Richard Sebastian

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Respondus Training

During the month of February, Respondus®, maker of the VCCS-licensed products Respondus Lockdown Browser (LDB), Respondus 4.0, and StudyMate, is offering a series of webinar trainings to help instructors effectively use Respondus applications with online tests. The webinar sessions are each 45-minutes long and focus on creating online assessments and deterring cheating during online exams. The schedule is below. Instructor Training for LockDown […]

zELI: NVCC Turns It Up To 11

Lumen_Learning_–_Partner__NOVA_zELILast week the Extended Learning Institute (ELI), Northern Virginia Community College’s online program, and Lumen Learning issued a joint press release announcing that nine of the 24 courses that make up NVCC’s all-OER General Education degree are now available to the public on Lumen’s Candela platform. Eventually, all of these “zELI” courses–Z-Degree + ELI– will be publicly available as well.

Perhaps you are a bit surprised that these courses, and the courses that make up Tidewater Community College’s Z-Degree, aren’t already publicly accessible. Weren’t they created, like, two years ago, you ask? While the courses have been available “by request,” you had to find the unmarked door and know the secret knock to get them. This is the first time a full Z-Degree will be shared on the open web. For those of you shouting, “It’s about time! These are supposed to be open, you know!”  keep in mind that ushering these precious little darlings into the sunlight is more difficult than it looks.

With the eventual release of the full set of zELI courses, along with Tidewater’s Z-Degree courses and the 104 or so courses being developed for the Zx23 Project, it looks like 2016 will bring a dramatic increase in publicly available, high-quality OER courses. It will be interesting to see if having these degree pathways out there for public consumption will spur an increase in adoption of both individual courses and full Z-Degrees. The joint press release is below. You can access the zELI courses on the Candela platform by clicking here:

Hello, I’m MTH 240: Introducing New OER for Statistics

CC-BY-SA: CollegeDegrees360

CC-BY-SA: CollegeDegrees360

Hi there. Let me introduce myself. I’m MTH 240, but you can call me Statistics. I am a blend of OpenStax College’s Introductory Statistics and OER from other trustworthy sources, making me the ideal, and first, open course in statistics designed for students majoring in fields other than mathematics and engineering. Before you take me you should have been exposed to intermediate algebra. With me,  you’re going to learn the application of statistical knowledge rather than the theory behind it. By the way, the foundation of the OpenStax text above is Collaborative Statistics, by Barbara Illowsky and Susan Dean, so you know I’ve got good bones.

Each of my chapters has an accompanying set of randomized, auto-graded assessments delivered through MyOpenMath. My text, and my assessment sets, have been combined into a single handsome course shell in Blackboard Learn, making it as easy as pie to take me home with you. One more thing: Unlike those other textbooks (you know the ones I’m talking about), I am fully editable, so you are free to customize me how you like. How’s that for academic freedom?

Topics I cover include:

  • Probability
  • Descriptive Statistics
  • Distributions: Binomial, Geometric, Poisson, Uniform, Exponential, Standard Normal, Chi-Square, F
  • Distribution
  • Central Limit Theorem
  • Confidence Intervals
  • Hypothesis Testing With One and Two Samples
  • Linear Regression
  • Correlation
  • One-Way ANOVA

Interested? Find me on the OER Courses tab in Blackboard Learn and click Bb Preview to request access. I am sure you’ll like what you see. I know you’re students will.  You can also request a department or personal-level version should you wish to take advantage of this added feature.


Join Us In OER Office Hours, daily

Quick reminder: we have daily scheduled OER office hours at Lumen. Some of these sessions (as announced) will be a meet-up for those collaborating on specific course building and planning, and others will be your open forum for discussions of anything you want to explore in OER theory and practice, including any technical help and support you need. Click here for instructions and to […]

Dr. Eddie Watson and OER at Virginia Tech, Monday Nov 16th

From OER champion and colleague Anita Walz at Virginia Tech: Please help me in sharing this information widely. Events on Monday, Nov 16th will be of interest to teaching faculty and administrators, curriculum decision-makers, those concerned about student affordability and academic success, and librarians and instructional designers that work with faculty. All events are free and open to the public. Registration […]

Announcing the 2016 Chancellor’s Innovation Fund Awards

Congratulations to the 2016 Chancellor’s Innovation Fund (CIF) grantees listed below.  The applicants responsible for these outstanding and innovative proposals will receive CIF monies to develop, pilot, and assess their projects. The purpose of the annual CIF is to provide colleges with the opportunity to request funding for innovative projects that are aligned with the single goal of the new VCCS strategic plan, Complete 2021: to triple the number of credentials awarded to Virginians by our colleges by the year 2021. Achieving this goal requires us to explore new ideas, develop new approaches, and test and implement successful innovations. The outcomes of these projects are shared with the system, and any resulting deliverables will be openly licensed, allowing them to be adopted and used by other VCCS colleges.

This year faculty and staff from 15 VCCS colleges submitted a total of 26 CIF proposals.  The CIF Review Committee, made up of academic and workforce staff, faced the challenge of selecting the best projects from among many very impressive proposals. Due to a limited amount of funds, many worthy proposals could not be funded.

Again, congratulations to the awardees below. To find out more about these exciting projects, click the View link beside each project title in the table below. To find out more about the Chancellor’s Innovation Fund, visit the CIF page at

2016 Chancellor’s Innovation Fund Awards

More Info Project Title College Credit Award amount
View Trades Academy LFCC Credit $27,740.00
View Inspired to Succeed: Bridging the College Readiness Gap JTCC Credit $16,200.00
View Access Success: Creating Guided Pathways to Student Success WCC Credit $26,000.00
View Imagine 3D ( Introducing Minorities And Genders Innovations in Engineering?) – Mini STEM learning sessions RCC Non-Credit $16,350.00
View Bringing Developmental Education into the 21st Century; A Project-based STEM Learning Community VWCC Credit $13,193.00
View Virginia Joint Center for Military Credit Evaluation (JC4MCE) TCC Credit $25,708.00
View Cooperative Learning for Distance Learning (CL4DL) PHCC Credit $15,000.00
View Winning New Jobs: Train-the-Trainer PVCC Non-Credit $20,635.00
View Academy for Career Education VHCC Credit $17,800.00
View MyOpenMath (MOM) Training TCC Non-Credit $13,000.00
View Making Electronic Technology and Engineering Courses Accessible to Rural Students RCC Credit $20,571.00
View Personalizing Instruction to Promote Student Success in an Online OER Math Course NVCC Credit $10,314.00
View Universal Design for Learning BRCC Credit $25,100.00

“Affordable Learning at Scale With OER”: Z-degrees in the News

Read about scaling OER, VCCS Z-degrees and TCC’s Linda Williams in Campus Technology. Oh, and Lumen Learning, with David Wiley!   OER in the News

CVCC’s Z-Degree featured in Lynchburg’s News & Advance

Here is another Zx23 Project article from a hometown newspaper–this time The News & Advance, based in Lynchburg, home of Central Virginia Community College. Like today’s R T-D article on JSRCC’s OER project, this one includes multiple perspectives, including interviews with several CVCC students and zx23 Project lead Juville Dario-Becker. Excerpt below:

© Jay Westcott

© Jay Westcott

Out of a half dozen students interviewed for this story, some students had to buy textbooks for most of their courses, but others, like Nicole Ayers, did not. Ayers said she thinks some of her professors are choosing not to assign textbooks because they are concerned about students struggling to pay for them. Realistically, she said, many students chose CVCC because they are financially unstable and CVCC is relatively affordable compared to some other schools. She is enthusiastic about the idea of the new open resource courses and the guarantee ahead of time a class won’t cost an extra arm and a leg.

“I think it will actually encourage people to come to college,” she said. “I think it will encourage people to come specifically to this college.”

You can find the full article here:


Reynold’s OER project in the Richmond Times-Dispatch



Today’s Richmond Times-Dispatch story, Reynolds offers classes with no book costsdescribes J. Sargeant Reynolds Community College’s Zx23 Project, with interviews with students, project leader and English faculty member, Jane Rosecrans, and a few faculty skeptics who are still not convinced about the quality or efficacy of open educational resources. I thought the quote from JSRCC student Eric Eichenlaub was incredibly poignant, and underscores for me why reducing the cost of textbooks is so critically important:

Eichenlaub said he has paid up to $200 per course for a new textbook and supplemental materials to make sure he gets the most from the class.
So he was especially gratified when he enrolled in two of English professor Jane Rosecrans’s American literature courses that are part of a pilot program using free open-source educational materials rather than traditional hardcover textbooks. Eichenlaub, father of twin 14-month-old boys, calculates his savings meant extra cash for diapers, formula or his education.

You can read the full article on the Richmond Times-Dispatch website:

VSU’s Digital Course Fair: Oct. 23, 2015

VSU Digital Course FairHey, are you are looking to check out some new digital course tools and materials to possibly incorporate into your instruction to engage your students? If so, you may want to check out Virginia State University’s Digital Course Fair. According to VSU’s Director of Distance Education, Art Fridrich, the goals of this event are “to introduce or reintroduce college faculty to the rich variety of digital course tools currently available to facilitate learning, enhance or create new partnerships, and reduce the cost of education for college students.”

Some of the things you’ll see at this event are adaptive learning courseware built upon Carnegie Melon University Open Courseware, new products and services from publishers like Cengage, Pearson, and McGraw-Hill, open educational resources vendor Lumen Learning, and much more.

The event is free. There will be refreshments (yes!) and door prizes (I never win). If interested, please register by clicking on this link:

If you want more information or have questions, please contact VSU’s Director of Distance Education, Art Fridrich at

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