A new kind of affordable masters level community, built around the real needs of learning professionals to research and exchange their practice.

Build badges for your qualification; build long term collegiality for your professional growth

register interest here
a diagram of the overall course

Building a never-ending community at masters level for learning professionals to research and exchange their practice

Many learning professionals, in schools, but also sometimes in colleges and companies, really enjoy the debates, conversations and events of Masters level programmes. However there are three big problems: the programme finishes and so it is then hard to be a part of those enjoyable conversations; the research window for collecting data and evidence is too short (often less than a year!) so that the chance to observe the impact of new ideas over many years is lost; and finally of course Masters level qualifications are usually very expensive.

Starting with a blank sheet of paper, and adding a lot of consultation, a pinch of common sense, and some imagination, we thought it was possible to do better. We are part way towards validating this entirely new approach. The current core team are at Bournemouth University in England. We have enthusiasm from institutions and from learning professionals so we thought we would share with you where the planning has reached so far, and ask you, if it sounds like something you would like to be a part of, to please register an interest - no commitment at this stage of course, by anyone - but your registered interest would help us to confirm that we are on the right lines.

The key features...

monthly membership

We will make this very very affordable.

Our financing model is more like a gym membership that a tuition fee. In the first instance we will be aiming for around £15 sterling each month. That is the total cost.

As enrolments grow and the community expands we intend to reduce this - so it won't go up, but it will very likely go down in cost.

We don't think it will ever get as low as completely free - but it might get close.

obligations & entitlements

As a member of this research community you will be expected to play your part and the other members will look for fairness in this.

We are thinking at present this will be something like joining in with four or more events / activities in any one year, and providing with others at least two such events / activities yearly too. These would need, of course, to be at the "right level" although when the events / activities are not at the right level it is hardly a disaster - things just get repeated or replaced.

peer assurance & validation

Usually, learning professionals are already quite smart about learning. It will be the community of participants in each event / activity who decide if it was at (or above) the required level. We will be quite prescriptive about this but quality assurance of the degree will ensure that this peer-assessed quality control is taking place.

Obviously, we will be building back-end software systems to help you to keep track or what has occurred, who were engaged, who you worked with, when it happened (which could be a long or short period...), what the level was and so on.

badge your way to qualification

Although we don't expect that many will leave the community, and in many cases research might need to wait a few years to be completed, that doesn't mean you won't get a qualification as you participate! Whilst you engage, and you deliver your obligations, as you enjoy your entitlements and play your part, you will accumulate Open Badges that recognise both your progress and the quality of that progress. As time passes the accumulation of these badges will add up to a masters level degree, recognised worldwide.

Obviously, there is a formality to this process - or the qualification would be worthless, but as you accumulate the badges, you build your way to an M.Sc degree. Completing that, however slowly or quickly, doesn't mean that you then get thrown out of the community - you can carry right on enjoying the events and activities, and the professional development that goes with them. We think most will stay in their community, affordably, for a very long time.

Over time, our longest serving "trustees" will gain a stature within the community and we are still exploring how we might reward that too... but we certainly intend to.

a global community

Learning is already going global at a pace, but there is something fascinating about insights from others' learning institutions, elsewhere. We mean to emphasis this opportunity to swap and collaborate with others.

Each community member will be part of a learning circle - we think the numbers in each circle will be around 35. The way that these circles work together will vary, especially in terms of the software platform they communicate through. Some maybe through Google, some a mix of blog and Twitter, some might share a Sharepoint on-line world, and so on.

However, although their collaboration platforms might be common, their contexts won't be: our intention is that each learning circle will have members from two or more distinct contexts. That may be the North and South hemisphere, or just North and South Wales, but the will be learning from, and working with folk, in a different context. We think this is hugely important.

Professor Stephen Heppell.

This has been a long journey. My first B.Ed degree programme for the many professionals in the 80s coming into schools from the computing industry ended up as an on-line community because "they could" and because they all got jobs so quickly that they needed to move away for work. Later, after many other on-line communities, we put a large cohort of 21,000 UK headteachers on-line. The collegiality, the exchanges, the parity of esteem of contribution, were all pretty seductive. It worked reaffirmingly well.

But so many learning professionals on courses leading to postgraduate qualifications kept saying "I don't want it to stop", or "I've learned so much alongside my peers that I don't think I could be as good at work without their cameraderie", and so on.

And now we have: the technology, very obvious need, the sense that so many value Learning; it seemed like the perfect time to rethink professional development and learning professionals' research wherever they are.

Hence, we are here together, a new core team from Bournemouth University and elsewhere, of Simon Easton, Gelareh Roushan, myself and others. Together, we all thank you for your interest.

How exciting!

Professor Stephen Heppell, for the whole team

Get updates

Fairly obviously this is not a straightforward idea to take forward. Nevertheless, we are very pleased with the progress we have made, and the interest + commitment from everyone involved, so far. We'd love to tell you more about our progress - we are rather proud of the progress so far.

Tasks still to complete include: the software tools for peer review; the tools needed to map and narrate each learner's personal journey; the menu of accredited badges that parallel track those peer referenced journey; the precise fee structure and more. However, we are confident that our learning circles can operate and indeed thrive within existing social media environments, for example within Facebook, albeit with some APIs and SDKs.

If you'd like to stay in touch with that, and future, progress, or perhaps be one of our first cohort of researchers, then do please sign up below via Mail Chimp. We are interested in your interest, but we'll never sell or give away your email address, to anyone, ever. That is our absolute promise.

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We are busy working on all this, of course - so please do keep coming back for more!
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