Virginia’s Faculty Collaboratives Project

I am excited to work on the AAC&U’s Faculty Collaboratives project. The project is being implemented at the state level. Half a dozen states were in the first cohort, which began last year. Virginia is in the second cohort, which means we have benefited by learning from the experiences of the first cohort.

The nominal goal of the Faculty Collaboratives project is for each state group to develop a collection of faculty development resources to increase awareness of how to enhance the effectiveness of teaching and learning, especially in the liberal arts & sciences. These resources will be based on the findings of learning science over the last few decades–findings of which I suspect most rank & file faculty are unaware. I don’t know about you, but learning science was not part of my graduate program. AAC&U has conducted a number of initiatives in this area, including the two I’m most familiar with: LEAP and VALUE. The challenge is to get these resources into the consciousness of faculty.

Gardner Campbell, who is leading the Virginia initiative, expresses the challenge this way: How can we help students (and faculty) see general education requirements as more than checkboxes on the road to the student’s real education (e.g. in the major)? How can we help students and faculty see general education as more than just a set of hurdles to be gotten past? How can we help students and faculty see general education as a foundational part of their undergraduate studies as well as lifetime learning?  In short, how can we do what we’ve always valued, only better.

What approach are we taking in Virginia? We decided early on to use open educational practices as the model for our approach. Virginia has a vibrant open education community, so we have both resources and interest to draw from. David Wiley describes what we’re planning as rethinking general education requirements as if the Internet existed.

Open education can be pursued from a variety of angles, including open pedagogy, open access, open educational resources (OER), and more. There is no universally accepted definition of open education, which allows a diversity of approaches to be tried. It’s probably best to think of open education as a philosophy of teaching and learning, a set of practices, rather than a specific technique or set of skills. One can try some, but not all practices, and that’s fine. If this sounds imprecise, we will be exploring these concepts in more detail soon.

Our project will operate at several levels.

  • We want to create an online platform to showcase a set of teaching resources and practices.
  • We want to make the resource organic and sustainable so that the platform doesn’t die when the project is over.
  • We want to model what we’re presenting, using open educational practices.
  • We want to assess whether the platform makes a difference in faculty teaching practice and effectiveness.

Not too ambitious, huh? Beginning later this month (January 2017), we will conduct an open online course to explore open educational practices. The idea is to give interested faculty the opportunity to learn by doing. The course is designed for anyone who would like to learn more about open education, regardless of your background and experience. Everyone is welcome!

The course will be organized by topic. If you are only interested in one or two topics, you can simply participate those weeks.   Of course, you’ll get far more out of it if you participate in the whole course. If you have tried taking a MOOC (e.g. Coursera, Udacity) before, you will find our course very different. It will be based on the Connectivist MOOC model developed by George Siemans and Stephen Downs and exemplified by DS 106. For additional information on the course and how to participate, check out the project hub at I hope to see you there.

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5 Responses to Virginia’s Faculty Collaboratives Project

  1. Laura Gibbs says:

    Lucky faculty of Virginia! This sounds really exciting, and I look forward to learning more by lurking. 🙂

  2. A. Nelson says:

    Lurkers welcome, Laura! Insight from @OnlineCrsLady even more so!

  3. sgreenla says:

    It’s not just for Virginia faculty. Anyone is welcome to participate.

  4. Otterscotter says:

    Exciting! Can’t wait to see how this unfolds!

  5. Thanks, Steve. And if I may: I’d like to *open* liberal education beyond the liberal arts (sometimes people say “liberal arts and sciences”). Any field or discipline can participate in liberal education. There is a necessary place at the heart of this kind of education for the traditional liberal arts. You can’t have liberal education without the liberal arts. But if liberal education is confined there, that’s a problem. I see the liberal arts evolving along with liberal education.

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