Club Admiralty

v7.0 - moving along, a point increase at a time

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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HyFlex is not what we need (for Fall 2020)

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HyFlex (Hybrid Flexible) is a way of designing courses for (what I call) ultimate flexibility.  It takes both ends of the teaching spectrum, fully face-to-face, and fully online-asynchronous and it bridges the gap.  Back in the day, I learned about this model of course design by taking an OLC workshop with Brian himself, but you can learn more about the model in his free ebook.  I liked the model at the time (and I still do), because it gave more options to learners in the ways they wanted to participate in the course. They could come to class, they could participate online synchronously, and they could just be asynchronous, or a mix of any one of those depending on the week.

Quite a few people on twitter, including @karenraycosta, were pondering whether they don't like HyFlex (in general), or the implementations of HyFlex that we are seeing. Heck, It seems like HyFlex has become the white label flex model for universities because some of them are creating their own brands of flex!🙄. I wonder what marketing geniuses came up with that.  Anyway, colleagues and I have been trying to flex our learning for the last few years as a trial, with mixed results.  The main issue that comes out a lot is a critical mass of students, with a secondary issue of staffing.  In "pure" modality (full F2F or full-asynch) you need to have a critical mass of learners to be able to engage in constructivist learning.  If lectures are your thing and you expect people to sit down, shut up, and listen, then it works just fine.  However, for the rest of us who want to build learner connections and interactivity in the classroom we need a minimum amount of students, and we need to have a sense of how many there will be so we can plan activities.  An activity for 20 people won't necessarily scale down to 2 people.  The same thing is true in asynch, if most people are F2F, writing in the forums might feel like speaking to an empty room.

Things become more complicated if you want to create a sync session online and merge that with a F2F meeting.  The instructor becomes not only an instructor but a producer.  They need to manage the tech, ensure that everyone on-site has devices that they can beam the online folks in (zoom, adobe connect, etc.) to work in groups, for team presentations you gotta work wizardry to ensure that all people are well represented and the tech works. I've seen this type of producing happen in distance education classrooms of old where people connected 2 physical classrooms via P2P connections, and each site had a producer to manage the cameras that connected the students from one classroom to another, and the remote classroom had a tutor. In total there were 4 people to make this happen for a class of 40. HyFlex (the way it's implemented) expects one person to do this: the instructor.

While I think HyFlex is an interesting model to pursue, I think it's something to pursue for large class enrollments (think classes of 80 or more students), or multi-section team-taught courses (ENGL 101 for example that might have multiple sections taught by many people).  HyFlex isn't good for a "regular" class size class (regular defined as 12-20), because you need to design and plan for possibilities that might never occur.  This makes course creation more costly, and course maintenance an issue, which falls upon one person: the instructor.  Considering that the majority of courses are taught by adjuncts these days - who aren't paid well - this also becomes an issue of academic labor.  Think about it (and use my university as an example): 

  • One course is compensated as 10 hours of work per week (at around $5000, or $33/hour)
    • Assume 2 hours per week prep time (really bare minimum here, assuming all course design is complete and the instructor doesn't have to worry about that). That leaves 8 hours
    • 3 hours of that is "face time" each week.  That leaves 5 hours
    • 2 hours per week are office hours. That leaves 3 hours.
    • Assume 3 hours per week that you are spending engaging in things like forums, mentoring, reading learner journals, and responding back to them (an equal amount of time spent as on-campus). You are left with no paid hours to devote.
  • So what's left out?
    • What if you need to do more than 2 hours/week of student conferencing? Do you take a pay-cut? or do you say "first come first serve, sorry!" (not very student-friendly!)
    • Who grades and gives feedback for papers and exams?  Are they all automated?  That's not really good pedagogy
    • When does professional development take place to be able to use all the tech required for HyFlex?  Is this paid or not?
  • Parking on my campus costs $15 per day, so $225 per semester if you are only teaching one-day per week. If you are unlucky and teach 3 days per week (MWF) or five days per week (MTuWThF), then your parking costs are $675 and $1125 respectively.
    • This makes your compensation per course:
      • $4475 ($31/hour) - one-day teaching schedule
      • $4325 ($28/hour) - three-day teaching schedule
      • $3875 ($25/hour) - five-day teaching schedule
    • While these costs are incurred for people teaching on-campus anyway, when they are off-campus they are not working, however, with HyFlex they still have their online obligations.
  • There is a commuting cost associated with going to/from home. Those hours are not compensated or accounted for.

I think HyFlex can work, but not for everything.  Furthermore, for fall 2020 it puts the lives of faculty in danger because faculty would have to come in to teach on-campus.  The "flex" option seems to only be available to learners.  When Brian Beatty originally proposed the HyFlex model (from what I remember of my OLC workshop), the flex was a two-way street.  The faculty member could also say "well, this week we're online because of obligations I have" - but the flex proposed by colleges and universities doesn't seem to include this two-way flex.

Anyway- that's what I have to say about HyFlex.   How about you? 
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Instructional Designers, and Research

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Yet another post that started as a comment on something that Paul Prinsloo posted on facebook (I guess I should be blaming facebook and Paul for getting me to think of things other than my dissertation :p hahaha).

Anyway,  Paul posted an IHE story about a research study which indicates that instructional designers (IDers) think that they would benefit from conducting research in their field (teaching and learning), but they don't necessarily have the tools to do this.  This got me thinking, and it made me ponder a bit about the demographics of IDers in this research. These IDers were  in higher education.  I do wonder if IDers in corporate settings don't value research as much.

When I was a student and studying for my MEd in instructional design (about 10 years ago), I was interested in the research aspects and the Whys of the theories I was learning. I guess this is why further education in the field of teaching and learning was appealing to me, and why I am ultimately pursuing a doctorate. I digress though - my attitude (inquisitiveness?) stood is in contrast with fellow classmates who were ambivalent or even annoyed that we spent so much time on 'theory'.  They felt that they should be graduating with more 'practical skills' in the wizbang tools of the day.  We had experience using some of these tools - like Captivate, Articulate, Presenter, various LMSs, and so on, but obviously not the 10,000 hours required to master it†. Even though I loved some classmates (and for those with who are reading this, it's not a criticism of you! :-) ), I couldn't help but roll my eyes at them when such sentiments came up during out-of-class meetups where we were imbibing our favorite (hot or cold) beverages.  Even back then I tried to make them see the light.  Tools are fine, but you don't go to graduate school to learn tools - you go to learn methods that can be applied broadly, and to be apprenticed into a critical practice.  As someone who came from IT before adding to my knowledge with ID,  I knew that tools come and go, and to have a degree focus mostly on tools is a waste of money (and not doing good to students....hmmmm...educational fast food!). I know that my classmates weren't alone in their thinking, having responded to a similar story posted on LinkedIn this past summer.

My program had NO research courses (what I learned from research was on my own, and through mentorship of professors in my other masters programs). Things are changing in my former program, but there are programs out there, such as Athabasca University's MEd, which do work better for those who want a research option.

Anyway, I occasionally teach Introduction to Instructional Design for graduate students and I see both theory-averse students (like some former classmates), and people who are keen to know more and go deeper. I think as a profession we (those of us who teach, or run programs in ID) need to do a better job at helping our students become professionals that continually expand their own (and their peer's) knowledge through conscious attempts at learning, and research skills are part of that.  There should be opportunities to learn tools, for the more immediate need of getting a job in the field, but the long term goal should be setting up lifelong learners and researchers in the field.  Even if you are a researcher with a little-r you should be able to have the tools and skills to do this to improve your practice.

As an aside, I think that professional preparation programs are just one side of the equation.  The other side of the equation. The other side is employment and employers, and the expectations that those organization have of instructional design.  This is equally important in helping IDers help the organization. My conception of working with faculty members as an IDer was that we'd have a partnership and we'd jointly work out what was best based on what we had (technology, expertise, faculty time) so that we could come up with course designs that would be good for their students. The reality is that an IDer's job, when I did this on a daily basis, was much more tool focused (argh!).  Faculty would come to us with specific ideas of what they wanted to do and they were looking for tool recommendations and implementation help - but we never really had those fundamental discussions about whether the approach was worth pursuing anyway. We were the technology implementers and troubleshooters - and on occasion we'd be able to "reach" someone and we'd develop those relationships that allowed us to engage in those deeper discussions. When the organization sees the IDer role as yet another IT role, it's hard to make a bigger impact.

On the corporate side, a few of my past students who work(ed) in corporate environments have told me that theory is fine, but in academia "we just don't know what it's like in corporate" and they would have liked less theory, more hands-on for dealing with corporate circumstances. It's clear to me that even in corporate settings the organizational beliefs about what your job as an IDer is impacts what you are allowed to do (and hence how much YOU impact your company). Over drinks, one of my friends recently quipped (works in corporate ID, but formerly on higher education) that the difference between a credentialed (MEd) IDer and one that is not credentialed (someone who just fell into the role), is that the credentialed ID sees what's happening (shoverware) and is saddened by it. The non-credentialed person thinks it's the best thing since sliced bread‡. Perhaps this is an over-generalization, but it was definitely food for thought.

At the end of the day I'd like to see IDers more engaged in education research. I see it really as part of a professional that wants to grow and be better at what they do, but educational programs that prepared IDers need to help enable this, and organizations that employ them need to see then as an asset similar to librarians where they expect research to be part of the course to be an IDer.

Your thoughts?


MARGINALIA:
† This is obviously a reference to Gladwell's work, and the 10,000 hours of deliberate practice.  It's one of those myths (or perhaps something that needs a more nuanced understanding). It's not a magic bullet, but I used it here for effect.
‡ Grossly paraphrasing, of course
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Mentor-Teacher-Hybrid Presence-course design...

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This semester is turning out to be one that is quite busy.  It was a good idea to not teach a graduate this semester so I can focus on my dissertation proposal, however (like that irresistible desert at the end of the meal) various collaborative projects have come in to fill the "void" left in my schedule from not teaching (the one that is supposed to be going into dissertation prep), and these projects have me thinking.

First is the aspect of Hybrid Presence.  Suzan and I coined this term to describe something between Teaching Presence and Learner Presence for the most recent Networked learning conference.  We are currently working more on this topic for an upcoming book chapter.

Second is gamification.  A term that has come in and out of my list of curiosities that I want to play around more with.  I've done some work on this for school, and for professional organization presentations, but nothing big in terms of an article (in my ALECS proposal it was only part of the ingredients).

Finally, since I am not teaching next spring (how much do you want to bet that other papers will fill in the void, LOL), I've been thinking about the summer I usually teach in the summers.    I facilitated the transition from "Introduction to Instructional Design" to "Foundations in Instructional Design and Learning Technology" - a small word change, but the connotations of such a change were profound for the course.  Rebecca H and I have taught variations of the course, as well as variations of INSDSG684. For the past 4 years I've wanted to gamify the learning experience, which I have partly done through badging, although that seems to not have caught on that greatly.  As an opt-in experience it varies a lot. This leaves me pondering: is it wise to move from the gamification end of the spectrum to full-on gaming in an introductory course?  If yes, how do you do it?  The boardgame metaphor appeals to me, but there are other metaphors that do as well!

On another strand, there are students in the MEd program that I teach in that are close to graduation and that I've had in my class at some point or another.  Now that they are a little further in the program I'd like to invite them back, for credit, to be part of the introductory course.  But not as teaching assistants.  I think that's a waste of their time and money. Rather, I want them to be mentors who are developing what Suzan and I term a Hybrid Presence.  I'll be be around to mentor the mentors (while working on my own Hybrid Presence) but I want to tease out how that would work as a for-credit course.  Since I only really teach two courses per year (limitations of employment), my current puzzle to solve is this: I want to combine the transformgameation† of the introductory course with this mentorship model I want to develop. This way I am working on a gamefied design that's (maybe) more interesting, and it won't bore the mentees since will be part of something new.

What do you think of this idea?



NOTES:
† word I invented, transform + game = transformgameation, tell it to your friends, let's have it catch on.


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Pondering assigning groupwork...

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The summer semester is over!  Well, it's been over for several weeks now and the fall semester is in full swing, but I am not teaching this semester (focusing more on projects that have been on the back-burner for a while). Taking a break from teaching actually makes me think more about teaching in an odd way (I guess out of sight, but not out of mind).

One of the courses that I teach is an intro course to instructional design and learning technology (INSDSG 601, or just 601).  Since this is a course that introduces students not only to the discipline, but also to the program of study at my university I though that it would be a good idea to give students some foundations in group work since this is something that they will encounter both in the "real" (aka working) world, but also in subsequent courses in the program and they need to be able to work effectively with one another.

The way the course assignments work is that there is a big project that last the entire semester which is individual, and there are several (4) smaller projects that are team-based.  These are a jigsaw activity and it allows students to become experts in one smaller area and teach others about it.

The first time around (summer 2015) I had students switching teams throughout the semester.  The idea was to give students more choice as to their group projects and the groups would be self-forming that way. The feedback that I got was that this was tiring to the students. I think that forming/performing/adjourning 4 groups during the span of 13 weeks was tiring, and it also didn't give students the space to actually get to know people beyond the scope of the project (which would have been useful as peer review for their projects!)

This past summer, I changed things up a bit and I formed the groups myself (an idea I picked up from Rebecca H.). Luckily I seemed to have a balanced group of K-12, Higher Education, and Corporate students in the class which made group creating a little easier. Taken one of each, wherever possible, and create a group. This way groups needed to negotiate which topics they wanted to be undertake as a group which potentially limited choice of topics for individual students, but on the plus side they got to know their team-mates, and there were semester-long pods which could in theory support peer review throughout the semester.  I didn't require it for grading, so I wanted to see if groups just shared individual semester projects amongst each other for review.

This worked out OK.  I would say that 50% of the class loved their teams...and 50% either passively disliked (you know, the mild groan) or actively disliked their team-mates. Whereas in the first attempt (2015) people seemed tired of the process, this second try at teamwork made people either love or hate their team-mates.  Those who loved their team-mates seemed to coordinate future classes together, and those who hated their collaborations...well, I didn't hear much more about it from their weekly reflections.  Those who seemed to dislike groupwork also had things happen in their groups; some things which were just not avoidable, like "like happens!" type of things, like unexpected family or work things.

One of the things that came up in both positive and negative experiences relates to empathy. In some cases of teams that didn't work out well, I got the sense that people were thinking along the following lines "I get that xyz happened to  student_name but that's does not concern me much, I am here to learn abc and I've got my own problems to deal with, so too bad for them, but I need to be done with some project here".  I think that if students could empathize more with one another they wouldn't have such negative reactions to groupwork.  On the other spectrum, even in well functioning groups, I got the sense that there were some people who had more time than others (just 'cause), so they tended to overwhelm the rest of the group with their eager excitedness.  That's cool (I like eager people!  I relate to them :-) ), but  at the same time it can create this feeling among some group members that they aren't performing at the level they should. The group level performance is much higher than what the project requires and this can create feelings of not failing your team-mates.  I think this is an empathy issue too.

While, on the whole, I think if I were able to control for those (uncontrollable) life issues, I think creating groupwork-pods for the semester worked out better.  But I am still looking to tweak the group experience in the course.  How do we increase communication, understanding, and empathy?  Do I require groups to meet weekly and submit meeting minutes (to make sure that they met)? Do I undertake a role-play at the beginning of the semester in a live session to increase empathy? And, how can groups be leveraged to support their fellow team-mates who might be falling behind for reasons that exist both inside or outside of class?


Thoughts?
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Instructional whatnow?

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A number of threads converged last week for me, and all of the threads exist in a continuum.  The first thread was one that began in the class that I am teaching this summer, INSDSG 601: Foundations of Instructional Design & Learning Technology. One of the things that we circle back to as a class (every couple of weeks) are the notions of instructor and designer.  Where does one end and the other begin in this process?  It's a good question, and like many questions, the answer is "it depends".  The metaphor that I use is the one that calls back to two sides of the same coin.  In order for instruction to ultimately be successful you need both sides to work together.  An excellent design will fail in the hands of a bad instructor, and a bad design will severely hold back a good instructor (assuming that there is an instructor and it's not self-paced learning). There is the other side too: as instructional design students we were told that we would be working with SMEs (subject matter experts) to develop training, but how one works with SMEs is not clarified.  A good friend of mine, working in corporate ID, told me recently that communication with a SME is through an intermediary acting as a firewall and it's hard to get the information necessary to work on good instructional designs (now there is some organizational disfunction!).  The key take-away here is that you can't really separate out these roles. Both need to be informed from one another, and communication is key to successful training interventions.

In another thread, I was chatting with Rebecca (at some point or another this summer) about assessments and grading in the classes that we teach.  Another layer to this design and instruction challenge was added. You can have a really nice design, with lots of learner feedback and continuous assessment, but the situation might be untenable.  Take for example the case of an adjunct instructor (like me or Rebecca).  At our institution we are paid for 10 hours of effort per week for a specific course (each course counts as 25% FTE, and assuming a 40 hour workweek, each course is about 10 hours of work). These 10 hours include design maintenance work, synchronous sessions (if you have any), discussion forums, and assessment & feedback.  The design of your course might be awesome, but it might require more time on the part of the instructor than the organization has budgeted for.

So the question is how does good design sync up with organizational norms and constraints?  Organizational norms are something we've talked about in the class as well. Instructional design does not exist in a vacuum.   For the course that I teach in the summer I made it a little more "efficient" by using a ✓/✘/Ø grading for all assignments (submitted and passing; submitted and not passing-can revise; nothing submitted) which has addressed the issue of haggling for points to a large degree. This still leaves 43 items per student to be graded (and some level of feedback) to be given to the student.

I know that I am still spending more than 10 hours per week on the course, so the question - from a design perspective - is this: What is the most efficacious way of giving learners feedback on their projects and other aspects of the course while still staying within organizational constraints, and while adhering to sound (and researched) practices of pedagogy? In other words, what design options give you the biggest bang for the buck when it comes to teaching presence and learner outcomes?  Given that I've been more than happy to spend the extra time each week on the class, this is not a "problem" I need to solve for myself right now, but it is a design challenge for other colleagues!

The final thread in this came from twitter, when (out of the blue?) there was a twitter burst discussion on instructional design when Maha wrote:

@KateMfD how do u design a priori for someone you have not met??? Duh
@KateMfD to this day, I don't understand how Instructional Design begins w "needs analysis" before we ever meet the students!

JR added to the discussion by tweeting:
@Bali_Maha @koutropoulos @KateMfD but in a similar way, how do we know what courses we are going to teach prior to meeting Ss on day 1?
@Bali_Maha @koutropoulos @KateMfD not always a great starting point, but often attempting to benefit the organization, learner comes 2nd

I've been thinking about this and I've been trying to come up with a metaphor that makes sense. The metaphor that came to mind comes from the world of clothing and it's the dichotomy of Tailored versus Mass Produced clothing.  The textbook that we use in my program is the Systematic Design of Instruction, by Dick, Carey, and Carey, using the Dick & Carey model.  The textbook seems to indicate that as designers we have a ton of time to conduct a needs analysis (is the training needed), and a learner analysis (who are the learners), and a context analysis (where learning will take place), and to design a breakdown of what exactly needs to be learned.  And, sure, if we were instructional designers for the rich and famous, on retainer, we'd know a lot of this stuff ahead of time, and if those rich folks wanted to learn to paint, or water ski, or whatever, we'd have the luxury of knowing our learners, environment, constraints, and needs, and we'd be able to do something about it (we'd also be paid the big bucks!). This is what I call the tailored model - we have the luxury of taking all the measurements we need, and the client is willing to wait for the product.

The environment we work in, however, is the mass produced environment. In our day to day work as instructional designers we do our due diligence and try to do some needs analysis, but we also work from educated guesses of who our learners might be.  This is something that we've discussed (either on air or off air) at campus technology and AAEEBL this week with different colleagues.  How does one decide what programs to offer?  What courses fit into those programs?  What are the requirements for the program, and how each course's requirements fit into that puzzle?  Who are the learners who come into those courses?  The answer to that last question is an educated guess.  You might design a program, or a course, or a set of courses with a specific learner group in mind, however that persona is in-fact an educated guess.

Hence, using assumptions to start the process for that which is mass produced and we change it (or adapt it) on the fly as we get to learn who the learners are in our classroom. There are constraints in place to make sure that  the variation is "manageable" - and for a college program (at the graduate level anyway) that constraint is admissions.  By managing the admissions process faculty and departments know who is coming into their classes, and they can be prepared for that adaptation.  Further adaptation happens in class.  It's not complete adaptation since there are constraints, but adaptation exists (or, I argue, should exit). This way we're taking something that is mass produced, and tailoring it to the needs of the individual (to some extent anyway).  This is where design and instruction meet again - two sides of the same coin.


Thoughts?

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Graduate Teaching Education

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While the DigPedChat on the topic is a month behind us, I am only now getting to it ;-)  So, after reading this post by Sean Micheal Morris on Digital Pedagogy I thought I would tackle some of the questions posed for discussion.  Feel free to leave a response, or link to your own blog post via comment :-)


What does it mean to perform teaching? What does it mean to perform learning? 

These are some pretty complex questions, which makes then juicy topics for discussion!  Performing Teaching has looked differently to me depending on where I look at it from, and what my own stage of development has been at a time.  As an undergraduate I would tell you that performing teaching looked like a sage on the stage. Preferably TED Talk style where the person is really engaging and he keeps yours attention focused on the subject. In the end, once the experience is complete or concluded you are left with a "wow" feeling.  As I've grown, and have been more and more on the doctoral and independent learner end of the spectrum I am not  all that certain that the sage on the stage is really what performing teaching is, at least not in all instances of teaching.  Teaching can take on a variety of shapes, forms, modes, and means.  However, I would say that the result is the same: at the end of a successful teaching performance I am left with a wow aftertaste.  I want more.  The teaching performance blows me away, fills me up, and leaves me to eagerly anticipate the next learning opportunity.  It's fine dining, where at the end of a meal you are full and content, but you foresee coming back to that establishment.

What does it mean to perform learning? I know that the programmed answer is:  As an instructional designer the "appropriate" response is that performing learning leads to a measurable change in knowledge, skills, (and/)or attitudes. However, the answer for me, really, is that "it depends".  As human beings we never stop learning.  There is formal learning that happens in schools and organized venues, or as described the other day by Gardner Campbell this could be called "study", and learning that happens every day.  When I drive through an intersection, on my way to work, and there is roadwork happening there that makes me late, I learn that I should avoid that intersection (or leave early).  While this is a change in behavior, albeit temporary while the roadwork is happening, no one taught me that.  I received some data (sensory, societal, communications, emotional, etc.) and I made decisions based on those factors. The key thing here is that performing teaching and performing learning don't necessarily have to happen in the same spatiotemporal nexus.


What does the role of a student who is also a teacher look like in a college classroom?

I assume that this question is aimed toward doctoral students who are concurrently acting in the capacity of TA (teaching assistant) and are the teachers of record for certain undergraduate courses. However, I think I'll take a more philosophical perspective and say that all teachers are students of something. Even once my doctoral degree is done (and assuming I won't go for a second one) I will still be a student.  I will be (hopefully) continuing to conduct research, and read, and write, about topics in my field.  I won't necessarily be in a classroom, but I will be a student.  That said, I think that we all wear many hats in life, in general.  So, in the classroom I can be a teacher, and outside of my classroom I can be a learner. However, I do think that (1) there are many opportunities for us, as instructors, to learn from our own classrooms, through our interactions with our learners, and through observing our learners interact; and (2) it's important to let our learners that we just don't know everything.  We are human beings, we tends to focus on things that pique our interests, and while we might know more about a specific topic compared to our learners, we can always learn more about it.  Knowledge is not finite, and as such it is important for us to acknowledge that.  We, as instructor-learners should be humble in that we don't know everything, and jump at the chance to learn with our learners as situations arise.


Should graduate teachers be made aware of their potential future in the job market? Should they be encouraged to be part of the dialogue of labor practices at the university, the community college, and in their own departments?

Reply Hazy. Try Again.  In all seriously though, I think that the actual prognostication of job markets isn't that great.  Instead of focusing on future markets which we don't know about (I for one did not think I would be where I am today back when I was an undergraduate student), we should focus on current aspects of the market, and look at those with a critical eye.  This means that graduate students, students in education, need to be part of the dialogue that takes place around the labor practices, environment, sustainability, and employability in their related fields.  If you are a PhD or EdD student and your goal is to be a professor, tenured, in higher education - you need to know that tenure track jobs don't come up that often (or so it seems to me), that adjuncts appear to be the majority of the workforce, and they are not paid that well.  Starting with your own department is not something that I would start with.  Perhaps I'd keep it in mind, but depending on how open that department is, it's potentially setting up some bad vibes between the student and the people that have power over you.  I am a firm believer in getting done with school first, before risking upsetting mentors (in case mentors are thin skinned).  Looking at academia in general, and institution second, would be my way of approaching a dialog over this. No matter how you approach it, a dialog must happen so that people have a five year plan (even if it's hazy).  They can't believe that they'll go on the tenure track if there aren't jobs on the tenure track, and we can't - as profession - be saying "Oh, they'll get a job if they are good enough" - because that severely impacts your reputation.  Why take someone into your program, and invest the time and energy to mentor them (and take their money) if you don't believe that they are good enough to get a tenure track job? Food for thought.


How can graduate teachers prepare to be pedagogues in non-teaching careers?

That's a good question.  I actually don't have an answer for that. My mental gears are turning, and I am thinking of community-based organizations, volunteering, and advocacy options - but I simply don't know at the moment.  What do others think?


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Missed Conversation with Laura Gibbs

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A recent hangout I was on talking about online pedagogy with some really cool people :-)

Note to self: Ouroboros as a pedagogical symbol...


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Social and Engaging Practices in Developing Research Skills

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A brief presentation that my colleagues and I did last Friday at our university's Teaching & Learning conference (I still remember when we called it the "EdTech Conference" :-)  This time around I listed by credentials as EdD (ABD).  I felt a bit awkward putting my standard (BA, MBA, MS, MEd, MA) - it also wouldn't fit - so since I am close to being ABD I just wrote that.  I think that the two embedded YouTube videos didn't make the google docs-->powerpoint-->slideshare conversion.


 
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Getting beyond rigor

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The other day I got access to my summer course on Blackboard.  With just under 25 days left to go until the start of courses, it's time to look at my old syllabus (from last summer), see what sorts of innovations my colleague (Rebecca) has in her version of the course, and decide how to update my own course.  I had some ideas last summer, but since then the course has actually received an update by means of course title and course objectives, so I need to make sure that I am covering my bases.

Concurrently, in another thread, while I was commuting this past week I was listening to some of my saved items in Pocket, and I was reading (listening to) this article on Hybrid Pedagogy by Sean Michael Morris, Pete Rorabaugh and Jesse Stommel titled Beyond Rigor. This article brought me back to thinking more about academic rigor and what the heck it really means.  I think it's one of those subjects that will get a different answer depending on who you ask.  The authors write that:

institutions of higher education only recognize rigor when it mimics mastery of content, when it creates a hierarchy of expertise, when it maps clearly to pre-determined outcomes

I suspect that's partially one definition of what rigor is thought to be, however I've come across courses that I've personally found that they were lacking rigor but they met those specific requirements mentioned above.  Sometimes I've found that rigor has to do with the level of expected work that a learner does.  If we think of learning as exercise and school as a gym, the analogy of a rigorous workout is something that raises your heart rate, burns calories, and gives your muscles a work out. At the end of a rigorous workout you feel tired. Luckily for exercise folks that stuff is easily measured.  I know that I did something rigorous when I feel exhausted after the gym. However, when it comes to learning we don't have instrumentation that is as easy to use and assess.  So, what the heck is rigor in a college course? How can we define it? Is it a malleable concept or is it hard set?

Interestingly enough the authors approach rigor not from what the attributes of the content are (i.e. who much of it, and by whom), but rather from an environment aspect. Rigor emerges from the environment rather than being a predefined constant.  In order for rigor to emerge when the environment is engaging to the learner, when it provides a means to support critical inquiry, when it encourages curiosity when it is dynamic and embracing of unexpected outcomes, and finally when the environment is derivative.  This last one was defined as a "learning environment is attentive and alive, responsive not replicative."

The one constraint I have with this course (well, other than the course description ;-) ), is the textbook. The department uses the Systematic Design of Instruction by Dick, Carey, and Carey as their foundational book and model. Last summer I developed the course from scratch using DCC as the core organizing principle.  Now, while still important, after the update to the course title and description DCC must share the stage with other elements, so I am re-considering (again) what rigor looks like in this environment.  I am pondering, how I can rework an introductory course to be derivative and to give students a more control in shaping the curriculum (thinking rhizomatically here) beyond having to choose from some finite options...

At the moment, rigor for me is still one of those "I know it when I see it" things.  It would be interesting to discuss this a little further with others who are interested on the topic to see where we land on it.

On another note, and rigor aside, the two things I am keeping and/or expanding are mastery grading (you either pass or you need revision) - I am not going back to numerical grades for anything.  I would prefer that students focus on feedback rather than the numerical grade.  The other part I am keeping is digital badges.  They worked fine last summer, I just need to figure out how to make them better.


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