I just completed a first cycle of online instruction for a section of the Professional Investigations Program at Boston University. I've been teaching the classroom version for a few years now but it's always been a forced fit to teach an online class offline. The paradox was a real boon for my online PIoneers who were sandwiching their curriculum inbetween forced feedings of social networking, day jobs, working double shifts, financial acrobatics, and putting kids to bed.
But as much as the freedom from time and distance is a liberation I seriously needed to connect -- not passwords to logins or even names to faces but from experiences to voices. There is a reason there is no "text of experience" to replace that expressive voice for communicating the aspirations and endeavoring spirit. It's the voice of experience that each participant conveys in the faith that their investment in virtual learning will pay off in tangible, transformative ways.
I pushed the program administrators to consider adapting at least the option for an opt-in phone conference to clear the air about the voices -- even at the risk of having the stronger personalities dominate the discussion. There was also the concern that enthusiasm for the subject might push against the pressures carried by online adult learners. But given the tight deadlines everyone is under, I'm not sure that's a lasting concern of our students. They want to be heard -- especially in a forum of their peers.
Either way the voice is more than a phone call. It's also the willingness to parlay one's life experience into the program curriculum. That's not a theory of learning. That's an application of doing. The learning and the doing are one in the same. In my class that's called the PI blog. The basic blocking and tackling generates a container of news and commentary about the passions of our aspiring PIs. More importantly it's a chance for them to insert themselves into a conversation between those interests and the role they would play for shaping them.
- Looking for a primer on getting into the PI field? Look no further than Robyn Kervick's Aspiring Sleuthhound.
- Working the PI job leads? Brian Dodge factors in the exacting qualifications with PI or not to PI. Deb Burress addresses similar job-hunting turf with a more diary-like approach.
- Reporting on the latest scandals in corruption-prone institutions? Nick Jamieson keeps the stakeholders honest in his Government Investigations.
- Interested in the need for improved transparency and better forensics standards? Emmy Balon writes with eloquence and authority on Becoming Nancy Drew.
- Fishing your way out of foreclosure and the rights and responsibilities of homeowners when their debt loads are clamoring for higher ground? Tune into Ligia Tanney's Real Estate Solutions Radio.
- Looking to source anonymous and potentially malicious phishers and schemers? Check out Mark Williams Skip Tracing News.
- Finally Allan Bowlin crosses state lines to put his GPS expertise to work in Digital Forensics.
All these niches blossomed in the last compressed week of the course. I look forward to seeing how each one of these seedlings take root in the Internet Research soil tilled by these insatiable investigators (or "truth tellers" as Program Director Tom Shamshak likes to call our students). Long may they testify.