StellaPORTO eportfolio

E-learning academics and practice

Summative Statement – MDE journey

The choice of starting the MDE in 2001 was motivated by a rational conclusion that my relocation to the US the year before and my new job at UMUC effectively represented a “turning point” in my professional life.

With a background in engineering and computer science, I was suddenly confronted with the task of becoming an administrator/manager in an online learning organization. The identity of UMC as such an organization was not evident and clear to those in the organization at the time. It was a moment of enormous change and online education was beginning to prove its strength and disruptive potential for unexpected growth. The institution in a way was in awe at the pace of change, but had little time for reflection or systematic analysis, other than just be sure to keep moving forward. I was transported in an snap to this environment coming from a traditional, government funded tenured position in a Brazilian federal university. A position that would be considered a dream for any one in the academic field in Terra Brasilis.

OMDE 601 was like coming to a tiny door that slowly opened into an enormous, enlightened new place – almost disconnected from the other side. If I had provide a graphical metaphor , it would certainly be the last scene of the Disney movie “Dinosaur”, where a herd of animals fight furiously to escape from gigantic rocks falling within an enclosed cave. When finally light beams in through a hidden opening, they are revealed to a lush green world, of sunshine, water, and animals of their species living in complete harmony. And so was my entrance to the MDE…

The systems view of DE by Michael Moore was my personal anchor between my engineering mindset to the vast new world of distance education. The understanding that there was much more beyond the everyday practice at UMUC was more than just sufficient to inundate my soul of intellectual eagerness and learning pleasure. I was definitely hooked.

Then came more Systems (OMDE 602), Instructional design (OMDE 607), Management (OMDE 604), Support (OMDE 608), and Technology (OMDE 603). At each course, I went through the joy of learning theory in such connection to practice that days were not sufficient to fulfill my need of innovation and change around me.

Slowly, at UMUC, I became known for my professional success as a distance educator, not as a computer scientist, a professional status that had taken more than 10 years of study, practice and research to build. I had suddenly become the living icon of “life long learning”.


Then the second big move occurred. Through a sequence of external events and my professional label of reliability and knowledge in the new field that I had recently embraced – I was given the chance of becoming the director of the MDE program. This was 2004. It was the seal that I needed to confirm how important my earlier resolution and “following my heart” had been three years before, when choosing to start the MDE and live like many of our students juggling family, work and school. It is true that I already had substantial baggage to succeed. But, like other students life happens, and it can be hard to keep moving.

As the MDE director, the practical lessons and the need to “land running” made my adaptation to the new role challenging to say the least. It was a time of anxiety and some fear when one walks in unknown terrain. Organizational changes came and went, but my connection with the MDE was never more to be erased. My multiple hats intertwined and my learning felt more fascinating like the pieces of a puzzle for which I knew the final picture but did not quite understand the intricacies.

Meanwhile, in my MDE student life came business in DE (OMDE 622), more technology (OMDE 631), training at a distance (OMDE 621) and economics (OMDE 606). I was sometimes the drop out, who had to re-start several times in order to complete one simple required course. Those motions are the ones, which give me an authentic comprehension of my students/peers in the world of adult learning.

And then the final recent move, which I call maturity. This time I was suddenly almost at the point of opting for continuing the natural momentum of my professional achievements and one more definitely step up the ladder.

However, I was fortunate enough to have an option. As difficult as it might be to make such decisions, we are always more fortunate when we are given options, despite the weight of responsibility that they carry with them. The connection with the MDE this time was kept as a result of pure reflection and mature realization of personal professional vision.

In many situations in life when we’re in doubt, the time comes to be silent and let our inner being decide. We usually don’t regret when we have the chance to listen to the inner voice. Mine, once more said in a soft and warm tone: “Hey, there is the MDE!”

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