“If we reach today as we taught yesterday, we rob our children of tomorrow” (John Dewey)
“It is not about the technology; it’s about sharing knowledge and information, communicating efficiently, building learning communities and creating a culture of professionalism in schools. These are the key responsibilities of all educational leaders“. (Marion Ginapolis)
Last weekend I finished the first year of my Master’s program in transpersonal psychology with Sofia University in Palo Alto California (previously the Institute of Transpersonal Psychology). It has been over a decade since I was in a graduate program and during that period I spent my time vastly expanding my knowledge of open-source technologies, information/document and content management, database systems, business intelligence, social media, online community development and educational technologies. Back in 2000 in my first graduate program and during my undergrad in the early 90’s, technology and computers were mostly tools for supplementing learning and the delivery of educational content. Things are very different today with a wide variety of personal communication and computing platforms which many of us carry around as portable mobile devices. We now have near ubiquitous access to massive knowledge-resources, global communication technologies, social media, Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC’s) and other online educational programs. As a result of these open, collaborative, social and community-driven technologies, the process of creating, accessing and delivering knowledge and education are changing in fundamental ways. In support of my belief in the value of social and collaborative technologies in education, during the past year I created and manage two social media groups to bring prospective, current and past students in transpersonal psychology programs together to share and discuss their personal and educational journeys in transpersonal psychology.
“Higher education is no different than the automotive industry or healthcare – our industry has incredible importance and power. With a mix of entrepreneurs and technologists keenly focused on a generation of students that are more socially networked, digitally fluent and tech savvy, education is quickly becoming the next “hot” sector for innovation.” (Diaz, 2013)
Today, technology no longer plays a simple supporting role to the delivery of educational content and services; technology is a FUNDAMENTAL INFRASTRUCTURE component necessary in order to deliver a cost-effective, efficient, collaborative and community-driven education in a globally connected world. The effective use of educational technologies, social-media and collaborative learning models have created a new and much more global, interconnected and participatory educational pedagogy. Institutions that fail to realize this and continue to deliver a 1990’s model (or older) of education and technology – some even viewing many of these educational technology trends as threats – will fail and be unable to compete with those programs and institutions that have fully embraced the learning opportunities these educational technology trends present. Students are already sharing their learning experiences through social media, educating themselves about the effective use of technology in education and will simply move on to those institutions that have recognized the trends and embraced these powerful new technology and community driven knowledge and learning paradigms.
“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”
Although I am truly following my bliss (Joseph Campbell) by pursuing graduate degrees in spiritual and transpersonal psychology, and I absolutely love the content, this past year with Sofia University has been a frustrating, disappointing and even insulting experience. After four universities, three colleges and two graduate programs, as well as numerous online technology and certificate programs over a period of 20 years, I can say without a doubt that my online educational experiences with Sofia University have been the worst of the lot. Some of my unfortunate experiences with their “Global” online program, also shared by other students less comfortable about speaking out publicly, include:
- A crippled and decade (or more) old Learning Management System which wasted more time and negatively impacted the learning process far more than it ever improved or facilitated learning. Note: Sofia has now moved to a new and open-source LMS (Canvas) to be deployed in the Fall of 2013.
- Inconsistent and haphazard delivery of course materials.
- Scanned documents which looked like they were carried over from the 80’s, difficult to read, impossible to annotate and a complete lack of modern meta-data-complete eDocuments suitable for a modern eReader or eDocument management tools.
- Unbelievably disorganized and inefficient communication process which led to many students constantly having to track down updates, marked papers, announcements or missed communications.
- A mentor/instructor who was MIA for weeks leaving students stranded and even when the issue was raised by more than one student, NOTHING was done and we were told that this was the instructors “style”.
- No formal student representation to the university.
- In my group (cohort) of 12 students, one has left Sofia to pursue a graduate program elsewhere and at least two others are investigating other options.
- High tuition costs for the online “Global” program at the SAME RATE as the on-campus program but lacking the vast majority of the same resources, instructors, student representation or community-building opportunities provided to the on-campus students.
- And after all this, not a single reply from the president or provost after many students supported a letter outlining our concerns about the poor learning tools and lack of a community learning environment which we were promised. In fact there has been more than one communication to the president and provost which were ignored.
I am likely to remain in this program to complete the Master’s since it may be less disruptive to accept or tolerate the inadequate delivery of educational material and lack of community-learning than it would be to move to another institution at this point. However, I plan to do some research, consult with transpersonal psychology leaders, groups and educators and come up with a list of relevant categories of services and technologies which represent the future of global educational programs in transpersonal psychology. Tentatively some of the categories I may use to compare programs might include:
- Core student services and representation
- Instructor/student ratio
- Education/experience of instructors
- Educational features and technologies
- Learning/teaching/community philosophy
- Collaborative and participatory learning models
- Learning Management Systems
- Information and communication management
- Social media support
- Program costs
I believe that a side-by-side comparison of online/global graduate programs in transpersonal psychology would be beneficial not only for selecting my own PhD program, but may also be useful for other students looking for online graduate programs in transpersonal psychology. And who knows, maybe the powers-that-be at Sofia might even be interested in taking a look at such comparisons to determine where they rank against their competition and even consider some improvements to their own program. From what I have seen and experienced so far, I don’t believe they will rank very highly.
“These are the types of issues — essentially shortening the feedback loop — that technology (specifically software) has been solving in the business world for years now. How can we change the way students interact with materials to make them better, faster learners? How do we give students better, consistent feedback on progress? This is where technology can make its impact.” (Diaz, 2013)
“Right now MOOCs are addressing market, content and feedback issues from a classroom format perspective. Adaptive learning tools are tackling studying and information delivery to help students move through material in the best order, testing and delivering the right content and questions along the way.” (Diaz, 2013)
Diaz, Ariel, (2013, June). How Technology Will Change Entry-Level Higher Education. Wired. Retrieved from http://www.wired.com/insights/2013/06/how-technology-will-change-entry-level-higher-education/