I’ve just been through the first weekend class of ERES800, the required educational research class for my Masters. The professor is great, trying to help us use the class to scaffold our way to our thesis, project or capstone course. But it was very different than courses to date, and I would like to figure out why.

The first difference was obvious. It is a face-to-face class, the first so far in my program. Thirteen students together with a professor in desks that we juggled around as we did small group work. We started last night with an icebreaker exercise, then completed three hours work. Today we worked from 9 til 4.

The second difference is the composition of the class. The course is required of all M.Ed. students, so we are from a mixture of programs. That makes our approach to this class different. Some are able to use it to scaffold, others are checking it off as something they have to do.

Finally, our interests and our research areas are different. In some cases there is little to no understanding about 21st century learning models and the role that technology plays in enabling personalized learning.

So what does it mean and does it matter?

Diversity is good. If we take all our classes with colleagues of similar interest and knowledge, will we be stretched? Will we create an understanding of the current situation in our schools? Of what supports are needed for change? Instead we may define readiness for change inappropriately.

Face to face? A big challenge for me is that I need to be in Saskatoon – a 7-hour drive from my home. Online is more convenient. However, today the small group work was about challenging each others’ research questions (in a good way, for improvement) and analyzing academic papers for reporting out. That would have been a difficult exercise online. So much so, that it would need to have been re-designed.

What I most discovered is that face to face is less personal. The classwork, timing, and instruction were determined for us. You couldn’t spend longer on a particular concept, you couldn’t post a thought for feedback – this was not about personalized learning. I came face to face (pun intended) with the challenge of the classroom teacher in pushing the required curriculum. There I sat, bored with the concepts I understood (thank you backchannel for saving me) and frustrated with the concepts I didn’t. Ouch.

In the end, I learned as much today about instructional design and personalized learning as I did about research methodology. That makes it a good day. For something completely different.