As my Fellowship with eCampusOntario draws to a close I am immersed in an autoethnography that I hope to publish in an open journal. The purpose of the autoethnography is to share my experience as an Open Education Fellow and provide insights that may inform the practice of Ontario educators. In this blog post, I am going to share a sneak peek into the recommendations percolating in my head as I engage in deep reflection about my journey as a learner. Please note that these reflections are deeply situated in my own perceptions and do not represent the views or opinions of Cambrian College or eCampusOntario. Educators considering exploring the use of Open Educational Resources and Open Educational Practices in their context might benefit from consideration of the following insights.
What Worked Well
Develop a Community
Innovation and advocacy for open education are both exciting and exhausting. Developing a sense of community to help you navigate daily struggles and continually learn to be better is important (Wenger, 2015). Throughout the fellowship, I developed and helped others develop communities of practice. These communities of practice enabled
Twitter has been an interesting source of information, encouragement, and discussion. I likely would not have found out about the opportunity to be an Open Education Fellow without this connection. Consistent with the findings of previous research, I have been inspired by suggestions and ideas of others online (Rosell-Aguilar, 2018). The idea to try negotiated grading was encouraged by people sharing their experience with radical approaches to assessment online. When used, Twitter can be considered a community of practice that enables informal professional development (O’Keeffe, 2019; Rosell-Aguilar, 2018). These ideas fuel innovation.
With the encouragement of eCampusOntario, I began blogging in August of 2017. Blogging has been a tool for my own
Though I have gravitated to blogging, dialogue with other fellows and conversations with faculty have been transformative for my learning. In order to advance digital literacy among faculty, it is essential to respect
Dialogue with future students, others teaching the course and members of the Cambrian Teaching and Learning Innovation Hub at Cambrian were also critical to the success of quest-based learning. On-campus support from Jess, Sarah, Marnie, and other faculty has been encouraging and impactful. It was incredibly supportive to be working in such close proximity to Jess and the Hub team so we could bounce ideas off of each other. Our challenges were different but we supported each other through them. Our community of practice sessions for bi-weekly discussion of open education helped to promote open practices across the College. These sessions encouraged discussion of context-specific challenges and opportunities, which can facilitate grassroots efforts in open education (Smith & Lee, 2017).
Zoom has been a great tool for connecting with communities of practice. Although I have not made it to as many sessions as I want, these interactions with others are the best substitute for in-person contact I have experienced. We should make
Engaging with communities is my number one suggestion for anyone exploring open education. It is important that you do not feel alone in your struggles.
After Open Day, there was an increased buzz, interest and general acceptance of openness on campus. More and more I am engaging with discussion about open education with colleagues from various departments. Building awareness builds communities of practice. Without awareness it is difficult to have advocacy and institutional support. I recommend using the resources our team shared on this Open Day website to host your own version of Open Day. The ongoing impact of this day is still unfolding.
Encouragement from the open community has helped. Being an open practitioner in a system that hasn’t caught up to the innovations possible is challenging. Change is difficult and slow. Both internal encouragements from colleagues and external acknowledgement have helped. Our team won an award for sharing the planning and evaluation of Open Day. I encourage you to consider nominating a colleague who is striving for excellence for awards. Even being nominated for your efforts is encouraging. What was even better than this acknowledgement, was seeing another institution adapt the materials we shared to host their own Open Day. What keeps me innovating is the impact it has on others. Hearing about this impact is a form of encouragement that can go a long way.
What Did Not Work
Unclear Top-Down Support
Support from eCampusOntario to attend and engage in professional development has been transformative. However, particularly in a College environment, growing support from my institution is a needed resource for ongoing open practices. Support is growing but not yet reflected in written documents. It is James Skidmore (aka Skid) who often talks about the need for Policy. I am happy he voices this need as often as he does. As a professor who is experiencing difficulty knowing how much openness I am “allowed” to engage in a digital strategy and associated policies in our institution is necessary.
It is challenging to balance the needs of diverse programs in the development of a digitisation strategy. Different programs have diverse needs, levels of structure and requirements. Innovation moves so fast that it is hard for organizations to keep up, which means that innovators are left to push the boundaries and find areas that need clarity.
As one of the first Fellows, we were part of a wonderful experiment. We had the opportunity to shape the experience to meet our learning goals. The problem was not knowing how much exactly
The online community, while amazing, can become overwhelming if boundaries are not set. Personally, I have found it discouraging to see people talking about all the things they are able to do when I am unsure how much I can do. While I want to recommend engaging on Twitter I cannot do so without acknowledging that limits need to be set for one’s own mental health. So many amazing discussions happen but if one engages in all of them there would be no time for teaching. I identify with the findings from a qualitative study indicating that limited confidence, vulnerability, risk, concerns about belonging, and capacity to engage in online discussions are barriers for academics (O’Keeffe, 2019).
There is a clear lack of appropriate open resources for specific areas of Nursing. I want to create them, but am not certain if I am allowed to or if I can find the time to. My desire to fully emerge in open education is tampered by contractual concerns and a lack of clarity from my institution. It is my hope that we can do what they did in the Netherlands and collaborate to fix this issue. Thankfully, eCampusOntario is starting the process of solving the issue through the open at scale project in Nursing.
The Side of My Desk
It feels like for me open education has gone from the
Conflicting information has been a challenge for me. Depending on who’s perspective on what I am engaged in I am hearing “be careful you could be fired for that” or “wow that is really good work.” The uncertainty mentioned earlier about what I can and cannot do has slowed me down. I am often not sure how many of the threats are actual or merely perceived. Interestingly, Anderson (2011) suggests that working through uncertainty stimulates creativity. Being slowed down is not a bad thing when new ideas are generated. Until I have something in writing from my institution I am operating on the uncomfortable premise that “they” support innovation, exploration and risk-taking. I just hope that I am not going to get an unwelcome surprise.
I started my Fellowship right after a strike. It was a difficult time to try and navigate. It took a long time to get approved for the fellowship because so much was happening and the concept of open education was unfamiliar to decision makers on campus. If I was starting my fellowship after Open Day I think it would have been a smoother process.
When I was approved for the fellowship it was clear that this was my own professional development and was not being officially endorsed. Now, with more clarity on what the fellowships are actually about I think there would be more acknowledgement of the volunteer work happening by advocates like us. It is possible that more in-kind institutional support would be available. In the end I was not truly alone.
Everything happens in Toronto. Well, at least that is how it can seem.
Over the last
Continue Awareness Building
I feel like a lot of effort is put into awareness building among those that are already on board with open education. The impact of building awareness on the future of open education with “newbies” is incredibly valuable to people like me who want to dive in head first. I think efforts to spread awareness of what open education could mean for students is the foundation for enabling anyone to actually do open education. With increased awareness comes better understanding. Understanding breeds support, dialogue and achievement of shared goals. Our goal, after all, is student success. Open education seems intuitive.
It is easy to feel pressured, but remember that openness is an invitation (Hayman, 2018). This view is my biggest
Acknowledge the Struggle
Advocacy and innovation, in general, can be difficult to navigate. Values that push us to remain committed to openness are personalised and influenced by our context (Jhangiani, 2019). Do not use others as a measure of your success – every context is different. People struggle and often hide it. Know that what you see online is filtered. I am guilty of filtering out the struggle in my blog posts out of fear of the implications. Educators who are committed to good pedagogy but are working in an institution experience tensions while pushing the
Think it Through
Good communication with your boss, colleagues and personal learning network are essential to successfully
Do not jeopardize student marks for an experiment. Just to be clear, I didn’t do that. I put a lot of thought into the pedagogical decisions made for each course. In the end, student marks didn’t suffer (just my “free” time). Put thought into every decision made in your construction of learning opportunities. Ask around what the implications may be. Ask what challenges may arise and how you may be able to navigate them.
Take time to reflect. Reflection is important for solidifying learning. Reflection allows us to process the world around us and make sense of our experiences in a way that informs future practice (Hall, 2018; Killeavy & Moloney, 2010). It doesn’t need to be in a blog. A lot of my reflection was not on a blog. In reflecting I noticed that a lot of my challenges were self-created or could have been mitigated with better communication. It may be hard to find time to reflect, but it is important. That is why conducting a full autoethnography will be therapeutic for me.
More About the Journey
When I went to collect data to analyse for the autoethnography I was surprised by how much I have to reflect on. This post serves as a starting point. Data are being gathered from personal reflections, blog posts, social media interactions, interviews (Creative Commons, 2018; Greene, 2018), videos, presentation materials, and course materials. Events and media that inform this analysis occurred between August 2017 and April 2019.
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