In school again

Grad School looks different yet the same as it did at that the Turn-of-the-Century

After sixteen-and-a-half years, I am learning as a student in a formal classroom setting again — back in graduate school. Why? Well, I’m enrolled in order to take care of capturing a certificate/license/credential that I did not gather earlier in my career since it just was not as important to me at that time as spending my time on elements of my job. As a result of changes in state law, I am now committed to 30 hours of additional graduate credit, including classes and internships, in order to complete that certificate. So, in addition to gaining that certificate, I’m also curious to see what it is like to be a student again and to see how my learning is different with the tools available to me — a Chromebook, a smartphone, Twitter, G Suite, etc. As I’ll explain below, my plan is to make this journey completely transparent over the next two years.

An effort to be authentic

About 1% of the way through seat time, it appears that there is a real commitment on the part of the faculty to ensure that the learning is meaningful and relevant for each learner in the class and cohort. Multiple times this evening, both professors have talked about the importance of personalizing learning and the importance of ensuring that the projects we are doing provide opportunities to learn real skills and real content in a real context. I want to give credit for this focus to the State of Illinois (for real — pretty amazing given what goes on here related to education policy and funding) as well as to the faculty at Northern Illinois University, who have taken the parameters given to them by the State and worked to design work that will lead to success in the field.

Two years from now, I may or may not feel differently about whether or not the learning experiences have been authentic, but at this earliest of stages of this path through graduate school, credit should be given for the efforts made in this direction.

Language of graduate school

From the use of the word “heuristic” and “corollary” in conversation to two handbooks of 78 and 99 pages respectively, graduate school truly has its own culture, norms, and language.

There are lots of slides, and the slides have lots of words. I happen to like the content of the slides, so it is really a non-issue for me, but it flies in the face of how current design trends suggest “good” slides look (and even then we should still ask about the role of slides in learning at all).

I think about how many of my current and former students were the first ones in their families to attend college, let alone graduate school. If studies through graduate school are actually important and/or if a graduate degree is going to be necessary for a student to achieve credentials for a career, they will have to be able to navigate this world. That will not come naturally.

Even with a PhD., returning to graduate school requires re-learning the current systems and norms, and it is truly its own world. Unsurprisingly, the language of graduate school has not changed.

Authentic audience

If I’m going to do this work and I’m going to create new information — whether it is my own reflection, a summary of others’ research, or my own original research, it’s final resting place will not be in Blackboard, where it can only be seen by a professor or two or my classmates. Rather, I will publish my learning for the world.

Will the world want it? Maybe (probably) not.

Will I do better work if I know that I’m sharing it with a (potentially) real audience? Absolutely.

So, everything I create for graduate school to be turned-in will also be published here. I am very excited to get feedback and comments and questions and learn from my classmates in this cohort. I’m also very excited to try to get reactions from others near and far by publishing my work broadly.

Keep reading

Reflection #1 is due next week. Watch this space for that.

I’ve heard SO many stories about the use of LMSs like Blackboard in higher ed. Now, I get to experience it firsthand.