Tuesday, 3 August 2010

open academic education: people with an open PhD and master? Yes, they do it!

Luckily for me the combination of procrastination and serendipity resulted in a wonderful, unexpected answer to a question that has been on my mind lately. Currently I am dabbling with the idea of a PhD. Although my mind keeps telling me to go for it, it also tells me to keep in mind to make a difference and not to accept 'a regular one'.

So I procrastinated by surfing through cloudscapes that were focusing on mobile learning. As I went through them I found Faridah Abdul Rashid, who teaches chemical pathology at the Universiti Sains in Malaysia and she mentioned she was into problem-based learning, using Moodle ... but what captured my eyes was her mentioning 'open PhD'. It certainly sounds very contemporary and attractive as a term.

After Google'ing 'open phd', I got directed to Lisa Chamberlin's blog. She is building a DIY PhD track, which really got me thinking. The concept of an open PhD is simple (well, simple on paper that is). What Lisa did was construct a course plan with credits, but combining courses from different educational institutions.

Lisa's blog got me to Leigh Blackall's blog on his open PhD, which is also in education focused on open education using popular media for networked learning. Leigh is a renowned open academic education advocate and yes, he is worth following (if you did not do so already, he is quite famous for his open thoughts it seems). Here are the posts referring to his open PhD and if you have the time, read up on his philosophy posts (great, really lovely mind food!).

Another link that was useful was the open Master that Parag Shah has built for himself and that will allow him to construct a master with topics that he knows will be useful to him. He published his plan for the DIY master on July 24th and you can follow his progress with the recently started master in the coursewiki he is keeping where he tells us why he takes this open course approach to construct a master in computer science (with a focus on web application development). Just like Lisa and Leigh he build a learning plan. Another incredibly smart thing Parag came up with, was to start an open posterous blog where he keeps his study notes. Why? to allow credits to be given to his knowledge creation (great idea!).

What these pioneers are doing feels much more comfortable and logical in this increasingly networked world, doesn't it! We could all benefit from this approach, also for the more formal learning we would like to follow. Setting up your own learning trajectory, sharing it along the way, discussing it with mentors and peers that have in-depth thoughts about the material, ... Yes, that looks much more in tune with what education can be like and how learning can become fun for everyone (or at least those who belief in DIY learning).

[The balloon picture is a file from the Wikimedia Commons. The description on its description page there. This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license. The picture was taken by Friedrich Böhringer ]