On February 17th, the New America Foundation’s Education Policy Program will host an event that will focus on the use of information technology at community colleges. The event will occur in conjunction with the release of a new report by New America, Community College Online, which features case studies of how community colleges are harnessing technology to improve remediation, student services, and content delivery. Here is a description of the two-hour long event from the organization’s web site:
Community colleges are often the only or the last chance for a college education for many of America’s students. Some students enroll in a couple of classes or a short-term certificate to gain new skills, some enroll to obtain their associate degrees, and some enroll with the intention to transfer to a four-year institution. The open access of community college is one of America’s greatest postsecondary strengths, but also one of its greatest challenges. While almost anyone with minimum qualifications can enter a community college and pursue a postsecondary credential, few will actually complete.
Community college students need access to more high-quality, flexible support services, courses, and credentials to succeed. Students should be able to take at least two courses a semester—two in the fall, two in the spring, and two in the summer—so that they can complete their associate degrees in two to four years. Innovative use of information technology can help get them there.
The Textbook Costs and Digital Learning Resources (TCDLR) Committee released this final report a few weeks ago at the last meeting of the Reengineering Task Force. I co-chaired the committee with the wonderful Dr. Mark Estepp, President of Southwest Virginia Community College. The committee was charged with the following tasks:
examine VCCS administrative practices and policies that unnecessarily add to the cost of academic textbooks,
explore how networked digital technology can best be leveraged to lower the overall cost of textbooks, including using open educational resources,
investigate ways which currently licensed electronic resources can be used in electronic “course packs,” as a substitute for textbooks, or for the supplementary material often required for a course of study,
identify opportunities for interested VCCS faculty to explore using openly licensed resources in their courses,
examine the current relevance of printed textbooks in an age of interactive, web-based content, digital publishing, and
recommend strategies and policies for creating an institutional culture that embraces and practices openness, transparency, collaboration, and sharing.
The report contains a number of recommendations for lowering the cost of course materials across the VCCS. I am really proud of what this group accomplished, much of it before the release of this report, including the 17 college VCCS Collaborative Bookstore contract with Follett to textbook reduction metrics in the annual evaluations of VCCS presidents. In fact, in many ways the final report is a bit anti-climactic.
Still, you should red it. You can read or download a copy of the report below:
Today, VCU launchedÂ a brand-spanking new MOOC-ish thing, Thought Vectors in Concept Space. The official name is UNIV 200: Inquiry and the Craft of Argument.Â I am usingÂ this blog as my platform for my participation in the course which, if you are not a VCU students who isÂ formally enrolled, is totally free. Totes.
So, if Â “Take a MOOC” is on your bucket list–which would be kind of weird, but whatever–or you wantÂ a learning experience that more aÂ cross betweenÂ a roller-coaster ride and Â than a college lecture, you should head to http://thoughtvectors.net/ and reveal your intent.
The rebranded NMC Academy launched publicly today, a not-for-profit hub for education-related professional development. The mission of the project from its inception has been to provide busy teachers and other learning professionals with the opportunity to expand their knowledge and skills online, to explore new ways of delivering online learning, and to generally push the boundaries of cutting-edge professional learning opportunities. HP has selected the NMC to lead the next phases of the project because of the NMCâ€™s track record for creating sustainable models that advance innovation in education.<full article>
Yesterday Â I was given yet another opportunity to moderate another technology-related panel for VCCS’s Chancellor’s AnnualÂ Retreat. Last year, David Wiley, Jim Groom, Nicole Allen, and Mirta Martin joined a panel to discuss OER. That single event helped accelerate the VCCS’s OER efforts, with Tidewater Community College Academic Vice President Dr. Daniel DeMarte launching the Open@TCC textbook zero project after attending the panel, and the Chancellor’s OER Adoption Grant launching soon after. Tidewater will offer a zero-textbook-cost Associates degree in Business Administration and twelve colleges will offer OER sections of their highest enrollment courses this fall, a mere one year later.
This year the discussion was less focused as last year’s OER topic, Â but is just as timely. The panel, following the Mind the Gap theme of the Retreat, was titled Clicking, Swiping, and Commenting Away the Academyâ€™s Traditions Gap. Ed-tech blogger, author, Â and journalistÂ Audrey Watters, Web 2.0 Labs Director Steve Hargadon, and Gardner Campbell, VCU’s new vice Provost of Learning, Innovation, engaged in a lively, wide-ranging discussion on the many and often contradictory aspects of disruptive technology, as well as the mission of post-secondary education.
Tuesday’s afternoon panel was informally live-streamed and recorded. You can view the recorded session here. Unfortunately, due to the on-the-fly streaming set-up (we used Google Hangouts on Air with a Logitech Conference Cam and Yeti table mic) the audio was a bit spotty, and dropped out for a bit. Â We also weren’t able to effectively stream the panelists slide decks and video clips. However, something’s Â better than nothing, right? Right?
UMW’s IT crew–Tim Owens, Jim Groom, and the rest–are true technology innovators: starting this Fall, all faculty AND students at UMW are being offered their own personal web space, for free, allowing them “reclaim the web” and “take control of [their]digital identities.” It’s such a simple concept really, so simple it’s genius, and easily untangles the Gordian knot of the Â LMS “walled garden” that has made the software, not the student, the center of learning.
Now, as recipients of a Shuttleworth Foundation “flash” grant, Tim Owens and Jim Groom are offering this free hosting to any faculty or educational technology staff who want to experiment with having a domain of their own. Jim and Tim will even help you get it set up and working.If you’re interested, go to Reclaim Hosting (reclaimhosting.com) to sign up. You’ll need to have an idea of how many accounts you need and Â pay about $12 each for domain names.
*Correction: an earlier version of this post identified UMW as the recipient of the Shuttleworth grant and Â the sponsor of the Reclaim Hosting project; in fact, Tim Owens and Jim Groom are the grantees supporting this project.
If you are in the Richmond area on May 14th, or want to justify a spring trip to our fair capitol city, you may want to consider attending the Online Learning Summit at Virginia Commonwealth University. Seasoned keynoter Gardner Campbell will be headlining. There is no opening band or cover charge. That’s right: it’s free.
If you haven’t seen or heard Gardener speak before, you can get a taste of what you are in for by viewing his spectacular keynote speech at the OpenEd conference in Vancouver, BC last year. I wrote about it here. The link to the recording is here.
The VCU Online Learning Summit is organized by the Center for Teaching Excellence at Virginia Commonwealth University. This regional conference serves as a multi-disciplinary forum for the discussion and exchange of information on the research, development, and applications of all topics related to teaching and learning online. We invite proposals of substantive, interactive sessions that will raise provocative questions, engage participants in discussion, and foster conversations.