It’s been 17 days since I’ve successfully defended my dissertation. Since then, I’ve made my edits, published the dissertation under a CC-BY-SA license on four platforms (ProQuest, the university repository, academia.edu, and my own website, although it’s not showing up on the first two yet), presented at the AACU General Education and Assessment Meeting in New Orleans, and reflected on what it means to be in post-dissertation life.
To be honest, I’m not sure connected learning allows for such a sharp divide between pre- and post-dissertation life. If a connected dissertation is meant to be an authentic work task, then the defense just signals the beginning of the next stage. Now that it’s been “blessed” by the committee, it’s time to do something with it.
I’ve spent the last week (18 months and one week) exploring the Deconstructed Dissertation as the next, “post-defense” stage of the connected dissertation. Using an old webspace in the VCU RamPages community as a platform, I took a digital jackhammer to my dissertation, breaking it into usable parts and then expanding onto those parts to make something bigger, better, and more applied than the original thing. Everything is CC licensed. Where I had the ability of providing downloadable, printable PDFs, I did so. If you can think of other ways for me to make the materials more accessible, please let me know. However, here’s a rundown of what’s on this site, and why it’s there:
The Dissertation. Of course I wanted a place to publish my full dissertation so that anyone who wanted to read it, could – and also download it and reuse it as many times as they wanted without having to subscribe to Scribd, Issuu, or Academia.edu. My dissertation defense was also kind of interesting and unique, too, because I had friends live tweet it as an event. So I curated all the documents – including the defense storify, my blog posts, and an article that Maha Bali wrote for the ProfHacker Chronicle blog. It’s all here.
The Design Process. None of the ideas presented in my dissertation sprang fully formed from my forehead. Rather, they emerged and were shaped and reshaped through reading, writing, and conversations that took place over 18 months. For anyone who is interested in the evolutionary process, it is here: in the form of the first piece I ever wrote on connected learning, some key blog posts, presentations, and the prospectus document. Some things in here make me cringe, but, hey, learning is a process.
For Faculty. My dissertation purpose was to create an assessment toolkit for faculty teaching connected courses, but along the way I discovered I had to do a lot of scaffolding prior to creating assessments. You can’t just plop assessments into a course – they need to align with learning objectives, course design, syllabus language, and similar. This section offers some places to start on all of these things. It is by no means done. It will probably never be done, but I feel like there’s enough there to be helpful to someone, somewhere.
For Students. I doubt students will use my site; this section alludes to a selection of student-geared handouts that can support the syllabus language and rubrics offered in the “For Faculty.” Like that section, this is by no means done, but it’s a place to start.
There are still things to build here. I haven’t added anything that describes the uses of network analysis and data visualization for formative assessment/feedback. I haven’t provided any syllabus language around privacy. I haven’t linked to many of the “how-to” resources we already have at VCU ALT Lab. There’s also room for describing a variety of learning exercises around the use of hashtags, mentions, embedded images, and hyperlinks. There’s. So. Much. More.
I realize that I have framed this “deconstructing the diss” project in terms of external contribution. If it saves at least one faculty somewhere a little time, then everything I done will be worth it. However, I want to point out to any faculty or grad students reading that this may also be the perfect post-dissertation project. It stimulates reflection on the process. It allows you to think that maybe you did something useful. It’s kind of like making a scrapbook that keeps on going. It kind of takes those fabled feelings of loss out of the post-diss period. Just something to think about.