Thursday, August 3, 2017

The publication emergency

Paul Prinsloo has a wealth of thought provoking posts on his facebook ;-)  I wasn't planning on blogging until tomorrow, but this got my mental gears moving and thinking (not about my dissertation, but it's thinking nevertheless).  This blog started as a continuation of a comment I left on Paul's facebook feed. The article that got me thinking is an article on the Daily Nous titled The Publication Emergency.

In the article a journal editor (in the field of philosophy) opines (although not with his editor hat on) that graduate students (I guess this means doctoral students) should be barred from publishing until they are done with their degree. He says that this is not a barring of people who don't hold a doctorate, but rather of people who are in process of earning their doctorate.  So, in theory, some with an MA, but not pursuing a doctorate would be welcome to publish their stuff.  So, even if an article is good and has merit, if its author is in process of earning a doctorate they'd get an automatic rejection.

It was an interesting read, and a good thought piece - and in all honesty I think that that since the author is a philosopher he is either trolling us or trying to get us to think more deeply about this topic. I certainly hope so at least because I don't think there is a way for me to disagree more with the position expressed (my disagreement has reached 11 😉 ).

The proposal seems to be trying to address the problem of the proliferation of credentials amogst the professoriate, of which I'd argue that publications is one kind of credential.  And, this proliferration of credentials is making it much more competitive for those in the professoriate at a variety of levels.  To deal with this problem the proposal is to arbitrarily eliminate one segment of the population, barring them from publications. It's arbitrary because someone without a doctorate, as mentioned above, is still NOT barred from publication, except if they are in the middle of earning one. So someone like me publishing prior to entering a doctoral program is fine, but if I enter that gray zone it suddenly is not? (not trying to make this about me, I promise 😛 ).

I see the problem as being more systematic, and the credentialing is a symptom of a larger issue (something we see at level beneath the doctoral level as well!)   Doctoral programs have increased and saturated the market.  Doctoral programs have gone from artisanal experiences, where few people applied, fewer were selected, cohorts were smaller and members shared the 'pain' of the experience. Sort of like going through an elite military program, but in academia.  Nowadays doctoral programs have (mostly) morphed to being cash cows for universities. More PhD† students graduating means more competition in the tenure stream job market; that is of course unless your program was thinking ahead and designed doctoral programs whose goals are not just to create new tenure stream faculty, but also work in other facets of society. More programs means more candidates competing for fewer jobs and resources (journals being  one of those resources). Hence, you need additional credentials to make it, such as doing post-docs (which I'd call exploitative labor), other type free work and volunteering, more papers published, etc., in order to get an edge.  It reminds me a lot of high school when people joined as many extracurriculars in order to pad their college application 😒

So, now you have a problem, my friend! You see, more early academics‡ publishing because current professors claim that they don't have the ability to publish as much because the journal market is saturated - with the author of the article citing 500-600 submissions to a journal per year. Add this to the budding market of predatory journals, and you've got a really bad mix.  An invalid argument that was proposed in the article is "well if the argument of a graduate student is good now, imagine how good it will be in the future!"  I don't buy this.  Academia has setup a perverse set of incentives, including keeping track of citations.  If the goal is to write something good and get citations for it, why wait? Ideas don't have a monogenesis, so if you wait someone else will beat you to the punch. Why handicap younger scholars who should actually be apprenticed into this? Another proposal is to not have anything published before you got your current tenure-stream job not count, so that people can see what you can do on the job.  This also made me roll my eyes a bit. 🙄 Why practice selective amnesia? Simply to sour the milk and prevent people from doing something?

I think academia needs to seriously look systematically at the perverse incentives it has provided over the past 40 years♠ and deal with those rather than just dealing with a symptoms in ways that are arbitrary, and at best, a bandaid on a bleeding patient.  Doctoral students should be encouraged to publish, it's good practice for those who want to go into the professoriate.  Why not have the benefit of mentorship while undertaking this?  Furthermore, the publish-or-perish modus operandi for academic units needs to finally be put to rest.  Faculty positions need much more granularity than what the current system allows for.  Faculty hired as lab scientists should be evaluated more on their research and publication performance. Faculty who do mostly teaching should be evaluated more on that.  Tenure and academic freedom should not just the playground of research PhDs, and we shouldn't try to shoehorn everything into a research PhD framework. This to me seems like a vestige of positivism, and our profession needs to think more seriously about a more dynamic, better representative, professoriate.  More holistic means of evaluation will most likely take the pressure of the publication system.

† PhDs is just my short term for any sort of doctorate, I don't really want to get into the whole PhD/EdD thing...
‡ By early academic I don't just mean tenure-track folks, but doctoral students
♠ just an estimate on my part, based on my conversations with others in field more time than I

Friday, July 28, 2017

Campus deadzones, and creepy hallways: where did everyone go?

Found image on Google
(not actually a photo of me)
Happy Friday dear readers! (umm...anyone still there?  I swear! I am alive! 😆)

I've been attempting to write a blog post all week (and trying to do the 10 minutes of writing per day), but I've been failing on that account...I guess Fridays are a better day as things wind down from the week.  In any case, there is an article from the Chronicle that's been on my mind this week titled "Our Hallways are too quiet". Our department chair sent this to us (everyone in the department) as a thought piece, perhaps something to ponder and discuss in the fall - probably because our department is also like the department that is described in the article.

I had a variety of cognitive and emotional processes go off, and get gears grinding while I was reading this.  I actually hadn't noticed that the author was from MIT...who only recently "discovered" online learning (like Columbus discovering the New World).  Yes, I am a little snarky, but I also think that your frame of reference is really important.  If you are a Bricks and Mortar institution what you consider "community" might look different from an institution that is focused on distance education (or at least has a substantial DE component).  But I think I am getting ahead of myself.  Let me just say this:  My job title is "Online Program Manager" - as in the person who runs the online components of a specific MA program.  Having been on campus for close to 20 years now, in a variety of roles, I can see both sides.  I think this particular article is really biased, in ways that their author doesn't even get.

Let's start with this:
Entire departments can seem like dead zones, and whole days can pass with only a glimpse of a faculty member as someone comes to campus to meet a student, attend a meeting, or teach a class. The halls are eerily quiet. Students, having figured this out, are also absent. Only the staff are present.
This excerpt, as well as the rest of the article, is very faculty-centric.  As if the faculty (or this particular faculty member anyway) are the only ones who suffer any consequences from creepy hallways.  In my most recent job (headed into my 6th year soon!), and my first in an academic department, I've experienced the demoralization that comes with absence of colleagues.  In all of my others jobs on campus I've always had colleagues around (with the exception of vacations and such).  Whereas in an academic department I didn't (don't) always see people.  In my induction period (when I was getting the lay of the land and doing a SWOT analysis of the program I was managing so I could be more effective) Mondays through Thursdays I'd at least see my fellow program managers and faculty here and there, but on Fridays it almost felt like being in the movie I Am Legend.  Granted, this didn't bother me back then because there was a lot of paper records to go through and make heads and tails out of everything. Being busy meant that I didn't really mind being alone.  Once all paper was organized, made sense of, and work could be done remotely, the big question that comes to mind is this:  Well, if I can do my work remotely, and I don't have to deal with the x-hour commute, why would I need to go in?  especially for someone who manages a distance learning program.  If one group of employees (faculty) can work remotely (effectively) why not another group whose job duties are conducive to it?  I do agree with one point made above:  students having figured out that faculty aren't there are also not there; but there is a big caveat here:  who are your students? Students in my department are (by and large) working adults, so even if faculty were around it doesn't mean we'd suddenly have students sitting around in semi-circles, drinking their dunkies coffee (local affectionate term for Dunkin' Donuts) and discussing Derrida.  If you think that way, you're living in a fantasy.  Student demographics matter.

Goin' onto the next point. The author writes about faculty avoid the office for a variety of old fashioned reasons, such as not being able to get work done, avoiding feuds, and avoiding time-sinks like watercooler talk, but then she turns her attention to the perennial foe: technology!
A big reason for decreased faculty presence in their campus offices is technology. Networked computers that allow one to write anywhere also allow us to have conversations with students and colleagues that used to take place in person. Creating new course materials and ordering books is easily done online. Cloud software has made pretty much all our work processes easily done from home, a vacation cabin, a foreign conference hotel. For many scholars, this has been a very liberating occurrence, giving them wondrous flexibility.
Pardon me, I don't know you, but I call 💀💢🐄💩😡 on this argument.  Yes.  technology has facilitated certain efficiencies, like not having to fill out a form in triplicate, or not having to wait overnight for a journal article query that only returns title and abstract of potentially relevant articles to you.  Technology has not caused faculty not to want to come to the office.  Other organizational factors play a major role in the day to day decisions on whether or not to work remotely.  When research productivity is sought more, then people will do what they need to do to be more productive in their research.  If community engagement, service, teaching, or other aspects of the professoriate are valued more, than people will gravitate toward those.  I basically comes down to incentives, and when there is little incentive to be on campus to meet those objectives, then you will undertake them at a place that is most convenient for you.  I think a lot has to do with the expectations set forth by the institution, the institutional culture, and by extension the departmental culture.  Sure, you can have a department chair (the head honcho in an academic department) mandate that everyone (yes, including faculty) have to be there 3 days per week, and put in at least 10 hours of  'face time' into the department during regular business hours (9-5).  That's really only 3 hours per day. Does 3 hours per day really build community?  Nope.  Does 3 hours per day guarantee that people will be there on those same days and hours?  Nope.  This is the equivalent of butts in seats, for no good reason.  It's as anachronistic as forcing students to endure a long lecture just because you haven't through of your pedagogies.  First you determine what your root goal is (and no, more face time isn't a worthy goal), and then you hatch a plan to get there, while at the same time taking into consideration the various local variables, norms, and expectations (heck, maybe those need some rethinking too!)

Every time I hear about technology as the "big bad" I am reminded of the rebooted (and cancelled) Thurdecats.  From the fan wiki article (with my own annotations in brackets):
Most citizens [of Thundera] abhorred technology, denying the existance of machinery entirely and leaving thoughts of such things as fairy tales. This belief was a major contributing factor to their destruction as the lizards [their enemy] attacked them with advanced bipedal war machines Warbots while the ThunderCats fought with bows and arrows.
Just an interesting side-trip - take it as you will 😂

Anyway, moving along, finally, I see a conflation of the sense of community with face time, and they are not the same thing.  The author writes:
Some would argue that worrying about departmental community is ridiculous. After all, professors aren’t hired or promoted on the basis of departmental relationships, or civic engagement, and most faculty members desperately need quiet time in which to do research and write. True enough. As my colleague, Sherry Turkle, has argued: Conversation matters. Personal contact matters. It is very hard to build relationships with people we do not see in person, and such relationships are the bedrock of so much else that matters on any campus.
I think community is important.  However just because someone is not in their office at the same time YOU are in your office doesn't mean that you can't have community.  And just because you re not meeting face to face doesn't mean that you aren't communicating.  And just because you aren't meeting face to face doesn't mean that you aren't having personal contact! I've had lots of meaningful conversations, and personal contact with my many distance friends, family, and colleagues over the year.  From my doctoral cohort, to vconnecting friends and colleagues (sorry I've been a ghost - dissertation is sucking my mental energy), to colleagues who are geographically dispersed.  Every time I hear of Sherry Turkle I can't help but roll my eyes. Yes, face to face is nice.  Yes, I like face to face sometimes, but face to face ain't the end all be all of conversations, connections, communities, and work.  Yes, we do need community.  Without it we are just a loosely joined confederation of people maybe striving toward a common goal (maybe not), but with community we become stronger, and we get smarter.  But community can be achieved in a different ways (look at vconnecting for example).

To wrap up, I am reminded of a joke, or something that one of my mentors (Pat Fahy) kept saying "It's the parking, stupid!".  This was the response to the question "why do students pursue distance education?".  Of course, this is just one piece of the puzzle; others being things like mobility issues, health issues, childcare, elder-care, working two (or more) jobs, and so on.  I think in an era where we are offering some really great distance education programs (oh yeah...welcome to the party, MIT), and we've seriously considered what makes a good online program for our disciplines in order to get here, it would behoove us to also look at what makes our jobs effective and how we can effectively build communities of various modalities.  Forcing grown human beings to have face time so that they form community is the equivalent of having your kids forced to stay with "weird uncle mike" or grandma, because you feel like your kids need a connection with the rest of your family, but you haven't bothered making them part of your family in the day to day, except only on holidays.  Both kids, and adults, resent such forced actions.  We can do better.  Just sayin'

OK, now that I've ranted on 😏 - what do you think? 😃

Monday, July 17, 2017

University Education, the Workplace, and the learning gray areas in-between

Many years ago, maybe around 16 years ago, I was sitting in the office of my computer science major advisor, getting my academic plan for next semester signed off on.  My computer science program was actually an offshoot of the mathematics department, and until recent years (2003?) they were one and the same.  My advisor, while looking at my transcript, noticed that (on average) I was doing better in language courses rather than my computer science courses; which was technically true, but many courses designated as CS courses (and ones that were required for my degree) were really math courses, so you need to do a deeper dive to see what I was doing better in.

I never really forgot what he said next.  He said I should switch major; and it was odd that he didn't offer any suggestions as to how to improve†...  Being a bit stubborn (and relatively close to graduation) I doubled down and completed my major requirements (ha!).  During this chat I told him that I really wish there were more coursework, required in my degree, in additional programming languages because that is what I was expected to know when I graduated for work. His response was I could learn that on the job... needless to say, my 20-year-old self was thinking "so why am I majoring in this now, anyway?"

Fast forward to the recent(ish) past, flashback brought to your courtesy of of this post on LinkedIn. I had recently completed my last degree (this time in Instructional Design) and I was having coffee with some good friends (and former classmates). We were a year or so out of school. Two of us already had jobs (same institutions as when we were in school) and one was on the hunt. His complaint was that school didn't prepare him for the work environment because he didn't know the software du jour (which at the time were captivate and articulate). I did my best to not roll my eyes because software comes and goes, but theory (for the most part) really underlies what we do as professionals. In class there wasn't a dearth of learning about software, but there were limitations: namely the 30-day trial period of these two eLearning titles.  So we did as much as we could with them in the time we had with them, and we applied what we learned from the theoretical perspective.  No, we didn't spent a ton of time (relatively speaking) on the software because that sort of practice in a graduate program should really be up to the learner, and it would cost them.  Captivate cost $1100 for a full license, while articulate costs $999/year to license. That cost is actually more than double what the course cost! Furthermore, it privileges one modality (self-paced eLearning) and two specific elearning titles. The fact of the matter is that not all instructional designers do self-paced eLearning, enabled by these titles. Not all instructional designers are content developers‡. I find the author's following suggestion a bit ludicrous:

To replace the non-value add courses, decision makers can study current open job descriptions, and ignore academic researchers' further suggestions. Programs can then be revolutionized with relevant course topics. These new courses can include relevant production tools (e.g. Storyline, Captivate, Camptasia, GoAnimate, Premier, etc.) and numerous cycles of deliberate practice, where students develop a course on their own, and receive the feedback they need. This will make hiring managers very happy.
While I do see value in learning specific technologies, that's not the point of a graduate degree, and graduate courses should prepare you to be a self-supporting, internally motivated learner.  Courses should give you the staples that you need to further make sense of your world on your own, and to pickup tools and know-how that you need for specific situations♠.  Focusing a graduate degree on production tool is a sure way to make sure to really ignore the vast majority of what makes instructional design what it is. Practice is important (i.e. building your learning solutions) but it's not the only thing that's important. I also do think that employers need to do a better job when posting instructional designer job descriptions, but that's a whole other blog post.

I do think that if you are new to any field you (as a learner) should be taking advantage of any sorts of internships, where the rubber (theory) meets the road.  In some programs internships are required, and in others they are optional.  I do think that internships are an important component for the newbies in the field.  When I was pursuing my MA in applied linguistics, and being in a program that focused on language acquisition and language teaching, the field experience (aka internship) was a requirement.  People with classroom teaching experience could waive the requirement and take another course instead, but for me it was valuable (as much as I had to be dragged to to kicking and screaming).  In hindsight, it gave me an opportunity to see what happens in different language classrooms, something I wouldn't have experienced otherwise.

So, what are your thoughts? What do you think of the LinkedIn article?

† I guess this must have been a problem with advising in the college in general because years later the college of science and maths put together a student success center.  They were probably hemorrhaging students.

‡ I suspect this is another, brewing, blog post.

♠ So, yeah...Years later I see some of wisdom of my advisor.  I think he was partly right, in that I should be able to pick up what I need once I get the basic blocks, but I think he was wrong to suggest for me to change major, and I do think that less math, more computer science with applied cases would have been better as a curricular package.

Monday, July 10, 2017

MOOC CPD & SpotiMOOCdora

Last week (or was it two weeks ago?) I did my rounds on coursera, edx, miriadaX, and futurelearn and I signed up for a few new MOOCs.  I had also signed up for a course that a colleague was promoting on Canvas (innovative collaborative learning with ICT), but I've fallen behind on that one, not making the time commitment to participate.  The list of missed assignments (ones that I can no longer contribute to) actually is demotivating, even if my initial approach was not not do many assignments (or rather, play it by ear, and decide on whether I'd like to do some assignments during the MOOC). Maybe this coming week I'll 'catch up' in some fashion ;-).  The interesting thing is that there is a forum in Greek in that MOOC, which is motivational to see what my fellow Greek are doing in the arena of ICT and collaboration. I guess I still have a few more weeks before the MOOC ends...

Anyway,  I digress (probably not good practice for the dissertation).  Today's post was spurred by a recent essay on the MOOC on Inside Higher Education, where the author looked at her prognostications and examined them in the light of information we currently have about MOOCs. It is a little disheartening that the original MOOCs (connectivist MOOCs) are sort of gone (at least I don't really see a ton of connectivist stuff happening these days), and the xMOOC variety seems to be going more and more toward money making.  Even with the MOOCs I've just singed up for, there really isn't an option for a free certificate anymore.  You can still go through the course - which I am to do on my own sweet time (opportunity to explore the classics), but even a basic certificate is not free any longer. Another thing that going into this mix is thinking about continual professional development. In the two departments I am mostly connected with (applied linguistics and instructional design) graduates of these programs often need PD credits in order to maintain a teaching license, or to continue to hone their skills. Usually this is done through free webinars, in-service training, or taking additional graduate courses (depending on your field of course). This got me thinking about two things: MOOCs as CPD (which isn't really a new idea), and the all-you-can-eat MOOC (or SpotiMOOCdora - after services like spotify and Pandora).

My first pondering is this:  given that institutions such as Georgia Tech are offering a $10k MA in the MOOC format, why not consider a smaller leap into CPD (professional development courses)?  I know that maybe doing an entire MA might be a bit of leap for most institutions, heck even a certificate might be a bit of a leap (aka 'micro-masters' in the MOOC world), but CPDs have a different set of expectations and requirements, and they are often not available for graduate credit (some are, but most in my experience are not). I think it would make a ton of sense to develop professional development courses in a MOOC format, that are available for free for a target audience (let's say teachers of high school biology).  The payment can come in the form of assessment, or an in-person fee for a facilitator that brings together the course content of the MOOC (that people have done previously) in an active learning paradigm.

The second pondering is this:  Is there a market for either an all-you-can-eat month-to-month subscription to a MOOC? An example of this would be Amazon Prime video, Netflix, Hulu, Pandora, and so on.  If not all you can eat, how about a model that's more like Audible, where you get a book per month and you can spend your unused tokens anyway you want (if you are still working on a book, you can bank the token for another month for example).  If either of these models works, then what would be an appropriate price?  Netflix and Spotify at $10/month; audible is $15/month for example.  The reason I am pondering this had to do with the costs of certification.  I don't know what the secret sauce in certification is, but edx is asking me for $200 to get a certified certificate of completion (this sounds redundant).  What does $200 get me?  I don't get college credit for it, and (for me) the joy of learning is internal, so $200 is better spend elsewhere. For instance $200 gets me lifetime subscription to my favorite MMORPG...when said subscription is on sale (lots of hours of fun and additional content). Comparatively the edx certificate seems like a poor value proposition.

What do you think about these ideas?  Does a monthly subscription MOOC make sense?  What is the value proposition?  And, can we resuscitate the cMOOC?   Thoughts?

Monday, July 3, 2017

Academic Identities, Terminal Degrees, power of the network...

It's been a while since I last just sat down to think and write about something (like the good old days when I was cMOOCing...).  These past few weeks have been about conferences, and getting back on track with my dissertation proposal (although I think I am the only one who is keeping a score on that at this point).

In my attempt to get back to writing, and engaging with friends and colleagues out there in the wild blue yonder which is the internet, I thought I would pick through my accumulated Pocket list until it's almost empty.  One of the ponderings of interest came by means of an article on Inside Higher Ed titled Academic Identities and Terminal Degrees, where the overall question was: Does one need an academic terminal degree to identify professionally with that discipline? And, as Josh goes on to explicate

Can only someone with a Ph.D. in economics call herself an economist? Do you need a Ph.D. in history to be a historian? How about sociology and sociologist? Biology and biologist? Anthropology and anthropologist?

My views on the topic have changed in the past fifteen years; where I basically compare my views as someone who just finished a BA, to my current views...on the road to a earning a doctorate (are we there yet? 😂).  Originally I would have said that someone could call themselves something only if they've earned a degree in that field. I think today I would call that by the term protected professional title, and a degree or some sort of certification would be a way to demonstrate that you've been vetted into that profession somehow by somebody. Now, which titles (economist, linguist, archaeologist, biologist, etc.) are protected, and up for grabs...well...that's a subject for debate! At the time the only means of obtaining that expertise (in my mind) was through formal degree programs.

Since that time, in addition to completing a few masters programs and discovering new fields and new knowledge, I've also discovered the power of the network, the potency of communities of practice,  groups such as virtually connecting, and expanding my own learning and practice outside of the classroom.  My current feeling is that it's not really as black and white at my younger self thought.  I do think that obtaining a doctorate in the field is one path to getting there, but it's not the main criterion to developing your identity in that field.  The main criterion that I have (at this point in time anyway) is practice and expansion of your own skill set in that field. I guess a good way to describe this is through some examples that came to mind while I was trying to tease it out for myself:

Example 1: The non-practicing PhD
A few years ago I was a member of a search committee looking to fill the position of a program director for an academic program at my university. Among the requirements for this position was a terminal degree (PhD or EdD being defined in the job search posting).  We got a variety of CVs from interested applicants.  In reviewing CVs I noticed an interesting cluster of applicants: those who had earned a terminal degree (four, five, six, ten) years ago, but had no publications (or other academic work) under their name other than their dissertation.  Their dissertation was listed on their CV, but nothing else. I am not saying that publishing in academic journals is the only way to demonstrate academic work. You could for example be presenting at conferences, presenting at professional association workshops, writing for a blog or professional publication (basically translating academese to professionals). These job applicants had none of that, so they were demonstrating a lack of practice and continuous improvement in their field.  So they had earned their badge of honor by completing a doctoral program but there was no follow through.   For individuals like that I'd have a hard time calling them an economist, a biologist, a demographer, or a whatever.  I'd called them Doctor so-and-so, but they - in my mind - are not an embodiment of what it means to be a ___________ (fill in blank).

Example 2: Word ambiguity
When I was close to finishing my degree in Applied Linguistics I came across a podcast and a blog of someone who called himself a linguist. I was really happy to come across this podcast and blog because I could continue to learn about a topic of interest once I graduated (and also while I was in school), and this was exciting because back then there weren't really that many linguistics blogs or podcasts around.   My working definition of linguist a person who studies linguistics (where linguistics is the scientific study of language).  This is how I've always understood linguistics.  The person on the other end of this podcast was not a linguist in that sense.  He was a linguist in the dictionary sense of a person skilled in foreign languages.  Personally I'd call that a polyglot and not a linguist. Although, I don't think that it would have bothered me too much if this person called himself a linguist if he didn't really start to preach in his podcast about the best way to learn a language.  I find that at that moment he crossed the line into the domain of what I consider linguists: those who are either clinical linguists (for lack of a better term), and those who are teachers of language and take an inquisitive and critical approach to their teaching and either share what they've learned through their research (published or not). This individual calling himself a linguist was neither a teacher, nor a linguist (in the scientific meaning). Hence the more accurate term that I would use is polyglot not linguist.

Example 3: The practicing MA graduate
In many fields conducting an MA thesis is the only means to graduating from your Master's program.  Even if you don't conduct a thesis to graduate, but you've studied research methods, and continue to hone your skills of inquiry, and continue to read up on advances in the field, I feel like you have the right to call yourself a ________ (fill in relevant blank), if of course there isn't a regulatory board for your profession (nursing, medical, legal, accounting, and other profession of that type). There are many smart people out there who do a lot of work, and who diligently work on keeping their knowledge and skills updated.  Some of them even research and publish.  Through their continued efforts I think that they've demonstrated that they are serious enough about their profession to be included in that group that calls themselves a ___________ (fill in blank).

At the end of the day, for me, an academic identity isn't necessarily tied to a degree earned.  A degree earned on someone's CV might give you clues as to what their academic identity is, but it's not the only consideration.  I think that practice and application are key considerations when you're deciding where you are in the group, or you're not.  I think if a word has double meaning - as with example #2 - the thing to do is stick with the more accepted or widely used meaning, instead of something that isn't used.  I think it's the honest thing to do.

Your thoughts?

Monday, June 26, 2017

MOOCs as admissions considerations

It's been a while since I've sat down to blog (with the exception of my brief postings last week).  I guess I've had my nose firmly planted in books (physical and digital) trying to get through the reading components of my dissertation proposal so I can sit down and write. I tend to find (for me anyway) that having a bit more of a complete picture in my head as to what I want to write about cuts down a a ton of edits down the road. Because of this I also haven't really engaged a lot with my learning community (MOOCs and LOOMs alike).

That said, a recent work encounter broke my blogging slumber and has pulled me from my dissertation a bit.  In my day job one of my roles is to answer questions about our department's program (what is applied linguistics, anyway? j/k 😆) and that includes questions about admissions. While we prefer applicants with a background in linguistics or related background  such as languages (such as French, Italian, Spanish, Arabic, Greek, whatever language and literature background) we do accept others who did their BA in something different.  Personally I think that the language is archaic and comes from a time when the mission and vision of our department was slightly different, but that's neither here no there.  My point is that when there are people interested in our program who come from a background other than languages (such as business, or computer science for example) the question always becomes  how can I better prepare for this program, and ensure I get admitted? Basically ensuring that the applicant shows some sort of connection with between their interest in our program and what they did, or want to do.

In the past couple of years MOOCs have come up!  Even though I've been steeped in MOOCs for the past six years I didn't really think others were.  Furthermore, it amazes me how much value others place in MOOCs, and MOOCs that they have taken. Personally, while I like taking xMOOCs (I just signed up for about 10 of them recently through edx and future learn, and I am trying to do one on Canvas on collaborative ICT...) I don't know if I would ever mention my exploits in the MOOC arena to others (except maybe through my blog, or through a group of close MOOC friends).  My rationale for not sharing my learning is this:  While I personally derive value from what I do in MOOCs (it expands my own horizons, even if I am just viewing some videos) I also know that assessments are a little forced in xMOOCs.  Simple MCEs or short-answer peer-graded assignments don't really point toward mastery of something.  In ye olde days of xMOOCs the certificates of participation were free; provided that you completed the MOOC in its original run.  Now xMOOCs require you to pay for a certificate of participation, and I personally don't see any value to that.  Even if you pay for a verified certificate where you have someone proctor you while taking MCEs, what does that really mean?  That you can take a test?

This all got me thinking about the potential use of MOOCs for application purposes.  I personally think that by taking (and completing) a MOOC it shows interest in the topic, so that's a positive for the applicant, but it doesn't necessarily show any mastery. So, while useful, it definitely has its limitations.  The certificates don't really mean much to me for my current work, and yes - I do hold on to the certs that received while they were still free (😉) but I don't see additional value to the ones that people get these days in exchange for cash.

What do you think? Is there a value to students doing MOOCs with the aim of getting into a specific part of higher ed?

Friday, June 23, 2017

VConnecting NMC Carol Sharicz Wendy Shapiro Judith Erdman

OK, so here is the final session that I was an onsite buddy for from this summer's NMC summer conference.  This session has us join Wendy Shapiro, Judith Erdman, and Carol Sharicz from the UMass Boston Instructional Design Program.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

VConnecting at NMC17 Michael Berman & Eden Dahlstrom

What is the NMC? What is its history?  Well, see the following virtually connecting session from the NMC summer conference and find out :-)

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

VConnecting at NMC17 Gardner Campbell & Christina Engelbart

Here is a session with Gardner and Christina.  Their session was one of the few that I got to attend and it was really good! The odd thing is that sessions that I wanted to attend were mostly in the same room, and if you didn't get there in time, the door locked behind you (bug or feature?)

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

VConnecting at NMC17 with Michelle Pacansky-Brock, Jill Leafstedt

Continuing with my virtually connecting documentation activities this week, here is a session with Jill Leafstead and @brocansky. Hey!  Got to meet another twitter buddy in person! Woohoo! :-) We were also joined by Eden Dahlstrom the new executive director of the NMC.  The thing we learned (too late) was that the Mac defaults to the build-in microphone when turned off, so...the wired microphone is just for show :p  Oh well.  The things you learn!

Monday, June 19, 2017

Virtually Connecting at NMC - with Bryan Alexander

A bit of personal documenting this week, posting some videos of virtually connecting sessions from last week's NMC 2017 summer conference. This was my second virtually connecting series with me as one of the onsite buddies, and this was a fun talk with Bryan Alexander.  I've been a virtual and an onsite buddy for a while now, and I still haven't gotten the timings right! I guess  I have more to learn.  joining me as onsite buddy for this series is Greg Dillon, a fellow local instructional designer, and vConnecting buddy.

Friday, June 9, 2017

Kicking off the lit-review (2.0)

With the summer here, and all of my doctoral coursework behind me, we are firmly in the self-determination area of the game-board.  No external pressures, no external timelines (although there is a statute of limitations on the degree), and interim assignments.  The dissertation proposal is it! That's the next target (which I am hoping to meet by December 2017).

I already have a literature review done, but I was really eclectic in putting it together.  The lit-review (albeit incomplete and in need of some tightening) does present facets of what might be happening underneath it all when it comes to collaboration amongst self-formed groups in open educational experiences, but it doesn't work all that well when providing a grounding for collaboration amongst learners. In other words, I skipped to the chase even though I haven't formally collected data or spoken to other my study participants yet. I am just theorizing from past observations.

In any case, that old lit-review is currently scrapped. It may come in handy later, but I need to focus on the foundational stuff first.  That said, I did a few searches in databases, looking for full-text, peer-reviewed, materials on collaboration in educational contexts. I ended up finding around 200 articles that may be of use (out of several thousand results for my key terms). I also looked for relevant articles on MOOC demographics (to get a sense of who's who in terms of the people involved on the learner side of things in MOOCs).  Finally, I raided my stash of articles that I've been compiling (hoarding for future reading...whenever there is time) since 2011 when I first got involved with MOOCs. This stockpile also contained articles that were of relevance mostly to a previous (dropped) dissertation ideas, but have relevant to the one I am working now.

All things said, I have around 420 peer reviewed articles that look promising, plus 6 or 8 books on collaboration.  That's a lot of reading.  It's also highly likely that I will find stuff in the references section of those articles that I will need to track down because those articles seem of interest.  So, there are two questions that come to mind:

1. Is this overkill?  Now, not all of the articles will prove to be useful and they will go on my reject pile, but even assuming a 20% relevancy of references (80 articles) and a 10% relevancy from those reference's references, that's 588 articles to shift through, which makes for a potentially huge literature review.

2. What is the best way to track your readings (beyond Mendeley, RefWorks, and the like)? Whenever I read there are tons of marginalia, underlined text, and highlighted text. Things that may come in handy later...but may just as well be left on the cutting room floor.  Neither the PDF format, nor the paper format really satisfied me. I feel like I am either putting a ton of work into copy/pasting all of my notes into Google docs but a lot of times I end up using at most 20% (at most 40%)  of that stuff.  It's great note taking, but not sure it is good use of my time.  Then again with articles (especially digital ones!)  I fear that my thoughts in my marginalia are invisible to me because they are simply not collated in one place.

3. (OK I lied, there are 3 things):  How likely is it that I am experiencing academic FOMO with regard to item #2?

I guess rubber meets road this weekend.  I think I'll kick off by re-doing my introduction.  Most introductions I've seen are about twice as long as my draft intro, so it's time to go back, see what I wrote, and provide a little more focus and depth to my intro.  My goal for this time next week: have a new introduction.

Monday, May 29, 2017

The doctoral Winchester plan

If you've ever seen the movie Shaun of the Dead, a humorous take on the surviving the zombie apocalypse, you are familiar with the Winchester plan.  The Winchester is a local (to the protagonist) pub, and it key to surviving the zombie apocalypse - according to the protagonist, is taking a short skip-and-a-hop to the local pub (after doing a couple of short tasks) and waiting for help to arrive while imbibing their drink of choice. Surviving the zombie apocalypse is a breeze!  Well, it's not that simple to survive the zombie apocalypse - as the protagonist finds out!

The past semester has been a little difficult (mostly due to over-committing on my part) and that has affected my own desired progress through my doctoral program.  The classes and the seminars are done (yay!). The next step is the dissertation proposal (which is in draft form).  In the past few days I've been thinking about my progress in all its wonderful variety which includes slow progress, lack of progress thereof, stopping to smell the roses the academic roses, academically procrastinating, and taking trips down academic rabbit holes that call to the academic sailors to their doom like attractive sirens. This has made me realize that, like Shaun - the protagonist of the movie (hey, it's a good movie, go see it if you haven't!), I too had my own Winchester plan to making it through my doctoral studies.

My plan did not include a pub, or waiting with a drink until someone came and conferred upon me the title of doctor.  It did, however, include some misconceptions about the process.  I think that conceptually I knew what the dissertation was about (basically a long, five part, [research] essay).  I thought I had enough practice in all of the individual parts - the methods section, the literature review, the writing up of the findings, the APA format.  Before I got into a doctoral program I had authored, and co-authored, and co-researched, papers which got published in peer reviewed academic journals.  I thought that the dissertation would be more of the same.

This turned out to be a bit of a challenge because academic journals have a 6000-9000 word limit, so a lot get cut out and left on the cutting room floor.  Or, you just choose what to put in from the start, knowing that you have a limited space to work with, so that you don't have to cut a lot. A dissertation on the other hand is (or seems to be) much more exhaustive. A demonstration of what you know rather than a simple demonstration of an argument that you are setting forth. Much like Shaun, I found out that my previous skill set - while it would help somewhat in the zombie dissertation apocalypse, I would find it hard, I would be more challenged than I thought I would be.  Much like Shaun I am to make it to the end though, and I will end up in a pub after the dissertation is successfully defended to celebrate. Now I just need to find my way back to the path and avoid the zombies that drain my time and energy - and focus on the dissertation!

Monday, May 15, 2017

Networked Learning you say?

Last year, around this time of year, I went on a fun little academic detour. A colleague from overseas (Suzan) invited me to work with her on a conference paper for last year's Networked Learning conference.  While we worked on it we came up with the concept of Hybrid Presence which Suzan presented for us (since I could not attend in person) and we worked on an expanded version of the paper which should be coming out in a book soon.

Networked Learning was a new concept to me so I thought I would spend some time reading more on the topic. I got as many books on the topic as I could get my hands on last year and I started reading. Now that journey is coming to end having started reading the last book I got my hands on on the subject. I was briefly considering going through and downloading and going through all conference proceedings from the past 10 years, but having each article was a single download and perhaps a better use of my time is to go back to my own dissertation topic and read up on it rather than academically procrastinate by learning more on Networked Learning ;-)

So, what is networked learning? Networked Learning is defined by Goodyear, Banks, Hodgson,and McConnell (2004)* as:
learning in which information and communications technology (ICT) is used to promote connections: between one learners and other learners, between learners and tutors; between a learning community and its learning resources
One (or more, actually) of the chapters that I read says that this definition has been remarkably resilient to the passage of time.  The thing that I've noticed with this definition is that it's remarkably broad, which might explain its resiliency.  From my observations (from readings) ideas and concepts that have fallen under (or play nicely with) the main concept of Networked Learning are specific types of problem-based learning, mobile learning, online learning, web-enhanced face-to-face learning, learning in augmented reality, informal learning, authentic learning, and many more.  I've also noticed that most people writing about the topic tend to be from Europe. The concept has not been adopted widely in elsewhere in the world.  It strikes me that here (where everyone seems to strive to coin a name for something) such a broad definition wouldn't necessarily have sticking power. I do like it though because it's a good foundation to build further work on.

In my short(ish) detour into Networked Learning I've come across some ideas for my own dissertation as well...which I noted somewhere...I do admit that I need to be a little better at note taking for longer works if I am to make my way through this dissertation process.  My note taking has been tuned for shorter articles (the standard 6000 to 8000 word research articles) and for a 200 page dissertation research (where some topics need to be ELI5) my current note taking practices may not be cutting it.

What do you know of networked learning?  Have you used the concept?  Have you written about it?  Are there any articles from the conference proceedings from the past 10 years that are a must read?

* in the book Advances in research on networked learning (Boston, MA: Kluwer)

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Are conferences places where we repeat ourselves?

It's been a long time since I last blogged and it wasn't part of a class (or at least it really feels like a long time!) Last week I received informational booklets (more than a triptych, less than an actual program book, and advertising in nature) for a couple of summer conferences that I keep track of, and some of which I have attended in the past.

Leafing though these booklets I noticed something that hasn't been as evident to me in the past:  It's the same people that are in the presentation spotlights this year as have been in the past two, five, or more years!  Now, the truth is that I had noticed in previous years, but this year some conferences have moved to a new location (which isn't local), and it was a bit odd to have certain locals highlighted as presenters when the new venue is a 16 hour drive (or 3 hour flight). Thinking back at other conferences too - both ones that appeal to academia, and the private industry of learning design - I've noticed that year after year the list of "A-list" presenters and session leaders tends to be the same.

This made me wonder about my own recent distaste (or perhaps burnout is a better word) with EdTech (and related) conferences.  When I started attending these types of conferences (with any regularity, and always only local) about 8 or so years ago they were amazing... well, at least amazing to me.  New ideas, new products (yes, I love gizmos), ability to talk to people who were implementing and getting data from things I had considered doing myself.  Generally I really liked the freshness and the new ideas vibe.  Then I noticed that while presentations were incrementally new, the people never really changed a whole lot.  Don't get me wrong, there are people that I'd like to see again and see what they are working on now, but the "point release"-ness of presentations and topics has made me not care as much about what people present at conferences any more.  I tend to get more intellectual stimulation off virtually connecting sessions than attending conferences in person.  Yes, virtually connecting does piggyback off conferences frequently, but I find it much more potent.  Perhaps because I know I can sign up for one session, attend, discuss, think, and get back to other parts of life rather than feel like the ROI of time-spent/learning isn't working out in my favor.

As I was pondering this, Joshua Kim and Kristen Eshleman posted on EdSurge with their Five reasons [they] will avoid EdTech conferences. It's interesting that they (too!) also bring up things like vConnecting. Out of the things that Kristen and Joshua mention the two immediate things that jump off at me and are echoed in my sentiments about EdTech conferences are the ROI and getting over the hype.  Even if I still like talking to vendors (take note that I don't like your emails most times!), there have been fewer and fewer new products in the marker.  Even presenters are (in some aspects) hawking their wares. In their case it might not be a product, but it might be mindshare for themselves and/or their institutions. This leads me to ROI, both for the intangibles (my time and energy), and the tangibles (money to get there, and for conference registrations). I don't think the product is worth the investment any longer.

That said, I think Kristen and Joshua make a point that doesn't immediately pop-up from my own 'me-centric' view - where are the faculty and students?  Perhaps faculty can have their attendance paid for by institutions, but students are effectively priced out.  Those are the people who I'd most like to interact with after we all get to speak to vendors, or listen to presentations from peers at other institutions, because then we can have meaningful discussions about what we can do at our institution, and what sort of interesting pedagogical things we can do with other institutions.  Most of the people that attend these conferences are techies (like me), and while I can see applicability for the classes that I teach, I am also part of a larger department with colleagues who don't get to see what I see.

In the end, I am wondering: what's next?  If we aren't doing conferences (because we are bored, uninterested, and/or priced out), how do we work on our professional development in meanginful ways this summer?


Thursday, March 30, 2017

EDDE 806: Epilogue (of reboots and alternative universes)

I guess this is my "806 is dead, long live 806!" post ;-) 

One of the final requirements for EDDE 806 is to:
Create a final blog post linking to the 6 earlier posts and providing a final reflection, feedback and any recommendations on the course as a whole.

For those who are keeping score at home, other course requirements included the following:
  • Present a 30-45 minute presentation on their proposal or dissertation work and progress and respond to comments and questions.
  • Post reactions and reflections on at least 6 of the presentations (over one or more semesters) using a response template created by the instructor, to their blog in the Athabasca Landing (tagged with EDD 806)
  • Attend and participate in discussion in at least 6 sessions over one or two semesters of the course
I am not really sure what a final reflection really looks like for 806, especially considering that I will most likely attend quite a few sessions next fall when the remainder of my cohort will be presenting their in-progress proposals.  So, I thought that doing a reflection on the EdD program up to now would be worthwhile, and proposing a new way of pacing the program, and in the process something about 806 might come of it.

It seems hard to believe that about three years ago (give or take a month) I had just been accepted to the EdD program at Athabasca University (the stomping grounds of Anderson, Dron, Siemens, Cleveland-Innes, and another researchers I had been reading the work of in the years preceding my application to this university), and I had submitted my program fee payment to matriculate.  Three years, and nine AU courses later I am plugging away at my dissertation proposal.  If you are wondering what those 9 courses are:
  • 6 compulsory courses (EDDE 801, 802, 803, 804, 805, 806)
  • 2 optional courses (MDDE 701, 702)
  • 1 course in which I was a teaching assistant/intern (MDDE 620), for the "Greek cohort" no less :-) 
As with any good program, program creators take into account feedback received from a variety of sources and the program improves (for example the 2 optional courses started becoming available as my cohort was rolling in).   This proposed timeline from matriculation to graduation is what I would have done the same, and differently, if I were to go back in time:

Spring 2014 (same as the original timeline)
  1. Accepted! Woohoo!
  2. Enrolled
  3. Got books mailed to me (nice job, AU!)
  4. May 2014 - "welcome to the program" online adobe connect session with the cohort and select faculty.  Placed in pre-selected groups to work on Assignment 1 (due when we meet in August in Edmonton)
Summer 2014 (same as the original timeline)
  1. June-July: meet with Marc, Renate, and Steph (cohortmates) online -a few times to work on assignment 1
  2. June-July: read through textbook, and download PDFs from course site.
  3. August: meet in Edmonton, meet cohort-mates in person, polish assignment, present assignment.
Fall 2014 (somewhat similar to what I did in the original timeline)
  1. EDDE 801 (Advanced Topics and Issues in Distance Education)
    1. Weekly live sessions for class
    2. Weekly guests from the field of distance education (woot!)
  2. EDDE 806. 
    1. Peruse through the recent recorded sessions and listen to two. 
    2. No need for reflective posts --> Get feet wet, see what other cohorts are doing, ideate on own work. Maybe in final 801 session students share their ideas from having viewed 2 recordings.
Spring 2015
  1. EDDE 802 (Advanced Research Methods in Education)
    1. Bi-weekly live session for class
  2. EDDE 806 
    1. Attend 2 sessions during the weeks 802 didn't meet. 
    2. Reflect on 1 presentation (live or recorded)
Summer 2015
  1. MDDE 702 (qualitative refresher for those who need a refresher)
  2. Start brainstorming on your proposals.  Jot down big research questions, diagram some potential research methods for them,  and write brief abstracts about the problem to be solved. This is sort of like a TV show elevator pitch.  Be ready to pitch 3 ideas.
  3. Go back to 802 materials and see them in light of your pitches
Fall 2015
  1. EDDE 803 (Teaching and Learning in Distance Education)
    1. Bi-weekly class sessions
    2. Tackle topics on teaching and learning.  
    3. Does anything from course seem to connect to your 3 pitches?  File it!
    4. Intern in an MDE class
  2. EDDE 806 
    1. Attend 2 live sessions (during weeks when 803 does not meet)
    2. Reflect on two sessions (either live or recorded that semester)
    3. Present your top 3 pitches and receive feedback from audience in one of the live sessions
    4. Continue refining your 3 pitches based on feedback (this task crosses into spring 2016)
Spring 2016
  1. EDDE 804 (Leadership and Project Management in Distance Education)
    1. Bi-Weekly sessions
    2. Tackle topics on leadership.  
    3. Does anything from course seem to connect to your 3 pitches?  File it!
  2. EDDE 806
    1. Attend 2 live sessions (during weeks when 804 does not meet)
    2. Reflect on two sessions (either live or recorded that semester)
    3. Pitch 2 expanded ideas (expanded in terms of what type of literature you might look into, and updated ideas about methodology and problem)
Summer 2016
  1. MDDE 701 (Quantitative research refresher for those that need it)
  2. Pick one of your pitches and develop a literature review (due at the beginning of 805)
  3. Pick one of your pitches and develop a preliminary intro (due at the beginning of 805)
Fall 2016
  1. EDDE 805
    1. Bi-weekly class meetings
    2. Polish off a draft of your proposal that includes summer deliverables + methods
  2. EDDE 806
    1. Attend 2 live sessions
    2. Reflect on two sessions (either live or recorded that semester)
Spring 2017
  1. EDDE 806
    1. Attend 6 live sessions
    2. Reflect on 4 live sessions
    3. Present your proposal
Summer 2017
  1. Polish off proposal
  2. Connect with your cohort over the summer (support network)
Fall 2017
  1. Defend Proposal & start Research

So, what are the differences between what I did and what I wish I had done (and what was an option?) I had dipped my toes in 806 when I started in 801; I was curious, and since the course was open to anyone, why not? But, once 802 kicked in, it was difficult to keep up, so I was on-and-off in 806 throughout the program (more off than on, until 805).  Despite the on-and-off nature I ended up reflecting on some of the sessions before I officially signed up for the course (hence the number of posts at the end).   I think that 806 was originally conceived as a course to keep the band together in some formal manner while we're all off doing our own thing, but I think that the strength of 806 is really in being a connecting strand (on the program side) from start to end.  I think being part of 806 from the start can help future cohorts conceptualize what they want to do, see what others are doing, and know that for proper execution of the dissertation lots of planning needs to go into it (and we can all commiserate at our setbacks, and celebrate our victories). I think this is important to see early on.

In terms of Summer terms, summer is definitely a good time to kick back, relax, have a few beers in the garden while reading your favorite fiction...but in all honesty two weeks off would be have been fine, and then we should have been on the path again.  Coming from a US background, I am used to the term ending at the end of May. AU's early start and early end of the spring (Winter) semester meant that I had boatloads of free time.  This dissertation won't write itself and I think that the summers (Mid-April through August) are a good time to do it in a structured (cohort driven, program driven) way.  Summers can be a time when you work on your elevator pitch for some ideas - and you can present them in 806 (during your second year) to see what might stick - you can also get feedback and things to think about.  During the summer of year 2 you can spend those 4 months in doing a lit-review and an introduction (2 chapters!), and be ready to roll in 805 (start of year 3).  I think this plan gets you better positioned to defend at the beginning of year 4.

A potentially controversial issue might be the requirements for 806. At the moment it's an attend 6 and reflect on 6 setup.  My proposal is attending and/or viewing 14 sessions (as opposed to 6), reflecting on more sessions overall, but you'd have the freedom to reflect on some recorded ones - in case the live session wasn't something you could really say something about; and EDDE 806 is more integrated into the entire EdD process.  Of course, this means that 805 + 806 (Research Seminar I & II) would need to be tweaked, but I think that the end goal would be better.

So, what do other EdD folks think?  Does this work for you?

Post Title Reflection
& Live attendance
from Recording
Post I - On prepping for a dissertation


Saturday, March 25, 2017

EDDE 806 - Post XIII - It's the end of the semester, and I feel fine

Alright folks!  That's a wrap for EDDE 806 for this semester!  The semester went out with a bang with three members of my cohort presenting their dissertation proposal work in progress (and for those on the east coast the session was a little long - after a long day - but well worth it!).

The three proposed research projects are  Kim's, titled "Student Satisfaction Levels among Canadian Armed Forces Members toward their distance learning experiences" which deals with Canadian armed forces training and distance education; Rosemarri's , titled "Transforming Learning in Higher Education: Implementing UDL in Higher Education"; and Scott's, titled  "College Leadership and Distance Learning"

There were some common themes between these three presentations, and presentations that have been done previously in the semester, be it underlying reasons for the research, methodologies employed, or potential timelines.  Having seen the timelines of friends from Cohort 6 (and to some extent from Cohort 5), I can say that I've certainly revised my own timeline to a much more realistic expectation (how does 2019 sound?).

Going back to some common threads,  Kim discussed a little bit about the training costs associated with the CAF (approximately $1.3B Canadian per year).  I am not sure what the size of the CAF is, but I was wondering how much is that amortized per member of the CAF; not that every member of the CAF will have an equal dollar amount of training spent on them, but it was a thought.  The thing that really stood out for me was the story about officer training and how a member of the CAF can spend 1 year in residence to complete their training, or do it over a period of 2 years via distance education in the field (because Distance Ed is considered by the brass less rigorous and hence you have to have more).  It's interesting to see such (unfounded) biases alive not just in academia (my playground) but also in other places.  This question isn't really related to Kim's research (which is survey research) but I'd love to see a compare and contrast of the on-campus officer training vs the online version. They should have equal outcomes, but I am wondering what the pros/cons are for each modality.

Another presentation (Scott's) dealt more with college leadership and the adaptation of colleges in Canada to distance education. The idea behind this research is to look at leadership variables that promote growth of distance education at the university president level.  The underlying  rationale here (at least one of points) was that the role of the university is changing, and the university must adapt or go extinct. Scott quoted O'Meara who said that Higher Education as it is found to be "irretrievably immersed in a merciless marketplace" (O'Meara).  If I remember correctly Scott is the only person who has presented thus far (from our Cohort) that is doing mixed-methods.

I think the idea of leadership variables promoting growth at the university is important.  Bad leaders do have a chilling effect both to individuals and to the organization as a whole.  That said, the thing that was running through my mind is the framing of the argument.  A lot of what we see today (at least on my side of the border) tends to be about framing higher education in the framework of a market economy: get degree X to do work X, come back often for CPD.  There is, however, in my mind a disjuncture here.  School costs a lot.  Both from a financial aspect and a time aspect (not to mention any emotional aspects). Education isn't a new pair of jeans you buy every other season. Adapting to a market economy (IMHO) isn't what institutions of higher education should be doing.  We should be innovative, but the evolve or die out framing doesn't work well for this particular sector of life and society.

As an aside, in the chat  Norine wrote a paper called "Adult learning theories: shows that hurt the feet" - LOL.  Now I am curious to read that paper.  I am not sure how this came up, but it must have been in someone's lit review :-)

That's all for this season of EDDE 806 :-) See you in the fall!

Friday, March 10, 2017

EDDE 806 - Post XII - Of Navigators and Succession...

Last evening we had our penultimate EDDE 806 session for this season. On tap for the evening we had Neera's presentation (originally of Cohort 6, but now firmly "one of our own" in cohort 7), and a presentation by Stephanie.

One question that came to mind, outside of the context of these presentations, was how long do EdD students stick around in 806 after they have met the requirements of the course?  If they don't come back, why is that?  If they do return, why do they return, and what influences their regularity of participation?  I guess this could be a dissertation topic in and of itself, but it's a question that came to mind as I saw some very familiar names in the guest list on Adobe connect last night, and noticed the absence of other names that I've seen over the last year or so of my 'informal' 806 participation.  Of course, a dissertation topic like this would most likely add 2-3 years to my studies, and that doesn't seem like an appealing prospect :p

For the presentations of the evening, Neera presented on her proposed study, titled Succession planning in higher education: condition for sustainable growth and operational resilience, and Stephanie's proposed research topic is titled Developing routine practices for health system navigation in Canada.  Neera is focusing succession planning, with a focus on Polytechnics (with potential study participants coming from Alberta, Saskatchewan, Ontario, and British Columbia.  I was surprised that there are Community Colleges in Canada - I tend to think of community colleges as a US term.  Looking little community college might be one of many terms that refers to the same type of institution in Canada.

In any case,  I think that Neera made an interesting point, and something that I've seen at my own institution: In higher education it often seems that hiring new people at the institution, or replacements for key positions, takes a lot of time.  That ends up potentially costing the institution money because there isn't someone in the position to take care of the critical needs for that institution; and if someone is hired but the search fails (bad fit for example) it's still money down the drain.  Hence a good succession plan (implemented well) would conceivably benefit the institution.

For Stephanie's presentation, since I am not in the healthcare field, I am a little less able to say something other than it's a cool project :-) I don't want to just summarize her presentation though.  The thing that struck me, both with Stephanie's presentation and Neera's (and other presentations I've seen over the years) is that most dissertations and dissertation proposals seem to be either Qualitative in nature or Mixed Methods, but I have yet to see a strictly Quantitative approach just yet.  I wonder if others have seen those in their experiences in EDDE 806.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Loyalty a one way street?

[Warning: longer than usual post] Recently I came across an article on InsideHigherEd titled In Higher Ed, Loyalty Is a One-Way Street, and the tagline was "Loyalty of students and faculty is often demanded. Is it returned?"   The main thesis of the article is that in higher education the job you're in is the job you're in unless you apply for another job and get in, at which point you can either leave your old job or use your new offer as leverage for a better job (or better pay) at your current job.  The article is written from a faculty perspective, but it resonated with my own experiences at the university.  However, I wouldn't really call it an issue with loyalty, but rather it's an issue of organizational culture and lack of meaningful (to the individual) rewards for that loyalty.   Here are my observations as a staff member from the last (close to) 20 years at my institution, and a story from my first job on-campus.

When I first started working here, I worked as an assistant (no benefits, hourly employee) in media services while studying as an undergraduate. It was a fun job, I worked with, and for, interesting people and I can say that I learned a lot from the job and from the people I interacted with.  The job was always meant to be temporary since it was renewed on a semester-by-semester basis.  And in my second year of employment I got more responsibility by being given the reigns of the weekend operations (again hourly, non-benefited, but more responsibility).  After about 3 years of being non-benefited someone retired and his job posting opened up.

Having show progressive responsibility I was a prime candidate for the position. I applied, interviewed, and ultimately got the position.  I still worked in the same place as before, doing about the same things, but now I was benefited, full-time, with managerial responsibilities on top of everything else.  For five years I did my best to learn more about my job, and to try to be innovative to help the department.  I started an MBA, I joined a professional association (with my own money),  I learned, prepared, and passed the relevant entry level certification, I connected with IT folks from the university to keep my department in the loop, and I volunteered for AV projects with my colleagues during slow periods in the office. I didn't do this for recognition, but so that I can be better at my job.  Ultimately however, one does expect some sort of recognition (in some way, shape, or form). Our university does not award merit points for employees who continue to keep up with their professional development.   Everyone gets the same Cost of Living (COLA) increase as everyone else.  If you want a pay increase you need to show that your duties have significantly changed since you were hired.

In five years my duties had indeed changed in practice, but not on my job description (what governs your pay).  I was doing different work than my colleagues, but we were all paid the same; they actually were paid more as a result of compounding COLA increases, because they had been working here longer, which was fine.  Our supervisor was a nice guy, but he hated to differentiate (the kind of person who treats all his kids equally, no matter what).  This was problematic because everyone he managed "exceeded expectations", but this praise felt a little hollow after a few years.  Praise needs to be accompanied by something else to be useful (if you use it a lot), like a little more flexibility on vacation, or a pay increase, or some money to attend a PD event, or whatever. So, the only option for a little more money was to go through the official procedure (which was fine).  My boss at the time told me that he supported me, but privately he told others that he would never support it unless others got the same deal (regardless of their duties).  This was a natural extension of "treat everyone the same".  Since I ultimately did not get a promotion there, I looked elsewhere for work.  It was sad because I liked both the job and my colleagues, but you do what you have to do.  When I told my boss that I got another job, his boss attempted to retain me in the department asking if I would stay if they matched the salary. I would! But, I wouldn't wait around for it (two in the hand is worth more than two in the bush).  Since they couldn't make it happen, I left. I still kept in contact with my colleagues there, they were great people (and it's a small campus), but I left that department. And they were inconvenienced because they couldn't hire a replacement right away, and my area was the busiest on campus (based on department held statistics).

To bring it back to the IHE article, without knowing that this is the game to play in academia, I ended up playing this game.  I looked for other jobs, I interviewed for them, got an offer for them, and did respond in the affirmative that I would stay if they matched the salary (which would also mean that I would get another job description, which was originally turned down). But, given the steep bureaucracy of the university (at least mine), it wouldn't have been nimble enough to do it as quickly as accepting the new job offer, and the trust relationship was broken since my supervisor told me one thing and told others something else (those others eventually telling me), so there was no guarantee that the retention offer was any good.

This is one story.  I've experienced other things in my close-to-20-years here, and I've spoken to colleagues and have heard their stories too over the years.  My 2c on the matter are as follows (mileage at your college may vary, this is just based on my local colleagues around the Boston area):

There is a fundamental problem of organization culture.  Warner writes that  he has"witnessed genuine loyalty among colleagues at the department level, but this is a reaction and response to the lack of loyalty at the larger institution level. They have banded together as protection from above." I've seen this myself, and have heard it from colleagues at other institutions as well.  Some departments are better at self-supporting than other departments but this creates structural inequalities within the organization as a whole.  If your supervisor likes you, and you get all the perks in your department, but a colleague is not liked (or has an ineffective supervisor, or doesn't enjoy the group protection you do, etc.) they do not get any of the perks you get, an in some cases doing the same job! This type of unequal treatment isn't a hypothetical, it's happening. And in instances where merit payment are involved some employees may be eligible for a merit pool because their supervisor loves them and gives the "Exceeds expectations" all the time, while other employees might be working for someone who believes in the power of the bell curve, and everyone "meets expectations" with the exception of a few 'high performers' and a few 'low performers', so in essence these managers no only shoehorn people into the bell curve, they deny them an opportunity for merit/bonus pay that they would be entitled to if their supervisor were someone else.

Another issue I've seen is that everything is treated as a net-zero outcome.  Someone's gain is regularly someone else's loss.  So if you work for a big department (or a college/faculty within a university), if an employee has an opportunity to grow in their job, but that growth takes them out of their smaller sub-unit into another sub-unit of the organization, the organization is resistant to embrace this.  Even though the employee will still be connected to their previous sub-unit, and could help take care of work/issues within that sub-unit as well, that "transfer" would be most likely blocked because the originating sub-unit would not necessarily be able to get funding to replace that previous position.  There concern seems to be how many warm bodies each department has, and not necessarily what type of work needs to be done.  Just as an example from my first job on-campus.  It's been 12 years since I left that job. The number of warm bodies doing  the same work has remained the same even after having 2 retirements and (sadly) 1 death. Those positions have been replaced to do pretty much the same thing, regardless of where research into educational technology and learning have lead us since. That department is still a separate fiefdom and people get annoyed when they are asked to take care of something that another IT department "should" be doing (never-mind that they are all part of the same IT parent department).

Finally, it might seem that my position is higher salary (or other monetary perks) as a general acknowledgment of employees' good work and loyalty.  Or, associated with more money is moving up the ladder work-wise into a more managerial position.  While money and career development are nice, sometimes they are not the end-all be-all.  My former colleagues seemed to like what they did.  They didn't seem interested in changing jobs for higher pay.  Maybe pay for them wasn't even a top concern (bills paid, mortgage paid, savings at an OK level), but they may have wanted more flexibility for vacations in order to spend more time with their family. A flexible organization should be able to be able to give such perks (fairly, and across the organization) to people who earn it (good work, loyalty, and so on), and at the same time have the resilience to work around any issues that might arise from this individual flexibility provided.

At our institution I think that the institution does attempt to demonstrate appreciation of loyalty to its employees, and I do think that upper administrators care (to some extent at least); that is to say I don't believe them to be greedy monsters that just look at the bottom line.  One of the events we have each year is the "years of service" event where people are recognized for their service in 5 year increments.  Last year I was recognized for 15 years of (benefitted) service to the institution for example.

In the end I don't think it it's a matter of loyalty.  Loyalty (or lack of loyalty) is a conscious effort (or lack of effort).  I think the issue is systemic, and it's really an issue of management.

So... my question (to anyone who is reading this), is how to we make academia responsive, and at the same time equitable, and flexible so that it works both at the individual level and at the organizational level?  Thoughts?