Crowdsourcing: Computers as bicycles for our mind





Richmond, Virginia has the distinct privilege of hosting  The World Road Cycling Championships in September of next year. This is a major international event, and Richmond is the first U.S. city to host it in over a decade. Given the layout of the course and that there will be nearly a half-million spectators, Virginia Commonwealth University is taking the unprecedented step of closing for a full week one month into  the Fall 2015 semester. By my account, folks around here have been very thoughtful and planful leading up to the event. I was in a meeting, not long ago, where our interim Provost charged the Vice Provosts with thinking creatively and in bold ways about how we can conceive of this event as a learning catalyst and not just a week off from classes. Then, I received an invite to a meeting from one of our Vice Provosts who is leading an effort to take advantage of the cycling championships as a learning opportunity. I’ve excerpted the email invitation below:

Dear Colleagues:

 As you know, Richmond will be hosting the 2015 World Bike Races September 19-27, 2015. This world class event offers grand learning possibilities for our students through multiple forms of engagement. The Provost has challenged us to consider the possibilities across the disciplines and student activities and to submit ideas – along with budget considerations. This is truly one of those unique opportunities to consider interdisciplinary, real-time, on-line, volunteerism and other forms of experiences for VCU students, faculty and staff. So how can we capitalize on this event?

 I would like to invite you or your designee(s) to attend a special presentation and planning session on Friday October 31, 2014…

 …We will then have time to brainstorm and discuss options. So many disciplines can play a role – homeland security, economics, kinesiology, public relations, logistics, language translation, history, project management, health and sanitation, arts, journalism, and the list goes on. 

Please let me know if you or someone else from your area will be able to join us… I welcome suggestions of others to attend – the more creative thinkers the better.

Thank you for your assistance with this once in a lifetime event for the VCU and Richmond community.


In my current capacity as Director of Learning Innovation and Online Academic Programs, this feels like a HUGE opportunity. Then, the other night, I was reminded of something Steve Jobs said about computers:

“…and that’s what a computer is to me. What a computer is to me is, it’s the most remarkable tool that we’ve ever come up with. And, it’s the equivalent of a bicycle for our minds.”


So, with that as the prompt, I challenged the VCU ALT Lab team to come up with some ideas I could bring to the meeting on Friday. That is, if computers are the equivalent of a bicycle for our minds, how might we take advantage of the affordances of modern computing to craft “grand learning possibilities” centered on the World Road Cycling Championships?

I started a Google Doc and the VCU ALT Lab team went to town.

Now, I’m opening that document to you all.

Would you consider adding ideas, “grand learning possibilities” relating to bicycling for the VCU community?

Thanks in advance!


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