"For me, learning is about connecting with that energy.....that drive to make sense of my world."
This statement came to me as I was preparing a reflection in one of the final courses of the program, and it has stuck with me ever since. In my experience, learning creates a unique energy which further fuels the drive to keep learning, providing chaos and disruption to old thought patterns that become the impetus to seek new knowledge, or at least to ask more and different questions. Learning for me has evolved. It has become so much more than just a set of outcomes, good grades and completed assignments. Learning has ignited my interest in others and the world around me and has opened a new channel toward understanding myself. I'm grateful and delighted to finally share this collection of reflections about the challenges I've faced, the insights I've gained, the growing pains I've dealt with, and the learning journey I've travelled in the Master of Education, Distance Education (M.Ed DE) program. Thank you for taking the time to visit my portfolio.
My name is Julie Cross and I live in London, Ontario, Canada with my partner, Wendy and our two four-legged companions, Maggie & Oliver. In my first career, I was a Child & Youth Counsellor (CYC) working with children and youth in a residential Mental Health Treatment agency, a job I enjoyed very much but one that I knew I couldn't continue through until retirement. I had sustained quite a few injuries including a back injury that made it difficult to remain on the front lines safely. I was lucky enough to teach part-time at Fanshawe College in the Child & Youth Worker Program through most of my CYC career and fell in love with teaching. I realized that landing a full-time teaching position would require additional education which prompted me to go back to school. I completed my Bachelor of Professional Arts (BPA) in Human Services through Athabasca University over many years, finishing in 2010.
Why I Enrolled in the M.Ed DE Program:
My experience in the BPA program developed my confidence and enthusiasm for online learning, a most positive experience leading me to enrol in the M.Ed DE program. My undergrad years initiated a transformation I didn't recognize until I was part-way through the M.Ed DE program. I had always identified as a Child & Youth Counsellor and despite many years of teaching, hadn't yet made the shift to seeing myself as an educator. My learning in the program was transformative and resulted in a new self-identity, that of 'Educator'. The shift was subtle at first, but as I complete this reflective capstone project, I can see how new knowledge, skills and competencies gained have shifted the way I think, the way I teach, the way I create, the way I design, mark, give feedback, and all of the other tasks and awarenesses of education as a career.
Original Learning Goals:
Initially, my goal was primarily to gain additional qualifications as I wanted to remain employable and to increase my ability to consider various positions and roles within my employment organization. I felt it was an important professional development decision and wanted to become a better teacher. There were times when I found myself not understanding the conversations or overarching goals of the college and I believed that increasing my educational credentials would likely improve my ability to understand and ultimately to contribute to those initiatives and aims. I also wanted to be a leader in my division rather than succumb to fear and frustration as online training options for our students became the organizational norm, not the exception. I wanted to be prepared, trained and competent to teach well online but I also wanted to be a resource to my department and help to shape the future of the programs within it.
The M.Ed DE program has changed my beliefs. I used to believe that it was enough for me to be an expert in the field I was teaching. Now, I recognize that my career-specific expertise can be better leveraged through new understanding about what learners need, and how to design better to meet those needs. I also believed that it was impossible to train Child & Youth Counsellors online given the nature of working with high-needs children and youth and the heavy focus on life-space and in-person counselling. However, I'm now more optimistic about the creation of online programs and courses to support these types of skill-development and see this as a future area of focus in my work and research initiatives.
I am now a champion for online learning in my workplace participating in focus groups, advocating for professional development, sharing my learning and examples, and voicing the need for online training requirements for educators. I wish to be influential and instrumental in creating online opportunities in my area of study and have already made connections with our research department to start accessing funding for some specific research ideas.
As a recent example of the impact on my professional self, I had the confidence to apply for a MOOC facilitator position just a few weeks ago and am now thoroughly enjoying a MOOC Facilitator role for the "Learning to Learn Online" MOOC offered by Athabasca University. This isn't something I would have considered doing prior to this program and to now feel qualified to participate in this exciting initiative is very satisfying.
My journey in the M.Ed DE program has shifted my views about learning, my values about what education should be and has fostered an interest in understanding how access might be improved for students worldwide.
Below you will find a list of the courses I completed and the order in which I completed them.
Courses Completed in Chronological Order
I would like to formally thank my daughter and my partner for all of their support, encouragement and understanding through the many years it has taken me to complete my educational pursuits. I would also like to thank my Aunt Cheryl for her many hours of editing support!