It has been a privilege to attend this year’s virtual symposium which offered a wealth of knowledge.  The value was not only in the content of the presentations but also in the opportunity to connect with MALAT students from other cohorts and add them to my network.

COVID has put a lot of pressure on instructors, institutions and students.  Openness is a common theme in several of the symposium presentations, and it could not be more relevant than in these unprecedented times.  The term “openness” refers to a set of instructional methods to increase access to learning by giving people the flexibility to learn regardless of where they are located, removing traditional barriers such as time and physical space.  David Cormier’s presentation provides examples that explore the “pieces” (Cormier, 2017) of openness.  He argues in part that open educational resources are,only about content – it’s about the things of learning” which does not speak to how the learning happens: “it’s not about learning itself.” (Cormier, D. 2017, 12:08).  The limitations of open content are seen in the example Mr. Cormier points to of the eight-year-old who learned how to drive a car on YouTube.  While the eight-year-old learned the mechanics of driving from the open-content alone, ethical aspects and other elements fundamental to learning are missing. Clearly, a holistic approach to open learning is essential.

“Surveillance Capitalism”, an interesting concept coined by Shoshana Zuboff, is considered by Dr. Bill Muirhead and Dr. Lorayne Robinson in their presentation focused on digital privacy.  They explain that “digital information is being unilaterally collected as free raw material that is translated into data which is packaged as prediction products and then sold into behavioural markets.” (Muirhead, B. & Robinson, L. 2021, 25:33).  Frightening.  While monetizing personal data is not a new idea, I was struck by how extensive, thorough and invasive data capture actually is.  The presentation drove home to me the importance of not only considering, but also educating my students about digital privacy.

Of tremendous interest to me was a presentation on Design Principles for Online Learning by Dr. Suzanne Crichton.  She offers eight guiding principles framed as, “a living entity that can inform practices, frameworks, guidelines, quality assurance documents, and other things”, for educators working in an online environment (Crichton, S. 2021, 6:40).  With the swift migration to online teaching and the growing concern with the quality of online instruction, I strongly agree with Dr. Crichton that having a principled, conceptual framework to guide our work and decision-making as educators is critical.  As she suggests, there is a need for principled decisions, rather than random or just policy-oriented decisions or simple strategic planning (Crichton, S. 2021)

To conclude, scheduling the symposium early in the MALAT program is a great way to expose students to some of the research currently being done.  Meeting past MALAT students and hearing about their work is encouraging.

References

Cormier, D. (2017). Intentional messiness of online communities.

Retrieved from https://malat-coursesite.royalroads.ca/lrnt521/dave-cormier-virtual-symposium-presentation/

Crichton, S. (2021). Design conversations with BC educator: lessons learned during covid 19 and more – canelearn. Retrieved from http://bit.ly/CrichtonVS2021

Muirhead, B. & Robinson, L. (2021). Living and learning online: why digital privacy is everyone’s responsibility. Retrieved from http://bit.ly/MuirheadRobertsonVS2021