University of Virginia and WPMu? Wahoo!

In September of 2007 Steve Stedman invited Patrick and I to UVA to talk about the work we were doing with WPMu and UMW Blogs. It was somewhat difficult to get folks to meet with us, and we really didn’t get a chance to frame out the work we were doing, although we did get a rather in-depth look at Collab (their installation of Sakai) which I blogged about here. It seemed apparent after this outing that Sakai was going to meet the needs of UVA, and while WPMu might be interesting—it just wasn’t robust enough for a larger, research university—despite Steve’s pleadings otherwise (he was a forward thinker, that Stedman :) ).

What a difference a year and a half makes! This time around Sean McCord invited us to talk with David Germano, an associate professor of Tibetan and Buddhist Studies, and one of the movers and shakers on the Digital Humanities Initiative at UVA. Patrick and I showed up to a room full of about ten people from various programs: the Scholars Lab, the library, CIT, and  Instructional Technology.  It was a group of various people who were all interested in UMW Blogs. I was kind of surprised, I wasn’t actually expecting this kind of turn out, and I was pleasantly surprised that so many of these folks were excited about the work our faculty and students are doing through UMW Blogs. This group had a clear sense of the advantages of a lightweight, flexible system like WPMu, and were interested in innovating and moving quickly, and saw UMW as a model for this.

So, in less than a week UMW Blogs has been showcased at Duke University and the Univeristy of Virginia—how wild! It’s really cool to think that both Duke and the UVA might be playing with WPMu in an open and innovative fashion sometime very soon. This is exactly the logic I have been envisioning with this constant WPMu boosterism—Reseach 1 schools with deep pockets who have the money and people for development and high-profile projects that have the potential to give back to this open source community, as well as offering some credence to open source tools for innovating, sharing and building rich networks for teaching and learning—much like the University of British Columbia has done so brilliantly over the last year.

These developments also open up some unique opportunities for UMW to work creatively with schools like UVA and/or Duke. Why can’t classes between these institutions start sharing resources and collaborating in new and exciting ways. Using each others courses as resources, team-teaching, re-imagining discplinary connections, syndicating in work from another school for comment and feedback, and a million other ways I’m not smart enough to imagine. The thing is UMW is uniquely positioned to start re-thinking the way courses can be imagined and the work we are doing can be shared beyond the walls of the institution. We can start framing networked academic relationships that will certainly be the future of all this stuff. We are the “city on the edge of forever” and we should really be thinking strategically about not only sharing everything we know with any institution out there, but making inroads to bring the teaching and learning aspect of UMW Blogs to these other schools by promoting and recognizing the amazing work our faculty and students are doing there. Let’s face it, no other institution has such a large cadre of faculty and students that have been formally experimenting with this stuff for close to three or four years, and they work hard and are getting tired. They need to be recognized, rewarded, and encouraged so that we can continue to make the myths!

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