Gardner Campbell and The Great VCU Bike Race Learning Expedition

Amy and Gardner pose with certificate

Amy Adkins and Gardner Campbell
Click to enlarge Award citation

A heart-felt congratulations to Dr. Gardner Campbell and team at Virginia Common­wealth University (VCU), on receiving the 2016 Campus Technology Innovators Award for extraordinary initiative on The Great VCU Bike Race Book!

Last fall (2015), as the city of Richmond, VA was gearing up to host the UCI World Championship Bicycle Race, Gardner Campbell and team at VCU were gearing up to host two dozen elective mini-courses whose students would be fanning out into the city to cover the event from every angle imaginable.

VCU had wisely decided to cancel all its Monroe  Campus classes for the week, in anticipation of the nine-day international cycling event and related festivities, swelling crowds, vendors galore, traffic congestion, road closures, and a maze of detours planned around racing routes, and the call for city residents to minimize driving and expect delays during the event.

It uci-2015_tv029325432-cropwas Gardner Campbell who first envision­ed turning the city-wide chaos of an inter­national sporting event into a rich experien­tial learning opportunity. He enlisted fellow faculty, staff and resources to  offer a total of 26 innovative, imaginative online mini-courses that took place during the race itself, and brought in edtech wizard Alan Levine at CogDog to create the unifying online venue for the initiative. As  Dr. Campbell and colleagues explained at a recent conference, “We called it The Great VCU Bike Race Book: 26 one-credit, pass-fail courses ranging from the psychology of motivation, to the physics of bicycling, from bicycling and health, to the anthropology of crowds. A special faculty development ‘push’ brought the courses online. During the race, student work was posted to the web and curated into a succession of metaphorical ‘books.'”

Students conducted research and collected data in the field, and also contributed to the course’s master website throughout the week via tweets and blogposts, into what would become “a curated digital publication, part of  the university’s scholarly repository, and ultimately part of the history of the event itself.” Brilliant!

This revolutionary course offering, one of a succession of expedition-quality initiatives spearheaded by Dr. Campbell in recent years, emphasizes what’s crucial for the future of higher ed in a fast-paced digital age — beyond efforts to merely automate the university, but rather to make possible all-new learning opportunities afforded by the new digital media, emphasizing contagious curiosity, forging “trails of wonder, rigorously explored” (coined by Gardner), finding meaning from “thought vectors in concept space” (coined by Doug Engelbart with Alan Kay). In this case, it meant deploying students into the field to study every aspect of a city-wide sporting event, fostering experiential learning, networked learning, digital literacy, mobile civic participation, crowd sourcing, third-space learning, and more, all while becoming budding co-authors of a fast-evolving collective knowledge repository with deep intrinsic value gaining a life of its own.

A revolutionary course, now an Award-winning course! It takes vision, courage, a great team and ‘above and beyond’ dedication and faith in one’s team to chart this much new territory on the Higher Ed frontier. The Campus Technology Innovators Award is indeed a very fitting recognition of this work.

But wait, there’s more! If you look closely at the approach Gardner has used to pull all this together in relatively short order, you will see a winning strategy with all the hallmarks of Engelbartian Bootstrapping Brilliance. For my next trick, I will later write a Case Study of how this applies to Gardner’s highly innovative initiatives and link to it here.

gardner-christina-vcu-thought-vectorsMeanwhile I am personally honored to have had the opportunity to collaborate with Gardner on several projects, including his Thought Vectors MOOC and Engelbart Scholars Award program, and  on the  Doug Engelbart Institute Advisory Council.

Read on for fun facts on the Award, the Course, the ICU Bike Race, and Gardner Campbell’s initiatives.

“Earlier this academic year, VCU was faced with a huge logistical challenge — an international, world-class bike race would disrupt local traffic patterns and supply lines. But the university saw the event as an opportunity to offer students a week of mini-courses, using the race environment as a giant learning lab and tapping a range of technologies to support student work.”Campus Technology Magazine, May 2016

The Award


Award Citation: Dr. Campbell
Click to enlarge

Press Release:
Campus Technology Announces 2016 Innovators Award Honorees

Award + Course Summarized

Press Coverage

Technology at The Starting Line: VCU’s Great Bike Race Book
A Q&A with W. Gardner Campbell                    
by Mary Grush for Campus Technology Magazine 05/24/16

Gear up: The UCI Road World Championships bring opportunities for the VCU community The UCI Road World Championships is coming to Richmond, and that means a bike-load of opportunities for the VCU community
by Gardner Campbell

More Campus Technology articles about Gardner

Gardner Campbell: Visionary

Redefining Student Success in a Digital Economy
By David Raths, Campus Technology – Ed Tech Trends, 04/11/16

[PDF version]

Another take on awakening rigorous thinking and inquiry in students
Ten Theses In Support of Teaching and Against Learning Outcomes
By Jeff Noonan, Professor of Philosophy at the University of Windsor, Canada


Twitter Feed: #vcubrb

Course Website: The Great VCU Bike Race Book
An ALT Lab Collaborative Production

Full Listing of Mini-Courses

Course Outcomes: Covering the Coverage
Interweaving student posts from the field into a dynamically updated ‘magazine’
Students have co-created the curated knowledge

About: The Great VCU Bike Race Book
Posted on April 20, 2015 by Jon Becker

Abstract: The Great VCU Bike Race Book: Online Learning Innovation
Speakers: Amy Adkins, Jonathan Becker, Gardner Campbell – VCU
Presented at  at at ELI/EDUCAUSE 2016

Gardner Campbell receives top innovator recognition by the Center for Digital Education 14 Feb 2013

The UCI Bike Race

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