v6.2.3 - moving along, a point increase at a time

I dream of dissertation...

Week 1 of 15, of semester 2 of 8, of doctoral work is about to end!  The course that my cohort is focusing on this semester is a research methods course. Luckily neither I, nor it seems many of my classmates, are that new to research methods.  It's nice to have the group (or at least quite a few members of the group) exposed to the basics so that we can spend some time in critiquing and going deeper (and that's something we did on our cohort's facebook group this week anyway).  I also appreciate the fact the course isn't setup to only allow for one path through the course.  There are certainly foundational materials that we are expected to read and know, but for presentations it seems like we have a ton of choices in terms of what research methods we choose to present.

I've been thinking about the assignments and I think I will spend some time exploring research methods that I haven't had a ton of exposure in, or methods that I've been meaning to go much deeper into.  I think I will spend some time with Discourse Analysis - I've got a few books on my bookshelf that need  some reading on the topic, and I think I will focus on autoethnography.  Some members of the #rhizo14 community(and I) are working together on an autoethnographic paper (aka the un-paper) for a special issue of a journal and for an OLC conference presentation.  Autoethnography is new to me, so I guess I'm trying to kill two birds with one stone - both the paper for the journal and something for this course.  The whole aspect of autoethnography is making me think of the dissertation.  I've gone through many potential ideas for a dissertation topic including using design-based-research to convert the course that I teach (INSDSG 684) from a closed, institutional, course to an open course.  Seeing that the course was cancelled last fall (for low enrollment) and that this semester I don't even have the minimum amount of student to run the course, I am not sure that banking on this approach is wise. I may find myself with a re-designed course, fully open, but without learners.  No learners means no data, and no data means that there is little to write about.

In doing some initial work on autoethnography (and this is really preliminary at this point), I was thinking of using my own experiences as a MOOC learner (going 4 years strong in 2015) to write a dissertation about my MOOC experiences.  I am not sure if I will draw upon the previous 4 years, or if I will spend 18-24 months MOOCing in xMOOCs, cMOOCs, pMOOCs, rMOOCs,  and so on and do much more data gathering than I have done in the previous years.  While I have quite a lot of materials on this blog for MOOCs (over 200 blog posts...and counting) the current collection of data I have might be considered haphazard in its collection.

With the explosion of MOOC platforms, and the languages available, I am thinking that I could really sit down and learn in the various languages I know (including French, Italian, Greek, and so on).  It has been a really long time since I've considered myself an xLL (x = insert language of your choice) Language Learner.  One of the areas of research in linguistics is in ELLs (English Language Learners) and how students who have another native language are learning academic materials in a language that is not their own.  When I returned from Greece in 1994 and I started High School in the US I was, in earnest, an ELL.  While the seeds for English were in my head (I was born here and spent some years here before I moved to Greece), my language development wasn't the same as fellow classmates who were English speaking-only and had their schooling in English all of their lives.  It's obvious, at this point, that English is a language that I am no longer considered an ELL in. However, how about French, and Italian, and even German (my German isn't that great). I could pick up new knowledge in MOOCs, interact with classmates (in dreaded discussion forums), and not only pick up something new, but improve my language capacity in those languages (in theory). I think this might make an interesting dissertation.

The only trepidation I have is the method: autoethography.  While I do acknowledge the importance of critical theory in education and in research, and the validity of the researcher's and their experiences as the object of research, part of me is uncomfortable with this. Is studying and researching one's self just a tad bit narcissistic? Also, what about validity and applicability of the research findings - from a scientific point of view.  From a humanistic point of view what I write will be valid, as my own lived experience, however what would my dissertation committee think of this approach?  Something to ponder.  What do you think?

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