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Category: Research

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 http://www2.ed.gov/programs/fitw/applicant.html

What’s the (OER) Story Morning Glory?

OER World MapThis is not a request you get everyday: the creators of the OER World Map, a new project to “share information on behalf of the worldwide OER community, using local knowledge to describe the OER ecosystem” have extended an invitation to this community to share your OER story. From the website:

We invite you to share your OER story with the community and tell others about your OER activities! These could be OER projects or initiatives, Open Educational Practices like generating OER or teaching with OER, the development of guidelines & institutional policies on OER, new insights and research on OER, as well as the development or use of helpful infrastructure tools for OER. Please include a title and a text no longer than 5000 characters that describes the who, what, when, where and why of the activity. A photo connected to the story would also be great. Please note that stories will be published under CC-BY.

Built withopen data technology, OER World Map is attempting to use data visualization to represent OER projects and use as they spread across the globe. The OER World Map also supports a range of widgets and tools through powerful statistical analysis. OER World Map is built by hbz and graphthinking GmbH with funding from The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation.

To share your or your institution’s OER story, send it to info@oerworldmap.org.

 

OpenVA 2.1: Powdered Wig Version

Thomas Jefferson Reenactment

“P.S., citizens: ye should license openly all of mans’ intellectual endeavors to avoid some serious problems down the road.”

OpenVA is putting on its breeches and tri-cornered hat, hopping on its pony,  and heading to Williamsburg, VA. OpenVA is evolving from a centrally-organized, annual summit to more of an umbrella term for a collection of institution or group-sponsored gatherings focused on all forms of openness. This is a good thing, I think, and was the goal anyway, shared at the close of OpenVA 2.0 last October at Tidewater Community College with the idea of the college “drive-by.”

The W&M event is really an ideal format for the next iteration of OpenVA. Jamison Miller, previous OpenVA participant and graduate student in W&M’s Higher Education Program, organized OpenVA 2.1 to address particular needs at his institution, but has designed the event with input from the the broader open community in Virginia. Here is the announcement Jamison posted to the OpenVA mailing list:

We are excited to announce “OpenVA 2.1”, a 3-hour workshop on Open Educational Resources (OER) that will be hosted at the College of William and Mary on Saturday, May 2nd. Although OER are gaining exposure and adoption across the globe, awareness remains one of the chief obstacles to implementation. This event, then, is about fostering a rich and varied awareness of the many faces of OER. We are organizing two focused panels to critically discuss:

  1. the current OER landscape and what constitutes OER and,
  2. first-hand accounts of OER implementation from a variety of disciplines and contexts.

These panel sessions will be broken up by an expectedly spirited keynote address from Gardner Campbell, Vice Provost for Learning Innovation and Student Success at Virginia Commonwealth University. Space in the agenda will be reserved for audience input, as we hope to encourage an engaged dialogue relevant to attendees. And lunch is on us!

It is good to see the DIY, guerilla spirit of the first OpenVA conference continue. The first conference was created 2 1/2 years ago out of spit and polish, rolls of duct tape, Werner Herzog-recommended bolt-cutters, pure, unrefined human ingenuity, and a small roll of bills that constituted a budget. We referred to it as an “inaugural” event at the time, but that was purely aspirational. Here we are today, with another exciting event at one of the nation’s oldest and most prestigious colleges. Who’d a thunk? Details below. It’s free, but you have to register.


Saturday, May 2nd, 10:30 a.m. – 1:30 p.m. (doors open at 10 for coffee)
Media Center, Ground floor, Swem Library
The College of William and Mary
400 Landrum Drive, Williamsburg, VA 23185

Free weekend parking available in all campus lots
Directions: https://swem.wm.edu/about/directions-parking
The event is FREE, but pre-registration is required as there is a cap of 50 attendees. Register at http://openva.org/register-2/. Please distribute immediately to interested staff and faculty. For questions, please contact Beverly Covington or Jamison Miller.

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.

Community College Online

I am a little late posting this report by The New America Foundation on online learning in the community colleges. Some of the findings in the report came directly from research on the VCCS done by the Community College Research Center. Findings such as this:

Given the lack of large-scale studies about online education in the public two-year sector, the Community College Research Center published a longitudinal study in 2013 that explored how well students in Virginia’s and Washington’s community colleges fared in online versus face-to-face courses. The study’s authors found that overall, student performance decreased in online courses. On average, if a student took a course online rather than face-to-face, the likelihood he would withdraw from the course increased by six percent. For those students who did complete online courses, the authors found that their final grades were lower by 0.3 GPA points (for example, a change from a B+ to a B).

Not exactly what we want to hear, but useful nonetheless.

I am still digging through the report but thought I would share the link for anyone interested in reading it.

OER policy: Both Big P and little p

Education_Commission_of_the_StatesThe Education Commission of the States, an organization that, among other things, tracks state educational policy trends, recently released a report titled Open-source textbooks can help drive down the overall cost of collegeThe report highlights both legislative and non-legislative initiatives in a number of states that have been launched to address textbook affordability.

The short 5-page report gives some of its precious ink to the VCCS, mentioning the Chancellor’s OER Adoption Grants, TCC’s Z-Degree, and the OER projects at NVCC and Reynolds. You can download the full report here: http://www.ecs.org/clearinghouse/01/14/37/11437.pdf

Two steps forward

Despite a great deal of time, money, and effort spent by foundations, educational institutions, and policy-makers to decrease the number of college students who leave college over the past four years, the opposite has happened. According to recent findings from the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, the portion of first-time U.S. students who return to college for a second year dropped 1.2 percentage points since 2009.

The 1.2 percentage point dip is substantial, as it applies to a total enrollment of 3.1 million students. That means an additional 37,000 students last fall would still be enrolled under the 2009 persistence rate. The largest decline was among young students who were just out of high school.

Clearinghouse_study_finds_declining_student_persistence_rates__insidehighered

The report doesn’t address potential reasons for this drop but the news will certainly give pause to those organizations involved in national college completion efforts such as Project Win-Win, Achieving the Dream, and Complete College America.

You can read more at Inside Higher Ed:  http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2014/07/10/clearinghouse-study-finds-declining-student-persistence-rates#ixzz374bXvI7x

 

VCU Online Learning Summit 2013

VCU Online Learning Summit

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.

More info from the VCU Summit website:

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.

If you want to submit a proposal, you have until Monday, March 1st, 2013. Visit the Online Learning Summit web site for more details: http://wp.vcu.edu/onlinesummit2013/

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