Author Archives: Reverend

OpenVA 2.0: October 18th, 2014

Below is the text of an email I recently sent out to all of the attendees at last year’s inaugural OpenVA conference. As the following email notes, this year we are doing things a bit different, focusing more intently on how we utilize out time together to build some momentum around getting some things done. It seems to have resonated with folks because we already have 75+ registrants in less than two weeks, and most folks on that email list are still enjoying the precious last moments of summer vacation. Read on for more details and be sure to register before we cap out at 150.


Image Credit: EdCamp Fort Wayne


This Fall we are running a 2nd Annual OpenVA conference, but we have decided to change up the format a bit. As you may recall, the inaugural event held last October at the University of Mary Washington was a conference format that brought together educators, learning technology specialists and administrators to share innovative practices using open education resources. Since that time, the planning committee has remained engaged and they are enthusiastic about furthering the work in this area.

We have scheduled a follow-up event, to be held at Tidewater Community College on Saturday, October 18th. The event is free and open to all, and will focus on a relatively small number of existing projects in and around Virginia that feature how various universities are utilizing open content, infrastructure, and pedagogy to garner both grassroots and institutional support for sharing open resources and to promote institutional collaboration. Some specific projects include Tidewater Community College’s “Z-Degree” focused on affordable textbooks, University of Mary Washington’s Domain of One’s Own created to empower students and faculty to manage their digital lives, as well as looking at how various institutions are rethinking IT infrastructure in light of cloud computing. And that’s just a few of the projects and topics

What’s more, we want your projects too! We are interested in other innovative higher ed projects exploring open educational resources, open infrastructure, or open pedagogy happening around the state. Submit your example using the following link, and the committee will reach out for more details:

This Summit on Building Open VA will features examples as well as gather input from participants during four focused discussion sessions with the purpose of developing recommendations for a statewide open resource strategy.

Please help in the promotion of this event among your colleagues.  We wish to attract faculty, administrators, legislators, librarians and learning technologists,

  • who have put together successful individual initiatives that they would like to expand or scale
  • who know, or want to know, how to support an Open educational initiative,
  • who understand the importance of an Open Initiative and want to get a better understanding of how ‘Open’ is currently being deployed throughout Virginia,
  • who believe in the promise of ‘Open’ but don’t know where to get started or how to sustain an open initiative once it gets started,
  • who want to learn how to form and write policy for open education.

Some event presenters will be invited by the planning committee based on its prior knowledge of their work and its relevance to the topics.  However, there is also an open call on the website for submissions so that the committee can learn about other examples and incorporate them into a robust schedule for the day.

The event website is:

Also, you can register for the event, which will be free of charge, here:

If you have any questions, please let me know.

Thanks for your attention,

Jim Groom
If you want to end any further emails about OpenVA, send me an email and let me know. You can respond to this email or send a note to

OpenVA Under Construction

I just published this post announcing the second annual OpenVA conference that will be happening October 18th, 2014 at Tidewater Community College. This announcement will be followed shortly by an email from the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia (SCHEV) to the provost (or academic equivalent) at every pulic higher education institution in Virginia. That email will layout the reconstitution of this committee under the official banner of OpenVA, and frame this conference as the first step in building an infrastructure around open education in Virginia . This email will also be a call to these campuses to appoint representatives at Virginia’s various public colleges and universities to steer this newly imagined group.

It was pretty excited to hear that OpenVA got a second act, and it’s even cooler to think SCHEV intends to given this group credence, support, and a platform to operate from. But this also means we need to actually get down to brass tacks. Start building, if you will.

So when thinking about this year’s conference, we came up with a somewhat different approach. Rather than reproducing what we did last year, we decided to try and dedicate the time during the event to try and focus on what it is we want, and try and hash out how we can make it happen—hence the title “Building OpenVA.” It will be like a hackathon for pushing policy conversation towards action:

  • Open infrastructure
  • Open content/resource
  • Open pedagogy/curriculum

This event isn’t a conference, per se. It will be broken down into four sessions. The first three will showcase open initiatives happening currently in Virginia that embody each of the three faces of open listed above . The final session will be a culmination of the discussions with the goal of charging participants and laying out a strategy for action at SCHEV, higher education institutions, and legislative bodies.

Each session will be 90 minutes long and formatted as a kind of call/response. The first half will be a presentation by a panel consisting of Virginia higher ed institutions and educators who are at the forefront of open innovations currently taking place in VA. This will be followed by a directed panel discussion by a small group of stakeholders including representatives from faculty, IT, librarians, administration, and legislature. The panel will discuss how the current initiatives might be scaled to move beyond their existing implementations and be adopted by a larger number of Virginia institutions.

It’s this call and response idea that I hope takes off. It reinforces the fact that Virginia’s colleges and universities are a distributed, but connected voice that needs to collaboratively frame the conversation of our future. To that end, we’re asking that anyone from around the state contribute their example of an innoVAtion (forgive the cheesey camel case, I couldn’t resist) from any of Virginia’s public higher education institutions.

….there is an open call on the OpenVA website ( seeking examples of projects happening currently in Virginia’s colleges or universities that represent an innovative approach to opening up infrastructure (sharing technical resources, server space, applications, etc.), content (open educational resources, textbooks, media, etc.), and pedagogy (syllabi, innovative course practice, research, curriculum, etc). The organizing committee will use these examples to contact various presenters and create a schedule for the day that is rooted in what’s happening on the ground. The event will be about augmenting and amplifying the best of what’s already out there.

I’m pretty excited about this approach to the conference, and all the credit goes to Andrew Feldstein and Steve Nodine who took time out of the Sloan-C Emerging Tech conference in Dallas this past April to hash this idea out in person. I should also add that as we go through a transition to the OpenVA incarnation, the committee has been pared down to a few highly motivated and dedicated people. And they make it very apparent that the vision of an open Virginia has taken hold and driving us all.

We’re running the conference at a different campus this year, thanks to the ever great Diane Ryan of Tidewater Community College, and that idea of a moveable, shared vision for which we share responsibility is why I know this group will be successful. But I shouldn’t get ahead of myself, there is much more to do over the next four months. So until then save the date: Saturday, October 18th in Virginia Beach. This analyzing is paralyzing, let’s build the future of open education in Virginia we want to see!


Minding the Future Panel to be Featured on NPR

Looks like parts of the Minding the Future panel along with individual interviews with its particpants will be featured on NPR’s “With Good Reason” radio show this Sunday, November 17th from 1-2 PM on Radio IQ 88.3 Digital. It will be fun to hear what the show makes of the event and its featured speakers. What’s more, I’m hoping Sarah McConnell covers some of the issues, topics, and presentations she saw at the OpenVA conference the following day. I guess I’ll just have to listen to find out. Below is a copy of the press release released by UMW yesterday. All this just serves as a haunting reminder that I have yet to blog about either of these amazing events that took place almost a month ago. Hope springs eternal!

Highlights from the first Open and Digital Learning Resources Conference held at the University of Mary Washington in October will be featured on the public radio show “With Good Reason.” The conference, known as OpenVA, brought together more than 250 experts from Virginia institutions to examine the future of higher education and technology. The show, “The Future of Higher Education,” will air beginning on Saturday, Nov. 16.
Jeffrey McClurken moderated a panel during the first OpenVA conference at UMW.

The program will feature the panel of David Wiley, Kin Lane, Alan Levine, Gardner Campbell and Audrey Watters, moderated by Professor and Chair of History and American Studies at UMW Jeffrey McClurken. Experts from Virginia Commonwealth University and Virginia State University also will discuss the challenges and opportunities of digital learning. The two-day conference was sponsored by the State Council for Higher Education and the University of Mary Washington. Audio files of the full program and its companion news feature will be posted online the week of the show at

For full videos from conference sessions, visit

“With Good Reason” is a program of the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities. The show airs weekly in Fredericksburg on Sundays from 1-2 p.m. on Radio IQ 88.3 Digital. To listen from outside of the Fredericksburg area, a complete list of air times and links to corresponding radio stations can be found at

Minding the Future Program at a Glance

It’s hard to believe both Minding the Future and OpenVA are less than a week away now. I’ve finally gotten the titles and abstracts of the 10-minute talks happening in the afternoon along with a sneak preview of some of the issues to be discussed in the closing panel discussion. This should be a pretty amazing day, and I think we should be able to stream it all live at Stay tuned for more on that front. In the meantime, feast your eyes on this, a conference about the future of education that can actually resist the popular urge to advocate systemically dismantling and defunding higher ed ;)

2:30-3:00 Alan Levine’s “Memorable/Unmemorable”
If asked whether they would like to be remembered, almost no one would answer “No”. But multiple choice questions can be trickier than they seem. The education future some are painting for us is a path focused on a destination, reached via an unmemorable journey.

3:00 -3:30 Kin Lane’s “Access, Interoperability, Privacy and Security Of Technology Will Set The Stage For The Future of Education”
The future of education will be fueled by the access and interoperability introduced by common, everyday web and mobile applications that our children use in school and at home, and we depend on as adults in our workplaces and personal lives. By providing proper access and interoperability in applications, bundled with the healthy education of end-users around these features, and fully respecting user’s privacy and security, technologists can help define the future of education and evolve the next generation of citizens who are web literate by default, and never stop learning, creating and sharing.

3:30 – 4:00: Audrey Watters’s “A Future with Only 10 Universities”
Sebastian Thrun’s claims that in 50 years, we’ll only have 10 institutions “delivering higher education and Udacity has a shot at being one of them.” What (horror) has to happen in order to get us to “ten.”

4:00 – 4:30 David Wiley’s “Implications of the Open Content Infrastructure”
Open infrastructures radically decrease the cost (and therefore risk) of experimentation, which consequently increases the pace of innovation. For example, the open communications infrastructure known as the internet radically reduced the cost of experimenting with new services and business models dealing in information (c.f. the costs and risks of experimenting with pre-internet “publication” business models for disseminating information or enabling communication). Over the last decade, individuals, foundations, and governments have built an open content infrastructure (OER) on top of the open communications infrastructure (internet). This open content infrastructure has enabled a second wave of low cost / low risk experimentation in a range of content-related fields including education and research.

4:30 – 5:00:  Jon Udell’s “Observable work and the reinvention of apprenticeship”
For most of human history the work of the world was directly observable. A young person saw, and often participated in, the farming and the hunting and the building. Then the adults vanished from the scene. They had all gone to the factory or the office. Work became opaque to the young.

Now work is again becoming observable. Increasingly both the processes and products of work are represented digitally, in ways that can enable learners and practitioners to connect. Will universities nurture those connections?

5:00 – 6:00 Break/Food and Refreshments

6:00 – 7:30 Panel on the Future of Higher Ed moderated by Jeff McCLurken 

This panel will include all of the day’s speakers responding to a wide variety of questions—a sampling of whcih can be found below:

  • What have been the most exciting developments in higher education over the last 5 years?
  • What will be the most exciting developments in higher education in the next 5 years?What developments concern you?
  • Who are the major players (people, institutions, businesses, foundations) in the digitally enabled higher education landscape?  What are their goals?  Who pays for this transformation?
  • What role does the defunding of higher education, especially at the state level, have to do with these changes?
  • What is the role of the state and federal government in these conversations?  What is it likely to be, going forward?
  • Business and technology leaders have been telling those of us in higher education that we have our heads in the sand, that MOOCS in particular are going to wash over us and we will be out of business. So, do public institutions of higher education have their collective heads in the sand when it comes to MOOCs, online learning, and “electronic delivery revolution”? If so, what are we missing and why?

Virginia’s Open Digital Resources Conference

Image credit: “Virginia is for Lovers” by Mandipidy (click image for source)

Last Thursday we (the Open & Digital Learning Resources Conference Committee) had another meeting at UMW to prepare for the upcoming statewide conference on Open & Digital Learning Resources to be held at Mary Washington in March. There’s a lot of energy and excitement in this planning group, what’s more the conversations continually rise to a level of thoughtful nuance around the larger questions impacting public education at our moment. That fact makes these get togethers a real pleasure to take part in, something I don’t say freely about committees as a rule. I really enjoy how the group has become intent on making sure this conference provides the framework that will help Virginia’s educational institutions start sharing expertise and resources more effectively—a simple but powerful idea that is really exciting for me.

One of the shortcomings of the endeavor thus far has been the absence of K12 in these discussions. As Tom Woodward noted, this is an egregious oversight that I’m glad we started to attend to in last week’s meeting. It’s extremely important that we don’t continue to pretend that K12 and higher education can act as independent, distinct agents given how much the two rely upon one another for a well educated public. The dialogue between the two should be ongoing from the beginning, and we’re going to do everything possible to make sure of that.

Finally, after the jump below you’ll find the full text of the Call for Proposals—-a document I’m proud to have been a part of. (Please let me know in the comments below if you find it confusing.) Now all we need is the great professors, teachers, administrators, and edtech folk from around Virginia to start submitting proposals as soon as possible. The deadline for proposals is November 30th, so get on it doggoneit.

Download a PDF version of the RFP here.

Virginia’s First Annual Open and Digital Learning Resources Conference


The Office of Governor of the Commonwealth of Virginia, State Council of Higher Education for Virginia, and Virginia Community College System invite submissions to its inaugural Open and Digital Learning Resources Conference to be held at the University of Mary Washington in Fredericksburg, Virginia on March 7th, 2013.

This is a watershed moment for open and digital learning resources, with a number of well-publicized initiatives bringing new energy and attention to this topic. In May 2012, Harvard and MIT announced a partnership to create EdX and host free courses to anyone, anywhere. In July 2012 the online course platform Coursera announced it had established new partnerships with 12 universities to offer free online courses. The State Board of Career and Technical Colleges in Washington state is offering open access to 81 of its most highly-enrolled courses through the Open Course Library. And OpenStax College, a project out of Rice University, has released the first of a series of free, open textbooks for core college courses like Physics and Biology.

Clearly, open and digital learning resources have the potential to have a significant and perhaps lasting impact on our educational institutions, and it is vitally important to begin to build an understanding of the challenges and opportunities they offer for teaching and learning across the Commonwealth.

The Open and Digital Learning Resources Conference will bring together teams of higher education stakeholders from across Virginia to collectively investigate the exciting topic of open and digital learning resources (ODLR) in education. ODLRs are a fairly broad categorization of educational technologies and practices that include the use and integration of in-class and online digital media, hardware, and software, a variety of openly licensed and freely available open educational resources (open textbooks, open courses, open content, etc.), augmented reality, and other tools used to deliver or enhance instruction in postsecondary settings. The conference organizers are particularly interested in examining ways these resources can be created and shared effectively and efficiently among college campuses across the Commonwealth in order to build a shared repository of openly licensed content.

This conference will tap into the a wide-range of expertise, innovation, and transformative ideas from across the Commonwealth of Virginia not only to showcase current ODLR projects and practices, but also actively link higher educational institutions together in order to develop and support a vibrant community of practice around the use of ODLR. This conference is an exciting opportunity to systematically explore how digital learning resources and networked educational experiences can lower costs, create new collaborative partnerships, and positively impact student outcomes, as well as establish a community of postsecondary institutions interested in continuing to explore this issue.


The scope of this conference includes, but is not limited to, the following topics as they relate to open and digital learning resources:

  • strategies to reduce costs of instructional materials
  • open policies, including open government, open assessment, and open data
  • flipping the classroom
  • alternate & augmented reality
  • serious games/gamification
  • team-based, collaborative, or cooperative online learning
  • mobile learning
  • open educational resources, including open textbooks, open content, open courses (MOOCs), and open teaching


Institutions are encouraged to submit multiple proposals that meet the criteria of this RFP. Proposal submissions can be in two distinct categories, outlined below:

  1. Digital Carnival Showcase
  2. Presentation format, including:
    1. formal presentation
    2. panel discussion
    3. interview
    4. debate

The Digital Carnival Showcase

Why a carnival? Because a carnival typically involves a public celebration or parade combining elements of a circus, mask, and public street party. In other words, we want this part of the conference to be fun and engaging!

The ODLR Conference Committee invites submissions to the Digital Carnival Showcase to demonstrate and promote innovative technology projects happening at colleges and universities across Virginia. This is not a poster session; rather it is intended to be a fun, loud, colorful, and interactive morning session in which students, faculty, and administrators can engage participants in digital demonstrations of projects happening on their respective campuses. The “big top” of the Digital Carnival Showcase will be a large, open space that encourages interaction and the co-mingling of ideas across institutions in order to get a broader sense of the vast landscape of innovation and technology happening in higher education in Virginia.

For these proposals we encourage interactive “booths” where a team of presenters, like carnival barkers, demonstrates their innovative digital work to curious conference participants. These demonstrations can focus on faculty, student, and/or administrative innovations around digital learning resources, and can be as specific as localized classroom experiments or as broad as curricular innovations. Some examples: course sites, open textbooks, 3D Printing, e-books, internet radio, streaming video, campus-wide blogging, wikis, etc.. Ideally, submitted projects should be able to be effectively demonstrated and discussed in a physical space.


The Call for Presentations invites individual or group submissions. As part of your submission please describe the format you plan to use for your paper (presentation, panel, interview, debate). Creative formats that actively engage the audience are encouraged. Specify whether you prefer a time slot of 20 minute or 45 minute duration. Identify which conference topic your paper fits with (see list above)

Go to to submit a proposal. The deadline for submissions is November 30th, 2012.

Who Will Be Attending?

The ODLR Conference Committee invites six member teams from each public two- and four-year institution in the Commonwealth to attend this conference. It is recommended these teams include a college or university president (or other senior administrative leader), a fiscal officer, a library representative, an instructional designer or technologist, and two faculty members.

Postsecondary faculty throughout Virginia are doing some amazing work with digital learning resources. The goal of this conference is to feature this work as well as create a network of postsecondary administrators, staff, and faculty interested in building an educational culture around open and digital learning resources. ODLR 2013 is your opportunity to share and promote the innovative work happening at your college or university and introduce it into Virginia’s public education learning ecosystem.


The Open and Digital Learning Resources Conference is an initiative of the Office of Governor of the Commonwealth of Virginia, the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia (SCHEV), the Virginia Community College System, and the following partner institutions:

  • Christopher Newport University
  • College of William & Mary
  • George Mason University
  • James Madison University
  • Old Dominion University
  • Radford University
  • Tidewater Community College
  • University of Mary Washington
  • University of Virginia
  • Virginia Commonwealth University
  • Virginia Military Institute
  • Virginia State University
  • Virginia Tech