On 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.
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.
It is encouraging that last year’s OpenVA conference wasn’t a one-off event. It easily could have been. The conferenceÂ was initiated and supportedÂ by the McDonnell administration, now gone, and could easily have ended with a round of pat on the backs and atta boys afterÂ the conference’sÂ closingÂ session, held at the Stafford campus of the University of Mary Washington. But OpenVA has come back for a second year, kept aliveÂ by the passion and dedication of the conference organizers, an enthusiastic group of educators representing Virginia’s public post-secondary institutions.
TCC’s cool-looking student center, Virginia Beach campus
The Â follow-up event isÂ scheduledÂ forÂ Saturday, October 18thÂ at Tidewater Community College’s Virginia Beach campus. The event will be a little different this year, focused less on sharing best practices and more on the development of a framework of policies that support greater adoptionÂ of open resources and promote collaboration among institutions across the state. The summit, called Building OpenVA,Â will gather input from participants during four focused discussion sessions with the purpose of developing recommendations for a statewide open resource strategy.
The summit is for administrators, educators, legislators, librarians, and learning technologists involved with public post-secondary education in Virginia who:
have launched successful open initiatives that they would like to expand or scale,
know, or want to know, how to support an open initiative at their institution,
understand the importance of openness and want to better understand how â€˜openâ€™ is currently being deployed throughout Virginia,
believe in the promise of â€˜open’ but arenâ€™t sure how to start or sustain an open initiative,
want to learn how to form and write policy for open education.
You can find out more about the Building OpenVA Summit, as well as respond to an open call for submissions, atÂ the event website:Â http://openva.org/. And don’t forget that the 2014 Open Ed Conference will take place a few weeks later in Washington, DC, anotherÂ great opportunity for VCCS faculty and staff interestedÂ inÂ learning more aboutÂ OER and global open initiatives.
Last monthÂ I completedÂ Educause’s Learning Technology LeadershipÂ (LTL) Â Program, held June 23-27 in Seattle, WA. I have been meaning to post my reflections andÂ have only now gotten around to having a spare moment to share them. The program was targeted at EdTech professionals like me who support and promote teaching and learning in some way or another within a higher education institution.Â The LTL program was essentiallyÂ aÂ leadership immersion experience, withÂ aÂ packed agenda and unwaveringÂ pace. Â The fifty or so participants and I were engaged throughout the day and often into the evening, from Monday afternoon and to a mini-graduation ceremony on Friday morning. It was a taxing schedule, especially those of us from the East Coast (and South Africa and Singapore) suffering from jet lag.
Overall I found the program to be meticulouslyÂ designed and well-organized, with plenty of hands-on activities and team-based work to keep me and the rest of the group engaged. The activities provided ample opportunity for me to get to know the other participants. Even so, with such a large group, I wasn’t ableÂ to meet everyone. Â As usual, I felt a bit like an outlier, both becauseÂ of my position andÂ level of leadership experience. While many of theÂ participants came from very large institutions, no one worked at a statewide or system level like me. Similarly, no one to my knowledge Â was involved in advancing higher education policy to the degree I have been during my three years at the VCCS. Â There was aÂ handfulÂ of individual community colleges representedÂ among the manyÂ public and private four year schools, which I found refreshing. Those are my peeps, you know.
There were two highlights to the program for me. The first was the completion of the Clifton Strengthsfinder assessment (you can find out more about the Strengthsfinder here). The assessment identifies your top fiveÂ strengths from a list of strengths that are organized into four categories: Â Executing, Influencing, Relationship, and Strategic Thinking. It wasn’t totally surprising Â to me that four of my top five strengths wereÂ in the Strategic Thinking domain. Having confirmation of this was not onlyÂ helpful to me in the LTL program but will continue to be useful to me in my work, which hopefully will bring aboutÂ lots of thinking and strategizing.
The second was aÂ team-basedÂ project that required us to to develop a plan to bring significant change to aÂ fictitious institution by applying the concepts of the five day program. The projectÂ culminated with a presentation from each groupÂ about their ideas, with the program faculty role-playing various higher education archetypes: the tightwad CFO, a self-interested college student, the even moreÂ self-interested faculty member, and a “don’t sweat the details”Â VP of academics. My team pitched repurposing the lecture classrooms of a small community college (Edgewater Community College, named after the conference hotel) into aÂ technology-richÂ active learning classroom, with modular furniture and configurable student workstations to support learner-centered, collaborative instruction.
Some RandomÂ Take-aways
The field of educational technologyÂ still doesnâ€™t quite know what it is. This is reflected through the nomenclature used byÂ professionals working in this field: we areÂ IT, ET, EdTech, Instructional Designers, and Instructional Technologists. Some of us are considered administrators. Some of us are faculty. Some are staff. The field is amorphous and poorly defined.
Despite this, unlike CIOs, “educationalÂ technologists” typically reside within aÂ organizational hierarchy that makes it difficult for them to lead effectively. As information technologists advance toward becoming CIOs, their expertise remains in InfoTech. But to advance one’s educationalÂ technology career means movingÂ Â awayÂ from teaching and learning technologies to areas like transfer, student services, and research.
I think the promiseÂ of the LTL program and programs like it is toÂ helpÂ better define myÂ field as well asÂ create more opportunities for Â EdTech professionals to lead.
You gotta walk the talk: leading is much easier ifÂ you also a teach.
Academic freedom is actually a thing, as in a formal set of principles drafted by the American Association of University Professors in 1940. I had no inkling about this. I thought academic freedom was like the famous definition of pornography: “You know it when you see it.” Having a better understanding of AF will help me addressÂ conversations with concerned Â faculty in the future. I plan to write a separate post on this topic.
Effective communication is a crucial aspect of successful leadership. But effective communication is no longer a simple matter of sending out a blanket email to all faculty and staff. TheÂ communications landscape is now extremely fragmented, andÂ this fragmentationÂ has added new layers of complexity to messaging, PR, and information sharing.
Have Â you participated in the LTL program before, or one like it? I’d be interested in any thoughts or reflections you had about the program’sÂ value to you, personally, professionally, or both.
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?
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.