By Dr. Connie Blomgren
Recently, the name change for Athabasca University’s MEd was approved and the twenty-five years of a “Masters in Distance Education” became a “Masters in Open, Digital, and Distance Education”. What does this matter and what does it mean? What does it mean for me, an associate professor teaching within this program and more importantly what does it mean for my current and future students?
Due to the COVID-19 virus the pivot to online learning has been experienced unlike no time previously, yet prior to the current pandemic, 12-16 percent of Canadian higher education students were taking online courses (Bates et al, 2017). Since 1995, there have been many changes to the delivery options for education – we now have mobile phones, YouTube, and learning platforms of various kinds and versions. Over the years and concomitant with the rise of digital tools, educational changes have occurred. So the addition of “digital” to our program name makes sense. But what about “open”? What is open education? And how do I continue to iterate, change, adapt in my role of being a teacher of teachers?
I confess that I know a fair bit about openness in education – its history, its pathway to various definitions and conceptions of what entails openness. There are open educational resources (OER), open science and open data, open access publishing and scholarly journals. And of course, there is the shape-shifting term “open pedagogy”. As academics do, I have selected a camp to inhabit, a definition of open pedagogy that is simultaneously binding yet expansive, and I have chosen Browyn Hegarty’s (2015) eight attributes of open pedagogy as a framing device for my researching, thinking, and being part of open pedagogy.
But how am I living out these attributes? Especially during the pandemic? By flipping my regular face-to-face professional learning opportunities online, like most others have done. In this last year I have taken the Creative Common certificate and completed a mini-MOOC on graduate supervision. Additionally, I attended the Carnegie Project on the Education Doctorate’s 2020 CPED Virtual October Convening – upon the one day that non-members were able to attend.
This convening allowed me to learn more about innovative responses to the changing needs of education doctorate students. Dr. Jill A. Perry presented “What is a Dissertation in Practice Anyway?” to help conference attendees like myself further recognize a problem of practice as distinct from a traditional research problem. Familiarity with what a problem of practice dissertation entails allows for a more fulsome inquiry disposition and moves past solutionist thinking. Through her Challenge Room and Mural activity, conference participants brainstormed and listed ideas to three pre-established questions; we dove into collaborative thinking and extended ideas through discussing them. The digital visual collaboration tool Mural helped us collect our thoughts for the wrap- up and for her post presentation purposes. Dispersed yet synchronously together, we pulled apart our thinking about the importance of a problem of practice, an inquiry disposition.