Virtual Symposium 2019

Going back to school is primarily about the learning, but it is also about realigning your stars; at least it is for me.  Since realigning my stars is a large part of my goals of being in the Master of Arts in Learning and Technology (MALAT) program, then this week started me on the right path.  Before the program started, my only goal was to start teaching full time.  While that does remain a goal, the presentations from this week have opened my eyes to a whole world of possibilities in working in academia and the domain of open learning.

The session by Carolyn Levy highlighted the variety of projects and locations that Open Learning can take a career.  She presented her current projects that take her to other countries and each project has unique elements yet hold true to the scope of open learning.  The term Instructional Designer was new to me and this week certainly introduced me to the field.  Carolyn asked, “how do you guide as oppose to impose?” (Levy, 2019, 19:57) when working with clients who know the content very well, but maybe do not have the ability to structure content that is relevant and current.  It is the instructional designer’s role to understand where the client is in terms of the project and guide him or her towards the final goal without forcing the plan upon him or her.

Something that I deal with consistently is the existence of, figurative, silos between groups within one company.  I found that this issue came up throughout the symposium sessions.  Elizabeth Childs talked about this in one of her sessions; the fact that open has the potential of reducing walls between groups who have either similar or identical goals (Childs, 2019, 9:07).  This idea gave me both feelings of hope and despair.  I believe strongly that an organization should work as a whole and not create a “them and us” structure within, if open can help create a united environment and move us closer to working as a team then let’s do it!  The feeling of despair comes from the fact that many of these silos have been in place for decades and it seems that experience employees teach the new employees to keep them in place.  I fear that changes will take a long time to implement allowing the reinforcement of existing silos.

Dave Cormier linked the idea of rhizomes and open learning (Cormier, 2017, 14:31) and the effect on learners.  At first glance it seems that a rhizome learner would be an ideal leaner, someone who is bound only by their environments (physical or emotional), but in an open learning environment learners can wander off and it may be difficult to get them back on track (Cormier, 2017, 14:58).  As wonderful as open learning looks, it is important to remember that there are challenges as well.  Dave tied this together very well.

Overall, I found the week every enlightening.  I managed to attend all the sessions live, except for one.  While the recordings offered a great way to listen to the session I missed and the sessions from previous years, I did find that I got more from the live sessions.  I am an interactive learner and I find that if I can get my hands dirty and really dig into the topic, I retain more and have more fun in the process.  As Dave Cormier says “open gets messy, you get the learning all over you” (Cormier, 2017, 26:54), I cannot think of a better way to learn!


Childs, E. (2019, April 15). Openness and Networked learning in a MA degree. Retrieve from

Cormier, D. (2017, April 18). Intentional messiness of online communities. Retrieved from

Levy, C. (2019, April 15). Designing Learning Environments for a Global Context. Retrieved from

3 thoughts on “Virtual Symposium 2019

  1. Hey Kathy. Lots of great insight in your first assignment. I especially liked the paragraph in how you discussed how Open learning as its challenges. You described how Cormier stated that “Open learners can wander off” (Cormier, 2019, 14:58). So many of the topics hailed Open Learning as the new ‘learning deity’. However, it is important to state what improvements and/or limitations open learning presents. Thanks for the counter point of view.

    1. Hi Mark and Kathy,
      Thanks so much for your comments and posts. As with all good things it is so important to have a holistic appreciation and understanding for something and the open movement is no different in this regard. In fact, one thing I am observing about the open community globally is that it is at the point where it is being self-reflective and asking the hard questions such as open for who? by who? and the like. The presentations at the OER 19 conference were great examples of that.

      You can view many of them from the OER 19 site and the post-conference blog posts are and continue to be a fabulous collection of resources, examples of the conference theme of “Recentering Open” being taken up in action. When you have time to listen to a few of the keynotes it will give you a flavour for the conversation. One of my favourites is Su-Ming Khoo

      Thanks for the posts and for pondering what a more contextual view of open can be as it deepens the conversation which is of benefit to the whole open community.

  2. Kathy,
    I really like Carolyn Levy’s question, “how do you guide as oppose to impose?” To me, it has a lot of relevance in the context of open education. What is the “sweet spot” for guidance and structure while maintaining an open learning environment?

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