Daniela (Ela) Castellanos-Reyes is the newest cluster hire for Chancellor’s Faculty Excellence Program at NC State University. In August, she will join the interdisciplinary team at NC State’s Digital Transformation of Education Cluster and NC State College of Education as an Assistant Professor of Learning, Design, and Technology. She is currently a National Academy of Education/Spencer Dissertation Fellow and is earning her Ph.D. in Learning Design and Technology from Purdue University.
“I chose NC State’s College of Education for its interdisciplinary and methodologically innovative approach to educational research, particularly as part of the Digital Transformation of Education cluster,” said Castellanos-Reyes, whose appointment is in the department of teachers becomes educational and learning sciences. “Given that the core of my work is interdisciplinary collaboration, I believe NC State offers the perfect environment to further my research agenda.”
As part of the Chancellor’s Faculty Excellence Program, the Digital Transformation of Education (DTE) cluster brings together efforts from multiple universities addressing the potential of digital technologies to improve learning in formal and informal educational settings in the context of existing and future technologies. The DTE cluster currently has core and associate faculties in both the College of Education and the Department of Computer Science within the College of Engineering.
DTE faculty engages in collaborative work in which educational research, theory, technologies and methods use data analysis and computational methods to study learning in a range of pedagogical and learning contexts. Of particular interest is how these technologies, methodologies and insights can be used to help learners from populations who have historically been underserved and underrepresented in careers in the knowledge economy.
Castellanos-Reyes’ research focuses on how online and distance learning can improve people’s lives, especially women’s lives. She examines online learning interaction in research communities and the identification of course design features that support the social presence of online learners through learning analytics. Her research also focused on connected learning and the role of Latinos in classroom design.
“As a researcher in online and distance learning, Ela Castellanos-Reyes will bring to the College and NC State her expertise on a timely and important issue affecting learners of all ages and from all parts of the world,” said Paola Sztajn, Dean the NC State’s College of Education. “She will also help improve our college’s participation in the DTE cluster and expand our leadership across the university in online learning.”
For the past two years, Castellanos-Reyes has served as Co-Principal Investigator on several multi-grant funded projects focused on digital badges for cross-cultural training and teaching, and best practices in post-COVID higher education. She is the author or co-author of several articles and book chapters on online learning, the relationship between social media and learning, and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on teaching and learning. As an NAEd/Spencer Dissertation Fellow, she developed a digital badge to promote intercultural competence for teaching assistants and served as a mentor for Latina women who wish to enter graduate school after completing their undergraduate degrees.
Joining NC State, Castellanos-Reyes said she will continue to work towards the digital transformation of education through her work in online learning communities and supporting non-traditional distance learners. “On the one hand, my fellowship aims to prepare educational researchers, practitioners, and K-12 teachers for 21st-century life and work by using state-of-the-art methods that are learner-centric to make educational decisions. On the other hand, part of my research is focused on working towards affordability and access to education, which I aim to sustain by exploring open and connected learning as cost-effective alternatives to educational platforms and building research partnerships with industry,” she said, adding she will too work to “amplify the voice of Hispanic scholars and researchers in the Global South.”
Castellanos-Reyes received her bachelor’s degree in English Philology and English Education from the National University of Colombia in Bogotá, Colombia, and her master’s degree in Learning Design and Technology: Curriculum and Instruction from Purdue University.