Retreat To the Future

On Tuesday and Wednesday August 7-8, from noon to noon, the VCCS held its Chancellor’s Retreat. This annual event brings together the 23 presidents of the Virginia Community College System, members of the State Board of Higher Education, Virginia legislators, higher education administrators, and others to reflect on our collective work, plan for the future, and kick off the  beginning of a new academic year unified by our shared goals and aspirations.

You can find a great overview of the Retreat plenary and concurrent sessions here: http://rethink.vccs.edu/planning-retreat-2012/.

This year, I had the privilege of moderating a panel called Teaching, Learning, and the Impact of Open Educational Resources. The invited panel guests were a Dream Team of OER movers and shakers: Dr. Mirta Martin, Dean of the Virginia State University Business School and VCCS Board member; semi-mad professor Jim Groom, Director of the Division of Teaching and Learning Technologies at University of Mary Washington (Google him); Nicole Allen, Textbook Affordability Director for Student PIRGs; and Dr. David Wiley, Associate Professor of Instructional Psychology and Technology at Brigham Young University.

The panel’s impressive breadth of OER experience made them the perfect group to frame this important issue for the education and government VIPs in attendance who have some grease when it comes to setting educational policy. David Wiley kicked off our panel by defining OER (see video below) and shared the results of his research on the Kaleidoscope Project, an initiative to provide comprehensive open general education courses serving predominantly at-risk students in order to “dramatically reduce textbook costs and allow collaborative improvement of course design to improve student success.” The outcomes of this project were pretty dramatic, and supported the commonsense idea that students do significantly better in their courses when they have all the learning resources they need.

Mirta Martin ripped apart the VSU Business School curriculum and rebuilt it from the ground up–adopting open textbooks, building an interactive, student-focused social-learning platform, and hiring a fresh staff of faculty committed to student success. Jim Groom used the example of his DS106 class, an open, online course on Digital Storytelling, to move beyond the focus on materials–textbooks, courseware, etc.–and promote the idea of “open learning experiences.” Nicole Allen brought an urgent message from college students from across the country about the negative  impact skyrocketing textbook costs are having on student success and student debt. She also shared her experiences traveling across country to help student groups push for open textbook adoption on their college campuses.

Overall both Tuesday and Wednesday sessions were well-attended and the panel got some great questions from the audience. One of those questions was to David Wiley. A college president asked, “David, how long until you think this issue will reach a tipping point?”

David’s response: “Three years ago.”

Here’s a video of David defining open educational resources:

(Link to the video on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qUSy0uz5ZTU)

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