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Category: Lumen Learning

Meet the New Zx23 Project Manager: Cheryl Huff

Cheryl Huff

Last week on this blog I announced the official release of the Zx23 Project Request for Applications. Today, I’d like to announce the selection of Cheryl Huff as the new, full-time Program Manager for the Zx23 Project.  Cheryl (BA, MA-LA, M.Litt) has been teaching, chairing, training faculty, and coordinating projects at Germanna Community College for the past nine years. Her background is in ancient Greek philosophy and the works of Shakespeare. Through Germanna’s Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP), Cheryl implemented institutional change in distance learning at the college as well as across the VCCS. She specializes in designing quality online courses and course materials, including open educational resources. In 2012, Cheryl received a Chancellor’s OER Adoption Grant to develop OER for her English course and has since become an OER leader at Germanna and the VCCS. Cheryl brings this wealth of experience to the Lumen Learning team. In her new role she will focus exclusively on the Zx23 Project.

Cheryl says, “There is no evidence that Gandhi actually said, ‘Be the change you wish to see in the world.’ but that doesn’t make it any less of a good idea. I believe we can change the world of education through OER development for the VCCS, working with Lumen.”

As the Principal Investigator for the Zx23 Project, I am extremely pleased to hear about Lumen’s selection of Cheryl as Program Manager and I look forward to supporting her and the other Zx23 Project colleges over the next year. Congratulations, Cheryl!

Inquire Within: Hiring Zx23 Program Manager

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:

The Portable Z: We’re Doing Five Blades

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.

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:

OpenEd 2014 heads to Virginia: Call for Proposals


The OpenEd conference is hands down the premier national conference on Open Educational Resources. Now in its 11th year, the conference traditionally alternates between a location in Utah, its state of origin, and an international location, such as China (2008) or Vancouver, Canada (2012). As I was leaving Park City, Utah after the 2013 Open Ed Conference, the rumor was that the 2014 conference would be located in either Brazil or New Zealand.

No offense to either Brazil or New Zealand, but I am relieved and excited that David Wiley and the conference organizers decided instead to host the conference right here in our backyard, in Arlington, VA. Relieved because, as much as I would love to travel to either of the alternate international locations, there is little doubt the state would pay my way. Excited because having the conference in Virginia is an acknowledgement of the Commonwealth’s national role in OER development–especially the VCCS’s leading role in VA–and will allow VCCS faculty and staff to highlight their cutting edge work on such an important stage.

With that said, the call for papers for OpenEd 2014 is now open. Please share this information with your college colleagues, especially those who are currently involved in or interested in being involved in open educational resources. With this conference not just in the same timezone but right down (or up?) the road, it is a great opportunity for VCCS faculty to learn from the many other OER projects around the world.

Follow this link  to submit a proposal:

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