Last week, the Provost at VCU formally announced something we’ve been planning for a few months. The announcement that went out to the VCU community by email was as follows:

Dear Colleagues,

Since 2000, VCU’s Center for Teaching Excellence (CTE) has been devoted to helping VCU maintain and grow its commitment to high-quality, learner-centered education. Faculty, students and staff have benefited from CTE’s work. Now that work continues—with a new name and an expanded mission.

CTE is now ALT Lab, the Academic Learning Transformation Lab. As the word “Lab” implies, this initiative is devoted to working with partners across the university to encourage discovery, experimentation and iterative development throughout our community of learning. ALT Lab seeks to initiate, identify and support the best and freshest ideas in teaching and learning at VCU—and to bring the best of innovation in higher education into our environment as well. As befits a 21st-century institution of higher education devoted to integrative thinking and global engagement, ALT Lab is committed to the ideals of connected learning for a networked world. ALT Lab will be a home and a hub for a truly transformative approach to academics, one that tirelessly explores ways in which VCU can help to prepare our students for a lifetime of “learning that matters.”

Under the leadership of Dr. Jonathan Becker, Director for Learning Innovation and Online Academic Programs, ALT Lab carries on the tradition of the Center for Teaching Excellence within a new framework, one devoted to faculty development, student engagement, communities of practice, and technology-enhanced active learning. You can find the new ALT Lab website at altlab.vcu.edu. I invite you to visit the ALT Lab Open House on September 10. Watch the TelegRAM for details. I also invite you to partner with ALT Lab to further our shared commitment to a vital culture of learning at VCU.

Sincerely,

John M. Wiencek, Ph.D.
Interim Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs

 

And, so there it is. The VCU ALT Lab has been launched. On our website, you’ll see our tagline (“Connected Learning for a Networked World”) and our mission statement (“ALT Lab models and inspires connected learning for a networked world through faculty development, student engagement, communities of practice, and technology enhanced active learning. We cultivate distinctive experiences of deeper learning fostered by high engagement for student success.”). And, if that’s not enough, in true Wikipedia-style, we have a disambiguation page.

I look forward to sharing the work of ALT Lab in the coming days, weeks, months, and (hopefully) years. For now, I encourage you to check out our Showcase where we collect “evidence;” artifacts of the work we do with faculty and students that help to “make the case” for connected learning. We have course trailers, case studies, and the Case for Connected Learning written by Laura Gogia, our doctoral fellow. The Showcase page will be growing and developing over time as new and exciting learning experiences are crafted.

One aspect of ALT Lab I want to point out initially is our approach to working with faculty members. Faculty development remains core to what we do, but we are taking a slightly different tact. We’re moving away from one-time workshops and one-on-one consultations. In the spirit of connected learning for a networked world, we are encouraging faculty members to learn with us through less structured and more free-form means. Twice a week, we invite faculty members into our ALT Lab Agora where the ALT Lab team is assembled and available to work through a design team approach. There is no assigned topic; faculty members are encouraged to come challenge us with questions and ideas. Additionally, we strongly encourage faculty members to engage with us in various ways online. Our belief is that faculty members do not have to wait for a formal, structured faculty development experience to learn with us. We will ALL be blogging, tweeting and bookmarking so that anyone (in or out of VCU) can learn with us informally, online. If we’re going to tout connected learning for a networked world, we need to model it.

I work with a great team at VCU ALT Lab, and we are fortunate to work within the vision and under the leadership of Gardner Campbell. I thank Gardner for trusting me with this opportunity to lead ALT Lab, and I so look forward to sharing the great work we do. For now, I’ll leave you with a video introduction created by our Assistant Director, Innovative Learning Media, Molly Ransone: