Open Master’s Framework

Credit: drouu on
Credit: drouu on

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. 

Digital Portfolios Meet Accreditation

So, I’m jumping right back into the ed tech fray in this new position. As always, I tend to assess things from two viewpoints- that of an educator and that of a learner.  I’ve had quite the personal learning saga trying to find an alternative path to licensure and graduate coursework, and it directly relates to how students today personalize their learning.

Coursera TFL2

This weekend, I enrolled in my first MOOC course through Coursera’s “Foundations of Teaching for Learning 2: Being a Teacher”. I did sign on and pay the $29 for the “Signature Track” option to test out this way of verifying online coursework. My plan is to complete the 6 course series and apply for the Commonwealth Education Trust certificate. Does that help here in the good ol’ US of A? Not yet, but I’m hopeful that we are on the path within Thompson School District to not only offer alternative routes to education for students, but also for professionals. (Read: I want my position and salary to reflect my expertise, not just a formal degree or certification.) There will be hurdles to overcome, but I think it is possible now within the innovation zone structure or charter school model.

Through the course discussion forums, I’ve been introduced to two online portfolio tools. The plan at E3 Learning CO to date has been to use WordPress for student portfolio development. I think that will still remain an important component of demonstrating and reflecting on learning, but I am excited about these online systems as a way to professionally package self-directed learning artifacts, MOOCs, and traditional education for both myself and students in the E³ program.

Accredible Julie CunninghamDegreed Julie CunninghamAccredible

  • Professional, resume-like profile view.
  • Showcases all kinds of learning- traditional, online, etc.
  • Uses and endorsement structure similar to LinkedIn.


  • Ability to log vast amounts of educational content import- degrees, MOOCs, online badges, books, articles, etc.
  • Gives ‘points’ for conferences and events, as well as more traditional learning modes.
  • Connects with  a comprehensive list of online learning sites like Khan Academy, Codeacademy, Coursera, and many more.

My major concern with the two sites is longevity. Will this be around long enough to support independent learners as they  progress through to the workforce? Will one or the other “win” out?

For now, I’m maintaining my own digital portfolio in triplicate- WordPress, Accredible, and Degreed. My personal favorite right now is Accredible because it bridges the gap between traditional and unconventional educational methods and allows learners to showcase both in a professional format that employers will be able to easily navigate.

Are you using any of these sites personally? Are you using them with students? Are you an employer comfortable hiring based on these portfolios?

Video Reflection

One of the things I’m learning from monika hardy @monk51295 is the value of using video as well as the written word in the process of learning and reflection.  As I begin to work with students on creating and presenting a quality digital portfolio, I’m realizing I need to add more media elements to my blog.  Here’s a brief clip from the Edmodo meet-up earlier this month: