Virtual Symposium Critical Academic Reflective Blog Post – Unit 1 | Activity 3
Attending a variety of recorded sessions through the virtual symposium was an excellent preface to the MALAT program and provided me with an opportunity to reflect on my knowledge concerning digital learning environments. I was amazed at the diversity of speakers in the series and the multifaceted topics. Each stream of the symposium provided fresh perspectives from diverse lenses and backgrounds which provided intensive exposure to current practices and theories in digital learning. As a virtual attendee, this provided many opportunities for pause and reflection. The presentations created by students who were nearing the end of the program were significant, as I was able to extrapolate from their experiences and apply them to my learning journey. The most insightful recording I viewed challenged the purpose of online learning and reinforced some of my own musings.
As I reviewed the recordings, I was astounded by the vast terminologies being coined in the field of digital education. One particular thread that materialized was the need to distinguish the term open which must be interpreted contextually. Cormier (2017) compares open to a rhizome, difficult to contain with implications only limited to its habitat. “Open can get really messy, you do get the learning all over you” (Cormier, 2017, 26:55). Viewing this presentation allowed me to reflect on just how open I had been in my practice, which was not something I had previously considered. The concept of open within the context of teaching and learning was explored by multiple presenters. “Most good educators are open educators even if they don’t know that they are open educators because at the heart of education is this willingness to share your knowledge, your skills, your information with learners” (Lalonde, 2018, 10:20). This allowed me to reflect on the notions of open and how I could best implement some of these ideas within my practice.
Especially intriguing were the concepts presented surrounding purposeful content design and delivery. “Students need help to become independent learners, so they’re still gonna need instructors and teachers; and my worry is that this is a move to just put content up on the web and call it online learning” – in reference to the Ontario K-12 online strategy (Bates, 2019, 13:20). This statement resonated with my recent experience undergoing curriculum development. What was the motivation? Was it to be more cost-effective? Alternatively, was it to provide a better education for our future students? Was it purposeful? With limited time release and no additional funds in the coffers, it certainly did not appear purposeful; the hurried instructional design was resulting in a repository of information; with negligible interaction and support from instructors or peers. Bates (2019) also questions the claims that online learning can be delivered more cost-effectively than learning that occurs on campus, and believes there is a place for both models and that neither should be forced; content should be delivered in the format best suited to learning. From an ethical standpoint, I agree that designing an online curriculum for cost recovery (or profit) is a poor pedagogy and misguided. “Curriculum design should be viewed as a process, rather than a product” (Masten, 2015).
I was captivated when watching the student research presentation Supporting Volitional Competency in Online Students. (Darbyson, 2018). According to Darbyson’s research, students are constantly disrupted by life’s circumstances and can find it challenging to maintain motivation. Persistence and effort are required to achieve success, and there has been little research to show how volitional strategies can be incorporated into the instructional design to support student motivation. (Darbyson, 2018, 06:45). I am eager to engage in further readings on volitional strategies that may be of use in my future studies, and that can also be incorporated into my teaching practice.
The threads presented within the virtual symposium raised substantial and provocative questions that shall be further explored throughout my educational journey within the MALAT program.
Bates, T. (2019). Rethinking the Purpose of Online Learning [Video file]. Retrieved July 14, 2019, from https://ca.bbcollab.com/collab/ui/session/playback
Darbyson, R. (2018). Supporting Volitional Competency in Online Students [Video file]. Retrieved July 16, 2019, from https://ca.bbcollab.com/collab/ui/session/playback
Lalonde, C. (2018). Into the Great Wide Open [Video file]. Retrieved July 15, 2019, from https://ca.bbcollab.com/collab/ui/session/playback
Masten, M. (2015, October 24). 8 Barriers to Curriculum Design [Blog post]. Retrieved from http://inservice.ascd.org/8-barriers-to-curriculum-design/