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Category: Innovation-disruption (Page 1 of 3)

Zx23 Project Request for Applications Released

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​


First in the World Grant

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

VCU ALTfest: Burning Man for Educators

VCU AltFest

VCU’s AltLab will be hosting its equivalent of a weeklong celebration of culture and “radical self-expression”  in the Nevada desert with AltFest, an event billed as an “academic learning transformation festival.”  While ALTfest will have a bit less nudity than Burning Man, it will offer a “program of formal and informal special events, performances, and festive activities celebrating stories of learning transformation and exploring new possibilities.”

The event is designed to capture and create opportunities for educators and learners to engage in active learning experiences and share stories of learning transformation. ALTfest is May 12-14, 2015 in the Academic Learning Commons on the VCU campus in Richmond, VA, clothing optional. On the final day of the event participants will set fire to a giant papier-mâché replica of Shaka Smart. The call for proposals deadline is March 30th. Registration is open. More info here:

ICE ICE, baby: Innovation Community Exchange

Innovation Community ExchangeOne of the first Reengineering efforts I was part of at the VCCS was serving on the Innovation Through Technology Task force. The stated goal of this group was to “support the creation of high performance systems that utilize fully the talent and potential of our people, leverage the power of technology, enhance productivity, and produce better outcomes for students.”  The ITTF group quickly agreed that one major barrier to reaching this goal was, broadly, communication. On the one hand, there was too little communication among faculty and staff across the VCCS, leading to the age old problem of reinventing the wheel.

On the other hand, there was also too much communication. Throughout the VCCS faculty and staff communicate with email, discussion lists (d-lists), listservs, and online forums. We have an intranet, Buzz, and our various college and system websites. We have Blackboard announcements, RSS feeds, and digital newsletters. There is Twitter, Facebook, Yammer, and Google+. We can connect via videoconference with Collaborate, WebEx, Google Hangouts, Adobe Connect, and Skype. I could go on and on. The information is out there, but on which channel? Overall, whether too much or too little, communication across the VCCS has been ineffective.

You could say that this problem is endemic to our information age: the belief that more communication is inherently better. Blast out your announcement on every platform you can in order to reach the most eyeballs. I am guilty of this. But I am also guilty of ignoring a large amount of information I receive. My Twitter feed speeds by unread.  One third of my emails are vendor spam or electronic newsletters. Probably like you, I receive way too much information that I can realistically absorb and have few tools to sort the more important stuff (email request from my boss requesting materials for next week’s meeting) from the trivial (50% off Groupon for a hot air balloon ride).

That brings us to ICE. The Innovation Community Exchange (ICE) is an online system developed by the folks at New River Community College as an outcome of the Innovation Through Technology Task Force. The intent of ICE is to help solve the ineffective communication I described by linking people, technology, and information in order to promote college innovations. ICE is an online innovation space where VCCS “makers” can to share ideas, promote products, and search for collaborative partners. Users can use the platform to search for an idea, an individual, a software package, or a learning opportunity. Users can also participate in discussion threads or training sessions, or download available products to try for themselves. RSS feeds and email notifications allow users to track developments.

A system like ICE could be a powerful tool for the VCCS to effectively share innovative ideas, services and artifacts, allowing colleges to accomplish things together that may not be able to individually.

That said, I wonder if ICE is going to be yet another communication platform to add to my list above, or if it will be perceived as useful enough to get some significant use across the VCCS? We built it–will they come? And if they don’t, what will we have learned?

Perhaps the Rambling Professor can convince you to give ICE a try.

The Digital Revolution Will Be Livestreamed

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:

  1. examine VCCS administrative practices and policies that unnecessarily add to the cost of academic textbooks,
  2. explore how networked digital technology can best be leveraged to lower the overall cost of textbooks, including using open educational resources,
  3. 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,
  4. identify opportunities for interested VCCS faculty to explore using openly licensed resources in their courses,
  5. examine the current relevance of printed textbooks in an age of interactive, web-based content, digital publishing, and
  6. 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:

Announcing the 2014-15 CIF Awards

Sticky_Notes_2 Congratulations to the following projects selected to receive awards from the 2014-15 Chancellor’s Innovation Fund. The 21 winning proposals below were selected from a total of 37 submissions from 21 different VCCS colleges. Due to limited funding, the CIF Review Committee, made up of both academic and workforce staff, was faced with the difficult task of judging the best projects from among many very worthy proposals.

The winning proposals include the development of a mobile 3D printing lab, several open educational resource (OER) projects, as well as many other compelling projects, including one that explores innovative financial aid processes and another that will create competency-based instruction for developmental math.  Once completed, these openly licensed projects can be used by any of our 23 VCCS colleges.

You can read more about each CIF project by clicking on the word Link beside the project titles below.

Link Project Title College Credit Award
Link Educacion Para Todos/Education for All LFCC Credit $13,748.00
Link Enhancing Learning through Early Academic Intervention Strategies VWCC Credit $16,130.00
Link GET CONNECTED with Pathway Connection: “Connecting high school completion to college and career readiness/success” NVCC Non-Credit $5,214.00
Link Faculty Inquiry Groups (FIG) – A Collaborative Approach to Hybrid Certification NVCC Credit $13,250.00
Link LEAD Academy: Leadership, Education, Engagement And Development to Increase Student Success through the GEC VHCC Credit $29,250.00
Link Expansion of Paul D. Camp Community College's Trades Programs (Fast-Track Facilities Maintenance Technology CSC and HVAC CSC) PDCCC Credit $10,700.00
Link Expanding Student Access and Success Through New Financial Aid Initiatives PDCCC Credit $25,320.00
Link Charlottesville Area Advanced Manufacturing Program (CAAMP) PVCC Non-Credit $14,820.00
Link Fabricating a Fast Track Credentialed Welder Pipeline through a K-12 and Industry Partnerships DSLCC Credit $50,000.00
Link Jump Start to College Success MECC Credit $46,575.00
Link Innovative Student Success Strategies NRCC Credit $13,600.00
Link ACT-4 Scholars Program RCC Credit $10,200.00
Link Capstone for Learning Online and Universal Design (CLOUD) JSRCC Credit $13,470.00
Link Veterans Training and Employment Network (VTEN): Advanced Manufacturing TCC Non-Credit $37,370.00
Link Bridging the Gap for Success in CTE RCC Credit $19,800.00
Link Active Learning Classroom Space BRCC Credit $39,000.00
Link Dynamic Texts: Multiple models for integrating OER JTCC Credit $14,074.00
Link Fabulous Fab Lab: Traveling Rapid Prototype Maker Workshop TCC Non-Credit $25,000.00
Link Capturing the Methods of Master Teachers PVCC Credit $16,303.00
Link Developmental Mathematics @ PVCC: Implementing and Aligning Competency-Based Instruction PVCC Credit $20,850.00
Link Creating an OER Community between Community College and High School Faculty JSRCC Credit $42,473.00
Link Project Title College Credit Award
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Get innovatin’: Announcing the 2014-15 Chancellor’s Innovation Fund


Today Chancellor Glenn DuBois announced the call for proposals for the 2014-2015 Chancellor’s Innovation Fund (CIF). This fund provides crucial support to college faculty and staff who are driven to develop innovative projects, test out their ideas, and investigate new, inventive ways to meet the goals of Achieve 2015, particularly the goals of supporting access and increasing student success.

Past CIF recipients have used the funds to contribute such valuable, lasting projects as PluggedIn VA, the courses in the Teaching Online Program (TOP, IDOL, LOGO, TOTAL), Northern Virginia’s OER-Based Associate Degree Project, and a number of crucial workforce certifications and academic programs.

Awards range from $5000 to $50,000 for innovative proposals from colleges. Of particular interest to the CIF Selection Committee are proposals for projects that address the following areas of need:

  • Competency-based learning
  • Credit for prior learning
  • Employability skills
  • Expedited program pathways
  • Innovative approaches financial aid disbursement
  • Innovative student success strategies
  • K-12 alignment & transfer
  • Open educational resources
  • Structured program pathways

Proposals are due by 11:59 pm October 10th, 2014. The announcement of awards will be made after October 24th, 2014. CIF awards must be spent by June 30th 2014.

You will find all of the application materials and online submission form at


Governor Honors VCCS Sorcerers with Coveted Plaque of Invisibility

The Virginia Education Wizard has once more cast its spell on the Commonwealth, winning  a 2014 Governor’s Technology Award in the Innovative Use of Technology: Education category for the Virginia Education Wizard Mobile App. The special award ceremony was held at the annual Commonwealth of Virginia Innovative Technology Symposium (COVITS) in Richmond on Sept. 3, 2014. The Wizard app was developed as a native app available for both iOS and Android platforms, and designed for both phone and tablet platforms.

The development of the mobile app was to ensure the greatest usability for the greatest number of users, particularly the increasing number of users for whom mobile devices are their primary access to the internet,” states Director of Student Support Technologies Chris Pfautz.

2014 COVITS Wizard

VA Wizards Erika Poindexter and Chris Pfautz showoff invisible technology award

The Wizard app simplifies the often overwhelming process of gathering information about occupations and colleges. With a free account, users can access supply & demand for numerous occupations in the user’s area, median salary for occupations, and colleges in Virginia offering relevant college programs of study), college details (admission criteria, application closing dates, application & tuition fees, average per-student cumulative undergraduate indebtedness, & more) for colleges across the U.S., and a cost calculator to compare the cost of attending Virginia’s community colleges with four-year colleges, demonstrating to the user annual savings and transfer savings.

The Governor’s Technology Awards were presented to honorees in nine categories. Winners were determined by a panel of government information technology (IT) experts. You can find a list of the other winners and finalists on the COVITS website, Contact the Man-Behind-the-Curtain, Director of Student Support Technologies Chris Pfautz, for more information on the Virginia Education Wizard.

Bookstore Contracts, OER, and Textbook Affordability

BooksBelow you will find a link to the VCCS Bookstore Operations Request for Proposals. This RFP was developed in response to the findings of the VCCS’s Textbook Costs and Digital Learning Workgroup. For the past two years, I have co-chaired, along withe Dr. Mark Estepp, President of Southwest Virginia Community College, this workgroup. While the TCDLR group’s work is still ongoing with its final report scheduled to be released this summer, one of its early findings was not only how much a college’s bookstore contract dramatically influences textbook prices–something that was well-known–but also that the terms of the contracts of various VCCS colleges were wildly disparate. We also discovered that of our 23 colleges, 9-10 had contracts expiring within the next several years.

As a result, Virginia Western Community College, the college with the bookstore contract expiring the soonest, lead the development of this RFP that is not only a systemwide agreement that all colleges can use, but include requirements for the support of OER as well as a reduction in the percentage of commission colleges receive from book sales. A total of 12-13 colleges have indicated they will sign on once their current contracts expire, making it pretty darn close to a systemwide bookstore contract.

Feel free to download and reuse the contract.

VCCS Bookstore RFP by richardsebastian

Hit the innovation bullseye, get $5 million


Pull your best arrows out of the quiver, take careful aim,  and hit the innovation bullseye and you could steal away with up to $5 million in  booty from the Robin Hood organization. Robin Hood’s “College Success” Prize  is a jackpot of $5 million that will go to the individual or team that develops a scalable technology solution to help community college students stay on track to a timely graduation.

The  goal of the organization is to alleviate poverty.  Robin Hood believes that developing innovative, scalable, and technology-enabled tools that improve the academic performance of underprepared college students can help achieve that goal.

Here is a description of the competition from the Robin Hood web site:

The competition is open to individuals and teams that develop scalable solutions that will help more community college students graduate within 2-3 years.  Competitors may address whichever set of student skills they believe will produce the greatest success. These may include math, reading, or writing, as well as behavioral, non-cognitive or non-academic factors.

The Prize will reward successful interventions – such as smartphone apps, computer applications, and web-based tools—that are aimed at the individual student and will supplement existing curricula and supportive services such as tutoring.

The competition launched in March 2014 and continues through October 2018, with the prize money distributed incrementally based on results.

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