Royal Roads held their 2020 MALAT Virtual Symposium sessions between April 14–18. The symposium is an opportunity for new students to gain insights on education from experts and students nearing completion of their MALAT studies.

As I watched Elizabeth Childs and Tannis Morgan’s (2020) discussion, I found myself reconsidering the openness and flexibility of the tools I have my students using. I currently use Open Educational Resources (OER), like the ones found at the Adobe Education Exchange, and their talk challenged me to dig deeper into how I can use open infrastructure tools. It also has me considering how I can create resources that don’t rely on a specific tool in order to be more usable by other educators.

The talk on Remote Teaching and Online Learning by Randy LaBonte (2020) challenged how I form those essential social and emotional connections which are so important in online learning environments. During the talk, LaBonte referenced a report by Borup, Chambers and Stimson (2018) that found “students believed that they were able to form ‘way better’ relationships with their on-site mentor than their online teacher.” (Discussion and Recommendations section, para. 4) Through LaBonte’s talk and my reading of that report, I came to understand that taking time to form connections early in the term, following student progress, and checking in consistently is as important to online learning as the course curriculum.

Ideas from multiple presentations came together a few days after watching Chad Flynn’s (2020) talk on his thesis, Trades Students Perception of their Experience in OER Creation. I value structure and organization in my course development, with only a few courses being open to the fluidity that allows a learner to create their own path through a course. It is difficult for me to give up the time that I have dedicated to instruction time and learning activities. I began rethinking this rigidity when I heard Flynn talking about the freedom he gave his students. Over time, Flynn’s presentation, Carolyn Levy’s (2019) talk on Designing Learning Environments for a Global Context, and an article by Spady (1996), had me reconsidering the way I held on to the structure of my courses. In the interview, Spady said in defense of OBE, “what and whether students learn successfully are more important than when and how they learn it” (pp. 41-43), and this sparked thoughts around how to open up certain courses to create a flexible environment that allows students to take more control of their education.

The Virtual Symposium sessions have helped me contrast my perspectives against current thoughts around course development, open education and important topics that other MALAT students have chosen to pursue. When looking back on the sessions I have reviewed, I find myself inspired by the possibilities of what education can look like.


Borup, J., Chambers, C. B. & Stimson, R. (2018). Helping online students be successful: Student perceptions of online teacher and on-site mentor facilitation support. Lansing, MI: Michigan Virtual University.

Childs, E., & Morgan, T. (2020, April 14). A conversation: Open Ed Tech Infrastructure to get to Open Educational Practices [Video]. Royal Roads University MALAT Virtual Symposium.

Flynn, C. (2020, April 14). Trades Students Perception of their Experience in OER Creation [Video]. Royal Roads University MALAT Virtual Symposium.

LaBonte, R. (2020, April 14). Remote Teaching or Online Learning? K-12 Schooling in a Pandemic World [Video]. Royal Roads University MALAT Virtual Symposium.

Levy, C. (2019, April 15). Designing Learning Environments for a Global Context [Video]. Royal Roads University MALAT Virtual Symposium.

Spady, W. G. (1996). The Trashing and Survival of OBE. Education Week, 15(24), 41–43.