Perspectives on Pro-D

I’ve been thinking a lot about what we mean when we talk about professional development, especially when we talk about it in the context of higher education (or post-secondary education). As a long-time edu-consultant, I’ve been in a kind of ongoing flow of PD throughout my career; sometimes that PD was formal and credentialled but often it was open, self-directed and visible through my practice or open sharing. I’ve been involved in helping faculty, staff and students learn more effectively with and through technologies. I’ve often wondered at the lack of consistent approaches to PD and varying reasons given by faculty, administrators and technology staff as to why everyone is not more ‘digitally literate.’

A recent research report (Summer 2020) by Professor George Veletsianos and colleagues offers some insights derived from a careful analysis of narrative comments in data collected by annual surveys (2017-2019) conducted by the Canadian Digital Learning Research Association (CDLRA). (Note: a brief summary of findings is available on Veletsiano’s blog Institutional Perspectives on Faculty Development for Digital Education in Canada.) 1

Although the report’s findings and suggested actions are often derived from a relatively small number of responses to the pan-Canadian surveys, they are supported by some significant prior research papers or publications. As I finished reading the paper I was not surprised to learn that the digital education PD training was handled differently across the country, that it wasn’t always available to non-faculty, and that faculty was often perceived to be uninterested in teaching online.

The recommendations for action included finding ways to change the institutional culture to support and reward or recognize ongoing PD and to collaborate with other institutions to offer some types of digital education, accessible to all (the paper specifically mentioned the efforts of BCcampus and eCampusOntario in this regard). While it is useful to have such a thorough analysis of Canadian educational institutions (thanks to the work of the relatively new CDLRA) and the recommendations are useful, I think that they didn’t go far enough in encouraging collaborative PD options through a focus on Openness.

I have been an enthusiastic participant, consumer, producer and practitioner in many open educational opportunities over the years (despite being on the outside of formal options through higher education). And, luckily for me, we live in a province where the government supports an organization like BCcampus and they, in turn, provide so many Open options and offer me ways to share my enthusiasm for Open with others.

During this final week of January we (I’m co-facilitating with my colleague Gina Bennett) are offering a FLO MicroCourse – Open Options to Enrich your Career. Gina has been exploring and participating in Openness for longer than I have and in different directions so we’ve had a lot of fun pooling our resources and experiences in open learning and practices. I’ll be blogging and tweeting any highlights or issues that catch my eye and interest and, better still, after we’re done, BCcampus will convert the resources and basic learning structure into a freely available OER on SCoPE.

1 The paper is open access: VanLeeuwen, C.A., Veletsianos, G., Belikov, O. Johnson, N. (2020).  Institutional perspectives on faculty development for digital education in Canada. The Canadian Journal of Learning and Technology, 46(2), 1-20. https://www.cjlt.ca/index.php/cjlt/article/view/27944

More perspectives on professional development in higher education – https://www.veletsianos.com/2020/04/07/a-canadian-national-effort-in-online-education-pd-not-content/

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