The ORD (Onderwijs Research Dagen) is a yearly conference focussed on (Dutch) education research and the connection to practice. This year it took place from may 25th until may 27th at the Erasmus University Rotterdam. Our SOONER research project was represented on the last day when we hosted a symposium on Open Online Learning. In this short blog we share out experiences from the ORD, and our specifically from our symposium.
ORD: first impression
Renée Jansen and Julia Kasch were able to attend the full three days of the conference and had a chance to gain some first hand experiences. Topic wise the ORD, and research presented at the ORD is centred around elementary and secondary education. In contrary, the SOONER project focusses more on higher education and specifically Open Online Education. The link and relevance for our own research purposes in relation to the majority of the work that was presented at the ORD was therefore sometimes difficult to find. Nonetheless it was a positive experience. Renée for instance mentions that it is a good event to get to know new people, and discover interesting research projects (although it is out of our field).
Everybody agreed that hosting a symposium together is very enjoyable, because you get to organize an event as a group. For team spirit purposes the symposium was a success. Next to that, Maartje Henderikx mentions that the topic of Open Online Education seemed very relevant, however it was underrepresented on the conference (this may be due to the fact that in educational research this sub-topic is relatively new). It was nice to present something original, contrasting the majority of research represented at the ORD. Also, Julia mentions that it is always good to see a presentation of the work of your colleagues. This way you get a good idea of what everybody is doing. She also remarks that it is important to be present at such an important event (in national terms). Since Open Online Education research is still not a very established field in research, some misconceptions about what Open Online Education is, what MOOCs are and which definitions and conditions apply are still ambiguous. We as a big project in this field also have the responsibility to explain, and share our knowledge on this.
Although it was original, the question remains if the ORD is the right place to present our work at this stage, since all of the PhD projects are still very much in a theoretical phase. For instance, Renée presented her work on the validation of her measurement instrument for self-regulated learning. This is a very technical story, which only has indirect links to practice. Most of the work that is presented at the ORD has a direct link to practice. Therefore, a more theoretical aspect of our work is difficult to “sell”, since the audience finds it hard to relate to. Nevertheless, it yielded some interesting discussions, and signalled that most of the visitors at the ORD are looking to find “what is in it for me”.
Reactions on the symposium
Prof. Dr. Wilfried Admiraal from Leiden University was the discussant of the symposium, which basically means that he reviews the work we presented, and adds some critical notes or suggestions to that. We gained some interesting feedback from him. It is always refreshing to have an external reviewer take a look at our work, looking at it from another point of view. His main notion was about the fact that there are different definitions of the purpose of Open Online Education: Is it about OOE as a formal form of training, or is OOE meant to serve the general public with access to knowledge and education in a more informal way? The specific feedback he gave us individually was centred around these questions. What are we measuring? Why are we measuring it? Do we measure it correctly? Which biases are we dealing with? What are possible implications? In summary, valuable feedback to take away for taking the next steps.
Next steps for SOONER
In general, all sub-projects of the SOONER team are in a theoretical stage. The next steps will therefore mainly be directed towards, explorative work, writing about and formulating frameworks, doing literature reviews/research, etcetera. This will eventually lead to a solid theoretical basis for the empirical work, which we be presenting at future events.