcome Fund

The College of Education at NC State University and the Wake Young Women’s Leadership Academy (WYWLA) propose the collaborative iNnovative Exploration of Science and Technology (iNEST) project to integrate targeted STEM activities into a new after-school maker club two afternoons per week throughout the school year. The project targets three goals: 1) develop students’ problem solving skills associated with computational thinking through interest-driven inquiry; 2) develop students’ leadership skills through interest-driven quests, collaboration and peer mentoring in a maker community, and opportunities to lead making events; and 3) develop students’ understanding and appreciation of STEM college and career paths. The WYWLA is a public, single-gender, early college, STEM school, serving grades 6-13 on two separate campuses. The maker club will be open to all students on the school’s Governor Morehead campus (grades 6-10, n=275) and will meet in a new makerspace in the school library media center. As the WYWLA emphasizes a rigorous curriculum of core courses to meet graduation requirements by the 11th grade, the project will provide enrichment opportunities for students to move beyond mandated to interest-driven questions.

Date: 09/01/13 - 8/31/17
Amount: $300,000.00
Funding Agencies: National Science Foundation (NSF)

According to a 2010 report that was based on the interviews from 2,800 Information Technology professionals worldwide, the gap between hacker threats and suitable security defenses is widening, and the types and numbers of threats are changing faster than ever before . In 2010, Jim Gosler, a fellow at the Sandia National Laboratory who works on countering attacks on U.S. networks, claimed that there are approximately 1,000 people in the country with the skills needed for cyber defense. Gosler went on to say that 20 to 30 times that many are needed. Additionally, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Mykonos Software security firm indicated that today's graduates in software engineering are unprepared to enter the workforce because they lack a solid understanding of how to make their applications secure. Particularly due to this shortage of security expertise, education of students and professionals already in the workforce is paramount. In this grant we provide a plan for motivating and providing software security education to students and professionals.

Date: 02/01/13 - 12/31/15
Amount: $139,085.00
Funding Agencies: Triangle Community Foundation

The proposed program will bring together skilled North Carolina educators across content areas and grade levels to study writing and technology, visit historical and literary sites in England, and interact with international students representing at least ten nations. The study abroad course is designed to integrate technology and literacy, and will be held on the campuses of NC State University and the University of Surrey.

Date: 08/01/15 - 12/15/15
Amount: $6,538.00
Funding Agencies: Triangle Community Foundation

The purpose of the project is to travel to Finland to plan a future study abroad program for in-service teachers in Chatham, Durham, Orange, and Wake counties. PI Kevin Oliver will travel with one former Borchardt fellow/teacher who participated in a prior study abroad program funded by the foundation, and can therefore help to make informed decisions regarding future arrangements. During their time in Finland, the PI and former Borchardt fellow will meet with varied personnel to make arrangements for a future study abroad program, including: university staff who can facilitate housing, meeting facilities, and food services; university professors and K-12 school staff interested in partnering with our traveling teachers before/after study abroad for inter-cultural, collaborative school projects; managers of historic and literary sites we may visit in a future study abroad program; representatives of public and private transportation services we will need to utilize to get around Finland; and other contacts deemed necessary. The PI has previously visited three universities in Finland (Jyvaskyla, Tampere, Helsinki), and has international contacts he will email in advance of travel to set up planning meetings on-site.

Date: 09/30/13 - 3/31/14
Amount: $24,996.00
Funding Agencies: Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation

The Friday Institute for Educational Innovation has recently created the Massively Open Online Course for Educators (MOOC-Ed) Initiative to explore the potential of delivering personalized, high-quality professional development at scale. Among the core principles of MOOC-Eds are collaboration and peer-supported learning. This study will leverage the Friday Institute’s research expertise in online communities of practice and the rich social network data generated by MOOC-Ed participants to better understand networked learning. Specifically, this study will use a mixed-method approach that combines Social Network Analysis and advanced modeling techniques with in-depth qualitative analysis to examine the formation of social networks, their underlying mechanisms, and their impact on learning. Findings from this study will contribute insight into the knowledge MOOC researchers might gain by using social network theory as a lens, as well as the potential of social network analytics to aid MOOC practitioners in assessing and improving peer-supported learning environments.

Date: 05/01/12 - 8/30/12
Amount: $4,780.00
Funding Agencies: US Dept. of Education (DED)

Fifty-eight teachers are currently enrolled as a special cohort in the M.Ed. in Instructional Systems Technology program at UNC-Charlotte. The cohort program involves a unique cross-university design in which teachers take online graduate courses from several state institutions to earn their degree. The Instructional Technology program at NC State has proposed revising one course on data and technology and developing a new course on mobile learning, as their contributions to this program. This scope of work is tied to the development of a new course on mobile learning.

View all grants 
  • 2022, UNC System Faculty Fellow
  • 2021-2025, Fulbright Specialist Roster
  • 2020, Distance Education Journal Article Award (Quantitative), 2nd Place, AECT Division of Distance Learning
  • 2020, Outstanding Journal Article Award, 1st Place, AECT Design and Development Division
  • 2018, Outstanding Paper Award, AACE Ed-Media Conference
  • 2018, Outstanding Graduate Faculty Mentor Award Finalist (not awarded), NC State University
  • 2017, 2018, 2019, Global Engagement Award, NC State College of Education (represented college at university-level competition)
  • 2016, NC State Academy of Outstanding Faculty Engaged in Extension (AOFEE)
  • 2016, Outstanding Extension Service Award, NC State University
  • 2015, Gertrude Cox Award for Innovative Excellence in Teaching and Learning with Technology, NC State University
  • 2014, UNC System Instructional Innovation Incubator (i3@UNC) Faculty Fellow
  • 2013, Friday Institute Research Fellow
  • 2011, Outstanding Poster Award, AACE SITE Conference