January 23, 2017

I just found out about #OpenLearning17: A Connectivist MOOC for Faculty Collaboratives. Since I’m already on a quest to learn more about open education as I revise one of my primary courses, I figured I’d give it a whirl. To be quite honest, I have no idea what a faculty collaborative is :). It sounds interesting though, doesn't it? Must look that up. 

In this week 1 video conversation between Gardner Campbell and Laura Gogia, the topic turns to what causes people who have not been involved in connected learning to jump in. Being on the precipice myself, I thought I’d reflect on that a bit.

gren sunflower calyx on wooden board

What’s stopping me from embracing openness in my teaching & scholarship?

One thing that has stopped me is the vulnerability of posting publicly online – by sharing blog posts (like this…yeek!), tweeting and such. I don’t necessarily want to deal with trolls or combative commenters, particularly when I am still learning my way around a new platform/field/concept. (This also relates to the whole ‘I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT I’M TALKING ABOUT so I should probably keep my mouth shut’ concept.) I know that I’m easily thrown off course and sensitive, and that’s one thing that holds me back.

Another daunting task is making connections online. Many of my “real life” colleagues and peers do not populate the same spaces as me online, and I’m not good about jumping in to conversations or groups in the virtual world.

(NOTE: I did actually comment on another blog as part of this course today. Super proud of myself.)

Lastly, it ain’t easy. In the sciences in particular, I feel like there are some limitations to openness that may not exist in the same way in humanities classes. I struggle with this. For example, students in my classes need to learn about kidney physiology because they could potentially be creating your meal plan when you’re on dialysis. When we have openness and choice, what happens if they don’t learn about the nephron? Is it entirely open if I insist that everyone have a basic understanding of the nephron? How do we have a single open class in a degree program that isn’t necessarily entirely open?

What pushes me forward?

1) I am nothing if not experimental. I love trying new things in my teaching and can see the possibility that lies in connectivist/open teaching practices.

2) I see the need for more affordable and accessible resources for my students, especially those who struggle to pay for textbooks and course materials and/or those who learn best by methods other than textbook readings.

3) I want to create open access resources, and want to learn more about what’s involved in that.

Note to My Future Self

In the reading for #OpenLearning17 this week – Fifty Shades of Open – the authors discuss the idea of open as participatory. If I’m reading correctly, they are saying that there is no reason to have open source, open access, open permissions or open whatever else if people are not going to USE that openness to shape the tool or resource into something new, something their own. The openness is pointless without people who have the desire and ability to manipulate and use the material.

This had me reflecting on the idea that if/when I create a truly open course, the students will need to participate in ways that may feel different or challenging to them. Most are not used to being asked to manipulate and transform material, but rather are accustomed to consuming it whole (absorption before digestion, one might say?). In the same ways that I feel challenged to post my thoughts publicly and to engage with others online in this course, students may feel reluctant and/or scared to engage in new ways in my theoretical future course.

I hope this is something I can keep in mind, even in ten or fifteen years when I will (presumably!?) be well-versed in the ways of openness.

About Camille Freeman, LDN, RH (she/her)

Hi there! I'm a clinical herbalist and licensed nutritionist specializing in fertility and menstrual health. I run the Monday Mentoring community of practice and also offer continuing education programs for highly-trained herbalists and nutritionists (Check out this year's Deep Dive!). I'm also a professor in the Department of Nutrition at the Maryland University of Integrative Health, where I teach physiology, pathophysiology, and mindful eating.

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