Bearing Witness to Transformation: innovateOSU

ohio_state_pic Last week at this time I was locked into the 4th annual innovateOSU conference which showcases the work Ā happening in educational technology at THE Ohio State State University. I was honored to have been invited to kick off the conference, and what I realized in my short time on campus was how engaged and focused group of administration and faculty at OSU is having the right conversations about the possibilities of online education—something that’s been bubbling up globally over the last 18 months. In fact, the great Barbara Sawhill came down from Oberlin, and we talked about just that, and then she blogged about it šŸ˜‰

The night before my presentation I was breaking bread with OSU’s Provost Joe Allutto, Social Work Dean Tom Gregoire, Ā Undergraduate Dean Wayne Carlson, math professor James Fowler,Ā Chemistry professor Matthew Stoltzfus, Communications professorĀ Nicole Kraft, and English professorĀ Kay Halasek—and all of them to a person were deeply engaged in the questions of how OSU as a learning community will engage the world of online learning. And while they are experimenting with Coursera, that is just one avenue they are imagining—and Jim Fowler who is currently teaching Calculus 1 through Coursera has been programming Ā his own online course platform—which is exciting. What’s more, a community of faculty is thinking hard about what this means for a school that operates on the scale of OSU—and the experimentation is happening.

Mike Hofher and Steve Lieb setting up for innovateOSu

I guess this is where I am feeling buoyed by this trip, a big 10 university like OSU is actually investing a significant amount of resources in people likeĀ Mike Hofherr (the newly minted Associate Vice President of Distance Education and eLearning), Liv Gjstvang (the Digital First Director) and SteveĀ Lieb to name just a few. And the leadership Mike Hofher has provided this group over the last two years is remarkable, he has a staff that is ready to re-imagine the work they do—-and everyone to a person I talked to was genuinely excited about the direction they are heading in. That is no small thing.

I think what is happening at OSU right now, will soon be happening in a lot of places, re-aligning resources and making a push to develop and work with faculty to engage online learning head-on. The fact that OSU is being proactive about this is smart, and, at least for me, that might be the silver lining of the MOOC craze as of late. Universities and colleges start to take the possibilities or engaging online learning seriously, we invest in experimenting wildly in this space, and ultimately realize we’ve only just begun and universities can build and design these spaces better than the venture-capital driven companies out of Silicon Valley (but that’s just me šŸ™‚ ). A new movement to invest in people not gamble on futures and shares.

Chris and Anand at innovateOSU

An educational community that is locked in can really make a difference in this space right now, and OSU is on the way to demonstrating that in spades. Not only do they have the centralized learning technologies support, but folks like Chris Hill represent a grass roots movement of edtech happening on campus, and seemed to me the two were working together to make the transformation that much more of a cultural shift. Ā It’s really exciting to go to a community in which you can actually see the community transformation occurring, and it’s funny how often that is coupled with an educational technology conference. There’s something to that. In fact,Ā E. Gordon GeeĀ was even tweeting at me! That is pretty amazing, and as someone in this field to have a president of such a high-profile institution reach out and give you a virtual high five is powerful! He is doing something very right.

I had a the pleasure of meeting with folks, sharing what I thought (always surprised to find folks listening šŸ™‚ ), and always honored to represent the work we are doing at the University of mary Washington. There is something really exciting about a big, public research university like OSU being deeply interested in what a small, public liberal arts college is doing with online teaching and learning communities. UMW is the little school that does.

Anyway, I had nothing short of a blast, I was injected into a community that is firing on all cylinders, and I shared the culture of experimentation we’ve been cultivating here at UMW for years as a means to hopefully inspire the folks at OSU to keep doing the awesome stuff they’ve started, experiment wildly, shave their heads :), and not be afraid to take the amazing work they do as a teaching, learning, and research community and open up what they can to the public. An ethos of open that I ‘ve been pushing in my last three presentations.


On that note, I have been working through a presentation over the last two months, since SUNY’s Online Learning Summit ConferenceĀ to be exact, wherein I have been trying to spell out what the field of “open” looks like currently, how I understand UMW’s approach to that has been, and what this means for truly rethinking teaching, learning, and IT infrastructure. It’s been a real pleasure to start fresh with a brand new presentation two months ago, and fine tune it at Virginia’s ACCS conference in mid-March, and then present my finalized version at innovateOSU. I’ll now move on to a new conceit, otherwise my talks tend to get routinized and uninspired (which I never let happen šŸ˜‰ ), I kinda liked this new method. Focus in on a talk for an intense period of time, try and fine tune it, and then try something new after two or three passes. Anyway, I’m happy where this one ended. You can see the slides below and an archived video of the entire presentation here:

And, at the end of my time when I was back in Fredericksburg what do I get? A follow-up tweet from President Gee!

I most certainly enjoyed my visit, and in no small part thanks to an engaged community that understands online learning is here to stay, MOOCs are one small part of that, and the experimentation within institutions needs to start now!

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6 Responses to Bearing Witness to Transformation: innovateOSU

  1. Victoria Getis says:

    Thanks, Jim, we really enjoyed having you speak at Innovate. I found the talk inspiring. It will be interesting to see how all these trends intersect: creating domains of one’s own, doing assignments for the joy of doing the assignment, taking giant lecture courses for the chance to experiment. In many ways, these are all signs of a very wealthy society — at least wealthy in a digital way, while budgets for higher education are often precarious.

  2. Reverend says:

    I want to thank you for starting this awesome conference four years ago, as well as inviting me to keynote. It was tangible the impact you have had in shaping the culture I describe above, and the video of people articulating that was my favorite part of the day. People are influencing each other in the best communal spirit there, and you embodied that for me. Thanks again for an awesome day, and good luck at Northwestern, it is apparent how much you will be missed there.

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