Well, here I am. Less than 1 month away from program completion. It has been a long four years, and yet in many ways, it feels like yesterday that I began my first course, full of self doubt, and worried about how I would balance it all.
At the outset of this capstone project, I identified my learning goals for my graduate studies. It is with great satisfaction that I look back at these, and realize that not only have I achieved these goals, but there has been so much more recognized and gained from this program.
Learning Goal 1.
Understand the basic tenets of instructional design practice, and in particular identify and apply practices that heed constructive alignment, acknowledge best practices in online learning, and take a critical approach to technology adoption.
While there may be a few additional steps in the instructional design method (ADDIE specifically), I have come to realize that good design, is...well, good design - regardless of delivery method. Meaning, that in my current work as part of an educational development team, we are guided by the tenets of constructive alignment. We work to ensure and guide learning that is scaffolded in such a way that there is congruence between the learning outcomes of an object, module or course, and its learning activities (including content), and the assessment and evaluation of the learning. While in an instructional design model, these tasks are embedded in the design phase, they are still the foundation of the work. What I have learned in this program, however, is so much more about the other best practices related to course design, and in particular, the ways in which pedagogical decisions are influenced by online delivery. I have also contemplated the ways in which the "other" stages of instructional design are often absent when we undertake learning design across multiple modes of delivery - too often are the assessment and/or evaluation of interventions absent when designing for face-to-face contexts. While I didn't take a few of the "extra" instructional design course offerings, opting for breadth over depth in some cases, I feel confident that between my studies and my work that I consider myself an instructional designer.
It is interesting to me, though, that on my campus, and indeed many others, we often delineate between distance learning specialists, educational developers and instructional technologists. As Tony Bates (2015) noted in a blog post pondering the future of careers in online learning, "it would be a mistake to think that online learning will be some esoteric branch of teaching and learning requiring specialism". What he meant at the time, was that in the "future" that all teaching and learning will likely intersect with technology, and so perhaps expertise in this area will be democratized across all instructors, thus negating the need for designers and/or technologists. At this moment in time, however, I beg to differ. I subscribe more readily to Brian Alexander's (2016) definition of blended learning in his "Devil's Dictionary of Educational Technology" -
What I mean here is that despite the fact that "yes" I agree that in the future, most formal teaching and learning moments (at least in the developed world) will intersect with technology, there will still be a place for designers and technologists. It is a very small percentage of instructors that I work with that have ever undertaken any professional development in the study of pedagogy, let alone digital pedagogy. And so I am grateful to have expertise in both of these areas, in the ways that they are similar and the ways that they are different. When I first started working in this field, it was not uncommon for an instructor to adopt Twitter, "just because", "to meet students where they are". And while in many cases these same instructors gave great care and thought to their inclusion of this media, in some other cases, the pedagogical affordances were overlooked. I think it is still very important to have specialists on our campuses that can work alongside subject matter experts to ensure the very best teaching and learning experiences - both in terms of online design, but also technology selection across the spectrum of delivery options. It is no exaggeration to say that my thinking on the latter has evolved greatly in the four years of my study. Courses such as MDDE 610 required me to think deeply about the changing nature of the intersections between pedagogy and technology, and more, just how quickly this field continues to evolve. What I love the most is the critical lens that in increasingly applied to the field, one that I aspire to, and one that I am called upon to bring to my work. Most of all, this program of study has afforded me the time and space to think about all of these things, and so I am only a better practitioner for it.
Learning Goal 2.
Improve my understanding of the research process and methodologies, and in particular toward discerning the quality of the literature of the field, but also toward applying both quantitative and qualitative practices in my own current and future research and/or program evaluation undertakings.
As I have already noted in my Artefact 4 reflection, some of my most valued and practical learning came in the form of research methodology courses. At times, it felt like I was learning a new language, and I don't think this is so far from the truth. It is one thing to understand what a "p-value" is, it's quite another to be able to talk about it with some level of confidence, nuance, and to apply it to one's own work. As I sat in a meeting just yesterday, providing a summary of SPSS analyses to two principal investigators, I couldn't help but feel proud of how far I have come. I can now speak at least "conversational" statistics. In terms of my future goals, I hope to continue to learn more, methodologically speaking. I have started to learn "R", as I believe it is becoming increasingly more commonplace, and I will also take an advanced qualitative methods course on my own campus in the winter of 2019. While I will continue to collaborate with other colleagues on my campus to engage in the scholarship of teaching and learning, I also hope to lead a study in my own right in the next two years. And this may happen sooner than later as I will be applying for a local funding grant in the next month to explore the local awareness of open education resources. I will also continue to advocate for program evaluation activities on my campus, and I hope to undertake further professional development in this area also, as the connections between research and community are so important, and working in this way would marry my love of both.
Learning Goal 3.
Hone my praxis. To gain both an evidence-based theoretical knowledge, but also to identify ways to best adopt and apply these theories in my own pedagogical practice. This again includes the evaluation of learning technologies, but also includes the further development of my personal learning environments and networks.
My colleagues, in particular my manager, have been amused over the past four years. It was always obvious as to what I was studying in any given semester, as I became almost dogmatic in finding ways to apply my studies to my work. When I took MDDE 617: Program Evaluation, for example, I set about ensuring that all of our programs going forward ensured some type of evaluation of our efforts. The time spent in MDDE 622: Openness in Education, allowed me to become a strident advocate of open education and access initiatives, both on my campus, but also much beyond. Most recently, in MDDE 651, I have contemplated more deeply the ways that we can endeavour to make learning experiences more accessible and equitable for all learners, and not just across lines of gender, but to recognize designs that are inclusive for other marginalized groups.
While the focus of my work in the last four years has been on the evaluation of learning technologies, I believe I have similarly grown in this area as a result of the program. I have learned to take a critical approach to technology adoption and to ensure, more than ever that pedagogy predominates technology. I have learned to ask important questions, especially in relation to ethical concerns and privacy. I have been reminded of the importance of pausing to consider the accessibility of resources and that universal design benefits all learners. I think one of the most important lessons from MDDE 610, was to consider how the diffusion of innovation theory is applicable to my work.
Taking what I learned from this course, I have worked toward developing a stage and gate model for technology innovation on my campus. Using a "proof of concept" activity with innovators, allows me to gather the data necessary to advocate for further testing and implementation. With my "early adopters" we can move to a pilot phase to explore implementations across the disciplines, and to gather a deeper understanding of the implications for teaching and learning in a systematic way. I also understand that it is the early and late majorities that are perhaps the most important group to understand, as the innovators will always innovate, the laggards may always lag, but it is the "middle" who need to be accounted for, both in terms of numbers, but also toward sustainable and supported programs.
Lastly, I had suggested that another one of my goals embedded in this third point was the development of my own personal learning environments and networks. I can honestly say that while I at times still feel like an "imposter" and/or "lurker" in many ways, I have come a long way since the early days of my study. In meeting the requirement for my mini-portfolio, I finally took a leap of faith and registered my own domain. In the last week, I have undertaken to convert this site from Weebly to Wordpress, and to move my domain to one hosted by Reclaim. As part of eCampus Ontario's "Extend" program, I will continue to experiment in my own environment, and to further take control of my digital identity. I have made a conscious effort too, in the last four years, to attempt to find and use my voice across various platforms, including Twitter. While at times this has been anxiety producing, and has filled me with self-doubt, I have come to appreciate the ways that I now consider myself a "part" of some important conversations. More, I have been fortunate to connect with SO many generous and engaged scholars across the many areas I am interested in. What I have realized most of all is two-fold: first, this is a never-ending and iterative journey. Not only will my contributions change as I evolve as a learner and educator, but so will too my network. More, I have realized the importance of engaging in this way, and with additional ethical and professional responsibility, toward teaching and modeling for others the ways that the establishment of personal learning networks and environments can benefits one's academic career. And that "sharing" out in the open, can be a very affirming thing. Lastly, I hope that now I am mere weeks away from completing my studies, that I will have time to blog a little more frequently - to clear my busy head of its jumbled mess of ideas a little more frequently.
Learning Goal 4.
To advance in my professional career.
I don't actually have a lot to say here. Have I advanced in my professional career? Perhaps "not yet", but I certainly feel like I am a more confident practitioner than I was four years ago. Will I advance? Most definitely yes. Watch this space...coming soon!
Three weeks. It is only 3 weeks until I am a master! I can hardly believe it. In the course of this 4 years I have continued to work full time, raised 2 growing boys, and suffered 3 concussions. I have had ups and downs, but I have persevered. I have learned a lot. With each new course came new knowledge and skills. With each course I became a better student. With each course I became more excited about "the work" and found new ways to integrate what I was learning in my practice. And now, as it nears a close, I am beginning to wonder how I am going to live without it? What will I do with all my new-found time? How will I continue to engage myself as a learner and not just as a teacher? What comes next? Despite the fact that I can't answer these questions just yet, there is one thing I know for sure to be true - I am really proud of myself.
Talbot, B. (2006, March 18). [Photo]. Our Direction. CC-BY-NC 2.0. Retrieved from https://flic.kr/p/bgEmZ
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