Blog Post 4 – Tech and Innovation in Higher Ed

In an article on the Inside Higher Ed website, Dr. Joshua Kim continued the conversation around MOOCs and how “Professors Have Taken Over the MOOCs”, as his article is titled. In his opening statement, he states that he believes people need to start opening their minds to what MOOCs can do; as the  Director of Digital Learning Initiatives at the Dartmouth Center for the Advancement of Learning, Dr. Kim has experience in the rise of “disruptive” media such as MOOCs, and I found his perspective to be one that I could relate to.

A little background about my own life experiences: when I finished my undergraduate degree, I didn’t have the money to immediately continue my education. I took a gap year to work locally and save money to pursue my masters, but felt the need and the desire to keep learning. I personally relied on MOOCs (specifically, I used this website) to expand my knowledge in certain areas, because I couldn’t afford to simply enroll in a local community college class. By having access to a free, easily accessible classes on things like digital marketing and grant writing, I was able to add to my own education as well as improve my performance at the job I had (I was a development and marketing assistant for a non-profit at the time). However, with this personal experience with MOOCs I had not yet considered how individuals in the Higher Education field may feel about access to free education, and I quickly learned that not everybody was as big of a fan as I was.

Dr. Kim’s article outlined that professors had a widely held belief that MOOCs were “just another overhyped educational technology”, but that he wanted to introduce a new perspective. Rather than look at MOOCs as disruptive to traditional university education, they could be used as a resource for educators themselves to have a say in the narrative. Rather than turn away in disgust of this everyday level education, Dr. Kim suggests that “professors want to teach open online courses for the same reason that they teach traditional courses, write articles and books and opinion pieces, and give talks to diverse audiences”, saying that MOOCs are “another platform to share their love of their discipline, their passion for the methods and concepts in their field, and their own contributions to growing knowledge in their area of scholarship”.

I really loved that perspective, and it made me feel a little better about utilizing the resources myself. After all, if we only value education that breaks the bank, so to speak, we are turning our backs on a large amount of different perspectives, experiences, and really cool learning opportunities. I think that higher education can sometimes have a pretentious undertone that really holds students and educators back, and by embracing MOOCs the way that Dr. Kim suggests, faculty can share their knowledge with people who otherwise would not have access to education in a traditional setting.

As I’ve discussed in previous blog posts, isn’t it our job as educators to teach, after all? Why should we restrict our expertise to specific groups, and what gives us the right to decide who “deserves” education? I for one agree with Dr. Kim’s emphasis on “the devotion and commitment of professors”, because while I recognize how higher education creates stable income for faculty, I also recognize that going to college is not an achievable goal for everybody. I for one have enjoyed classes the most when the instructor was engaged and truly loved the material they were teaching, so by having these kinds of professors create their own content for a larger audience, I think we could all benefit. Personally, I would love to be involved in MOOCs from the other side, and I hope that these continue to spread knowledge and opportunities to individuals everywhere, regardless of circumstance.

 

Blog Post 3- Open Access Research

This week’s readings on open access really opened my eyes to the world of easily accessible research for everybody. One particular subject that intrigued me was the conversation surrounding the intersection between social media and higher education. I know that I personally follow most of the Virginia Tech Facebook pages and twitter handles that relate to my own graduate experience. I feel like these routes encourage learning in “down time”, or when students are not currently engaged in academia for a grade. For example, I found myself reading an article about environmental conservation that was shared online, regardless of the fact that my own research is not related. I think the open sharing of research is extremely beneficial to the academic world, and may even encourage people to stop being so anal about their own findings.

The journal I chose to look at was the American Communication Journal, the Summer 2017 issue (Volume 19, Issue 2). It is registered with the Library of Congress, and focuses on communication analysis in an open access format. Their website states that the journal was  “commissioned by the American Communication Association’s Board of Directors in 1996”.

The following statement is on their “Aim and Scope” page of the website:
“The American Communication Journal (ACJ) is the official publication of the American Communication Association (ACA). ACJ is committed to publishing interdisciplinary scholarship on communication. Appreciating the diversity of research agendas and methodologies in the study of communication, the Editorial Board of ACJ welcome submissions on any topic related to the discipline.”

I took this to mean that the journal’s scope is wide reaching, with a focus on the journal connecting readers across a wide variety of subjects within the communication field. Likewise, I like how the goal of diversity was highlighted in the statement.

Overall, the journal does not go into too much detail about what open access is; the only statement I could find was with information on copywriting, “The ACJ is dedicated to the open exchange of information. ACJ is freely available to individuals and institutions. Copies of this journal of articles in this journal may be distributed for research or educational purposes free of charge and without permission.”

I really appreciated how the journal provides research in an open access format simply because they believe it’s the right thing to do, and encourage other to do so as well. In a perfect world, I would hope that open access could loosen the pressures surrounding professors needed to publish the “hot, new research” in the field. Instead of hiding stimulus materials or data pools, individuals could collaborate for the greater good.

Blog Post 2- Ethical Gray Areas & The Need for Perfection

I was excited about this week’s topic, as I am currently enrolled in GRAD 5014: Academic Integrity and Plagiarism. This class (which I highly recommend!) has given me what I like to consider a crash course in ethics, particularly navigating the “gray areas” that can appear in scholarship fields. Phrases like “academic bullying” were not familiar to me, and I felt like the class really has opened my eyes to the work of academic integrity as it pertains to GTA’s, students, and faculty.

The National Association of Communication released a code of ethics in 1999 that I feel outlines expectations clearly. It can be found here, and some of my favorite highlights are the emphasis on ethical teaching, the importance of integrity in research and publications, and the development of professional relationships within and outside of the field.

Ethics can feel like a confusing area for those who have not studied the terminology- take academic bullying, for example. I have a friend in another department who has told me that on multiple occasions, her superior has required her to stay late for work without compensation, since it is “for a grade”. She feels such pressure to do whatever she is told for fear that her grade will be affected or her supervisor will spread rumors about how she is “a bad student”, or “lazy”. Until I had the words for it, I just considered this to be weird behavior from another department that left a bad taste in my mouth- however after learning about academic bullying, I had a conversation with her about what her rights as a student and as a student employee were. I feel like this should be outlined clearly not only to students (we discussed it a bit in GTA training), but also to faculty! Some may feel like that’s just the way it is, because that’s how their own experience was. However, students should NEVER be made to feel that they have to do something they are uncomfortable with for fear of being reprimanded academically or gossiped about by superiors. Faculty needs to promote ethical behavior, scholarly integrity, and professional standards by educating themselves, educating their students, and upholding those standards even when it’s difficult or easier to look the other way.

(Found on the VT website) 

When I visited the ORI website (which I’m embarrassed to admit was my first time!), I was intrigued to find some updates on an educational project they launched in 2017. In addition to the various written cases of academic misconduct, they have developed Video Case Studies that give the viewer a more personal experience in the world of research integrity. I found this so interesting because in the Academic Integrity class, one of our most recent assignments included an interactive case study in which you could actually choose the next action to take and watch the resulting fallout. For example, I decided to play the “game” as the ORI officer at the fictional university, and was surprised when a decision I made about halfway through the game led to a huge roadblock! It really helped me see how important the ORI officer’s job is, as well as educating myself on proper policies and smart ways to talk about suspicions of research misconduct. All in all, I think this is a great resource that the ORI website provides, and I feel it would be really helpful in future trainings.