My three years of study at Athabasca University (AU) have been part of a transition, from a computer professional to a designer and teacher of computing courses. I chose to MEd program to gain the skills necessary to help me learn to move learning on-line.
My original learning goals were the skills needed to undertake quantitative research. My aim was to examine the questions:
- Do on-line and conventional classroom courses produce different outcomes?
- Are there differences in learning outcomes for students in different countries undertaking the same on-line course?
The intention was to convince my university colleagues that e-learning was a viable alternative to classroom teaching, and I was competent in the discipline.
Why I Chose the Athabasca University M.Ed. Program
After nineteen years working as a computer professional for the Australian Government, in 1999 I became a self-employed computer consultant. My plan was to undertake short projects, providing advice to organizations about their computer strategies. This work would involve extended periods of time working alone in my home office in Canberra and brief periods at client's offices.
To keep my skills up and provide continuity, I volunteered to help at the computer science department of a Canberra university. In return for a desk and status as academic staff, I would help supervise student projects and gave an occasional seminar. However, I found myself drawn to teaching and to the issue of how to use computer technology for learning. From 1999 to 2008 I gave occasional guest lectures alongside my consulting work. At this time I thought of real education happening in a classroom, with a teacher at the front. However, in 2008, I was contracted to design an on-line course, as part of a graduate program for computer professionals. The program used a standard template for courses, with a weekly text-based discussion forum using Moodle, adapting techniques from the Open University UK (OUUK) for professional education. Since then I have been teaching computer students on-line using Moodle, part time. A third of my students are from China and India, in Australia on work or study visas.
Studying for an Education Certificate On-line
In 2011, I enrolled in a Graduate Certificate in Higher Education, which is the minimum teaching qualification Australian university academic staff are expected to have. Due to my interest in e-learning, as part of this, I undertook two on-line courses at the University of Southern Queensland (USQ). USQ is similar to Athabasca University: located in a small inland city, but delivering on-line courses nationally and internationally.
This study paid off: I had less difficulty with planning and delivering courses and student feedback scores were high. However, my academic colleagues remained skeptical about e-learning and my competence to provide it. I thought more study might help.
Choosing an M.Ed. Program
In 2013, most graduate education programs in Australia were for classroom-based school teachers, not on-line university instructors. The obvious places to study internationally were OUUK and Athabasca University, so I inquired with both. Athabasca was quicker to reply, more friendly and flexible, so I enrolled.
From the start, I have been keeping a journal. My first post:
"... So far everything looks very familiar, with Athabasca using the same e-learning and e-portfolio software I am used to. The course materials are well laid out and look very much like those I have read (and written) before. But there is a risk in thinking it will, therefore, be easy.
... I am worried about how I am going to work in a group on-line internationally (there appear to be no other Australian students) ..."
From: "Starting as a Student at University," 7 January 2014, 4:17 PM
I need not have worried about being the only Australian, as I had much in common with the Canadian students. We were all mature age entrants, who already had one career, many like myself, in government.
Courses in the Program
|1||MDDE 601 - Intro to Distance Ed./Training||04/2014|
|2||MDDE 602 - Research Methods in Dist. Educ||07/2014|
|3||MDDE 603 - Foundations of Instr Design||12/2014|
|4||MDDE 604 - Instructional Design in D.E.||04/2015|
|5||MDDE 605 - Planning & Management in DE||07/2015|
|6||MDDE 622 - Openness in Education||07/2015|
|7||MDDE 623 - Introduction-Mobile Learning||12/2015|
|8||MDDE 614 - International Issues||04/2016|
|9||MDDE 617 - Program Evaluation in DE||07/2016|
|10||MDDE 610 - Introduction to Technology in DE & Training||Current|
|11||MDDE 694 - E-Portfolio||Current|
Artifacts Selected and Rationale
Four of the five objects were chosen from the core courses of the MEd, as these provide a greater coverage of the six competency areas. The artifacts are presented in the order produced, as this follows my development as a learner. The first artifact (MDDE 601, Assignment 3) illustrates the issues with being an international student, both as such a student myself and what I learned from this about the experience of my international students. The second artifact (MDDE 602, Research Methods in Distance Education, Assignment 4) raises the issues of being a research versus coursework student, which was a central theme in my studies.
The fifth artifact is from an elective course much later in my studies (MDDE 623, Introduction to Mobile Learning, Assignment 4). By this time I had come to terms with the process of being a student. I was able to integrate what I had learned previously and apply it to a practical application (m-learning design).
- MDDE 601 - Intro to Distance Ed./Training 04/2014
- MDDE 602 - Research Methods in Dist. Educ 07/2014
- MDDE 603 - Foundations of Instr Design 12/2014
- MDDE 604 - Instructional Design in D.E. 04/2015
- MDDE 605 - Planning & Management in DE 07/2015
- MDDE 622 - Openness in Education 07/2015
- MDDE 623 - Introduction-Mobile Learning 12/2015
- MDDE 614 - International Issues 04/2016
- MDDE 617 - Program Evaluation in DE 07/2016
- MDDE 610 - Introduction to Technology in DE & Training (Current)
- MDDE 694 - E-Portfolio (Current)