Just some thoughts…

29 Sep

As this project is taking shape, and is being shaped by suggestions from my learned colleagues on the blogosphere, Twittersphere, and by email, I have the occasional moment to reflect on the comments I have received so far, and my own observations (limited as they are in these beginning stages). My ruminations are in no particular order:

  • Science (engineering, in particular), math, and technology courses seem to be the most readily available courses in OCW…is this because they are already in an extended classroom/hybrid/online mode so offering them OCW doesn’t take much more effort, or are those subjects areas more on the cutting edge of the open access movement? (Disclaimer: Their availability is just an impression I have from my completely non-scientific approach to wading through the course offerings of most of the major universities’ OCW, trying to meet my own particular Open PhD needs)
  • Things I can do with an Open PhD:
  1. Point people to a really great blog of my experience
  2. Provide leadership in the field of OCW, Open Access, and Open Education
  3. Discuss the topics I’ve learned intelligently
  4. Discuss the process of being a student of OCW with graduate level courses
  5. Share my research and dissertation
  6. Publish my dissertation somewhere
  7. Write a book about my experience
  8. Posit the theory that there may be more than one way to approach the doctoral tree of knowledge
  9. Present at conferences on open education/open access on the topic
  10. Continue teaching as an adjunct (that’s my M.Ed talking).
  • Things I can NOT do with an Open PhD (to my Friendfeed friends – I hope this answers your concerns):
  1. Put “Dr.” before my name or “PhD” after my name – (these are titles conferred by an accredited institution, and while the “University of OCW-Independent Study” might just provide me with the knowledge I need, I would never try to imply or mislead anyone that I took the same path as those with the papered credentials).
  2. Receive tenure or a full time academic appointment  to a university teaching position – well, I specialize in teaching online…this pretty much wasn’t going to happen anytime soon anyway.
  • I am seeing at least three prongs to approach my learning/research:  1) The technological one – simply getting the information in the hands of the learners in the most effective way – both technically and pedagogically/andragogically; 2) a sociological/political approach – how does the digital access to education change the landscape? and 3) and economical approach – while it may be a wonderfully Utopian idea to provide free access to all knowledge, the producers of said knowledge (i.e. book writers, course creators, instructors, researchers, etc.,) all also need to eat and pay bills – how does the “business” survive, if they give the “product” away for free?
  • We have charter public K12 schools to explore new ways of doing things, and they are fully accredited.  Why don’t we have charter institutions of higher learning for the same idea?  Especially in the digital age!  For instance, here is one of my ideas for a “Charter University” – a school that simply is a credit clearing house and testing body. For example, if a student wanted a degree in English, “Charter University” would list course descriptions and number of credits required for a standard BA in English – the student could collect these credits from any and all accredited universities/community colleges across the country – submitting transcripts along the way. Once all the course work was completed, the student would sit for a comprehensive exam in the major. If passed, the degree and the accumulated credits/gpa would be awarded.  No “in house” residency rule required. If proving a student has the knowledge is what matters, does it really matter from where they got the knowledge?
  • 20 something doctoral students who have never left school have a hard time relating to the concerns of 40-something individuals with a career, mortgage, working spouse, kids of their own in college, etc., who would like to complete their last degree but can’t uproot to live a life of academic poverty for three-four years.

As always, your comments and feedback are welcome!



Posted by on September 29, 2009 in The Plan


Tags: , , , , ,

10 responses to “Just some thoughts…

  1. Stian Haklev

    December 13, 2009 at 1:50 pm

    Two quick comments. First of all, there are a few institutions that do very similar things to what you describe – the Western Governors University is one of the classical cases – they use competency based measures of learning. They don’t care how long it takes you, just what level of knowledge and skill you need to reach. So if you already have a lot of work experience etc, they can identify the gaps that you are missing and point you to online or regular universities that can provide that learning (and they are happy to point you to open projects like P2PU as well – the great thing about them is that they don’t accredit the university, but they accredit the learning that happened in you… this is important because with open learning models students get out it what they want).

    Historically, it also seems like the University of London was built on this model – I need to learn more about this – but it seems like the central university only provided the standards for examination etc, whereas all the teaching happened in colleges. And in fact, when the first universities were set up in for example Nigeria and India – they would be affiliated with the University of London, and administer their exams, etc.

    Perhaps we’ll see a return to this model? I think there needs to be a lot more research into assessment – I really hate multiple choice 🙂

    You might want to have a look at our article on possible ways of providing accreditation for open education in IRRODL: (open access)


  2. Amanda Judd

    October 13, 2009 at 11:46 pm

    HI, Lisa.

    I too am interested in and wrapping my head around online learning environments, community and education. Currently I am a grad student at UMASS, Amherst, in Learning, Media and Technology. This semester it’s all about participation- in training and in research.

    Have you heard of PAR (Participatory Action Research)? It would be great to form a group of open source educators interested in doing PAR. Would you be interested in doing PAR together?

    I look forward to hearing back from you.


    • Lisa

      October 15, 2009 at 4:41 pm

      Amanda, I have heard of and participated in Action Research in the past as an educator working as part of a team in establishing performance-based curriculum guidelines in Washington State in the 1990s. I would certainly be interested in hearing what kind of ideas you have and what you’d like to research.


  3. Jim Lehmann

    October 5, 2009 at 6:54 pm

    Regardless if Lisa’s learning is done online or f2f, the concept of open learning, free learning….has merit.

    Way back in the 1960’s when Walden University was founded down on the beaches of Florida…at the time it had as its principles the idea that learning is shared equally between student and instructor, student and student, and instructor and instructor. Learning was free and learning was open. It remained like that for quite sometime, and it was successful from a ‘learner’s point of view”…although not financially speaking from Walden’s. In order to become an accredited institution as it currently is, the basic principles had to change and the University had to ‘give in’ to established methods. This change turned Walden University from a forward thinking University to just one more of the same, be it Harvard or your local state college.

    Learning was put to you, not welcomed freely. Faculty knew all (don’t all PhD’s know all?) as opposed to Faculty learning from students on an equal basis. Hence the learning principles Lisa is now striving to hit with her idea was lost in the midst of become an accredited academic institution.

    I admire the principles Walden University was founded upon for they relate to basic adult learning theory. I also admire what Lisa is striving to do now. She is selecting her learning from a slate of open courses available online. Her learning will come from inside of her. She will learn because she wants to learn….not because she is after a degree or because someone with a doctorate feels they ‘know all ‘and are attempting to impart their limited knowledge. So go for it Lisa…

    I am one of Lisa’s ‘earned doctorate’ friends…who will advise her as she goes through this process. This adventure she is starting is a great experiment. Her blogging, her insights etc…will only open the door for others who truly want to learn….who might just prefer a method of learning which detours the usual ‘degree format’ established by traditional universities (f2f or online). Who knows…perhaps this is the future of learning.

    • Lisa

      October 5, 2009 at 9:38 pm

      I appreciate your help Jim…welcome aboard!

  4. Parag Shah

    October 2, 2009 at 1:28 am

    Your list of things you can do with your PhD is really nice. I am sure it will be very valuable to the open learning community. The last item of the list is

    “Continue teaching as an adjunct (that’s my M.Ed talking).”

    Sure, but just maybe after this experience, you can serve as a guide for other people who want to pursue an open education. Perhaps if there is a way to make a living from it, then it can be good for everyone.

    Perhaps extend your dissertation into a book on a “Process for open education”

    just some thoughts…

  5. joseph thibault

    October 2, 2009 at 12:30 am

    found a resource that might be suitable for your endeavors:
    which is based originally through ning:

  6. Anonymous

    September 29, 2009 at 9:41 pm

    If the knowledge is what matters, does it really matter from where the knowledge comes?

    I don’t think knowledge is or should be all that matters. There are a lot of abilities and experiences that aren’t easily described as knowledge and are very difficult to test for: solving very difficult homework problems, working cooperatively, carrying out lengthy projects, engaging in detailed discussions with peers, etc. University study doesn’t do a great job with these, but it’s much better than nothing. I believe these experiences have intrinsic value that is not easy to measure with a standardized exam.

    So I’m concerned that a Charter University would introduce a terrible bias by considering only accomplishments that can be measured by a standardized exam. American society already tends too far in that direction for my taste, and I don’t want to make it even worse.

  7. joseph thibault

    September 29, 2009 at 6:52 pm

    I love the charter university idea, it’s a concept that I’ve played with as well in the past. Look at which aggregates content, then passes it through accredited colleges, it seems that this is the charter university in infant stage (however it’s making the $ by selling the courses instead of just accrediting).

    I think it’s a very exciting idea, I’d love to talk more about it, research it collaboratively or even work out a plan to look at what it would take to bring to fruition…

  8. Anonymous

    September 29, 2009 at 10:05 am

    Science (engineering, in particular), math, and technology courses seem to be the most readily available courses in OCW

    They often follow a simple model: watch lectures, do problem sets, take exams. Furthermore, the answers are clear-cut, so you can grade your own work if you are given the solutions.

    By contrast, a literature class works very differently: close reading of difficult texts, classroom discussion, term papers and essay exams. You often can’t supply the texts online for copyright reasons, and for the discussion you need a good discussion leader plus a group of peers who are studying the same texts. Finally, it’s much harder to evaluate your own work. Without expert feedback, it’s easier to convince yourself that you’re doing great when you aren’t.

    So I think the most important issue is that there’s much more value to putting science courses online.

    are those subjects areas more on the cutting edge of the open access movement?

    Yes, that’s definitely true too. To create a vibrant open access movement, you need a combination of idealism and widespread technical fluency. This occurs much more often in the sciences than in the humanities.


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