Early in March I had the pleasure to join the Global Open Education Graduate Network (GO-GN) for their annual meeting in Cape Town, South Africa. The meeting was held in advance of the Open Education Global Conference also being held in March. The meeting brings together PhD students from around the world to gather, share their research, and discuss methods and approaches to researching the phenomenon. At the same time the meeting helps forge networks, partnerships, and collaboration opportunities among researchers and facilitators.
The workshop was expertly facilitated by notable scholars in the field of open education, including Bea de los Arcos, Natalie Eggleston, Rob Farrow, Beck Pitt, and Martin Weller. Rory McGreal also joined to watch student presentations and be part of a panel on career strategies and building a career post PhD. However, most of the time during the workshop was dedicated to having students’ present their research projects and get feedback from the group. It was an absolute delight to hear about all the interesting research on open education happening around the world.
Personally, I found this to be one of the most useful professional development experiences during my PhD to date. The research happening on open education among the group was diverse, including studies of open educational resources (OER), open educational practices (OEP), open education policy, open education literacies, massive open online courses (MOOCs), educational development, and learning design. Further, the presentations ranged from various contexts, including formal and informal education all around the world. To have an opportunity to hear about each individual project including the research design, methods, and theoretical frameworks being used was tremendously valuable. I also really enjoyed the fact that the group was all at various stages of their PhD process, with some in the early stages and others approaching their final defense. Among the group various themes and synergies were identified and explored further during the breaks and after hours. I feel that I have grown my support and collaboration network significantly due to this opportunity, having had the opportunity to discuss my project with other students doing similar work.
In the end our time together felt like it went by far too quickly, and as we all moved off into the Open Education Global Conference, I found myself missing the intimacy, collegiality, and supportive feeling of being in the GO-GN workshop. The conference was a rich experience as well, but in the end both the GO-GN workshops and conference equated to six days of conferencing, so by the end of the week I was well spent. Looking back, I have nothing but the fondest memories of being, sharing, and collaborating with this global network of researchers.
The GO-GN facilitators captured our reflections immediately following the workshop in the video below. This is a great artefact which captures our individual thoughts on the value of our time together.
The challenge of supporting and fostering the seeds planted during our meeting comes next. We have set up a Slack channel for instant messaging, will continue to share on the #GO-GN hashtag and the GO-GN blog, and have an opportunity to come together during the regular webinars facilitated by GO-GN. We are also trying to build a database of researcher profiles which might help expose our interests, methods, and practice even further.
I really want to thank the facilitators for bringing us all together and enabling a safe space to share. Special thanks to Natalie Eggleston for helping get us all to Cape Town from every corner of the globe. Also, a huge amount of gratitude goes to the Hewlett Foundation for funding this initiative which contributes to the success of this global network of open education researchers.
Some magic moments from the week can be found below.
Now back on my island in the pacific northwest, I forge on with my own research, however refreshed with the spirit and energy of this wonderful group. I know I am not alone in this journey and have a exceptional group of colleagues to reach out to. Thank you all!