Week #7: Online Self-Directed Learning Schools

By Feras, Michael and Menghan

Welcome to Week 7! 

This week, you will learn self-guided learning by focusing on online self-directed learning schools. Our purpose is to provide an in-depth analysis and think about the online self-directed learning school market by introducing SDL through the definition and fundamentals, as well as fully comprehending the present state of SDL and the differences between conventional and SDL schools.

Week 7 OER Website: Online Self-directed Learning Schools

As you progress through the OER, there is a small number of activities we ask you to participate in:

For the last activity, you may post your response on the blog below (the instructions are below and also in our OER). We suggest working through our OER before participating in the final activity. Feel free to explore the OER at your own pace. However, it is highly recommended that you do the final activity a few days before the start of Week 8 so that more time is allowed for peer discussions.

Enjoy!


( Average Rating: 4.5  )

33 responses to “Week #7: Online Self-Directed Learning Schools”

  1. Siobhán McPhee
    Great website and I learned a lot thanks. To a certain extent I do agree with your group that SDL can be offered to all ages and educational levels. That said I would maintain that at elementary and high school levels there still needs to be a lot of structure and guidance for students. Children and teens function best within a framework (Semenov & Zelazo 2019) – this does not mean that this structure has to be rigid or have the teacher be in control of every moment of the learning day. The need for this framework, albeit it flexible, is that children and teens need to develop the soft skills and discipline needed to be able to be responsible for self-directed learning. SDL should therefor be introduced incrementally throughout the K-12 educational system enabling students to build on the skills. I observe too many students arrive in post secondary education with no ability to organize their time or manage their learning, and this is still within a fairly rigid university framework. More and more employers are looking for soft skills rather than ‘content-based skills’ and introducing SDL in a structured incrementally way would facilitate this.
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    1. michael orlandi
      Hi, Siobhán Thanks for your reply. We felt like SDL is a fairly hot topic in education, and that is why our OER eventually leads to the potential of a fully online SDL school. It wasn’t necessarily something we thought was the way education should be, but more so an idea of what might be coming down the pipeline. Personally, I agree with you in that SDL should be introduced incrementally, with ultimately preparing students for the skills of post secondary and future careers. I try to do this in my teaching. I teach shop class and one of the big ideas is to have students think logically about what they are making, and how they can make future projects. When students come from middle school it is often a struggle to introduce this. They often have a habit of copying what the teacher does, plugging the project in, pressing the green button and pulling down on a lever. I’m trying to break that habit, by asking them to set up to machine and think about why they are doing it. I think your opinion of how SDL should be incorporated will be a popular amongst our class.
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  2. shaun holma
    Hi week 7 team, Just wanted to let you know that your bottom navigation has become out-of-sorts. The pages are there but not in the order of the main menu. It makes it easy to miss a section or an activity. Other than that, I thought your presentation was well-organized and informative. You used several tools to aid in the process of learning while adding a participatory element to it. I do question why you used Knowles in your opening quote to frame your presentation. From what I know of his work, his focus was on andragogy and he argued the differences that exist between adult learners and younger learners. In light of this, you may have chosen to separate the andragogical assumptions of adult learners from the pedagogical principles of non-adult learners in presenting SDL. Now onto your question about the MET program being completely online and self-directed. I think the program is quite valuable in and of itself. But, as with most things in life, you get out what you put in. Learners in this program should be eager and ready to learn. They should be prepared to succeed. I don’t think this is always the case. I also think the MET program provides an excellent opportunity for learners to apply their experiences to the learning process. This tells me that the program recognizes that I, as a learner, have gained valuable experiences in my life and they are most definitely different though no more valuable than those experiences of my peers. It is with this recognition, then, a community of learners can share and promote ideas which in turn results in a richer learning experience. Further, I think the content is well organized in each course and matches their respective objectives. Having such an organized environment affords learners to accurately diagnose a learning plan to meet their learning needs. Finally, I note the practicability of the program. Each of the 10 courses I have taken throughout the MET is unique in its expectations. This, not surprisingly, leads to the employment of a variety of assessments that I have undergone. By successfully tackling these assessments, I have gained a heightened sense of confidence and empowerment on several fronts. I want to conclude by saying that your presentation is an important topic. I think SDL, though having far-reaching consequences, is not practiced enough by the average learner. By providing an understanding of good practices and motivational drive, as you have done in this presentation, is extremely useful at this time.
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    1. michael orlandi
      Hi Shaun, Thank you for mentioning the navigation buttons were not in proper order. It should be fine now. Everything you mention about the MET program I agree with. As a shop teacher, I can say with confidence that there are not many of us around. So I definitely agree with your statement that the MET program lets individuals apply their experiences to the learning process. I have been doing that since I started the program. You clearly see more benefit in the current MET program then our hypothetical online self directed masters in education. Fair enough. But do you see any reason for our hypothetical masters program to exist at all? It doesn’t have to be your first choice of a masters to take.
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      1. shaun holma
        Michael, indeed I see the worth of an online program if you are talking about a hypothetical SDL master’s program. A hypothetical program would likely benefit by following a similar format as the MET program. In line with what I alluded to in my original posting, I believe it’s important to have learners in the program who can demonstrate they are eager and ready to learn. Moreover, the program itself should be able to provide learners with opportunities to apply their experiences as they learn, consist of curriculum and content that is organized, and finally include practical components. These points are aligned with Knowles’s assumptions of adult learners.
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  3. SallyB
    Hello Feras, Michael and Menghan! (et al.) As I was going through your presentation, “The Fundamentals” of SDL reminded me of an infographic I made recently to represent Perry’ Scheme of Cognitive Development: https://create.piktochart.com/output/53026566-perrys-scheme (Note: It is intended to be viewed from bottom to top, which seemed like a good idea at the time.) The four stages of self-directed learning you’ve shared directly align with Perry’s Scheme, and these stages really resonated. The reading I did to inform the infographic aligns with Siobhán’s observations about student’s entering post secondary with little ability to organize their time or manage their learning. One of the sources for my infographic stated that 2/3 of students enter college at the “dualism” level, which is equivalent to your “Stage 1 – dependent learner”. It’s too bad there aren’t (more?) public schools that promote and scaffold this critical 21st century skill. Philly Free school sounds AMAZING! I love how transparent their sliding scale tuition is, and the support for tuition assistance. LASTLY, I wanted to respond to your question about a Masters of Education being self-directed and completely online: WELL- when I was researching which Masters program to apply to, a close 2nd was StFX’s “Adult Education Masters” (https://www.stfx.ca/academics/education), which is “… tailored to your interests – students design and implement their own content curriculum.” I met with someone from StFX to discuss, and I remember being quite intrigued … but I can’t recall many details about how the program actually works…something about creating a reading list comes to mind. So I guess online, self directed masters of education programs do (successfully) exist, and I would be very curious to know more about who chooses them, why they chose them, and what number of graduates they have compared to more traditional program models.
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    1. michael orlandi
      Hi Sally, Thank you for sharing your infographic and mentioning the “adult education masters” out of StFX. I had never heard of this program. I took a quick look through the website (very quick, so I can be wrong here….), but it looks like it is made up of core courses and your electives are self-directed. Nonetheless, pretty cool. It is still closer to anything I found that is online and fully self directed. Again, thank for sharing! You and Siobhán’s observations were similar to many that I found on SDL in general. Low motivation, SDL readiness not there yet, etc. The 21st century skill you allude to should be taught more in schools. The BC curriculum has focus point that lead to SDL. I literally has a conversation today with a student about how it is my job to provide him with skills, such as SDL, even in his woodworking class. His response was “your suppose to teach me to build stuff.” It’s an ongoing battle…
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  4. Josh Wood
    Feras, Michael and Menghan, thank you for your work to create this resource. I enjoyed working through your content/activities, as they allowed me to reflect on my own experiences with SDL. To answer your second discussion prompt, I have enjoyed the MET program and have been impressed with the overall quality of both courses and students. As with any type of SDL, student motivation is key to success. I do appreciate that if you put in significant time and effort, you will be rewarded with equally high-quality learning. I believe another strength of the MET program is the selection of courses that are available to students. This allows the experience to be customised based on student strengths, interests and future aspirations.
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    1. Menghan Guo
      Hi Josh, thank you for replying and I’m glad you enjoy our content. I completely agree with your points of view. Motivation is a critical psychological concept in education, particularly for SDL students. It is also important for instructors to provide guidance and feedback to students in order to keep them motivated.
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  5. luke pereira
    This was great insight into SDL as i do consider myself a post secondary student, albeit a late bloomer. The era of learning in which we live in has changed drastically from the strong hold notion of on what is taught from high schools to academia. To your question on the MET program, while courses were more focused on teachers and high school, I found ways to scale up what I learned towards adult learning in my training and development at my work. I do appreciate the choices available to create my own curriculum based on my strengths and interests, including in my career background. I do think what is missing is accessibility, which should be embedded in learning early on, to be able to accommodate those interested in SDL but hampered by disabilities. While at my work, we do put out a lot of SDL training at the end of the day for professional development, there has to be quality of content creation, to allow for engagement, retaining, and application of learned knowledge, especially when we talk about AODA, bias and anti-racism training for staff at the University. While we do have instructors hired to teach these sessions, having self guided learning reaches out to more audiences across the campuses. Hence, the quality of transferring content from instructor learning to SDL requires careful curation to make sure ideas and concepts are not lost when creating self guided learning.
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    1. michael orlandi
      You bring up a very good point with accessibility, Luke. This could have been a page on its own in our OER and on reflection, maybe it should have been. The topics you bring up can not be misunderstood. When we think of SDL, regardless of it being completely online, a common response is students will go out on their own and not grasp an important topic, or miss it completely from their studies. I always relate things back to trades because that is my background. When we were in complete shutdown from COVID an area of education that was not fully remote was trades training (at least in the institutions I know of). The idea of a carpenter doing self directed work online for their roofing unit is pretty ridiculous to me. It is something that can not be misinterpreted. Obviously the same goes for the topics you mention. And if we must do it online, curation is of the utmost importance. Great point, Luke.
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      1. luke pereira
        Hi Michael, nice to see you in class! the point you made about a trades person actually doing online training is hard for me to comprehend. I just put up an wooden awning at my place and was on youtube trying to figure it out! #failedmath. Similarly in our institutions, we have chemistry and biology labs that sometimes do need physical teachers or instructors around for face to face medium of teaching or even students that need special attention or more hands-on in class. While online learning and SDL are great, it’s not meant for everyone and unless we come up with some new tech of being transported (VR) into a classroom, we have to settle on traditional ways of learning. We cannot afford to blanket new and various types of online learning globally because of the uniqueness of each student and their learning habits and environment. Ps: I though my last course was in the winter for my cert, but got roped in to finish out the degree! I’m a perpetual student it seems!
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  6. Adrian Granchelli
    HI SDL team, Great OER. I definitely partake in self guided learning for DIY projects all the time. Self-guided learning also got me to reflect with regards to podcasts. I regularly listen to some podcast programs that are demonstrably educational – does that constitute self-guided learning? This would be similar to reading an educational book or watching an educational show. This practice contains some aspects of self-directed learning such as motivation and valid/reliable sources but lacks the other aspects of goal setting and assessing knowledge.
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    1. Adrian Granchelli
      I have not yet taken ETEC 580 but am at the moment designing my ETEC 580 course for September. So far I have found it to a surprising amount of work before the course even ‘starts’ in order to outline the learning goals, select the content, and develop the assessments. That being said, I am definitely motivated by the topic matter.
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      1. Feras Alachek
        Hi Adrian I think all those activities you have mentioned fall under the same category of SDL, and there are many other routines that do not seem like SDL, but they are. Mike has had the ETEC 580, he noted that it is almost completely SDL designed and catered. Based on your initial description, it seems that this SDL design of ETEC 580 lays a great responsibility on the learners’ shoulders, and that’s why it is highly self-customized and autonomous. I believe that SDL design of university courses allows having the ball in the learner’s court. That’s great power and a lot of work (as you mentioned) for they need to meet their expectations with their capabilities. To that end, building strong learner qualities such as grit, teamwork, and perseverance is a priority in SDL schools.
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  7. tiffany ku
    Hi Feras, Michael and Menghan, thank you for the informative resource you have put together for us. I especially appreciated the introductions to various platforms that support SDL as there were a couple on there I was not familiar with. I would say I practice self directed learning regularly in my various interests and passions, where curiosity usually draws my path. Fostering curiosity in my students is something I have been working on, because that is the first step towards engaging in independent learning. I love giving self-guided projects (with some structure) so I always have to walk them through how to do one in the beginning of the year, and the learning curve is usually steep. We practice how to ask questions, how to make observations, how to find information, and how to reflect. It takes me pretty much the whole semester! Due to how instant and accessible information is today, I am finding that students are sometimes reliant on being spoon-fed instant information and then stopping there with the information, because if they needed to know more they would “just google it”. In answering your questions, I have not taken ETEC 580 though I am considering taking it in 2022 and would love to hear other’s opinions on it. I agree with Josh that with MET and really any self-directed learning program, you get what you put into it. What I enjoy most about this program is its flexibility- being able to choose courses from a wide range of topics and subjects to suit my many interests, because being able to do so fuels my motivation to engage better and apply more.
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    1. Feras Alachek
      Hi Tiffany I personally see no harm in “Googling things” as you can see information and data is almost completely accessible and free to everyone. There is a saying that goes “Knowledge is power”, but I think that knowledge is not an issue anymore, but awareness and what you can do with knowledge. I agree with you that some students can be overdependent on certain sources around them, but this is where SDL methods come in handy to teach students to be responsible for their learning experience and feel that they have control over their school journey, and their decisions define how much benefit they acquire along the way. However, I still suppose that the MET program is not ‘fully’ SD as the pace, scores, deadlines and other aspects are still controlled by UBC. Perhaps for specialized courses/programs, it is not easy for the learner to decide on the best design for the course. It is still arguable though.
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  8. Joyce Lo
    Hi Feras, Michael and Menghan, You did a great job in creating this OER. I enjoyed the variety of activities that you incorporated to engage the learners. I learned a lot from the content you provided on SDL. I was surprised to learn about “democratic schools” and the amount of control students have over not just their learning, but also over who works with them. I am planning to take ETEC 580 in January 2022. Like Adrian, I find that it involves a vast amount of work in designing the course, developing goals and assessments, and finding reliable sources. However, I am excited and motivated to learn more about my interest and passion. “What are your thoughts on a Masters of Education program being completely online and self-directed?” I think it would be difficult for me to do a completely online AND self-directed Masters of Education program. Based on my experience in putting together the course material for ETEC 580, it would take a lot of time to plan for 10 courses! I am enjoying the MET program and think it has been designed well for students to take set core courses and have the freedom to choose their own electives based on their interests and goals.
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    1. Menghan Guo
      Hi Joyce, thank you for sharing your points with us. Learners taken in SDL courses have taken on more responsibilities than those taken in teacher-led courses. In conventional courses, the teacher is in charge of designing all teaching objectives, activities, teaching content and assessments. Students only need to contribute most of their time to completing learning tasks. However, in SDL courses, the role of the course designer shifts from the original teacher to the student. This includes, but is not limited to, setting goals, the main content of learning, the course schedule, self-evaluate, and so on. The SDL course may require learners to take more time to complete the learning process, but it will provide learners with valuable experiences and growth. At the same time, I agree with your point that converting the MET program to a fully SDL program may increase the workload for part-time learners. Thank you for your input.
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  9. Connie Sim
    Hi Feras, Michael and Menghan, thank you for putting this OER together. I particularly enjoyed the various types of activities and I thought this OER itself is a great model for SDL. The course itself is very engaging and I find myself looking forward to each activity and before I realized it, I was already at the end of the course! I would like to share my opinion on “What are your thoughts on a Masters of Education program being completely online and self-directed?” Personally, I like online learning because of its flexibility to learn anywhere and anytime, but if a course were to be fully self-directed, I am unsure if I will be up for it. Based off what I understand, I would imagine that a self-directed learning course would require the learner to creatively plan and design the learning plan- which is probably only possible if the learner has a solid foundation of prior knowledge in relation to the course. Personally, to do a course planning for the MET program is already quite challenging; I believe it is takes a lot to be able to initiate the learning content for the whole program.
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    1. michael orlandi
      Hi Connie, Yes, hearing about our classmates having to do preplanning for ETEC 580 does put things in perspective. I personally would not be able to do that for 10 courses. It is debatable as to what constitutes self-directed. For an online self directed masters of education to exist, there would have to be some sort of “control” from the school as designing 10 courses from scratch is too much. Maybe it would work for one course in a program, such as ETEC 580 in the MET program, but not for every course. Self directed would need to take on a different meaning.
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  10. markmpepe
    Hi everyone, Great OER on self-directed learning. I found it very informative and reassuring with how I did SDL in the past. I use it all the time to improve my guitar playing I’ll try to learn a song by ear and then use YouTube videos of live performances to see how it’s played. The only flaw I see with learning music via SDL on YouTube is a lot of the times the creator adds content and material that might be too advanced. For example, a guitar solo might have certain left hand and right techniques involved, so technically the creator is teaching the user how to play but the user may not have experience with those techniques and wonder why they’re frustrated and not succeeding. I’ve been playing around for over 20 years, but someone with a year experience can have trouble if they don’t know where or how to look for help, or ask the right questions. Just like you wrote in the OER. A few years back I did run a successful program at one of my schools based off of the Learning in Depth program. A few students would pick a general topic, like trees or the ocean, and they’d let their curiosity steer them in a direction on that topic. Trees can lead to ecosystems, or trees of the Pacific North West. They loved it. I really enjoyed it, thank you! – Mark
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    1. Menghan Guo
      Hello, Mark. I’m glad you like our OER, and thank you for sharing your SDL experience with us. YouTube is a very effective and convenient platform for learners to find videos related to their learning goals; however, as you mentioned, some videos are not appropriate for all learners because they are not customized videos for individuals. As a result, it is necessary for learners to have an instructor to guide them before they set their learning goals and search for and screen learning resources. Otherwise, the failed learning experience may undermine the enthusiasm of learners. Simultaneously, the process of self-evaluation for SDL learners can assist them in analyzing what the failure problem is. Thanks for your contribution.
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  11. paul johnson
    Hi Feras, Michael and Menghan, your group put together a great resource. The interactive content was enjoyable, and the information was informative. Regarding the features that make a good SDL student, I was surprised that flexibility was not listed. I would think that flexibility would be paramount when learning something new. How do you know what you do not know? The impact of this on goal setting could be profound. When learning your priorities and direction can change as you advance your understandings. I am currently working on my second and third courses of the MET program and so far, I am having a great time. In my opinion it is the social aspects of the courses, such as this blog and the shared struggle of group work, that make it great. In my opinion learning is a social exercise and this is potentially where some SDL strategies might fall; you pointed out examples of this, such as MOOCs. Personally, I engage in self-directed learning all the time. I find it rewarding and I get to diversify what I know. At times, it would be very nice to have an expert of a subject matter to access for better explanations. I guess searching for answers is part of the learning, building capacities like fortitude and perseverance.
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    1. michael orlandi
      Hi Paul, Bringing up flexibility is a good point, but I don’t know if I would agree on how important it is for the student to have this skill in an online SDL program. When discussing SDL, whether online or in person, flexibility is often mentioned as a benefit from the SDL studies/program. The studies/programs allow students to balance the other aspects of their life, and focus on their studies when their schedule allows it. It it often not mentioned as an important skill the students needs to possess (at least in my research). To me this makes sense. For example, the MET program is not a fully self-directed program, but it has elements of it. In this course, we got to pick our A1 and A3 topics. A2 we had a say to some degree. Then it was completely online and we knew the due dates. I took this program because it is flexible. I don’t need to meet a couple times a week in person for 2 years. I don’t think it was as important how flexible I was. Again using this course as an example, 4 assignments over 4 months does not require that much flexibility on the students part.
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  12. analesa crooks-eadie
    Great presentation team! Your activities aligned well with your learning objectives, the only glitch was when I clicked on the Market for online SDL at the bottom of the page it did not work, it took me back to the same page, however, I accessed it from the top menu. To answer the question on the MET program being online and self-directed, I really enjoy it! It provides flexibility and adequate resources to support learning from anywhere, anytime, especially if you are working full-time. It also facilitates your learning and earning an income and eases the financial stress of paying fees. The only issue I find is that being an SDL takes discipline and it is not for everyone. In education things are changing constantanly, we can always learn the theory but sometimes the true test comes when we have to apply it practically. So maybe a practical course in an educational setting will add more to a course in MET especially for students who are not educators.
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    1. michael orlandi
      Hi Analesa, Sorry about the navigation button. I thought I sorted that out, but I guess I didn’t. SDL is not for everyone. Motivation is one of the keys to success. Which is related to discipline. I can say I have taken 1 course in an MET semester previously to aid me financially. Financial stress is a good point, Analesa.
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  13. adriana silvestre
    Hello Feras, Michael and Menghan. Thank you for the great OER that you created for SDL. I enjoyed the activities and the information that you created. I believe that at some point, we all participate in Self-Directed Learning. The topic of SDL schools is very interesting, especially when you mentioned the audience that could benefit from this types of school. I know some of my students in Grade 8 would have the discipline and critical thinking required to participate in an SDL school. It is definitely not for everyone, as we experienced during the online learning that took place due to the pandemic. To answer your question, I believe that ETEC 580 serves as an example of SDL school, as you need to create a proposal that encompasses learning outcomes and a plan of action. I have not taken ETEC 580, but I know of someone who did, his project was around technology used by teachers in his school.
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    1. Menghan Guo
      Hello, Adriana. I agree with you that SDL learning is not appropriate for everyone. This is why we included a “are you a self-learner” survey activity on the Fundamentals of SDL page which allows learners to be able to make a preliminary judgment for themselves by answering those questions. There are several methods that can also assist learners in developing their ability to self-learn. According to Kicken et al., for example, a Structured Task Evaluation and Planning Portfolio can help learners to develop self-directed learning abilities such as assessing their own performance, formulating learning requirements, and choosing future learning activities. Kicken, W., Brand-Gruwel, S., Van Merriënboer, J., & Slot, W. (2009). Design and evaluation of a development portfolio: How to improve students’ self-directed learning skills. Instructional Science, 37(5), 453-473. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11251-008-9058-5
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  14. joseph kwan
    Hi Feras, Michael and Menghan, Thank you for a wonderful, interactive & engaging OER experience. I enjoyed learning from your materials & our classmates. I was somewhat surprised that one of the areas I “disagreed” was seeking help/advice from others… as I had always assumed I was open to seeking advice from others (but that’s for my own self-reflection). The only point I want to bring forward is that this “sample group” of ours is quite similar in the sense that all of us are attending a Master’s Program online via UBC… As I work in the social services field (serving the vulnerable population), I am curious what their preferred self-directed learning options would be, as their available options might be more limited. Just food for thought… because there are times when we (as a society) forget about those who are under-privileged and/or vulnerable. Thank you for a wonderful learning experience! Joseph Kwan
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    1. Feras Alachek
      Hi Joseph I think you are posing an essential question about how much the under-privileged and vulnerable can benefit from the SDL approach. In my view, self-directed learning approaches are very convenient and beneficial, particularly to these social groups. We learned that to be an SD learner is to have full control over your learning experience and decide on the pace and interaction pattern based on your needs and circumstances. This is a vital issue in the lives of those who have special needs or limitations as they tend to modify their reality and ways based on their means. We see how a man in a wheelchair modifies his car or staircase according to his needs, and we see how SEN students have a customized educational plan specially designed for their own case. I think this entails that while most people can benefit from regular standardized education, the vulnerable people are actually the ones who know better about what works for them and how it works best.
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  15. Simin Rupa
    What are your thoughts on a Masters of Education program being completely online and self-directed? Having a program, espailly one focused on technology, lie this being online is incredibly beneficial. Many education masters are filled with practising educators, most of which are established within districts all around the world, and work full time within those positions. An online program, with an asynchronous model they are able to access and support professionals who want to learn. A comfely self-directed model would be interesting, I think it would have success in this format. Does it beg the question of what the purpose of formal education would look like? Would there still be semesters, deadlines? How would this affect tuition costs and group collaboration? *****EDIT: I thought I hit post on Wednesasdy, seemed I didn’t. Sorry for late to the party. ************
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    1. Feras Alachek
      Hi Simin This MET program is clearly not self-paced, and this is actually mentioned in the FAQ section. It reads “No, MET courses are not ‘self-paced. Instead, you will be expected to work through material and activities scheduled week by week when you are able, and participate in mostly asynchronous discussions and activities with classmates.” I believe there are different levels of how self-directed a course/program can be. We know that ETEC 580 is more self-directed than conventional as you can set your own target, schedule, and control the pace well. However, I reckon there should be deadlines and semesters for administrative purposes. Another major point is questioning how competent the MET student is, taking much responsibility for a program that could be entirely new to them? That’s why I personally believe that SDL schools can work best for K12 environments, particularly middle and high school.
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