My academic journey is toward a PhD in eLearning and Learning Technologies at the University of Leicester, with a stated focus on informal and self-directed work-based learning. There are recent experiences that support my interest, but I can also trace back to earlier days when given opportunities to learn in non-traditional ways.

Grades 5 and 6 (ages 10-12, 1968-70) were in an enrichment program at an open concept school, Runningbrook Elementary in Mississauga, Ontario. My recollection is of assignments given at the beginning of the week, minimal instructional sessions, and the opportunity to spend Fridays reading in the library, on big cushions on the floor if we liked, if the assignments were complete. I am currently trying to identify research or reports that might exist, in addition to contacting the teacher.

At T.A. Blakelock High School in Oakville, Ontario, secondary education was grades 9 to 12, with an optional grade 13 for university admission. With the newly introduced semester systems, I was able to complete 4 years in 3 years and move on to full-time employment with the Metropolitan Toronto Police at the age of 17 in 1975. At that time, I was not interested in grade 13. Also, my recollection of grade 9 was studying at home for about 6 weeks due to injuries sustained when hit by a car. My grades went up in all subjects but one in which I recall little support from the teacher.

In 1977, I undertook pilot training. The Cessna Private Pilot Training Program ground school component was independent study using a text book, filmstrips, and audiocassettes. Fortunately, my flight instructor was new and had time to act in a tutorial role to support the ground school learning. My commercial pilot training followed in a traditional setting, but sadly I did not continue flying after about 1988.

Four years after leaving high school, encouraged and supported by my employer, the City of Edmonton Police, I entered the Bachelor of Administration degree program at Athabasca University. With open admission standards, the grade 13 deficiency played no role. Through distance learning, I was able to complete my studies without the need to attend classes, although I did complete about 4 at other institutions. Working shift-work in the early stages made this ideal. Hearing many stories about student procrastination, I empathise having taken from 1979 until 1992 to complete a 3-year degree.

In 1997, I commenced Master of Distance Education studies through Athabasca University’s Centre for Distance Education. With some background in training, a new part-time college teaching position, and encouragement from a mentor, I began studying about distance education through distance learning. My thesis, completed in 2002, looked at the perceptions of participants in a competency-based apprenticeship programme.

Despite assuring myself, after the undergraduate degree, and then after the master’s degree, that I was done with formal education, I made enquiries about doctoral studies on several occasions. By late 2010, I was committed to applying to my current programme. Despite looking at a number of options, including other subject areas, my preference was to build on the subject matter covered by my graduate studies in distance education.

I have had an opportunity to experience continuing professional development (CPD) toward professional designations and regulatory education requirements, including the field of life and health insurance where I am currently self-employed as a broker. Facets of this CPD create interest for me, and I find that further study may fit well in my stated subject area while building on past education. Of course, it will tie to elearning and a particular focus on collaborative learning.

More will follow, as the direction becomes clearer.

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