Friday, February 27, 2015

Semester half-point!

It feels a bit like I've had my nose close to the grind stone for the past few weeks.  I looked at my blog to see when was the last time I blogged about class, and it was close to 20 days ago.  In semester-terms I think that counts as "forever-ago".  To some extent it feels like a great weight has been lifted.  The first (of two) major papers is completed and delivered (awaiting marking and feedback), and the presentation on Discourse Analysis as a research method is done as well.  I suppose I could have waited until March (a couple of weeks later) to present, but nothing like a little pressure to gain the benefits of front-loading work, and enjoy the benefits of getting a leg up on subsequent assignments.

Doing a presentation on Discourse Analysis was actually quite a lot of fun.  While I had gone through materials on DA before, I have wanted to read some of Jim Gee's work on DA (considering the one degree of separation that he has with our department) for a while.  This work was a good primer on DA, so that now I can focus a bit on Critical Discourse Analysis over the summer when classes are on break.  My blackboard at home (a wall that I've painted with blackboard paint) has quite a few ideas on it for potential dissertation topics, all of them MOOC related. In thinking about the scope of the work required for a MOOC related project I am starting to wonder if my eventual Petri dish for dissertation data collection should be a MOOC, or a traditional online course.  I am interesting in MOOCs (obvious enough by looking at the popular tags on my posts), but I am wondering if the setup is a lot of work for the payout.  I don't know - something to think about over the summer. Part of me is thinking that the things I want to do might get out of hand in a MOOC (boatloads of data to go through); on the other hand if I do go ahead with a cMOOC (or heck and rMOOC!) I think there will be a substantial amount of attrition early on (given the nature of the cMOOC and what it requires of learners) that SNA, Discourse Analysis, assessment of learning outcomes, and so on would not be so different as compared to a larger section college course.  Anyway - something to mull over after the semester ends.

With half of the semester done (yesterday was the mid-point!) it's now time to focus attention on the remaining 3 assignments.  I am concurrently working on assignment 3 - a map of potential threads to pick up on from assignment 1 (which means I have to pick one of my proposed research questions and go a little more in-depth on it), and assignment 5 which deals with creating a lasting positive change in the course for future cohorts to come.  I've already completed the "resources" part, and now I just have to read and annotate 3 articles and/or dissertations on a specific paradigm. I've opted for Critical Theory since that's an area I have unread articles in that I want to tackle - so it's a kill two birds with one stone assignment.

The thing I like about this assignment is that we are building a knowledge-base. Granted Elgg is not my favorite platform, but I've often wanted to do this with the course I teach - create a knowledge base for people who are planning on designing courses to be taught online. The instructor who taught the course before the instructor before me (so two instructors ago) did use a wiki for this, but the wiki was pretty repetitive each semester.  I am thinking of re-designing that course to bring back those elements.  Perhaps reduce a little the weekly activities in favor of this.

The final paper, a 6000-9000 paper (so research article length) is due at the end of the semester.  I guess I have 40 more days to go get that done too ;-)  As one of my cohort-mates said - I am suffering from mushy brain - too much snow, lots of cognitive overload.  Looking forward to summer where I can read research articles with a side of beer :)
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