The VT 2020 Difference: A Blog Post From The Future

An imagined blog post by “Clay,” a member of the Virginia Tech Class of 2020, reflecting on the ways in which his alma mater invented the future of networked learning communities.

Clay’s blog – a student at Virginia Tech in 2020 who came to VT upon high school graduation

I got into a debate this weekend with a couple of friends (who don’t attend Virginia Tech) about the value of attending college.  I was really shocked that their institutions still seem to be teaching for last century and not for the networked world of 2020.

Let me explain …  if VT still operated like it did when my parents attended, I would have had to decide on a degree and then complete a checklist of courses and credits to graduate with that degree.   Thankfully, this isn’t the Virginia Tech that I attend!

Virginia Tech doesn’t limit my education to an arbitrary list of courses and credits.  Being a student at VT is about acquiring the combination of knowledge and skills that will enable me to be a lifelong learner.  Data is everywhere … I can’t possibly memorize everything!  So, my education is about how to discern information quality and value and how to become an active and credible knowledge creator in a digital world community.

In my view, the university used to be more like a gatekeeper for predetermined courses and content… making sure that the content was from VT.  I am very glad that today my education is an open experience… and not some 4-year attempt to certify that I have “learned” some snapshot information.  In fact, the best description I can give is that my professors at VT are guiding partners with me for my learning experiences.  I know this sounds like one of those “motherhood and apple pie” goals but at VT it’s not just words …it really is my life as a Virginia Tech student!

OK, I can feel your skepticism so before you start furiously typing…. I am not just brainwashed by the success of the football team (although … Go Hokies)!

What’s different about VT?

My Degree:

A degree from Virginia Tech isn’t a checklist of courses and credits … it really is a certificate of learning skills, information discernment, and creativity.  I have the awesome opportunity to learn with Virginia Tech world renowned faculty – in mentoring relationships, group innovations, and individual accomplishments.   The faculty seeks out my opinions and ideas on what would benefit me in advancing my life skills.  Sure, I still take exams at times for the fundamentals that I need for my goals but I also study learning modules from experts around the world, participate in “Google U”-style classes in the cloud, and learn from service experiences with non-profits, other universities, for-profit companies, and student–led initiatives.  My degree is from VT but my studies are a smorgasbord from the world and the digital network that we live in. And, most importantly, it’s personalized and customized for me!  While you could argue that many of these activities were part of education in the past, the key difference is that they were usually the “extras.”  At VT, it’s reversed … attending lectures and structured classes is still a part of my educational experience, when needed, but not the definition of my education.

The Tools and Technology:

I have an awesome toolset that lets me collect my portfolio of accomplishments. The system dynamically maps learning objectives to my experiences and goals so I can graphically see my progress.  My advisors and I adjust my learning objectives to meet my evolving interests and learning opportunities … the system enables this flexibility and makes it simple.  In addition, I have access to a repository of the learning maps used by other students, by graduates, and by successful mentors in industry.  The system can compare my learning objectives and experience maps with others and provide guidance on potential paths for me.  I can receive feedback and recommendations from the world digital community and evaluate my choices in the context of the community.   It’s a fun system to use – just imagine a “game” that adapts and enables multi-dimensional successful outcomes for your personalized and customized learning. Really, it’s the ultimate quest.

Yes, it’s my responsibility to work with my faculty mentors to create a unique learning plan for my education and this takes more commitment than having someone else make all the decisions for me … but who would want anything less!

Finally, what’s most different is – The Culture:

Really the most critical difference is simply “the culture of Virginia Tech.”  I see a commitment to partnering with me for learning that is evident throughout the university–including faculty, staff, and students.  I can’t think of any part of the university that isn’t integrated and flexible – the learning objectives, fees, calendar and scheduling, matriculation….  Virginia Tech is truly dedicated to innovations in learning.  If you haven’t experienced this, it may be hard to grasp the significance but, believe me, becoming a successful digital citizen for a lifetime of learning won’t happen without it.

I am truly a partner with the university – not a passive student who just needs to know how to get an “A.”  We are all digital citizens in a networked world … the challenge is how to be effective digital citizens …. and that’s the focus at VT.

Predicted by … Deborah Fulton

One Response to The VT 2020 Difference: A Blog Post From The Future

  1. Dear VT Colleagues:

    Thanks for sharing this important work with the rest of us. Clay’s story reminds of a discussion with Dr. Campbell about story-based planning and design processes. This is well articulated by Roger Martin in a Harvard Business Review blog post. These “happy stories about the future” frame the essential planning question, “what would have to be true?”

    Looking ahead, I hope you will invite a few other guest posts from 2020. In addition to students, let’s hear from
    – faculty who are passionate about sharing their research and scholarship with their students and with the world.
    – staff at every level who are challenged and supported in their work, and invested in the campus community
    - a senior administrator with powerful communication tools for collaboration and communication with stakeholders, and equally powerful data visualization and modeling tools to inform operational and strategic decision making
    – community members who participate in the institution’s cultural activities and benefit from student and faculty expertise in their businesses, schools, government agencies, etc.

    Thanks again for sharing this inspiring effort. I look forward to watching the discussion unfold. Best wishes,

    Andrew Bonamici

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