May 212015
 

zzzVCCS colleges interested in being part of the…drumroll please…ground-breaking…innovative…envelope-pushing Zx23 Project can now download the official Zx23 Project Request for Applications.

The Z x 23 Project is a one-year grant to support the VCCS’s long-term goal of scaling Z-Degrees to all 23 VCCS colleges. The $200,000 grant from The William & Flora Hewlett Foundation, combined with matching funds from Chancellor DuBois and the System Office, will be used to fund, support, and train faculty and staff at up to fifteen Virginia community colleges interested in building Z-Degrees. Each Zx23 Project college is eligible for a grant of up to $15,000 to develop the first twelve courses of a Z-Degree. Lumen Learning, Inc. will work closely with faculty and staff at participating colleges to help build these pathways, host the courses in Blackboard Learn, and evaluate the outcomes of the pilots. The grant period ends June 24, 2016.

Please read the Request for Applications for application deadlines, grant details, project deliverables, and timelines. The Request for Applications and the Zx23 Project online application form can be found on the project website at http://edtech.vccs.edu/educational-technology-resources/oervccs/z-x-23-project/.​

 

May 132015
 

Home___U_S__Department_of_EducationOn Monday, the US Department of Education announced another round of First in the World grants, offering $60 million to eligible colleges and universities for the development and testing of innovative approaches and strategies to improve postsecondary education attainment.  A significant chunk of the grant funds–$16 million–is reserved for institutions designated as minority-serving institutions, such as Historically Black Colleges and Universities.

From the USDOE’s FITW website:

The First in the World (FITW) Program will provide grants to institutions of higher education to spur the development of innovations that improve educational outcomes and make college more affordable for students and families, and to develop an evidence base of effective practices. Institutions of higher education or consortia of such institutions are eligible applicants for FITW grants. We encourage applicants to partner with public and private institutions and agencies that can assist the applicant to achieve the goals of the project.

The deadline for applications is June 26, 2015.  The grants will be awarded no later than September 30, 2015. For more information on the grant program, go to http://www2.ed.gov/programs/fitw/applicant.html

May 112015
 

What-the-Best-College-Teachers-Do_jpg__441×440_

During the scenic two-hour shuttle ride from the Calgary Airport to Banff on my way to the Open Education Global conference I managed to plow through the slim little bestseller, What the Best College Teachers Do, by Ken Bain. Dr. Bain was one of the keynote speakers at this year’s VCCS New Horizons conference and I was really captivated by his talk, which he gave in the midst the keynote audience, wandering table to table like some Vegas crooner. His keynote was essentially a synthesis of his book, citing examples of what the best college teachers do–they focus on knowledge-creation, not knowledge transmission, create learning experiences in their courses, encourage learners’ intrinsic motivation–and how these practices are supported by research in the learning sciences.

However, I found his concluding chapter a bit contradictory. Dr. Bain researched what the best college teachers do, not what the best-trained college teachers do. Many of the teachers he studied learned to be effective “on the job,” through trial and error and, most likely, possessing some natural disposition for good teaching. Yet in the concluding chapter Bain argues that good teaching is not inborn but is in fact a set of skills, based in research, that can be taught. I don’t disagree, but think this point would be much more effective if we could see how teachers trained in the learning sciences arrive at effective teaching more quickly and completely than those who are not. Sadly, perhaps there are not enough teachers trained in this way for a statistical sample.

This book is a reminder to me that, colleges don’t need to be reinvented, run like for-profit corporations, or actually run by for-profit corporations. Instead, higher education needs to focus fully on supporting effective teaching and learning. We know what works–in fact, Bain summarizes these approaches nicely in his book–so let’s finally, finally train our faculty to do what the best college teachers do.

You can buy What the Best College Teacher’s Do at your local bookseller or, if you insist, online through some global behemoth.

*Updated May 11, 2015 at 12:15 pm

Apr 292015
 

openVA_logoOpenVA has gone viral, with the first documented outbreak happening this Saturday from 10am-2pm on the William & Mary campus in Williamsburg, VA. There are still a few open spots left if you want to come. You can find the link to register and other important information on the OpenVA site,  http://openva.org.

William & Mary graduate student Jamison Miller caught the OpenVA  bug during last year’s  summit at Tidewater Community College and brought it back with him to the W&M campus, where it spread apparently.  Those infected have been manifesting symptoms like a newfound interest in openness and a disregard for weekend plans. It’s the kind of virus that I’d like to see become a pandemic. OK, OK, end of my extended metaphor(or simile?).

I am excited to be moderating the opening panel, Intro to OER, especially since I didn’t think I was going to be able to make it to OpenVA 2.1 at all. However, I think this event is a significant development in the somewhat grassroots growth of OpenVA and, as I didn’t want to miss it, made room in my schedule. Besides, it’s pretty easy to reschedule my Zhumba® workout.

Visit the OpenVA website to see the full agenda and the roster of speakers.

Apr 212015
 

OER World MapThis is not a request you get everyday: the creators of the OER World Map, a new project to “share information on behalf of the worldwide OER community, using local knowledge to describe the OER ecosystem” have extended an invitation to this community to share your OER story. From the website:

We invite you to share your OER story with the community and tell others about your OER activities! These could be OER projects or initiatives, Open Educational Practices like generating OER or teaching with OER, the development of guidelines & institutional policies on OER, new insights and research on OER, as well as the development or use of helpful infrastructure tools for OER. Please include a title and a text no longer than 5000 characters that describes the who, what, when, where and why of the activity. A photo connected to the story would also be great. Please note that stories will be published under CC-BY.

Built withopen data technology, OER World Map is attempting to use data visualization to represent OER projects and use as they spread across the globe. The OER World Map also supports a range of widgets and tools through powerful statistical analysis. OER World Map is built by hbz and graphthinking GmbH with funding from The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation.

To share your or your institution’s OER story, send it to info@oerworldmap.org.

 

Apr 212015
 

Looking for a one-of-a-kind opportunity to assist Virginia Community College’s dramatically scale open educational resources across the state? Want to work for Lumen Learning, in my opinion one of the most interesting new technology start-ups? Are you lovable, flexible, and committed to the success of community college students? If so, take a look at the description for the Zx23 Program Manager below.

The Zx23 project Program Manager (Program Manager) is a critical position in helping Virginia successfully meet the ambitious goal of offering a zero-textbook-cost degree (“Z degree”) program at all 23 of its community colleges. Employed by Lumen Learning but working exclusively on the Virginia Community College System’s (VCCS) Zx23 project, the Program Manager will serve as a connection between the innovative work in Virginia and the broad resources and experiences of Lumen and its other clients and partners. The position will start begin immediately, through June 30, 2016, with possible ongoing opportunity for employment with Lumen with continuing focus in Virginia or beyond.

There has not been an open education effort on the scale of the Zx23 project before and the Program Manager position will be critical to the project‘s overall success. Dedicated to defining, guiding, and facilitating a program that has the potential to create positive change across the Commonwealth of Virginia, as well as serve as a model for similar efforts around the world, this position will require creativity, flexibility, risk-taking, and critical analysis in order to be successful. The Program Manager is often the initial emissary of openness and of new teaching and learning practices and will be expected to constantly seed and nurture positive change.

To see the original job description or to apply, click on the following link: http://lumenlearning.com/jobs/zx23-project-program-manager/

Apr 142015
 
Thomas Jefferson Reenactment

“P.S., citizens: ye should license openly all of mans’ intellectual endeavors to avoid some serious problems down the road.”

OpenVA is putting on its breeches and tri-cornered hat, hopping on its pony,  and heading to Williamsburg, VA. OpenVA is evolving from a centrally-organized, annual summit to more of an umbrella term for a collection of institution or group-sponsored gatherings focused on all forms of openness. This is a good thing, I think, and was the goal anyway, shared at the close of OpenVA 2.0 last October at Tidewater Community College with the idea of the college “drive-by.”

The W&M event is really an ideal format for the next iteration of OpenVA. Jamison Miller, previous OpenVA participant and graduate student in W&M’s Higher Education Program, organized OpenVA 2.1 to address particular needs at his institution, but has designed the event with input from the the broader open community in Virginia. Here is the announcement Jamison posted to the OpenVA mailing list:

We are excited to announce “OpenVA 2.1”, a 3-hour workshop on Open Educational Resources (OER) that will be hosted at the College of William and Mary on Saturday, May 2nd. Although OER are gaining exposure and adoption across the globe, awareness remains one of the chief obstacles to implementation. This event, then, is about fostering a rich and varied awareness of the many faces of OER. We are organizing two focused panels to critically discuss:

  1. the current OER landscape and what constitutes OER and,
  2. first-hand accounts of OER implementation from a variety of disciplines and contexts.

These panel sessions will be broken up by an expectedly spirited keynote address from Gardner Campbell, Vice Provost for Learning Innovation and Student Success at Virginia Commonwealth University. Space in the agenda will be reserved for audience input, as we hope to encourage an engaged dialogue relevant to attendees. And lunch is on us!

It is good to see the DIY, guerilla spirit of the first OpenVA conference continue. The first conference was created 2 1/2 years ago out of spit and polish, rolls of duct tape, Werner Herzog-recommended bolt-cutters, pure, unrefined human ingenuity, and a small roll of bills that constituted a budget. We referred to it as an “inaugural” event at the time, but that was purely aspirational. Here we are today, with another exciting event at one of the nation’s oldest and most prestigious colleges. Who’d a thunk? Details below. It’s free, but you have to register.


Saturday, May 2nd, 10:30 a.m. – 1:30 p.m. (doors open at 10 for coffee)
Media Center, Ground floor, Swem Library
The College of William and Mary
400 Landrum Drive, Williamsburg, VA 23185

Free weekend parking available in all campus lots
Directions: https://swem.wm.edu/about/directions-parking
The event is FREE, but pre-registration is required as there is a cap of 50 attendees. Register at http://openva.org/register-2/. Please distribute immediately to interested staff and faculty. For questions, please contact Beverly Covington or Jamison Miller.

Apr 092015
 

Portable ZOne of my favorite Onion articles is an expletive-laced “op-ed” by fictitious Gillette CEO and President James M. Kilts responding to his company’s lack of innovation in the “multi-blade” razor game. Softening up the language a bit so the VCCS will continue to allow me to blog, the modified headline reads: “Screw It. We’re Doing Five Blades.” I’m not going to link to it for obvious reasons, but you get the drift. Google the Onion + five blades if you want to read the whole, hilarious, testosterone-soaked article. Again: lots of cuss words.

Well, Virginia’s Community Colleges are “doing five blades,” too. Not in the multi-blade razor/moisturizing aloe strip space, of course. No, instead–building on the pioneering work of Tidewater Community College–the VCCS is taking OER to the next, audacious, metaphorical five-blade level by scaling the zero-textbook-cost degree–or Z Degree–to all 23 VCCS colleges.

The initiative, called the Z x 23 Project, is made possible by a generous grant from The William & Flora Hewlett Foundation, an organization with a deep interest in understanding how to successfully scale OER. The one-year grant will allow the VCCS to kickstart the process of building out the Z Degree by providing funding, support, and training to fifteen (15) VCCS colleges to begin building pathways to their own Z Degrees. An initial cohort of 6 colleges will begin work right away and work through the summer. A second cohort of 9 colleges will get underway in early fall 2015. Each participating Z x 23 college will pilot the open courses they adopt for this project. Lumen Learning, the VCCS’s partner in this endeavor, will work closely with participating institutions to build these pathways, host the courses in Blackboard Learn, and evaluate the outcomes of the pilots. Along the way, we also want to document how OER successfully scales and becomes mainstream, and answer the question, “How do we make Z degrees portable?”

Virginia’s community colleges are known internationally for their innovative OER work and significant accomplishments in developing and using open materials. TCC’s groundbreaking Z Degree, the first all-OER degree in the world, is partially responsible for putting Virginia on the OER map. However, much of this attention also comes from Virginia’s uncommon central structure, which enables the system to translate a commitment to scale OER into action. Sixteen VCCS colleges have developed and deployed OER courses. Over 70 open courses have been developed using Chancellor’s Innovation Funds (CIF), Chancellor’s OER Adoption Grants, Professional Development Grants, or local college funds. Collectively, the efforts of Virginia’s Community Colleges have saved students millions of dollars in textbook costs. And with the addition of 2 new Z Degrees from NVCC, the VCCS now has 3 all-OER associate degrees. All of this has taken place in less than 3 years.

This is a growing, global movement, and the next three years are going to bring even more dramatic results. This grant from the Hewlett Foundation is going to allow the VCCS to continue to lead the way forward.

Details about how your college can become a Z x 23 college will be forthcoming in the next few weeks. In the meantime, feel free to post a comment on here or contact me directly to express your interest or get additional information.