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Multilitteratus Incognitus

Traversing the path of the doctoral degree

And just like that, it's fall! (or Autumn, same deal)

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It's hard to believe, but the summer is in the rearview mirror.  Next week the fall semester begins and as I look back over the summer  I see some things I learned (or observed) in these coronatimes:

The FoMo is still strong!

I thought I had beaten back FoMo (fear of missing out) but I guess not :-).  This summer many conferences made the switch to online this summer due to the ongoing pandemic and their registration was free.  This made them accessible both in terms of place (online) and cost (free) for me.  So I registered.  I might have registered for far too many because there weren't enough hours to participate synchronously and attend everything I wanted to.  Luckily most sessions were recorded, so I was able to go back and review recordings of things I missed.  Between the Connected Learning Conference, IABL Conference, OLC Ideate, Bb World, HR.com's conference (and a few more that I can't remember at the moment), I got more Professional Development done this summer than any other summer.  By the end of this week, I'll also have caught up with all recordings.  The "AHA!!!" moment for me was this:  About 10-12 years ago when I was first starting out (as a starry-eyed designer) all this stuff would have been mindblowing.  I think online conferences for me are more about filling holes and making me think differently rather than building new knowledge in mind. And that's OK.  I discovered a lot of resources that I forwarded to friends and colleagues who would find them more useful than I did because they are at a different phase in their PD. Just like a garage sale (maybe a bad analogy) can yield nothing at all, it can yield a treasure you never thought existed, or it can yield something for your friends and colleagues. You never know what you will find until you start looking.

Quick startups are possible (darn it!)

This summer I was invited by a friend to co-facilitate a couple of weeks of a bootcamp course for teaching online (Virtual Learning Pedagogy). The learner demographic are educators in Nigeria (the course might have been open to other countries as well). The course was offered through Coderina. I think from the time we were all invited to the first week of the course we only had 2 weeks.  Last week was the last week of the course. I am not sure how much John slept these 6 weeks, but I think that the course was a success.  We talk about agile instructional design in our courses, and I think this was a good example of different teams working on different weeks, checking in with one another, and putting together a course while the course is being taught.  Could it be done better? Yes, everything can improve, but I am proud to have been part of such an agile multinational collaboration. I also got to meet a lot of new colleagues that I didn't know before. I think this was a good case study for agile ID. I can't wait to see what the next iteration of the course will look like :-)

Back into 601!

This summer I taught Intro to Instructional Design and Learning Technologies (it's got another title formally, but that's basically it). I had taken several semesters off from teaching in order to focus on my dissertation proposal (which needed a major rewrite - perhaps more on that after I graduate), and I've been looking forward to getting back into teaching. This summer I used the version of the course that Rebecca designed and uses, opting to not use what I had created a few summers back. Part of the reason for using her course was that she had baked into the course consideration for synchronous sessions.  I tend to be more asynchronous in my designs (so that people can have flexibility), but I wanted to be experimental this summer with sync-sessions.  Another reason I wanted to use someone else's design is to extend my thinking and collaborate with others.  I've got my own version of what an intro course can look like, but looking at another designer's design can add to your own toolkit and thinking,  Additionally, if there is one version of the course that many people contribute to the design of, I think differing student cohorts benefit both from the stability of the curriculum and from the process of collaborative design in the course. This way if cohort A takes the course taught by professor A, they won't get radically different core content than Cohort B taking the course with professor B. Your learning experience may differ, but core knowledge required down the road by other courses should be more or less similar. I really enjoyed teaching this summer. My students were awesome, and we had good exchanges both via synchronous and asynchronous means.  I also loved that I was able to invite friends and colleagues who work in ID to have some candid chats with our learning community. I think this was much more effective than reading articles about what an ID does.  If I could hop into a DeLorean and go back to June: This summer I only had 6 students.  Such a small number of students can make for a nice seminar-style course, but the course was designed with a class size of 10-15. The dynamics are definitely different with such a smaller cohort. I think that if I could go back in time I'd give students an option:  We could have asynchronous forums each week for discussing ideas and topics of the course, or we could forego (most of) the forums and meet synchronously each to accomplish similar means. I think a smaller number of students makes the forum feel a little like an empty playground.  It's got a lot of potential but it's only actualized when many kids go play.

Dissertation ahoy!

Finally, a little bit about this doctoral journey thing.  In May I successfully defended my proposal (yay) which allowed me to apply for IRB/REB clearance (yay!).  At the end of June, I got that clearance (yay!) so I could start reaching out to study participants.  It's hard to believe that a (somewhat) random MOOC I signed up for while waiting to hear back about my application to the EdD program ended up becoming my dissertation topic.  I may have bitten off more than I can chew in terms of story (data) collection but Narrative Inquiry is all about the story through someone's position in that metaphorical parade.  The parade keeps on moving, and so do participants in it, so I am OK with presenting a sliver of that experience (knowing that it's a sliver of it). It's not possible (for a dissertation anyway) to be a completionist when exploring an experience (which I guess pushes back on my FoMo mentioned above).  Hopefully I'll have a good draft of this thing by the end of the semester in December.

So...what was your summer like?


Image credit: "Zen stones" by rikpiks is licensed with CC BY-NC-ND 2.0. To view a copy of this license, visit https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/

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Synchronous, online learning, and "remote" learning

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The question of synchronous sessions in online learning has been swirling in my head over the past few weeks.  So has the term "remote" instruction (🙄).  I usually tend to sit on the sidelines these days, maybe throwing a few potshots on twitter here and there when I have time, but this article on IHE today was one where my eyes rolled too hard, and there was an audible grunt in the room...

First of all, I guess I should explain my aversion to the term "remote" instruction.  Our field, distance education, has many terms to describe learning at a distance that actually mean something, and have actually had decades of research behind them!  Because the existing terms mean something, and usually have legalistic implications, it's like administrators are using a synonym for "distance" in order to avoid any sorts of contractual agreements that they have made.  For instance, at my institution, if a faculty member develops an online course from scratch (for the first time), they are entitled to a development stipend. There is a process behind this stipend, which includes working with an instructional designer and getting a Bootcamp version of the skills one needs to teach online, but it exists, and it takes time.  In the times of COVID19, timelines are compacted, and such processes are too long, and money is often too short.  So, instead of calling these classes online, they euphemistically call them "remote" in order to avoid paying any stipend.  The "right" course of action would be to negotiate with the faculty union about this.

The second issue that I have with the designation "remote" is that it seems to denote a "less-than" term for distance education.  It's OK that this course stinks because it's a "remote" course.  I wholeheartedly disagree.  I think the correct term for a rushed course is an emergency online course, not a remote course.  Online courses can stink.  And, some do! But to claim that we don't want to call what we do classify what we do in an emergency online learning context as online learning because that's not what online learning is,...well, that's just silly IMO.  We did start off with emergency remote teaching when this started, and why we picked the wrong word - picking remote over emergency - is beyond me. The word emergency should be enough to denote that what's happening is not necessarily the most fully fleshed out, but it is the best we can do in with the time and resources we have at hand.  Furthermore, emergency remote/online/distance learning is perfectly fine when you have one week to make the pivot.  Come September, if we're all still quarantined in place,  distance learning should not be emergency anything!  We should use the summer to plan for good online learning and to build out student supports that may be lacking at the moment!

Finally, there is an aspect of synchronous often tied with the affinity of using the term remote learning. Many people decided to just move their lectures into zoom.  Hey, a 45-minute live session might be OK three-times per week for one class; multiply that by 4 courses for a full-time student. However, sitting in front of a computer for 9 hours per week on zoom sessions that might not be needed, and then being in front of your computer for all assignment (plus all the distractions and poor internet that you might have at home) and it doesn't make for a conducive learning environment.  That said, we do have the option for synchronous online meetings. Online courses aren't designed to be strictly asynchronous or self-paced.  Furthermore, just because mixed-mode institutions have ignored their online learners for the past decade doesn't mean that online or distance learning is inflexible and doesn't adapt to the changing needs of learners. It doesn't mean that there is a lack of community, and it doesn't mean that distance education cannot create co-curricular opportunities.  Just because you have ignored some or all of these possibilities doesn't mean that they don't exist, and it doesn't require that you create a new term to describe them.

In the end, what I am seeing with remote learning is the same thing we saw in the 2012-2014 MOOC Craze years, where what we knew about online and distance education was summarily ignored due to the new shiny.  Did we not learn anything from that experience? ❓


Your thoughts?


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Missing...but not missing OLC this year

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For as long as I can remember (well...for the last 10 years anyway) I've been able to participate in at least 2 our of 3 virtual conferences that the OLC (formerly Sloan-C) put on.  I've never been able to attend in person (for a variety of reasons), but I've always liked to have the ability to participate, even remotely.   I am often on twitter during the live sessions tweeting away with commentary. It's a lot of fun, and I've "met" a variety of interesting individuals through this.

A couple of years ago I was not able to participate in #et4online (now #OLCinnovate) because the school I work for didn't have the funds to "send" me virtually. I have to say that I really missed the opportunity to participate, even remotely, at this professional development conference. I kept an eye on the twitter stream but things didn't make as much sense. The reaction, and #OLCsnark didn't connect with me because I was missing a piece of the puzzle.  I wanted in!

Flash forward to this year, through a fluke (well financial issues which came up this year at the university) I was not able to register for the conference as a virtual.  My colleagues did get a day-pass that we have projected in a conference room so many of us can attend with one virtual pass, but  it's not as convenient (although I may crash that party today ;-) ).  Even though I am not signed up to attend the vast majority of the recorded and virtual sessions at OLC Innovate, I find that I am not missing it as much this year, and that's thanks to friends and colleagues over at virtually connecting, and presenters who are virtually-connecting friendly.

We had a blast yesterday during the Hybridity presentation. The on-site buddies (and fellow co-presenters) did such an amazing job at including us virtuals (Alan, Maha, and I) that I really felt that I was part of the conversations (big thanks goes to my on-site buddy Autumm who was awesome!). At my table there were a total of 8-10 discussants (including me and Autumm).  Due to the narrowness of the field of view of the camera I was only able to see 2 people at a time, and every time Autumm turned the laptop my reaction was "OMG! There are more people at this table interested in talking! Awesome!").

There are, of course, logistical issues with this approach (i.e. how does this scale to 100 or more registrants? Do you 'dual-layer' a conference to make it more manageable? etc.), but it was a pretty fantastic experience.  The funny thing is that I was on Google Hangouts on my Mac, which was positioned in one part of the room and I could see the room from the podium, and I was on skype, on my ubuntu box, participating at the table discussion.  Initially I would glance over at my Mac and try to compare where Autumm, Andrea, and Rebecca were talking to and from in order to ascertain my "position" in the room. Which table was I at? How close was it to the podium? Who was at other tables?  It was an interesting experience.

The other way of being included is in Matt Crosslin's presentation on Dual Layer MOOCs.  It seemed that Virtually Connecting was integrated into this (again, thanks Autumm for being my legs in the room! :-) ) and not only did we see the presentation, we participated as well, along with the in-room participants.

While I do "miss" not registering for OLC innovate, these 2 sessions yesterday were more fulfilling and satisfying than any other virtual conference participation experience to date. It's not the quantity that matters, but the quality of interaction.

Your thoughts?

sidenote: for the people at the table during the hybridity session - feel free to connect on twitter and linkedin :)
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Virtually Connecting at #digPed 2015 (Day 5)

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 This is also cross-posted on VirtuallyConnecting.org



The final virtually connecting session of the DigPed Lab Institute (don’t call it a conference!) was on Friday August 14, 2015 and despite the fatigue as people crossed the finish line for this lab institute we had an engaging and lively discussion for our vConnecting session!
Joining us in the virtual realm in this vConnecting session were my co-facilitator Autumm Caines (@autumm393), Greg McVerry (@jgmac1106) who was also joining us from EdCamp, Patrice Prusko (@ProfPatrice), Scott Robinson (@otterscotter), Stephanie Loomis (@mrsloomis), and Jen Ross (@jar).  Onsite we had our onsite vConnecting buddy, Andrea Rehn (@ProfRehn), as well as Amy Collier (@amcollier) who delivered the Friday keynote with Jesse Stommel, Hybrid Pedagogy’s Chris  Friend (@chris_friend), and Sonya Chaidez (@soniachaidez)
There were three broad topics of discussion: emergent learning, and connecting to it was the notion of not-yetness, and “safe” spaces for learning.
Emergent learning, as we discussed, is a space of opportunity, as well as a space of resistance in higher education.  It’s a place of resistance  right now due to pressures faced in our environment. Pressures brought on by measurement, pressures of clearly defined learning objectives, and pressure to get a handle of what “learning” really means. There is also a pressure to get  all learners to be in the same spot when they finish a course of study. This is problematic both in terms of not accounting for variance in learners themselves, but also it means that there is a possibility of missing out on some really great opportunities from the classroom diversity, and opportunities for exploratory learning that can pop up during a regular class session.
Amy talked a bit about three provocations in emergent learning:
  • Complexity is something we should strive for.  When we embrace it we can have excitement and joy around learning.
  • Measurement of learning, specifically the push for evidence-based teaching has narrowed what we think of as “learning” and what “counts” as learning.  This has an impact in how we design and implement “learning”.
  • Really strict and prescribed rubrics  for measuring the learning outcomes, or even the design of courses, and the use of rubrics such as Quality Matters, can really constrict how we design and approach learning. In addition to what Amy said, In my mind this also can mean that courses can look pretty cookie cutter regardless of the course being taught.
Relating to this Chris describes (one of) the drives of academics, that interest to go out there in order to find more knowledge, not necessarily to get specific, defined, and definitive answers, but knowledge.  This emergent and messy learning cannot easily be encapsulated by learning outcomes. In order to do this as well learners need to be able to embrace this uncertainty and undeterminess of the learning experience, or put another way, this not-yetness. Learning is continuous and it does not have just one end, but it does have, potentially, many different checkpoints.
When we are focusing on just outcomes we sometimes miss and forget to the ask the deep, and sometimes philosophical questions. Questions such as what is our goal? What is the purpose? What is it that we are trying to do, and for whom?
One of the interesting comments during this discussion was that Emergent outcomes make students feel very nervous because they don’t know the final outcomes at the beginning of the course. The way we’ve packaged education over the years brings up the analogy of a journey, and in many journeys we have maps to guide us (and taken to an extreme: Tours which also tell us exactly how much time we are spending and where).  By comparison emergent learning might mean going on without a map and making your own.  This tension between the two extremes means that there is potential for pressure on the instructor. How do you both plan for emergent learning, but also work within the framework of accountability, as Greg put it, to be responsible to your learners since that’s the environment that they will need to operate in?
Also, how does one design and implement instruction in a course, or series of courses, where the learner mindset might be “tell me what I need to know, so I can do it, get my degree, and move on”.  This linear progression from point A to Point B doesn’t provide a fertile environment for emergent learning, or does it?
In terms of safe learning spaces, a good point made by Chris, is that you can’t just create a safe classroom space by fiat. No place is truly risk-free, thus the inherent risks of spaces need to be discussed honestly with participants of that space. As Amy said, Instead of thinking in terms of safe spaces, we might want to reframe it as a space of trust. Stephanie also brought up an important point of being able to agree to disagree with your peers.  While many people may do this, it may be done in a dismissive manner.  We should also to be able to understand the other point of view even if you don’t agree with it, not just write off the other person for not having your views.
Finally, the value of emergent goals are much more visible and potent once a final reflection is done by learners. This is where they can “see” for themselves how much more they have learned through an emergent approach as compared to simply just reading certain parts of the textbook each week and doing something with it.   This was an interesting vConnecting session.  If you’re interested on any topics engage with us on @vconnecting on twitter.

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Week 1 Recording of BonkOpen viewed - interesting

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One of the things that participants need to do in #bonkOpen in order to receive a badge for being part in this MOOC, was to attend (or view the recording of) each weekly live session. I've said it before, and I will say it again: I am not a fan of synchronous conferences; I just don't like sitting there for an hour...or two...or three...listening to people do their thing.  I prefer my visual channel to be better engaged when listening to mostly audio information, and most synchronous conferences are just powerpoint, powerpoint, powerpoint...yawnnnn.  At least in class (face to face) you have body language, movement, people coming and going, neighbors and so on.

In any case,  with the help of a piece of software called Elluminate Publish (thank you Blackboard person on Twitter!) I was able to download the recording in video format (just a bit over 130MB if I recall correctly) for the entirety of the two hours.  It was a nice presentation, nothing good, nothing bad - just nice. It added a little more dimension to the TEC-VARIETY model readings we had in the MOOC.  I saw some people on the discussion boards complaining that Curtis Bonk tried too hard at being entertaining, making a fool of himself (really paraphrasing here) with all those cow sounds when he talked about Moooooodle and MooooooCs.

OK, I honestly didn't mind, I thought it was funny.  A two hour webcast would be boring if it were a straight lecture.  You need to break these things up. Also, the fact that Curtis Bonk looks like Zaphod Beeblebrox (see photo; from Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy) sort of helped solidify the somewhat whacky persona.  The session was a bit long, but with so many people attending, it would make sense that there is a 45-60 minute "lecture" and a discussion around Q&As from the participants, so not such a big deal.

Elluminate publisher offered me an MP3 audio-only version of the session. I am wondering if next time I should just go with the audio, since the video didn't offer me much more than the audio would.

Your thoughts?
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