Office of Open Learning…here I come!


Back in January, I blogged about constructing my identity as a researcher. At the time, I was transitioning into my role as the Distance Education Course Development Coordinator at the Odette School of Business after having worked as an Assistant Professor in the Faculty of Education. Now I am making yet another transition to serve in The Office of Open Learning at the University of Windsor!

Effective September 1st, 2014, I will join the small but mighty team in The Office of Open Learning as the Online and Blended Learning Specialist. I am excited to be part of this team led by Dr. Alan Wright, Vice-Provost Teaching and Learning and Acting Director, Professor Nick Baker. The other team members include Alicia Higgison, Adam Wright, and Tim Ackerson, whom I have had the pleasure of working with at Odette over the past few months.

Over the past year, I balanced part-time work at Odette, sessional teaching in Education, and contract work through Problemshift Inc. Juggling three (or more) jobs was taxing. No pain, no gain. I learned a lot from my sojourn in Business. In addition to my regular duties, I served as a member of the Assurance of Learning Task Force for AACSB accreditation, where I liaised with the dean, associate dean, undergraduate and graduate program directors, and other faculty members of the task force. I contributed to a couple of grants. I serve on a committee for a couple of MBA student major papers. In Education, I taught 2 graduate courses (E-learning and Education and Interpersonal Relationships in Education) and 1 undergraduate course (Learning with Technologies). For contract work, I contribute to program development on a graduate-level diploma on online teaching and learning.  These were excellent professional development experiences for me and all stepping stones to my new faculty position in the Office of Open Learning.

My new position is truly a dream come true for a design-based researcher such as myself. That is an academic identity that I am attuned to! More broadly, I am an intervention researcher using mixed methods. I am really looking forward to the opportunities to collaborate closely with faculty, staff, and students to design creative open and online teaching and learning environments that improve student learning experiences at the University of Windsor. I will build on the collaborations that I have been developing across disciplinary units at the University for the past three years.

At a theoretical level, it is thrilling to be able to iteratively refine, in a principled way, designs of instruction and technology in collaboration with instructors and students to improve student learning in technology-enhanced classrooms and online courses. I recently attended the Institute for Knowledge Innovation and Technology Summer Institute 2014 in Quebec City. It was great to reconnect with knowledge building colleagues and to be inspired by innovative theory, technology and pedagogy there. The Knowledge Building community has always been on the cutting edge, and it was reassuring to realize that the rest of the world is finally starting to appreciate, for example, the research-based designs of formative assessment tools that are built in to Knowledge Forum to facilitate learning analytics and teacher dashboards to support knowledge creation.

At a practical level, it is a huge relief to move back to being a design-based researcher working with teachers instead of being an action researcher conducting research the classes that I teach. My doctoral research and postdoctoral research allowed me to facilitate professional development of graduate students and inservice teachers, but now I may be able to contribute to the academic development of faculty. In an early career workshop at CSCL 2011, Frank Fischer and Cindy Hmelo-Silver suggested that more learning sciences research needs to be conducted in higher education. At the time, I was not sure if this was the research direction I wanted to pursue, but now I will have the opportunity to really delve into this strand of research, in collaboration with content knowledge experts in fields (e.g. biology) in which I have some background and with developers (i.e. computer science students). Cool!

On a personal level, it is truly a great feeling to be a faculty member again. I always wanted to be a faculty member. As an researcher rather than a certified elementary or secondary teacher, I felt that I was not limited to being a faculty member in the Faculty of Education. A couple of senior mentors suggested that I consider a more central or university-level position, given my expertise in learning and technology. Being a Learning Specialist in the Office of Open Learning might just be the right fit for me. I am really looking forward to advancing innovative open, online and blended teaching and learning at the University of Windsor!


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