Open Master’s Framework

Credit: drouu on sxc.hu
Credit: drouu on sxc.hu

Three years ago, I tried to find a way to make a graduate education that would work for the system. I didn’t want to become a traditional teacher, so a traditional program was not an option. I wanted to become an expert in personalized and self-directed learning. I discovered very quickly that the education system frowns on this kind of creativity and outside-the-box thinking. Who would hire me without a teaching license? How does one interpret an innovative learning experience for a very traditional system? Would I forever be considered a non-certified minion? How would I gain the financial advantages of my increased expertise?

It was enough to make me leave the system altogether and continue learning on my own without a defined purpose. I spent part of a year in a private school where the experiential learning was invaluable. I spent another part of a year homeschooling using project based learning methods. I spent another part of a year learning about and using Colorado Calvert Academy (online charter school) for my own children. Which leads me to the present.

I am currently working in an innovative program that facilitates self-directed learning paths for students. I love it! It combines my passion for technology, information literacy, and self-directed education into one amazing experience. It has also reopened the worlds of Twitter (didn’t have much to say for a few years, quite honestly) and online learning for my own professional development. I’m taking a MOOC course. I’m building an online digital portfolio…. three places- since I’m not certain how long these providers will be around or which one will become the industry standard. Much of this I am doing because I need to experience it in order to help students navigate their educational path.

This time around, I’m approaching this a little differently. Rather than getting all “edupunk for hire”, I’m trying to exhibit one of the values I think I missed last time- to work within the system, but not cater to the system.  If we are telling students “yes” to alternative paths to education, we certainly should be telling professionals “yes”. As adults, do we really need someone else to ‘stamp’ our learning by paying a university to certify our work? When can learners just exhibit knowledge- similar to a competency based approach- to employers? Is there a less expensive, less invasive way to verify Master’s level work? What needs to change in our education system so that non-traditional students can breathe life into a system that desperately needs it? Do we hire them into charter schools or innovation zones? If a traditional school district wouldn’t hire based on a self-directed learning portfolio, who would?  What are my options?

Lots of questions. No answers. I am encouraged to see Jonathan’s work at Degree of Freedom (@degreeoffree) and Alan Webb’s through the Open Master’s group (@openmasters). I think these guys are on to something, and I look forward to seeing some new pathways forged for those of us seeking an alternative to traditional higher education. I think this article, The Owner and the Renter in Education, is a profound component of this open education equation.

These are the Master’s programs I am considering adapting. I do understand that I don’t know what I don’t know, and I would like to find an existing structure or two to create my Master’s framework. I want to have a well-rounded experience blended with a specialization in self-directed learning.

Any thoughts? Do you know of another innovative program I should review? Are you enrolled in one of these programs? Do you teach in one of them? I covet your feedback and thoughts. Please share. 

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