BY GLENN GRIGSBY
The University of Mary Washington will host OpenVa, Virginia’s first annual open and digital learning resources conference, On Oct. 15
Jim Groom, professor and director of the Division of Teaching and Learning Technologies (DTLT) said that the idea for the event emerged two years ago when he attended a conference with the State Council for Higher Education of Virginia (SCHEV).
SCHEV had a committee on digital learning resources, or e-recourses, but it focused primarily on the concept of e-textbooks.
The DTLT is a service organization available to UMW faculty members who wish to use technology as a means to enhance the quality of learning at the university. The members of this organization thought that the “e-textbook” definition of e-recourses was not broad enough and did not fully encompass all the innovative e-recourses being used at other Virginian institutions of higher learning.
The goal of the OpenVa conference is to bring together Virginia universities’ innovators for a “carnival” and give them an opportunity to share and collaborate.
There will be 50 presenters and 200 other attendees meeting at UMW’s Stafford campus, according to Groom.
These 250 people represent 14 Virginia universities.
Guest presenters from UMW include Groom, Professor of History Susan Fernsebner, Professor of Accounting and Management Information Systems Gail Brooks and Associate Professor of History and American Studies Krystyn Moon.
Professor Fernsebner’s presentation, “Global Studies, Social Media, and Open Learning meet The Daily Show”, details how her personal Tumblr blog, went from being a convenient way to communicate news pertaining to East Asia with friends, to being featured on Tumblr’s news tab along with The Daily Show and other large-scale news sites.
“Gulou now has 24,000 subscribers,” says Fernsebner.
Another notable presentation at OpenVa conference focuses on one of UMW’s new projects: A Domain of One’s Own.
Managed by the DTLT, A Domain of One’s Own allows incoming freshman to register his or her own domain name and associate it with a UMW-managed web server. Students who chose to create their own domain will have an online space unlike any other offered at UMW.
According to Groom, it is not a replacement for UMW Blogs, the existing platform offered to UMW students and faculty.
“A Domain of One’s Own is an absolute innovation tool kit where you create your own platform,” said Groom.
Once a student graduates, he or she will be able to take his or her domain with him or her.
“UMW will continue to pay for the domain for the first year after a student’s graduation. After that year, the student will need to start paying for his space,” said Groom.
The cost will be ten dollars a year.
Fersebner understands the benefits that owning a website can have for students. Students enrolled in her History 297 class are currently building a website that relates to the study of Chinese history.
“Students are learning how to build a website, and will have something permanently on the web that they can put on a resume,” said Fersenbner.
While the specific innovations that are being presented at OpenVa are interesting, the broad field from which they stem is no less important.
On Oct. 14, the day before OpenVa, UMW will host “Minding the Future: the Conference Before the Conference.” This conference will take place at the Alumni Executive Center on UMW’s Fredericksburg campus.
This conference will consist of five presenters, Audrey Watters, Kin Lane, Jon Udell, Alan Levine, and Dr. David Wiley; all prominent thinkers from a range of fields.
They will discuss the future of higher education through “Fred Talks” during which they will have a 10 minute talk about a particular subject followed by a period of Q-and-A.
After the “Fred Talks,” there will be a panel during which the five presenters will discuss the topic of how technology is disrupting higher education.
According to Groom it is important to understand the broad context of the future of higher education and these conferences aim to illuminate the innovations for the masses.