UMW raises the bar yet again

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Endeavor Has Left the Island, originally uploaded by turbojoe.


I’m not exactly ready to surface just yet, but I just have to send huzzahs over to the standout team at the University of Mary Washington for their revamped instance of UMWBlogs.

What an elegant fusion of form and function. What energy and ease. What an incredible resource for the UMW community on such a moderate investment.

Check out the fantastic user documentation and screencasts, which allows the unit to support a vast user base with minimal effort. (The user friendliness of WordPress helps in that regard.) This is what a sustainable project should aspire to…

Do take some time to read over Jim Groom’s backgrounder, and the Mighty Bava is always worth watching for cutting edge applications of WordPress and other grooviness in the neighborhood.

I can only look on in wonder, and with some small degree of envy. The system that UMW DTLT has established is not only a blogging platform, it provides a backbone for all manner of online publishing, course delivery, community building and educational resource sharing. I am astonished that more institutions aren’t learning from UMW’s example. Those of us following in their wake need to kick things up a notch to make the case.

2 thoughts on “UMW raises the bar yet again

  1. Well thank you kindly, gentlesir.

    We’d like to take all the credit, but there is this little nugget that keeps calling out to us, a blueprint if you will. And while invoking George Siemens, your laying out the picture so clearly here made our work so much easier —so thank you!

    I’m reminded of something George Siemens said at a symposium on distributed tool strategies: that schools should be in the business of managing data flows rather than in supporting an end to end user experience. We can only dream what might result if the energy going into the campus-wide LMS’s would go into creating flexible and easy to use “syndication buses” or to addressing pragmatic instructor challenges to using the “small pieces” approach — things like student management tools, gradebooks etc. And what about providing the service of institutional archiving and data backups to mitigate the risks of using third party tools?

    Words of wisdom, Lloyd, words….of….wisdom!

  2. I guess I was at a console at Mission Control long enough that I can say “thank you” as well, though obviously the Rev. is the mighty booster engine on that rocket now.

    Three observations:

    1. I found that quotation to be spot-on as well and have been meaning to blog in response ever since I read it. Best laid plans, etc. I’ve also been thinking a lot about how we should be teaching our students to manage those data flows–teaching them augmentation strategies and encouraging them to develop their own (and report back!). Given that “managing data flows” is at least potentially another word for “teaching and learning,” there should be some interesting, ah, outcomes available to those zany and zealous enough to try….

    2. I confess that I’ve found it interesting myself that more schools haven’t tried starting with a Bluehost experiment and then scaling away. (Hint: I know one school where I might be seeding me some rain clouds soon–keep an eye on central Texas, friends.) We’re still out there presenting what we’ve done. Folks are still interested. But the uptake is slow. I’ve talked with various members of the DTLT team about why the conceptual leap seems so hard, and while we’ve all had our theories, it’s not clear why such a low-cost and comparatively low-risk approach to generating innovation hasn’t caught on more widely. Personally, I suspect that the cocoon of Enterprise IT, nested inside (or is it outside?) the many cocoon layers of Higher Education, has so normalized things like Blackboard and SingleSignOn and so forth that it would be like imagining that students would actually *buy their own textbooks* rather than rent them from a centralized textbook supplier. Oh, wait, students already buy their own textbooks? Obviously that’s a cumbersome and fraught and insecure process. (OK, enough sarcasm; you all get my point.)

    3. Here’s the biggest question of all, one that I ask with more wonder than bitterness: why doesn’t UMW itself learn from what UMW has done? There’s just as much demand for turnkey singlesignon walledgarden allsingingalldancing documentdelivery at UMW as there is anywhere else. Why hasn’t UMW taken its own success to heart? (UMW is far from alone in that failure–it’s probably the rule rather than the exception–but it’s still disappointing.)

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