Just watched a great interview with Jim Groom over on the David Wiley led Edstartup MOOC. Jim Groom and the DTLT team at the University of Mary Washington has been doing some pretty incredible things. From a WordPress-based community blogs platform, to the viral multimedia course and movement known as DS106, to their most recent project “A Domain of One’s Own.” In all these projects, the common theme is open source innovation for user empowerment and DIY enthusiasm. Groom provides great examples of entrepreneurial innovation happening inside public institutions of higher ed.

In his interview, he takes on directly the issues and dangers of outsourcing educational design expertise to corporate interests and venture capital. He makes a strong case for why funding for open-ended exploration and sustaining funding for successful innovation that “takes off” and “scales up” is essential for the future of public institutions and higher education more broadly.

Groom also discusses the value in the inherent messiness and chaotic-ness of his DS106 digital media courses. He argues that as a real community, engaging DS106 has a learning curve and requires new participants to “figure out” what it means to belong and contribute, but this is also why many former students have continued to participate and find the experience rewarding even up to 3 years out from their original course. Check out the Kickstarter campaign that successfully crowd-sourced over $12,000 of funding to maintain the rapidly growing DS106 community.

Another interesting point raised by Groom and host David Wiley is about the incredible power of basic blog and aggregation tools. These simple mechanisms are sufficient for the creation of robust experiences of distributed learning, collaboration, and community-building. In fact, many versions of the MOOC phenomenon are based on these basic tools. Groom contrasts this open, decentralized vision of networked learning with the push to create “monolithic learning” in the form of big-brand MOOCs and wall-garden LMSs. In these cases, we should be wary of normalizing massifications that eschew the messiness and situated challenges of growing communities that support life long learning and personal development.

Following from this leads to Groom’s most recent project: A Domain of One’s Own (see technical details here). In this project students at UMW will be empowered to create, administer, and to carry with them their own “personal cloud.” Groom contrasts the higher-cost of supporting a standard enterprise e-portfolio solution with actually providing students with web-space and teaching them how to use it to create their own custom designed web-presence. Ultimately, Groom is passionate proponent for empowering students, faculty, and staff to “learn how to learn” with technology: he argues for supporting grassroots experimentation for institutional development and the mutual integration of curricular and technological innovation.