Timeline of academic development in the UK #phdchat #go_gn

For the last four years I have been and still am a PhD student at Edinburgh Napier University in the area of collaborative open learning in cross-institutional academic development in the UK. One of the main outputs of this phenomenographic study is the cross-boundary collaborative open learning framework. More info about my study can be found here.

Since September 2016 I have been revising the first full draft.

During this process, I realised that a timeline for the literature review section around   academic development, would be useful to capture important milestones in the area and the ones related to HE in the UK. This would give the reader a quick visual overview.

I was surprised at how little specific information I could find in the literature especially around historic academic development provision and particularly dates linked to provision and when it all started. Is this linked to the fact that in the first years of its existence not much was written about academic development?

This led me to reach out to the SEDA community for help via the Jisc mailing list. I am  grateful for all colleagues who responded and helped me add some vital pieces to this timeline.

The below is this timeline.

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Timeline of academic development in the UK (Nerantzi, 2016)

If you are reading this, and have more accurate information, that should be included/replaced in the timeline, please let me know.

Thank you.

Chrissi

“Openness is the absence of restrictions, so ultimately about freedom” Rob Farrow #OEGlobal #go_gn

The above phrase by Rob @philosopher1978 stayed with me… such simple words that mean so so much! This is why we need philosophers!!!

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Is this what we are after?

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… or do we prefer this and what does this mean in the context of OER and OEP?

It was the first time I experienced the Open Education Global conference and it was truly fascinating to find out about open ed projects that were happening in different parts of the world and most importantly connect with some of the people associated with these.

The conference started with the Open Ed scene in Poland while during the conference I had the pleasure to meet and chat with Dr Tomasz Boinski a lecturer in Computing from Poland. We started talking after our contributions and I could sense that he was keen to make a real difference in his institution through opening-up practices. We started talking about our open source app we are developing at the moment and he offered to help us with finding the right licence for this and forwarded extensive resources around these which will be extremely useful for our project. On the last day, Jaroslaw Lipszyc, a polish poet, emphasised that he sees open as free, and therefore he claimed, that we don’t need the word ‘open’. But open doesn’t come without a cost attached… there is the human cost, time and resources etc. Even if for the learner the “open education product or experience” is free or freely available, the process of making this happen can be costly and rarely calculated in especially when we talk about non-funded projects and funded projects usually have a funding time frame which doesn’t go on for ever… some might.

RESOURCES

I felt that there was still a strong focus on content at the conference and many seem to be working on the production of OER, including film format. We are creating more and more such resources, not just universities but also private providers. Are we reducing learning in the open with watching videos?

While we talk about active learning, many do watch videos for hours and I can see this with my own children. We often reach out to YouTube to learn a new skill or find a new recipe or activity. It is not just children… My youngest started video production and shares his films via YouTube with others. He shares Minecraft stuff. It is an interesting development and I haven’t asked him yet why he is doing it. Looking at it from my perspective it almost feels as if he wants to give something back, as if he wants to connect through his work with others, he loves it when others leave feedback on his clips. So I think it is more than just watching videos, it might be more about connecting with others in a very humane way and non personal at this stage as he is only 12 and he is using a pseudonym. So the social interaction he has are at a somehow removed level.

My eldest, 14, seems to have great fun watching science films and funny stuff on YouTube.He hasn’t got a channel and doesn’t leave digital traces behind. He doesn’t share the stuff he creates, except some clips we added to my YouTube channel a while back now.  I often hear him laughing loudly and there seems to be emotional engagement when he watches the clips, it is really fascinating. Sometimes the boys watch YouTube video on telly… My eldest also started coding and he can do this for hours,he is searching for help to develop what he wants without interacting with anybody online… As far as I can see. We haven’t got any firewall but both seem to have a maturity when navigating through the video jungle. Two very different behaviours which make me think about learners more widely and there is something there that reminds me of the digital residents and digital visitors model by Dave White and Alison LeCornu and other stuff that might indicate that change is happening. Both are autonomous and know where to look when they need help.

… I only have snippets of their digital behaviour and habits  and maybe this is problematic especially as they are still children. Do we trust them too much? Is this freedom good for them or not?

Back to my world… still thinking about resources… While I recognise the need for putting together course resources it would be useful to further explore opportunities using inquiry-based models of learning which would I think free us from racing to produce new content. We have done this in different open initiatives such as FDOL, BYOD4L and FOS as well as #creativeHE. Could we shift the purpose of creating resources for  teaching to capture the process of (co-)constructing learning? After all we learn so much more through experiencing and making stuff. Is this another reason why OER are not used that widely? As we want to create our own resources as educators since we recognise that the process of making helps us engage deeper with our subject that we will help others understand? Is it also about academic ownership? And what about context? De-contextualised resources with global reach… how valuable are these? I am now wondering if the real potential of resources is actually (c0-)creating these as part of the learning process? Could the resources actually be more valuable for the creator and what does this mean about sharing? Are resources more ephemeral than we think? If we talk about authentic learning, could we instead use open data as Dr Javiera Atenas invited us to keep learning and teaching fresh, fully contextualise and create the conditions for an inquiry-rich environment for learning through discovery?

PRACTICES

As an open practitioner with a focus on work that sits outside MOOCland, I was interested to hear at the conference how things have progressed within it. In some cases making available resources equated to course design in a MOOC context. This was very problematic for me… I was looking for a pedagogical rationale but couldn’t see it. Some called this platform pedagogy. Not sure what this is… There were some cases and I had read about them and included in my Literature review were MOOC organisers recognised the need for social learning including learning in groups and collaborated with other institutions or colleagues in other institutions to facilitate these. One of these projects was introduced by Alannah Fitzgerald and it was fascinating to hear their exploration into using facilitators in a MOOC as well as groups and the difficulties they experienced with both but also with the technology, the team tool from EdX. Alannah mentioned “platform education”. Is this similar to teaching from within a VLE or LMS? I shared with her some information about our work in this area outside the MOOC world and the Open Facilitator Project. I would have loved to find out more but in the end we didn’t manage to get together again. At scale the challenges are amplified, of course, require big investments in time and resources, but also a robust pedagogical scaffold, I would say. The support scaffold is vital but often missing.

The conference didn’t help me understand “massive”. I am still confused why we need and often start with massive. Somewhere I read “what we mean by massive, is the potential, the potential is massive”… But  does massive work? Businesses start small and in nature things grow from a seed… Does the education world know better? What is the rationale for massive and global? And what are the real expectations? What are we trying to achieve and what is happening in reality?

The more I think about it the more I see grey zones in open education. Maybe I see them more as red zones, zones that are alarming. We all have different motivations, of course, why we are in it, in open education. If only we could collect authentic and honest responses, I think that might be eye opening… Would there be any surprises? Philosopher Dr Rob Farrow, highlighted that some of us see Open Education as a moral mission. What about everybody else? The OER Hub invited us to think big… how big can we think? And how can we make our thoughts and ideas reality? And what would we change through these if we could make them happen?

My own research reveals that learning with others and being supported by facilitators makes a big difference, feeling part of a community that fosters online and offline interactions shape our engagement in open learning with others who are like us and very different from us. Like-minded people create a sense of belonging and other-minders people stretch us intellectually. Above all, we flourish when there is variety… Variety of people, variety of approaches and freedom to make our own choices.

Learning has always been personal. How can we think that technology would change this? We are still seeking personal connections. Technology actually can strengthen such opportunities and create new ones. I have used this example before… The party. And I have a question for all of us: when we go to a party, do we chat and dance with everybody? Does it depend on the size of the party? How many people are there? How confident we are etc. etc? But I am sure if there are loads and loads of people there, we wouldn’t even attempt to interact with all in a personal way. Or would we? But we would reach out to a few, or one other individual nearby perhaps? But then again, sometimes we go to the party with somebody and stick with this person throughout. Are there parallels? Something to think about…

COMMUNITIES

What really matters are the conversations, the collaborations and feeling and being part of what is happening around us, nearby and sometimes further away. We humans always had a need for belonging as social beings and social media can be useful tools that help us connect with others in the digital jungle. Open practitioners as I mentioned already use a variety of tools and platforms, including social media. Dr Leigh-Anne Perryman and Tony Coughlan shared some findngs from their Facebook project and it was lovely to hear that the emphasis was on community. Educators and learners are appropriating social media for learning, teaching, professional development and research and they have become valuable spaces to be to meet peers and keep up-to-date with what is happening in our area. I had a very interesting conversation during the conference with Tony Coughlan about social media and open practice. Are they compatible, we were asking ourselves with open practices? Dr Ronald Macintyre in his contribution about the “hidden tariffs” also talked about the fact that open educators might be exploited by others economically… I have felt uncomfortable about this for some time now, despite the fact that I am using social media regularly and the open projects I  have initiated are all built using these. There are open practitioners out there who stay away from social media, not because they don’t like to be with others and share but because of the commercial character of social media. The poet Jaroslaw Lipszyc mentioned that we can learn loads from the open source community.Tony Coughlan has written a post about the conference and included some thoughts around this too.

“In distance education the equivalent space is owned by network providers and proprietary platforms such as Twitter and Facebook, whose primary motivation is commercial rather than educational, so their environments are designed for commercial benefit.

The open education movement has some experience of this type of challenge, as open textbooks and journals have been challenging commercial publishers with similar priorities.” (Coughlan, 2016)

I am just wondering what we could do about this as an open community… some ideas are emerging…

Very pleased I went to the OER Hub action lab on the last day where we got some insights into the very first voices that come through the survey that was shared recently. All data will be open data and I am looking forward to reading some of this. With Viviene Vladimirschi, a PhD student buddy from Brazil, we actually would like to do a tiny bit of work on some of the data linked to the action lab we participated and hope this will be possible. One of the key outcomes for me from this action lab was that we need frameworks into open pedagogical practices. I am working on one of them for collaborative learning in open settings. So that was good to hear that my work might be of interest to others. Hopefully others will test it in practice and develop it further.

logo-gogn-blue2-e14393890788191A big thank you to the GO-GN  and the OER HUB team, Prof. Martin Weller, Dr Bea  de los Arcos, Dr Rob Farrow, Dr Beck Pitt, Natalie Eggleston  for supporting this trip and enabling me to share the work we do within the Centre for Excellence in Learning and Teaching at Manchester Metropolitan University with many colleagues from my own and other institutions in the area of open education and related PhD research. A big thank you also to all colleagues PhD students part of GO-GN who were present and others who engaged online as well as Prof. Robert Schuwer and Prof. Fred Mulder for their camaraderie.

@GOGN_OER Days in Krakow, Poland 10-11 April 2016

logo-gogn-blue2-e14393890788191Day 1 of our GO-GN event arrived! It all started with a lively icebreaker. It really was a lovely way to help us start talking with others and spot connections and specific interest hot spots, personal and research ones. I had the opportunity to chat with Beck Pitt who I knew through her open courses and Twitter and we discovered that we both love photography. I wish I could say that I am a keen runner like Beck is… It is always strange, but in a nice way, when we finally meet somebody we have been “talking to” in the digital jungle. It is not always possible. So I feel fortunate to have met her, finally 😉 And Natalie too, who has been fantastic in supporting us and making sure that we would get here in one piece and Bea, of course too and all the rest of the GO-GN team too.

From the introductions I could see we are a multi-cultural mix of people doing research in the area of open education around the world. Prof. Martin Weller mentioned some numbers too. See image below.

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Prof. Martin Weller in action showing us the GO-GN map so to speak

Bea invited us to reflect on being an open researcher and why open research is actually good for us, for others and society. For me personally it is about the opportunity or opportunities, I should say, to connect with others and share. Share ideas and dilemmas and find ways to initiate and continue conversations but also debate. To extent our own little world and feel less lonely and get a sense of belonging. However, it is not just about, or it shouldn’t be just about seeking like-minded people. Of course, we all love to have people around us who sort of agree with us and we can just be ourselves with all the craziness and silliness this comes… at least sometimes.

While we often seem to emphasise that through open and social practices, we can connect with like minded people elsewhere and this is indeed a huge benefit for all of us, I feel that it is equally important to “expose” ourselves and our ideas to other-minded people. And social and open practices enable this too. This is where we are really challenged, stretched intellectually and start thinking much deeper about what moves us, what upsets us and gain deeper insights into what we stand for and why. Criticism and critique are valuable, even if it can be painful at times as emotions are part of this process. We are not machines.

When we keep an idea for ourselves it dies very quickly. Therefore there is no value in ideas that remain in the dark, locked away in the cupboard. They turn to dust! Ideas need oxygen and feeding to grow and evolve and people to look after them. People not just one person. One person is not enough. There is an African proverb that is very powerful “On our own we can go fast, with other we can go further”. This doesn’t just apply to our individual journeys but also our ideas and their travels.” So share freely, I would say, as giving will not just make you feel good but also give something back, as I am sure others have helped you too.

None of it can happen if there is no sharing and/or closed-mindedness. Can we be half-open or half-closed?  Is there such a thing as wide-open or open unlimited? I think we all sit somewhere on that open-o-meter and see it more as a dynamic continuum depending on the situation, circumstances and context. There is personal and professional judgement that we make each time and we decide what is appropriate and what isn’t. And sometimes, of course, we get it wrong…

I think we could say that it is a fact that the world of open wouldn’t be there, wouldn’t exist without sharing, full stop. So the people are the driving force, the force that makes things happen and change things. Glenda Cox @glencox talked on Monday about her PhD work and I got really interested in social realism (Archer). It didn’t take me long to realise what type I am… and how this translates into what I do and how I operate. We will of course have to be careful, I think, how we use that information as I wouldn’t like us to fall into another learning styles trap… I will do some more reading into social realism to better understand what this is all about and what this could mean for people, practices and innovation too, this is what interests me most.

Throughout the two days, it has been fascinating to meet other PhD students in open education from around the world and find out about their research. We were all at different stages in our journey and this was extremely valuable as we

  1. could see that we have similar challenges and dilemmas
  2. depending on where we are on our journey, we could position ourselves in relation to others and create a map looking back and ahead at the same time in what is still to come.

And this can be extremely motivational! There was no sense of competition. In the contrary, the atmosphere was very open and inclusive with a focus on individual and collective growth. After presenting our work, we were invited to respond to critical comments as well as comment on the work of our peers. It wasn’t easy at times, but then this was the point. Thinking deeper and into new directions and thinking the unthinkable is what we need to make surprising links that might lead us to new discoveries. Learning is also being in a state of discomfort… and being challenged. This is how it felt.

There were so many great learning opportunities for all of us, through each other’s work!

Jamison from the US is on a PhD programme that reminded me of a Professional Doctorate that we have in the UK. After completing his study modules he is now ready to put a proposal for his research together and start working on the thesis. My understanding is that this will be based on three papers. He shared some of his initial ideas and thoughts with us and I am really looking forward to how these will evolve and where they will take him. Jamison showed an interest in using a learning and teaching lense and his strength are the theories. Paco from Spain, is looking at MOOCs and accessibility within these, while Viviene from Brazil is going to carry out research into teacher’s professional development linked to OER and one of her outputs will be a CPD course for them. I was wondering if she could re-use an existing course that is already out there and contextualise maybe? Bernard, from Rwanda, is almost at the finishing line. He carried out research into how OER could supplement learning at HE within Rwanda where access to electricity and therefore the internet is extremely low. What stood out for me from his research is the emphasis study participants paid to policy and I kept wondering if this had to do with local and national socio-political culture(s).

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Bernard Nkuyubwatsi’s work and reminder of the challenges in some African countries

Glenda from South Africa who is now waiting for the decision by three external examiners (there is no viva in South Africa, the final thesis is submitted to the external examiners), did research in the area of quality and OER from the perspective of academics. A very interesting piece of work that also made me think about the digital residence and digital visitors model (White & LeCornu) while Sujata from India is looking at OER use within an Open University in India from a student and staff perspective; Nicolai from the Netherlands and his work has a focus on medical education and exploring OERs through the lense of eco-systems and complexity theory for sustainable implementation and Jin from China discussed the 5-minute micro-lessons which is a  government initiative which invites teachers to create short films as learning resources that are shared with learners and other teachers via the web. It wasn’t clear to me if these would be made available under a creative commons licence and I didn’t ask.

The two days were extremely fruitful. It was really lovely to see that the GO-GN organisers, Bea, Beck, Rob, Martin, Nats as well as the two fathers of GO-GN, Fred and Robert,  showed a genuine interest in our work and felt that our plans were worthwhile pursuing. For me, this event, really helped me feel part of a community and I am looking forward to staying connected and growing what we started in Krakow during the last two days. It requires feeding… in other words commitment but if we feel that it would be worthwhile for all and benefit us all, the only way to go, is together, right?

A massive thank you to the whole GO-GN team for creating this fruitful opportunity for all of us and all PhD students who were there with me for their openness and collegiality.

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Monday evening GO-GN meal: Great company and mushroom soup in bread!

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… as you can see, I wasn’t the only one taking bread soup pictures 😉

 

The storify from our tweets during our time in Krakow can be accessed here a visualisation can be seen below.

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Getting ready for #OEGlobal

logo-gogn-blue2-e14393890788191In 2015 I was made aware of the Global OER Graduate Network by Dr Bea de los Arcos and decided to join. As a PhD student, I often feel lonely, I am sure others do too, so becoming part of a network that would help me feel more connected with other PhD students and their projects around open education can only be a big big bonus.

After a few months of joining the network, I received an email about the possibility to share my research at the Global Open Education Conference in Kraków in April 2016 as part of the Global OER Network. I applied for a funded place and after a few weeks I found out that it had been accepted. This was very exciting and a great opportunity to share my work and get some feedback on my research-in-progress.

I started my self-funded PhD in January 2013 at Edinburgh Napier University and am now in my 4th year. I went through ups and many downs, so far and am sure more will follow. Working full-time, being passionate about my job and leading a professional life with many open-ended projects and internal and external commitments, having a family and doing a part-time PhD at the same time is an explosive mix. Juggling priorities is hard. Now in my fourth year, I feel that I am finally making some progress. Draft Chapters 1, 2, 3 and 4 have all been approved as such by my two supervisors, Dr Sandra Cairncross and Prof. Keith Smyth. I have also written a draft abstract, a prologue and my growing acknowledgements section. I have even made a tiny start with Chapter 7… the conclusions and am adding ideas for further research… If I look back, I can say, that I am today in a much better place than I was a year ago… there is however still a lot to do…

All fieldwork has been completed and I am currently in the data analysis stage. I thought writing Chapter 3: Methods and Data, was hard but actually applying it is even harder. Learning being a phenomenographer while actually doing it is extremely challenging. But who said this would be easy?

During the conference, I plan to share some details about my research, the context I am working in as well as some preliminary findings linked to one of the themes that is emerging through the data captured in 100,999 words of transcripts from 22 phenomenographic interviews. The theme I will share is Cross-Boundaries. In case you are wondering, the context of my research is open academic development, which is organised through informal cross institutional collaboration. I am looking at how open learning is experienced in two particular cases with a focus on collaborative learning.

I hope delegates will be able to relate to my project and ask questions. As there will be many other PhD students there, I can’t wait to find out more about their projects, their dilemmas and discoveries as some of them might also be relevant for my project. Going to a conference, I think,is less about our work, and more about how we can connect with others and their work that will trigger dialogue and debate and move our understanding forward and possibly into new directions. This is what excites me most!

Some of you might wonder what my research is about… and perhaps I should have started this post explaining… apologies. I have created a page, where I provide an overview of my research together with related dissemination activities so far. Also, occasionally I blog about different stages and my reflections can also be accessed through this blog, sometimes using doodles to visualise my thinking. I also keep a, currently private, reflective diary of the phenomenographic analysis I am working on at the moment, which I plan to include as an appendix to my thesis. My data is linked to two open cross-institutional courses FDOL132 and #creativeHE which followed my professional journey from the University of Salford to Manchester Metropolitan University. The thesis will be made available under a Creative Commons licence together with the collaborative learning framework for open cross-institutional academic development, I plan to develop.

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image source here

In a few days, I will be packing my suitcase for Kraków. My contribution is sort of ready for the pre-conference event and the main conference. I am sure there will be a few more tweaks. I really look forward to the week ahead and am very excited about meeting other fellow PhD students and experienced open researchers and finding out about their projects and the innovative work that is done globally around open education.

I am grateful and thankful to the Global OER Graduate Network for funding this trip.

See you there 😉

100,999 words of transcripts…

The draft prologue, abstract, Chapter 1: Introduction, Chapter 2: Literature Review, Chapter 3: Methods and Data, Chapter 4: Survey Findings as well as related appendices are now in “ok draft shape” and have been reviewed by my supervisors and colleagues who kindly read earlier drafts, sections and subsections. I am also updating my growing acknowledgement section and am continuing checking new research that is released so that it can inform my literature review if relevant.

I have found the ongoing dialogue around my research extremely valuable and it has also helped me to identify gaps or holes I should say in my own understanding and my personals struggle with theory… the methods chapter was particularly painful and I am sure it is not over yet. As I have all my data now from both cases, I am now focusing on the analysis of the main data collected through the phenomenographic interviews. All 22 of them and there are 100,999 words in total. I need to code all of it, every single phrase. You see, in phenomenography you code everything and while this seems to be a very inclusive qualitative research process, as all variations of experiences are getting voiced, it is also a very messy process I have found so far. I have currently doubts that what I am doing is leading me anywhere… However, yesterday, while finishing a presentation for a forthcoming talk (thank you Sue for looking at this) and looking back at earlier drafts and  preparatory work within the presentation, on the ipad, on phone and in a Word document, I can now see how the final presentation has emerged through synthesising all these thoughts I had. That presentation is now much more stable and I feel so much happier about it… still very nervous though…

Hopefully I will make good progress with the data analysis and reach a stage where I can just look at the data and how I organised it and it makes sense to me and others. I have a long way to go until then…

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trying to… (source)

My challenge is that I am not just familiarising myself with the methodology and applying it but also with the data analysis tool. This is NVivo and while I am making some progress and can do the very basics, I still struggle. Not giving up. I will keep going and hopefully discover some useful shortcuts along the way and make progress with the analysis too.

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image source here

Looking at the first attempts to analyse the data, I notice a change in my approach. Maybe this is a result of a short conversation I had yesterday with a colleague. While until yesterday, I had themes and categories. I decided this morning to delete all themes and go with categories at this stage which I can later group together into themes. I hope I am doing the right thing… There are around 30 categories (not categories of description yet!!!) at the moment… far too many, I think. The plan is to get all the transcripts coded by the end of the weekend. Yes, I have work to do ;). Reading the transcripts all together and doing the coding, however, really helps me get into the data. I just wish I could do this until I am done. Doing a bit and then nothing for days, is hard. I have found that I need a lot of time getting back into it after a break… and working in the evening when my brain is dead doesn’t seem to be productive either. Anyway.

Some observations from today so far based on the transcripts: One of participants’ key motivation to participate seems to be to use new technologies and get ideas how to enhance their practices. They could of course do this on their own without joining an (open) course. However, what they also say is that they are keen to connect with others and especially from other countries and cultures. This seemed to be more important that just connecting with colleagues in other disciplines or institutions. They recognise that they have limited time and that the motivation of those working for credits might be increased, but are keen to be involved and get loads out of the interactions with others, especially when learning in small groups. Learning within a group was their choice. They also valued the support by facilitators. Coming together as group members was speeded up by organising synchronous get-togethers via Google hangout where they could see each other. This really helped them get to know each other and seems to increase commitment to the group. But not all could make. It is interesting what some say that they established much closer relationship when working in these small groups (but not surprising) and others who didn’t join a group note that they recognise that they would have that opportunity if they had joined a group. However, not everybody wanted to join a group and some found the resources really useful and the related activities and the community based conversations. The literature was useful for many but not all engaged with it. Some suggested to use them more in the groups. While for some creating a product as a result of the collaborative learning process was seen as valuable, others said that this didn’t really work and would prefer to support each other in a different way. The short activity-based videos and other activities are mentioned a lot also by a participant who had learning difficulties. This is something to think about when designing activities and making resources available in alternative formats. Feedback also featured in the transcripts I read through and while there were positive comments regarding these, some mentioned that they felt a bit superficial at times.

While the courses were developed and/or offered with universities from other countries, the course language was English. Participants whose native language was English seem to be aware of and sensitive to the challenges this might cause non-English native speaking participants. The interviews do confirm that some of the international participants had real confidence issues with using English in the courses and this in some cases hindered some aspects of their participation. It was fascinating to find out what participants said about other participants. Empathy features in their descriptions of their experiences as well as that they were annoyed by specific behaviour.

Back to some more coding now…

 

 

Keep going… moving to Chapter 1 and remaining data collection

Keep going… Keith reminds me of this regularly and  he is right. I need to keep going!!!

Almost three years now since I started this part-time PhD in January 2013 and it has been a very bumpy ride so far (… I don’t think I am a unique case though…). I think I am going through a smoother stretch at the moment (don’t think it will last…) and feel that I am actually making some progress. This fuels my batteries with fresh energy and the desire to keep working on this.

After recently submitting Chapter 3, the scariest of them all so far, to my supervisors, I started putting the puzzle pieces for Chapter 1 together. I know it looks more like Easter eggs, in the sketch below…

Sandra commented on one of my earlier doodles linked to Chapter 2 that was black with sharp edges that it did capture my frustration. She was of course right. I think this chapter progressed much smoother (so far…) despite its challenges and maybe therefore the sketch is much smoother…  but I didn’t think about this when I created it. Again, I decided to share the very first drafts with critical readers and I would like to thank Peter, Charles and Stephen for their critical questions.

I understand that Chapter 1 which is my introduction is something that should perhaps be done much later, but I think there is still value to create the backbone of this. It helps me make these broader links across the thesis and I have found it useful for this reason.


In parallel, over the last eight weeks, the open course #creativeHE was running and I am collecting data at the moment as I am using this as case 2 for my PhD research. Just a few more interviews to do and I will finally have all my data. All secondary survey data from both cases has been collected already and I will start looking at these and adding some related information to the relevant cases as well. I am thinking to include case specific data in the related appendices but bring all data together from both cases, similar as I will be doing for the interview data. Is this correct? I will ask my supervisors this question when I speak with them in December.
I will need to code the whole lot of transcribed text from all interviews! I estimate that I will have around or over 80,000 words of data from the interviews… same length as the thesis will be in the end. In order to get a feel of this data Everest, I plan to print all checked transcripts and read these as a manuscript, a story, a story in stories.

I will be back for further updates here about Chapter 1 and will add my reflections about the interviews together with survey data to a separate post and link back to Chapter 3.

QUESTIONS LINKED TO CHAPTER 1

I have questions around a Glossary of terms and where I should position this but also a more personal bit, my story and the connection to this research. Will these go into appendices?

If you are reading this and have any useful tips regarding Chapter 1, what to do and what to avoid, I would love to hear from you. 

Chrissi

Dear George @gsiemens

For some strange reason the comments feature was switched-off, now back on. 

Dear George,

This talk was brought to my attention on Twitter via Mark McGuire, a dear colleague I first met during CMC11 and who later visited me and other colleagues at Salford Uni. Together we facilitated a session on our PGCAP programme, which was a memorable experience for all of us.

I couldn’t resist watching your talk from start to finish. Despite its length it captured my attention throughout. I felt the need to respond to your open invitation to get in touch with you and am doing it via this open response.

This message has been written during my train journeys over the last five days to work and back. In a way your thoughts kept me in good company in the crammed train and helped me to be transported into a world of exploration.

What follows is a personal account based on my experiences, my readings and related research activities and initiatives I have co-organised and participated in the open.

I have been following your work since I found your articles via the innovate Journal which then suddenly disappeared… and your Knowing Knowledge book in which I have scribbled on every page as I saw this as an opportunity to interact with your words on paper. I remember when CCK08 was offered but in the end I didn’t participate. Then there was suddenly all that noise about MOOCs. They started popping up everywhere. Were the initial ideas to open-up education hijacked as my colleague Dr Stephen Powell said to me recently? It makes me wonder, isn’t this what happens with ideas anyway? As soon as they are shared, they travel, often to destinations we would never dream of taking them. With this comes loss of control and freedom but also responsibility, I think.

I have to admit that I have tried to engage in some of the MOOCs organised by different individuals, groups, institutions or providers and through different platforms not because everybody else was or is, but because I had a special interest in the topics explored in these. I also really wanted to experience first hand what MOOCs are all about and what can be achieved through these. I failed. My own experience shows that neither interest in the topic nor my curiosity to find out how they work were enough to really engage and get something out of them, do I dare to say complete any of them…

Content is everywhere. We are drowning in it. I understand that bundling content can be a way of filtering or curating information and therefore a useful strategy to attract individuals who have an interest in a specific subject. We can of course also learn a lot through selecting resources and perhaps we could take this idea into a new and exciting direction to maximise on some of the opportunities this thought could bring to self-regulated learning, how we put courses and programmes together and what that means for the individual and educational institutions. Are we thinking about these possibilities? Often MOOCs seem to adopt a content-based curriculum with high-production video resources etc. automation and interactivity. In that way, they can be handy for others as focused resources spaces that individuals or groups visit and can complement formal education really well and safe valuable time and resources for others.

But I think people are hungry for different things. People want to learn with others. After all we are social beings. For them, or for us, I should say, it is often more about interaction than interactivity. We saw this when software for learning appeared in the market before 2000. This enabled individualistic learning in the digital world while we were talking about cooperative and collaborative learning in the face-to-face classroom.

A visualisation which synthesises my readings around cooperative and collaborative learning, key features and an important question this generated for me

Many of us have been critical of Virtual Learning Environments… a management solution… Both cases are not dissimilar. The focus is on technology as a controlling power but what about pedagogies, flexibility, freedom and choice? I am aware of the distinction of xMOOCs and cMOOCs (and there are other terms…. the most bizarre one is mini MOOC) and can see that the content-factory is more linked to the first type. Learning with others seems to be the aim of the latter but can it really be realised to its full potential exclusively via peer-to-peer strategies? Do we assume that it can work for all and that it is a financially viable solution? But at what cost? I have been reviewing pedagogic frameworks supported by technology over the last few months. The importance of the facilitator support in these is a common feature to scaffold engagement and learning. What is different in the open that makes us immune to this?

reviewing collaborative learning frameworks supported by technology, key findings… part of my lliterature review

I mentioned that I have attempted and failed “to do a MOOC”… except one… The course had the MOOC label, it was actually a cMOOC. I fully engaged in this one and stayed until the end and even longer. This was the Creativity and Multicultural Communication course in 2011 (CMC11) led by Carol Yeager. I was again very interested in the topics we explored and it was a “we”. However, I could just have googled the resources without joining a course. What this course enabled me to do was to create connections with other learners and the course facilitator and engage in stimulating exchanges about the topics in the context of my practice. I therefore actively engaged in this one, I really felt that others showed interest in my work and I showed in theirs. I didn’t just write stuff which the black hole swallowed… Carol, the facilitator was present, modelled positive engagement in activities throughout and I got to know her really well, others too. The experience was personal and humane, as you said in your talk George. But also collaborative, These characteristics definitely made a difference. BUT CMC11 wasn’t what I would call Massive with a capital M or even with a lower case m. Maybe we all understand different things under “massive”. For me it was a course in the open and openly licensed, a course that linked students within a university course with open learners from across the world and created a sense of learning community everybody could be part of. According to Carol, there were around 300 participants, 15 of them were studying towards credits. During the course 50-60 learners were present,  but the core participants were around 20 or 30 who actively participated.

This message to you might now seem written upside-down. I hope you forgive me George. I should have started this, introducing myself first…

I am an academic developer in the United Kingdom and a doctoral student in the area of open cross-institutional professional development for educators in higher education at Edinburgh Napier University thanks to Prof. Keith Smyth. Beyond my above described MOOC experience and many failures to engage as an open learner, I have reviewed a small number of MOOCs and have been experimenting with open educational practices on a micro-scale compared to MOOCs. My special interest is exploring collaborative learning in cross-institutional provision in the area of academic development. My experiment back in 2010-11 to bring academics and other professionals who teach or support learning and study towards a teaching qualification in their institution, using Problem-Based Learning (PBL) as part of my MSc dissertation opened-up new opportunities for exploration for me, colleagues, my practice and research. I was curious where my thoughts would lead me and actually was encouraged to submit a PhD proposal to Edinburgh Napier University in this area. I am since January 2013 researching open cross-institutional practices within academic development and aim to develop a collaborative learning framework in such settings. I have found it a fascinating journey so far, also a very challenging and exhausting of course… no different I am sure from any other PhD experience. I have initiated a number of cross-institutional open courses with colleagues from other institutions. These are courses that have been developed to open-up, connect provision and create meaningful and stimulating experiences for sharing in distributed communities, networks and groups. They are in the area of professional development for educators in HE but are of course also open to student participation and are developed  using collaborative pedagogies. Examples include the Flexible, Distance and Online Learning (@openfdol) which has been repurposed and evolved into Flexible, Open and Social Learning (@FOS4L), Bring your own Devices for Learning (@BYOD4L), Creativity for Learning in Higher Education (#creativeHE). All of them are underpinned by inquiry-based pedagogies, provide opportunities for collaborative learning in small groups where facilitators are present and engaged. Creating learning communities is at the heart. My findings so far confirm that the collaborative aspects of these courses together with facilitator engagement and support as well as their inquiry-based nature make a real difference to learners.  Carol Yeager and I initiated the Open Facilitator project in collaboration with CELT where I work and the Open Knowledge Foundation to further share experiences of facilitation in the open and learn from each other. If you are interested, have a look at our Open Facilitator Stories collection from 2014.

I don’t think massive is the answer to everything. Is it the answer to anything? I am wondering, We have been over-emphasising in massive, far too much, for far too long, It doesn’t work in face-to-face situation for learners and teachers, how do we expect it to work online and in the open? I prefer an approach where we can scale-up and -down depending on the situation. We have been working on this and came up with the snowballing model (Nerantzi & Beckingham, 2015). Asking ourselves why we are doing it is also important. Broadcasting can work wonders via digital channels and yes, have global reach. Are we however in danger to reduce “education” to marketing? If we really want to reach and engage learners, educators, students and more generally citizens of this world, I am wondering if something else would work better… One size does not fit all, and bigger is better might not be (so) true. Of course face-to-face learning and online learning are not the same. But in both spaces and in between we do seek and value interaction above flashy interactivity. We seek human connections. Things have started changing in MOOCs… and I am following them with great interest.

Often when we read about open education, the terms that come up are Open Educational Resources, MOOCs and open educational practices. The last one seems to grow in the shadow of MOOCs… but it is growing… more and more seem to abandon MOOCland… actually there seems to be a trend for some time now that even MOOC providers call their courses just open courses or free courses, which in itself is an interesting shift. What does this mean?

Visualisation of MOOCs while I was re-drafting my literature review this summer.

However, we also need to learn to work more effectively together. Together is the answer for me, at personal, institutional, cross-institutional level and beyond cultural walls. Do we really want to go down the path of imperialistic educational constructions? I would and am voting for a democratic alternative. We all have something to contribute. Building on our collective wisdom can be so rewarding and make impossibilities happen. Power to the people! Let’s share expertise and resources, co-develop and co-facilitate courses, learning and development opportunities in collaboration with colleagues and groups from our own and other institutions to avoid replication and create collaborative learning opportunities that truly benefit educators and learners and enable collective growth.

It is now Friday and my last train journey of the week. I could continue for a bit longer but I am interested in a dialogue and therefore decided to post this now. It is dark outside but I hope you and others will read this to help me better understand what is going on.

Learning can happen everywhere. We talk a lot about learning that happens in the head… we also have hands and hearts. In a research interview one of my study participants’ said: “we don’t learn to play the piano by just reflecting on the piano”. What does this mean for all of us?

Open education and open learning more generally have a huge potential for all of us. We have come to see education as a money tree… this is very sad and worrying, I think. What can we do about it? What is our individual and collective responsibility to (re)focus on learning and development?

Chrissi
ps. It was lovely to see my colleague’s Dr Stephen Powell work mentioned in your talk.

Putting my roller skates on… #phdchat

My summer has been fruitful in the end and reflecting on the rework of Chapter 2 and capturing the process here has been extremely valuable. So I decided to do the same for Chapter 3.

It feels scary as this chapter is probably the one that fills me with fear, with horror…  but it is not going to stop me. The scissors are out and I have my roller skates on. I will do this. I have to. Again, have written too much. The first draft is just too long, too descriptive with bits that are not needed… The appendices are filling up. A lot of stuff seems to be moved in there… not a bad thing, of course, I am learning. Learning to be more precise and that less is actually more. Easier to say than do, of course.

I will again attempt to capture the re-work of Chapter 3: Methods and Data in a visual way and will be updating this post until I am happy with the next version. My dear colleagues Leslie Robinson and Peter Gossman offered to read sections of it. I am very very grateful for all their help. I will probably reach out again to identify more readers. If this could be you, please let me know, ok?

I will be back soon, with my fist update. This was just a short intro.

Ok,I made a start…  Yesterday. It is definitely not going to be easy… but I think I am starting from the easy part, which is interesting behaviour… I guess I feel more confident in cutting the big bits out… the bits linked to the pilot and the case studies. While cutting, I also decided to start adding about my second case study and I will do this directly into the appendix… It will be useful for me personally, even if not significant for the thesis…

The Methods Chapter… Can this help? – it didn’t, so I started looking elsewhere… I seem to avoid looking at a completed PhD… maybe I fear that I will just copy how somebody else has done it, on the other hand I do need to do it properly…

I understand that this Chapter should not be that extensive (it needs to be short(er), I should say) and that it is best to stick to the standard format… but what is the standard format? What I did find interesting is that in some theoretical PhDs this section is absent… Mmm… how nice would that be? But then again, I don’t think I would ever be able to do a theoretical PhD…

I have been working on the Methods section > this is how I call it at the moment and I am talking in there about the collective case study approach (not the case study methodology) I am using to collect data. While writing this I am wondering if the stuff about case studies and my cases should be in the Data collection section??? HELP!!!

26 September: Today has been a super long day, and I can’t even remember how many hours I have been writing and struggling. It was early morning when I started… I wish I could say that I am happy with what I have achieved… I reached a dead end and need somebody to read what I have written. I have so many questions which do distract me from seeing the connections, the vital connections I need to make in this chapter. I think organising the stuff is my biggest challenge at the moment as I don’t feel confident enough to decide what goes where and go ahead. Obviously the existing organisation doesn’t work but what would? Maybe I am just tired and my brain stopped working.

Despite today’s challenges while also not really looking forward to tomorrow and my plan, I have actually observed a shift in my approach.  Many have told me about tables. Tables here, there and everywhere but they do make sense and while writing and editing, I have found opportunities to turn basic text into something more visual. It makes it easier to read and see the connections.

27 September: This is were I am now…

10 October: I struggled to come back and capture my progress as I felt lost. This is why the massive break and silence… on the blog at least… Through the messiness the following emerged with captures my methodology and data collection strategy but also links the cases which have troubled me a lot to understand how to explain these as I am not using them as method or methodology but as a strategy to collect data. No idea of course what and how many categories will emerge through the data but these will help me shape the outcome space and then my framework. As you can see, I, the researcher sits outside and the researched is all that matters. Will there be four, or five or even less? I understand that there wouldn’t be many… apparently.

!2 October: I spent the last four days reworking Chapter 3. It was painful and this is reflected in the above visualisations but also the longer absense from this post as mention on the 10th. The colours and stylistically different approaches, I had used so far show my confusion and the disconnect, if that makes sense. There was no common thread as I couldn’t see how I would ever be able to re-bundle this stuff. But today, I have to admit, that I feel a mini sense of achievement, finally. I have a basic structure for this chapter and some meat… also still too much fat… yes, my supervisors will probably still recommend radical editing. But that is ok. I have now reached a stage were I need some feedback on all five sections and have found some colleagues who kindly offered to help with reading some of these.

There is some harmony in the above picture and this is how I feel right now. Can’t wait to get some first feedback and continue working on the five sections.

17 October: I have been working on the thesis again today and also created the second version of the visualisation of my research design. This us below. The majority of sections of Chapter 3 have been read by at least one colleague and I have taken their comments on board. I am feeling so much better, I gave to admit. Next week I will be giving the whole chapter to a dear colleague from Salford and I can’t wait to find out what she thinks.

1 November

I have a revisited draft of Chapter 3 ready. Its sections have been read by my colleagues Bernard Lisewski, Dr. Charles Neam, Dr Stephen Powell and Dr Peter Gossman. All helped me refine my work further and be much more precise. I knew it wouldn’t be easy. I knew I would struggle the most with this one but I think my understanding about the methodology, the methods and the analysis is developing and I am seeing the links clearer now. The use of the 2 cases has complicated things in my mind, but I think I am getting there. Dr Leslie Robinson has the whole chapter at the moment and looking at it holistically. I can’t wait for her comments.I think the chapter is probably still too long… and bits will be moved into the appendices…

This morning I noticed the following in my Twitter stream… very useful advice indeed

https://www.uq.edu.au/student-services/phdwriting/phsta04.html?utm_content=buffer22557&utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter.com&utm_campaign=buffer

My next steps are to start looking at a phenomenographic analysis, how the categories of description are formed properly. I am really looking forward to carrying out the remaining interviews, hopefully all before Christmas and getting all my data together. I will definitely print out all the transcript and make a little booklet out of them reading again and again so that I can start seeing themes. Hopefully these will emerge…

I am also looking at Chapter 1 and what I would need for this one. My plan is when I submit Chapter 3 to my supervisors before the end of November to have also made good progress with Chapter 1 and share this with them after I have received feedback from them linked to Chapter 3.

I feel that I am moving. Doing tiny steps, but I am moving.

… I have been quiet here… not recording any of my activities and progress I have made… but I have made progress…

28 November

I have now completed the next version of the draft of this chapter and submitted to my supervisors. Again, I have found it extremely valuable to get feedback on sections and I am grateful for colleagues who helped me with this. It has made a real difference and is stretching me but also the process helps me become more precise. I am now looking forward to speaking with Sandra and Keith in December and finding out what they think about this version of Chapter 3.

Thank you all. I will keep going… as Keith keeps telling me.

Chrissi
ps. This was the scariest chapter so far… 

glory_of_the_snow_in_the_snow

While winter is starting, I feel that I experience a tiny bit of spring and there is now a bit more hope that I will be able to do this. Is some of the darkness disappearing? image source here

 

Struggling on… a summer story with a good ending? #phdchat

Since January 2013 I have been a part-time PhD student at Edinburgh Napier University. A lot have happened since then and my previously started and incomplete PhD in translation many years ago and 80,000 words later that didn’t lead to anything are not helpful to put me in a positive mindset. Can I do this? Will I do this?

I am currently reworking part of the literature review linked to open education responding to feedback I received.  “Radical editing” are the words I remember… The truth is that I have been struggling to make progress and actually often feel stuck but also guilty… guilty for not spending enough time with my family… guilty for not spending enough time on my PhD… and guilty of working on too many projects… as I was reminded by Keith in September. Often I feel like being pregnant again but without knowing when and how I will be able to give birth without producing a monster… and the pain is growing…

I am now in Greece and the plan is to rework the above section. I made a start on the plane on a very bumpy ride down south from rainy England. I decided to keep a short visual diary while I work on this and hopefully this will help me out some of my thoughts in some kind of order. Maybe somebody will access it and provide some help and advice.

My visual diary is below.

  


Tomorrow are MOOCs on the menu. Need to shorten from 18 pages to 2. Definitely radical editing needed!!!

It hasn’t been an easy day. I haven’t managed to cut that much, I am down to 12-13 pages, and will continue working on this tomorrow. I understand that I need to be more focused but so much seems relevant!  Thank you to David Hopkins who volunteered to read through the collaborative learning section and Frances Bell for her suggestion to create a visual representation of all the important concepts. I will see how I do tomorrow.


Some sense of achievement today, a tiny one. MOOC pages are now under half the original length of what I had and there is some sort of order there now. I have now shared this with Carol Yeager who kindly offered to read through this and comment. I hope this makes sense to her. Over the weekend, I plan to continue working on the open ed section, the non-MOOC stuff.


Ok, I have done some further work linked to the open learning section and it somehow feels a bit better. Still not happy with it and I have loads of questions but feel that I would benefit from some feedback before doing more on this.


Tomorrow, I will start working in the last section which refers to collaborative frameworks supported by technologies. This is the blue part.


I am still in the frameworks section…

Tomorrow, I will continue working on this again…. I need a small break to get fresh energy to continue. It all feels very messy at the moment. I have created a framework table, thank you for suggesting this Keith. This indeed does help me see similarities… There are so many! But very interesting things do emerge which seems to provide a strong evidence-base for my work, I think. I hope to have a clearer picture of this section in my head and on file early next week.

Late last night, I felt the need to visualise what I have leant through looking at the different frameworks and what I discovered. Here it comes… thank you Frances Bell for this suggestion. I will also add the frameworks I looked at.

 

 
When Ody saw what I was doing he had the idea to call the doors at the top and the bottom of the hill, the door of success, and somehow it does make sense so this is a little but important addition made by Ody (11).

What follows is my MOOC summary…

 

 

Carol Yeager kindly read my open learning section. It was the first time somebody outside the supervisory team read any of my work for this thesis. In the past I was never sure if this is something I should be doing…  I have to say, that I found this really useful and hope that further colleagues will be willing to read smaller sections and comment. Thank you so much Carol and also for making yourself available to read the technology section as well.

I have now (16 August) prepared a visualisation linked to the cooperative, collaborative learning section and am adding this below. Any comments on all three visualisations are very welcome.

The following shows were  I am at the moment, I have to admit that it does seem that I have made some progress over the last few weeks looking back at were I started. More is of course needed, Carol Yeager is reading the frameworks section. I know I need some more specific details linked to this, such as when the SOL framework was developed/used for the first time. If you are reading this and have any idea and can point me towards a related paper, please leave a comment below.


What I wrote when I started this most: more to follow… I really hope I can make some progress while here in between jumping in the deep blue sea, eating souvlaki and visiting magical places with my family.

Now, beginning of September, we are back in the UK and I do feel a tiny sense of achievement. It was worth spending that time on this section and reworking it while away. I would like to thank especially dear colleagues who read the drafts, Carol Yeager, Charles Neame and David Hopkins as well as others who have commented on this post while it was developing. Their comments have been valuable for further changes.


I know that I do need to do a lot more work on this but this tiny step over the summer has helped me a lot to look into the future with a bit more positivity… I do, however need to find a way to keep going. It has really helped me sharing my journey with others and for a while the loneliness disappeared… I will be in Edinburgh later this month to see Keith and Sandra, my supervisory team and just hope that the changes I made are an improvement.

Note: Dr Bea de los Arcos from the OU contacted me on the 10th of September and was interested in including this post as a resource in an open course around Open Research which I have done in 2014 and found really useful (see my reflections linked to this here). If you are reading this and are involved in this course, feel free to leave a note here. It would be great to hear from other open practitioners.

Supervisory meeting and what followed

I went to Edinburgh on the 18th of September to see Sandra and Keith. I feel very positive about our meeting and am pleased that they both think that I am making progress and that I can do this. Just need to believe in myself and work hard to get there.

In the train back, I started writing and I have now almost completed the latest changes to the three sections sections. Frances Bell kindly offered to read the latest open learning section and I am really looking forward to her thoughts.

When this is done, I will be focusing on Chapter 3: Methods and Data… at the moment this is 17,000 words long… yes, far too long and too much detail I have been told. So the big scissors will be out soon and a new post about this will follow. I know that I will find this hard as it is probably the most theoretical part and I am a very practical person… How will I get over this? By immersing myself into it, loosing and finding myself… hopefully… more linked to this as soon as work on Chapter 3 begins. I estimate that this will be in a week, the latest. Just feel that I need to finish the edits on Chapter 2 before starting anything new.

Thank you everybody who has kept me company over the summer and more recently but also my supervisors for their valuable help and guidance and for believing that I will get there… one day.