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The Open PhD – What a Concept

I keep telling my friends and colleagues that I want to start my doctorate. In fact, I spend an inordinate amount of time on the internet exploring different programs, options (online or on the ground), costs, funding sources, etc. I work from home, teaching educational professional development and writing courses online – so I actually have the time to pursue my last degree on a part time basis. What I don’t have is the money. I won’t even finish paying off my M.Ed until June of this year, and I just can’t see taking on $45,000 debt during this recession with no guarantee of a tenured job on the other side of it.

So what’s a lifelong learner and tech geek supposed to do?

In my case, I simply had to read my Twitter stream and watch as an odd combination of posts and RSS feeds melded together to become my big idea.

A few days ago, Konrad Glogowski (@teachandlearn) tweeted about signing up for a class at Peer 2 Peer University.

Starting a Peer 2 Peer University course today! http://ow.ly/oEkR #p2pu #opened

In my usual wander down the rabbit hole fashion, I followed his tweet to see what Peer 2 Peer University was all about. Interesting! I needed to know more about this idea. I started searching with the terms “open education”, “open access”, and “free education”. These terms brought me to Curtis Bonk.

Bonk, an educator, national speaker, and writer, is also the author of a blog post about his latest book:Empowering Online Learning: 100+ Ideas, for Reading, Reflecting, Displaying, and Doing. While extolling the virtues of shared lists of open items that strangely often number 100, Bonk wrote:

One day I am sent a URL for an online resource summarizing 100 free podcast programs from the best colleges in the world. I am told that if I listen to these podcasts, I can skip the tuition.

A kernel of an idea began to form. What if? Could I really? Would it matter? Would it be worth the time and effort?

In Bonk’s post, he included links to itunes U andYoutube Edu . I had heard of these sites, but admittedly, I had never really explored them as I am not a big viewer of podcasts. When I need a video for one of my courses, I search it out and link to it – but that’s pretty much it.

I took the time to explore.

Wow!

Did you know MIT has 1800+ courses available for your viewing pleasure? You can even download the syllabus and assignments (with answers). Some courses even provide copies of old exams. How could I have missed this? It’s not just MIT – other schools belong to the consortium – Carnegie Mellon, Standford, Oxford, Yale, the list keeps going.

I was so excited when I found MITs Physics III course to help my son who is struggling with his own Physics III course at another university. The video lectures from a world class engineering school professor should certainly supplement his studying. He was ecstatic – I’m pretty sure the link to iTunes U is now being rapidly shared among his fellow engineering student friends.

Now, you might be wondering what all this has to do, exactly, with my enrolling in a Ph.D. program.

Well, everything.

I am going to create my own Ph.D. program via open education using open courseware. My degree will be in Educational Technology with an emphasis in (what else?) Open Education as the Great Equalizer. As the tagline to my blog states: it will be all the learning, with none of the “doc”-uments. (Or none of the “cred”-entials). But I will have the knowledge; and, in the end, isn’t that the most important thing? (Oh, and I will still have my $45,000).

In the next few posts, I will lay out my 4 year plan – with help from the Twittersphere, blog readers, my advisors, and hopefully some subscribers. I plan on completing research and a dissertation as well – no shortcuts here. My first advisor – Dr. Kay Lehmann is a blogger, online instructor, book author, and course developer. I look forward to finding a few more Ph.D./Ed.D volunteers in my grand experiment.

Will this work? Can it be done? Can we make it rigourous enough to be equal to an actual online Ph.D program? Join me on this journey. Your feedback and suggestions are welcome!

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Posted by on September 17, 2009 in The Plan

 

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