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Back in 2008, I decided it was time to head back to school to finish a graduate degree. Something I can do part-time, something related to my day-job, and something that would interest me enough to stay motivated. I came across the Communications and Technology program at the University of Alberta while surfing the web and decided to take the plunge.
My background was in sociology and my interests were always research methodology and group dynamics (how do groups get together to accomplish stuff). I figured a lot of the technology starting to take off was changing the way groups interact and to how much they could accomplish as a group. My main interests have always been information and knowledge management. How do we know what we know, and how do we work collectively to build new knowledge and information. That group dynamic is always intriguing since it’s been occurring for centuries, but has really accelerated because of the advancement of communication technology. The web is an obvious example, but what is it about the web and what sort of rules apply that allows it to be so critical for information development and knowledge sharing. It was pretty high level thinking at the time since I honestly had no idea where my graduate career was going to go.
Before starting the MACT program, all applicants had to submit a research idea for their final project. I had no clue what I wanted to do, so I decided to something work-related and chose electronic health records. It was a hot button topic in healthcare, so I thought some sort of research on it would be interesting. I received my acceptance letter and was to start the program in the spring of 2009.
All students were also asked to maintain a “digital portfolio” (i.e., a blog) as a way to centralize assignments and reflect on key topics. Not many students actually did one, but I figured this might be a useful way to find a supervisor for my final research paper.
Within a couple months of starting the program, getting deep into communication theory, I realized there wasn’t anything interesting about electronic health records. There had already been a ton of research on it, including the type of technology used, its adoption in various countries and the benefits of it. That realization and the fact that others in my cohort had some killer ideas, I knew right away that I needed to find another topic.
By the end of the spring session, which included a three week residency-type set up on campus to complete a two courses, I was absolutely spent. We covered a ton of material and new concepts and spent hours completing assignments and presentations. I really tried to apply my research topic of health records to everything we covered, but it just wasn’t interesting. My attitude about the program reflected it. And my grades showed it as well. Continue reading →