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Wendy Widget, Vicki's Second Life avatarThe newest California Virtual Campus team member, Wendy Widget, comes to us from Malibu Island in Second Life. Actually, Wendy Widget is the online avatar of Dr. Vicki Suter, the new director of the California Virtual Campus (CVC).

Vicki studied the sense of presence and its implications for virtual world design as part of the doctoral program in educational technology at Pepperdine University. Vicki also has a Master of Business Administration from University of California at Davis, and a Bachelor of Arts in Economics from the University of Oklahoma.

Vicki has 20 years of experience in academic technology. She worked for 14 years as a project manager at the University of California, Davis. Her projects at UC Davis included developing a centralized, campuswide helpdesk; assisting faculty in the development of educational objectives and learning outcomes in conversion of face-to-face instructional content to online media; and managing large-scale teams implementing applications in a distributed technology environment.

Vicki served as the Director of the National Learning Infrastructure Initiative (NLII) at EDUCAUSE, where she worked for five years with the membership to realize a vision of higher education as active and learner-centered, dynamic and lifelong, collaborative, cost-effective, high-quality and accessible. With the teams that she convened, she designed, developed, implemented and Dr. Vicki Suter, the new Director of the California Virtual Campusevaluated the Educause NLII annual conferences and focus sessions exploring emerging technologies such as electronic portfolios (eportfolios), collaboration and communication software, social media and mobile technologies. The Virtual Community of Practice project, designed and facilitated with a core group of practitioners, led to the emergence of the international Electronic Portfolio Action and Communication (ePAC) Community of Practice that continues to be a vibrant online community.

Vicki called her thoughts about the future direction of the CVC “ponderings,” noting that it is too early for any decisions on major changes. She believes changes should be made in consultation with all stakeholders. One main focus of Vicki’s ponderings concerns the future orientation of the CVC Web site.

“One way to look at the CVC is to ask whether its primary orientation should be as an informational portal, a portal that links to student service applications or as a transactional interface that presents an integrated view of services and information, in much the same way that someone using Amazon.com may unknowingly leave the Web site many times as they navigate through transactions from browsing the store, to making a purchase, to specifying and arranging for shipping,” Vicki said.

Vicki's personal brand designShe also ponders the questions of not only what services and information students need, but also how they have become accustomed to “there’s an app for that” and what that means for the CVC Web site design relevance.

One of the activities in Vicki’s graduate school program involved creating a personal “brand” to represent strengths and approaches to problem-solving. “My personal ‘tagline’ is ‘the power of good questions’ and I believe that is one of the strengths I bring to the position,” Vicki said.

“My approach to technology-related programs is to begin with questions that help all the stakeholders sharply define the common need and what a successful outcome would look like for later evaluation of whether the project met the need,” Vicki said. “This is the ‘What?’ and ‘Why?’ phase, not the ‘How?’ phase. Then I use formal and informal approaches to consensus building to create the technology or program with the stakeholders involved throughout the process. The final step (and first step in subsequent rounds) is to answer the question, ‘Did the technology or program resolve the need, and what is the research basis for the claim?’” <>


Sandoval Chagoya is a CCC Technology Center Project Manager
and TechEDge Managing Editor.