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Collaboration in Implementation

Posted by on Monday, February 12, 2018 in News.

Recently, I was the chair of an ad hoc committee that released a statement on digital literacy, with a series of recommendations for the campus at large (especially the undergraduate population). If you read this blog, or simply glance back over earlier entries, you will know that I have talked a lot about this committee and the concept as a whole. In one earlier post, I outlined the committees work to provide a definition, assess progress, support faculty (with skills and curricular decisions) and think about the link between careers and digital education. In another post, I noted the importance of faculty input into this definition and stressed the ways that Provost Susan Wente makes faculty input a priority in decision making.

For me, this has been one of those moments when I get the chance to reread the report from the committee, reflect on the process we went through in crafting it, and celebrate the wonderfully creative and thoughtful colleagues I have at Vanderbilt. More than that, however, it gives me a moment to think about the road ahead: how do we implement the measures recommended by the committee, both in specific and in spirit? Some of the answers to these questions are budgetary; some of the answers are logistics; some are curricular. What I do know is that if you could transport yourself into the future, one would find some very large differences between the recommendations as originally authored and those that were implemented. For instance, while I feel certain that the three broad areas of microcredentials (i.e., Critical Digital Literacy, Digital Visualization and Production, and Computational Thinking) will remain in broad contours, they may also become fragmented into multiple sub-elements of each category. Or, while we might see experiments with software like Adobe moving forward, we may also see a move toward a multiplicity of open source and industry standard software.

The differences will largely be the result of conversations with faculty and staff about how best to implement an idea developed by other faculty and staff. I’ve said this before in different ways, but it is indeed one of the aspects of the Vanderbilt model of progress and change of which I am most proud. When someone has a good idea, we vet it thoroughly through an iterative process with a wide range of colleagues. We operate together to move forward with the mission of the university. While the process of faculty governance and approval is slow, to be sure, it is also a process that encourages us to work together and a process that makes strong ideas even stronger.

I will try to keep this in mind over the course of the next several months as I work with others to implement the ideas in this white paper. Vanderbilt operates largely as a team interested in the same shared mission.