Originally my MTA Portfolio had no name.
It wasn’t even envisioned to be a master’s degree made up of online courses and self-directed final projects.
It was just a selection of online courses I was studying to get a taster of potential university accredited master’s degree I might undertake.
Then when I decided I was going to study a university accredited master’s degree in Creative Technologies and Enterprise, I studied some more online courses in preparation for that specific curriculum.
When I got to about 30 online courses it suddenly occurred to me that if I studied enough of these free short online courses, not only could I satisfy the curriculum of my prospective MSc in Creative Technologies and Enterprise, but I could fulfill other subject areas too…
That was the lightbulb moment when my self-declared master’s degree was born.
That was in late 2014.
In the beginning of 2015, I drew up the first curriculum outline of my master’s.
But I didn’t refer to it as my master’s, I didn’t consider it to be my master’s degree yet.
Everything starts getting a bit 2.0
I just viewed it has a postgraduate portfolio of online courses because I was studying these online course after graduating with a BA (Hons), I considered them further postgraduate studies.
Then I started to add a 2.0 between the postgraduate and studies… postgraduate 2.0 studies
I was inspired to add the 2.0 into the name because of two media studies books (with near identical names) I was reading at the time: Media Studies 2.0 by William Merrin and Media Studies 2.0 and Other Battles Around the Future of Media Research by David Gauntlett.
“2.0” refers to a version of something that represents an enhancement or improvement over the previous version. It is commonly used in technology to denote the next iteration or generation of software, websites, or applications that entails advanced features and functionalities. This concept emerged with the rise of Web 2.0, which highlighted the evolution of websites from static pages towards more interactive and collaborative platforms. In a broader sense, “2.0” can be applied to various fields to indicate an upgraded or innovative approach compared to traditional methods or ideas.
With regards to Media Studies, the 2.0 was referring to improvement to the discipline to bring it in line with the demands of the 21st century.
“Filling students’ time by teaching them how to use a video camera or making them pretend to be a newsreader in a fake studio is a waste of their fees and inadequate training for the 21st century.”
William Merrin, 2014:186, Media Studies 2.0
Upgrading the discipline was something I had increasingly advocated for in bachelor’s degree in Film and Screen Studies.
But I also felt this ‘2.0 enhanced version’ aesthetic applied to the nature of my postgraduate studies which had themselves developed out my frustration with the limitations of the film and media studies fields I studied in my bachelor’s degree.
So Postgraduate 2.0 Studies it was.
Until I discovered the No-Pay MBA.
There’s an MBA in my MTA
The No-Pay MBA is a self-directed Master of Business Administration degree program created by Laurie Pickard.
My journey with MOOC-based education began when I saw an opportunity to build the business education I had long desired without going into debt. For me, as an international development worker, MOOCs had the added benefit of being accessible from anywhere.
Laurie Pickard, nopaymba.com
First, Laurie created the model to build an MBA for herself and then she open-sourced the idea on her website for anyone else who wants to build their own MBA.
She even has a book that outlines her process further, Don’t Pay For Your MBA.
Discovering Laurie’s No Pay MBA paradigm in early 2016 inspired me to think much more ambitiously about my own postgraduate 2.0 studies.
Laurie had assembled a master’s degree program out of her MOOC studies.
Why was I not doing the same?
Laurie’s No Pay MBA paradigm even helped me to further flesh out the business and entrepreneurship focus of my postgraduate 2.0 studies.
Then I just bit the bullet and, following Laurie’s example, incorporated a full-fledged MOOC built MBA curriculum into my studies (this is how my Business Administration and Finance concentration was originally born).
Now that my postgraduate 2.0 studies had an MBA sitting inside of it, it was fast evolving into a full-fledged master’s degree in its own right and I needed an all-encompassing name to reflect that.
I couldn’t do what Laurie had done and call my 2.0 studies an MBA because the scope of my curriculum went far beyond being just an MBA.
So I took inspiration from the university-accredited master’s degree that I had dropped out of taking when I decided to build my own 2.0 studies.
It was an MSc or Master of Science in Creative Technologies and Enterprise.
One key facet of this was that it was transdisciplinary in focus.
‘Transdisciplinary’ or ‘transdisciplinarity’ was a word and a concept I had not come across until I discovered the MSc in Creative Tech and Enterprise.
But as soon as I discovered the nature of what transdisciplinarity is…
As the prefix “trans” indicates, transdisciplinarity concerns that which is at once between the disciplines, across the different disciplines, and beyond each individual discipline. Its goal is the understanding of the present world, of which one of the imperatives is the overarching unity of knowledge.
… I realised that transdisciplinarity was precisely my approach to the world and to my academic studies.
It was also the reason I had pursued the MSc in Creative Tech and Enterprise to begin with.
Considering that transdisciplinarity was a key part of my default approach and that the curriculum of the MSc in Creative Tech and Enterprise had been assimilated into my postgraduate 2.0 studies (it now resides in the Multimedia Studies and Creative Technologies concentration and the Creative Producing and Entrepreneurship concentration), it made sense to make the world ‘transdisciplinary’ or ‘transdisciplinarity’ a part of the name for my master’s degree.
So using the Master of Science degree and its abbreviation as MSc as a template, I came up with a potential name for my master’s…
Master of Transdisciplinarity or MTr
But I didn’t like that first attempt because the abbreviation MTr looked too much like Mr. T, “I ain’t getting’ on no plane, fool!”
Plus, I wanted a name that was more double-barreled as is the case with an MBA, a Master of Business Administration.
So I came up with a second version… Master of Transdisciplinary Practice or MTP.
But, again, that didn’t sound quite right to me.
In all honesty, I wanted a name, or more specifically an abbreviation, which looked and sounded similar to MBA.
The Master of Business Administration is a degree that has a lot of prestige attached to it.
An MBA is vastly more costly than a standard master’s degree and comes with the promise of enabling wide ranging business success for its students.
Even the term ‘MBA’ is widely recognized as being an indicator of expertise.
But I couldn’t use the abbreviation MBA because it was already taken.
Plus, I was adamant that I was going to include the word ‘transdisciplinary’ or ‘transdisciplinarity’.
I already had an M and a T – and Tee rhymes with Bee – if I could add an A (that didn’t stand for Administration onto it) I would have an abbreviation that sounded very similar to MBA.
I very quickly hit on ‘application’ which I was even more pleased with because I think ‘application’ sounds much more dynamically proactive than ‘practice’.
My MTA is all about being highly proactive in a dynamic fashion.
I had it.
Master of Transdisciplinary Application, or MTA.
Names are important to me.
They are also important when pitching a concept.
Now whenever I was asked what master’s I was studying, I could say, “I’m doing an MTA.”
“Is that like an MBA?”
“Kind of. Its scope is much bigger than an MBA. But it does incorporate the curriculum of an MBA.”
And the MBA inside my MTA continued to evolve too.
A few months on from adopting the No-Pay MBA paradigm as part of my MTA’s curriculum, I discovered an even simpler means of incorporating an MBA’s curriculum.
My Lean MBA was a year-long online course offered by the now defunct Madrid-based Lean MBA start-up learning platform.
The Lean MBA was a traditional MBA, a.k.a. Master of Business Administration, program compressed down into a lean and easily digestible 52-week format.
This lean-ification was also expressed in its price: €299
But I was able to study the whole program for free as the founders had invited me to join the initial beta run of the course.
My Lean MBA is the reason there are some MOOCs that cover the same subject areas as my Lean MBA in my Business Administration and Finance concentration.
I started studying these MOOCs before I used my Lean MBA to replace the No-Pay MBA paradigm.
But, no matter, I now had an MTA made up of a Lean MBA, a MSc in Creative Tech and Enterprise and many other subject areas besides.
My MTA was shaping up to be quite a vast portfolio.
A portfolio of what?
I had hoped that referring to my postgraduate studies as an MTA would make people ask if it was like an MBA.
But that basically never, ever happened.
More often than not, the responses were always, “A what?” or “What’s that?”
As much as I got gratification from calling my master’s degree an MTA, nobody else knew what the hell I was talking about!
Names are important, especially when you are trying to explain or market yourself in networking situations and/or to employers or collaborators in a succinct fashion that keeps your listener invested in what you have to offer.
Plus, if a word or abbreviation can connect to a previously learned concept in the listener’s mind (as I hoped MTA would with MBA), it does half of the work for you.
But MTA on its own was a bit useless.
I needed to find a way to make it more immediately accessible, discernible and recognisable.
So I looked back at the postgraduate pursuit I was building…
It was a master’s degree curriculum in the application of transdisciplinarity, but it was also a massive portfolio of online courses, diplomas and practical projects.
So I started to add the more recognised word ‘portfolio’ after MTA.
MTA on its own doesn’t mean much to anyone.
But the word portfolio is bit more specific, recognisable and invites curiosity.
As soon as you say you have a portfolio, the other person knows you have a body of work and something potentially valuable to offer them.
Then they are asking me, “A portfolio of what?”
“A portfolio of online courses, diplomas and practical projects that is focused on addressing the personal, professional and planetary demands of the 21st century… all of which I’ve assemble into a self-declared master’s degree that I call my Master of Transdisciplinary Application, my MTA.”
“Or MTA Portfolio for short.”