Tag Archives: Open courseware

No Learner is an Island – #AfricaIET09

I have been participating in George Siemen’s Introduction to Emerging Technologies – Africa open course. Recently we were asked to create a model to describe our PLE (Personal Learning Environment). I began first with trying to define just what the PLE is – are we talking about the true meaning of the word “environment” (like what spaces/sites we use) or are we meaning a more generalized term (i.e. the place and all it encompasses)? The terms PLE/PLN/PLC and CoP are batted around online quite often, yet I am not sure anyone has clearly(or cleanly) defined them. Even those who may have coined the terms will find they’ve been adopted and adapted by the blogosphere to fit the post of the moment.

So for now, I am going to go with the definitions listed below until I find better definitions to replace these working ones. (Comments welcome to correct my misconceptions).

  • CoP (Community of Practice): A group of learners interested in the same topic who share their learning with each other to deepen the learning for the group – no electricity required.
  • PLE (Personal Learning Environment): The structure of the PLN – the digital framework where learning takes place – tools & sites. A component of the PLN.
  • PLC (Personal Learning Community): The human factor . A component of the PLN.
  • PLN (Personal Learning Network): The people plus the digital framework that connects them.

With the above definitions in mind, I set about creating my model. I thought about building a diagram or flowchart as many of our examples showed, but frankly, I am just too right brained for that to really work for me. Instead, I worked from the metaphor of the environment. The idea of the personal learning environment is to make use of the technology around us to connect us to others to extend all of our learning – to keep us from being isolated as learners. That led me to the thought that no learner should be an island. And that led me to my model:


My Personal Learning Environment

No Learner is an Island


If you made a model to describe your PLE, what would it look like?

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Posted by on November 15, 2009 in Year One


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Is the Sky Falling for OCW?

In this just released article in The Chronicle of Higher Education writer Marc Parry laments that open courses at universities such as MIT and Yale may soon be a thing of the past due to economics.

Colleges, too, are grappling with the limits of this global online movement. Enthusiasts think open courses have the potential to uplift a nation of Zieglers by helping them piece together cheaper degrees from multiple institutions. But some worry that universities’ projects may stall, because the recession and disappearing grant money are forcing colleges to confront a difficult question: What business model can support the high cost of giving away your “free” content?

Parry later goes on to quote David Wiley and his blogged prediction of the future:

The education oracle [Wiley] offers another prophecy for open courseware. ‘Every OCW initiative at a university that does not offer distance courses for credit,’ he has blogged, ‘will be dead by the end of calendar 2012.’

As a fledgling in the open education movement, even I have wondered how this movement could be sustained:

…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?

Is open education dead even as it becomes  mainstream?  Will it become a different entity altogether, perhaps a far cry from the one its early forefather’s imagined, but something that still provides learning to the masses – freely?  How will the international open education movement shape the US policy and vice versa?

I’d love to know your opinions.


Posted by on October 12, 2009 in The Plan


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Hurdle #1 – Open Ed at the Graduate Level

When I first had this idea of an Open PhD, I really thought the difficult part would start when I started cracking the books (or the pixels, as it may be).  Instead, I have encountered Hurdle #1 at the very start – though I suppose in any good race, that’s exactly where you expect the first hurdle to be, right?

Over the last few days, in between prepping for a course I teach that started on Sept 24th, I cross-referenced my comparison schools and comparison degrees, trying to sort out exactly what kind of coursework I really needed, from what kind of course work some of the schools added in to justify their online existence.  I then cross referenced these titles against various local universities’ face-to-face PhD offerings just to make sure I was in the ball park.

Once I created my proposed course program, I ran it by my virtual advisor looking for holes.  We allowed for my background in education and distance learning to be “transferred in” (my Masters is in curriculum and instruction with a technology integration emphasis), so we focused forward from there.  We came up with this list for my Open PhD program. Obviously, I couldn’t use any particular university’s course title, so I left it more descriptive to make sure I could find the right subject matter.  Creating the ideal program on paper was the easy part.

Finding graduate level open courseware to fit my needs has not been so easy and I wonder why that is. Could it be as Gideon Burton says in his blog post:

The traditional scholar, like the scholarship he or she produces, isn’t open–open-minded, hopefully, but not “open” in a public way. No, a typical scholar is very exclusive, available only to students in specific academic programs or through toll-access scholarly publications that are essentially unavailable to all but the most privileged. In the digital age, the traditional barriers to accessing scholars or scholarship are unnecessary, but persist for institutional reasons. To put that another way, institutions of higher education are invested in keeping their scholars and those scholars’ intellectual products limited and cloistered.

Is that the school protecting the intellectual property of it’s scholars, or the intellectual property and its associated dollars? In other words, does it come down to just plain economics for the institution?  With hundreds, if not thousands, of incoming freshman required to take Bio 101, for instance, is XYZ University really sacrificing anything if they post a three year old video version of one instructor’s lectures and some handouts online?  However, as the enrollment numbers for courses get smaller when the course number nears the graduate level, the economic impact of making that coursework freely available may cause the school to think twice.  I am curious what the research shows. I don’t know yet, but, anecdotally, I do know there are proportionally many less graduate courses available as Open Courseware than undergraduate ones.

Your thoughts as to why?


Posted by on September 25, 2009 in The Plan


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Crowdsource credentials?

One reader posted this comment and I thought it was an interesting way to suggest the conferring of  “credentials”  for an Open PhD (I’ve reposted it along with my reply for your scrolling convenience):

This is a very nice initiative. I am sure it you are going to inspire many people who have thought of doing a PhD, but lacked the resources.

As for credentials, I wonder if they can be crowdsourced. What if you maintain a blog and wiki as you make progress in the PhD. Some sort of rating system (and comments) on the blog posts, maybe podcasts of what would traditionally be presentations, and a real project which is visible to everyone on the Internet, may all accumulate towards crowdcourced credentials. It may not be conferred by a university but it will be conferred by the “wise crowd” :-)

My reply:

This is precisely where I was going with my idea – I am hoping to shape and refine it over time with helpful suggestions from those already in possession of the knowledge I seek.  I’m sure there are plenty of things I haven’t yet considered, and plenty of naysayers who feel doctoral study/research can only be done in its traditional box.  I just don’t happen to be one of them.  As for what my final specific research will be…who knows?  Do traditional brick and mortar students know what their PhD dissertation research will be as soon as they earn their masters – especially in the education field?  I highly doubt it.  I came up through the public school teaching ranks and moved into higher education as an adjunct.  I completed my M.Ed in 1994.  This 2009.  What I was passionate about researching in the mid 90s would probably make me chuckle with my knowledge base and hard-won experience now.  I have a lot of interests in the area of educational technology – I will whittle my interests down to a very specific area of research and a good research question with the help of my committee of (how many readers will I have by that time??? – lol) as this project develops and the program takes shape.  In the meantime – look at the background material I am gathering and learning from already: open education, open courseware availability, advanced Twitter skills (archiving here I come) , and the fact that this topic is definitely touching a nerve in the edusphere if my blog stats are to be believed.  But in a general sense – I know my area of inquiry already – can this be done?

As a writer, I do know we write from what we know.  And I know this.  The gap between those who can afford college easily and those who cannot is real.  It has little to do with intelligence, initiative, gpa, or the student’s neighborhood school.  I want my PhD.  But I am 43.  I have two kids and a stepson in college right now.  I am place-bound by my husband’s job as a contractor with the military.  Does that mean I am less interested in my academic career? No.  It means I have a real life that I am bound to support along side my academic one.  They are equally important to me.

I do have one luxury.  My academic career has evolved to an online one.  Now, so has my education.  It is no longer place-bound or even institutionally-bound.  And finally, due to this flash of an idea, the last educational hurdle will not be financially-bound any longer either.

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Posted by on September 22, 2009 in The Plan


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Where Should I Begin? A Little Research…

The first step in figuring out my Open Ph.D. program seems like it needs to be figuring out how many courses (can’t say credits, now can I?) to take, and what topics they should cover.  I did a quick check at some of the more well-known, accredited online universities offering Ph.D.’s in Educational Technology and here’s what I found:

  1. Walden – 87 Semester credits (130 quarter credits) – residency requirement
  2. Capella – 80 Semester credits (120 quarter credits)- residency requirement
  3. Northcentral University – 51 Semester credits (76.5 quarter credits)- no residency requirement
  4. University of Phoenix – 59 Semester credits(89 quarter credits) – residency requirement

Most of the courses averaged 3 semester credits/5 quarter credits, with the occasional seminar offered as a 1 or 2 credit course.  Doing a little basic math, I work that out to mean I should find 20 open courses of the 3 semester credit variety (60 credits) , 4 courses worth 2 semester credits (8 credits), and 2 courses worth 1 semester credit each (2 credits).  That will equal 70 semester credits which is roughly the average between the four schools listed above.

So far, so good.

The next step is to look at the individual classes within all these programs . What courses do they have in common? And will I be able to find them in the world of open courseware?  The first question I will worry about now – the second I will worry about as this project progresses.

I created a chart that includes all of the classes in the PhD programs listed above for the Educational Technology specialization.  You can find that chart page here or by clicking the words Course Chart in the upper right hand corner of this blog.

I need a couple of days to digest it all – and then I should be able to start formulating my program and looking for courses throughout the open education “edusphere”.

As always, comments and suggestions are welcome.


Posted by on September 17, 2009 in The Plan


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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! #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.


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!


Posted by on September 17, 2009 in The Plan


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