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During my last five years, I worked in the Recruitment Services and the Student Support departments at an Online Program Management (OPM) company. In working with the cross-functional team, I was able to learn about the roles and projects of the Marketing and Course Development teams, as well as the impact and administrative aspects at the partner academic institution. Forssman (2018, 6:21) highlights the key advantages of the OPM model including the support and infrastructure for high-volume course development and maintenance. This is integral for our current education field where demand for and the rapid transition to online learning is at the forefront. Forssman (2018, 22:40) also describes areas of opportunity in the OPM model such as the lack of focus on team-based pedagogies, need for localization in course content, and low capacity at the institution-level to build internal support for the online student population. If these areas of focus were addressed, would we be able to drive sustainable course development at the K-12 level and deliver engaging and high-quality online classes across Canada?

I believe the second part of this question involving the need for online learning to integrate effective student engagement and team-based learning is partially driven by a sense of community. I am particularly intrigued with the idea of rhizomatic learning as described in the Cormier’s learning ecosystem (Cormier, 2017, 36:13). I agree that this type of learning is problem-based and also promotes self-directed learning. I believe that rhizomatic learning is especially effective in an online environment that includes a form of Vygotsky’s Zone of Proximal Development as explained by McCarthy (2021, 10:27). Evidence of successful rhizomatic learning environments include online forums such as Reddit and Facebook. Both platforms allow you to post your question to the community and receive peer-moderated responses from users including potential solutions, key references, additional perspectives, and further questions for discussion. To further narrow your audience and population, the question should be posted in an appropriate Facebook Group or Reddit channel. This is akin to asking your question in a guild community as described by Cormier (2017, 33:42), where your question can be discussed by subject matter experts.

If an online environment can be developed for students to drive their own rhizomatic learning, we may be able to drive and develop critical thinking skills by incorporating two factors. The first would be promoting participatory culture as shared by Cronin (2017, 11:44). Secondly, providing teacher supported and guided learning to create a Zone of Proximal Development within the virtual setting (McCarthy, 2021, 17:59).

Ultimately, this relates to my journey through MALAT, learning about how we can apply tools and strategies to achieve the purpose of online learning as described by Bates (2019, 41:43): driving the development of critical thinking skills, flexibility and access to quality education, and the need for faculty upskill or reskill to create, develop, and deliver effective online learning.


Bates, T., (2019). Rethinking the Purpose of Online Learning. [Video]. Blackboard Collaborate.

Cormier, D., (2017). Intentional messiness of online communities. [Video]. Blackboard Collaborate.

Cronin, C., (2017). Choosing Open. [Video]. Blackboard Collaborate.

Forssman, V., (2018). Strategic Directions for Online Education: Is Online Program Management Coming to Canada? [Video]. Blackboard Collaborate.

McCarthy, L., (2021). K-12 Teachers in Ontario: Supporting Student Engagement Through the Use of Educational Technology. [Video]. Blackboard Collaborate.