Managing the Balance between Synthesis and Action

Since resuming graduate studies at a distance, I’ve learned to importance of being decisive when making the shift from the synthesizing/analyzing stage to the action stage of work. As I started to get caught up in the insights and discussions of numerous distance education (DE) SMEs, I found myself getting deeper and deeper into the analysis paralysis of DE knowledge and wisdom synthesis to the point that I’ve been losing track of the time constraints within which I must focus my action efforts (i.e., submitting intelligible responses to questions on time). Tony Bates ( for one, has some pretty decent counter-arguments to the open courseware movement that make sense, especially as it pertains to freely available content ( As I read such posts I find myself reviewing poster comments that support or refute such bold claims and am better able to form my own argument in support for or against such topics of contention like the open courseware movement.

When MIT first announced the move to release all its content to the world I recall thinking, wow, now anyone can have an ivy-league education for free! And can I utilize that resource to improve myself? As it turns out I’ve not yet availed of this resource, but there are numerous international students who have. What I continue to see is that there is a middle-ground between the benefits versus the disadvantages of open courseware. However, this goes back to my point of analysis paralysis while studying the arguments and counter-arguments that surround DE today. The expectation is to take what I’ve synthesized, and to present it in an intelligible format for my professor, peers, and the online world to see. Lately I get so caught up in reading the different discussions that I’m realizing the need to shift my priorities from analyzing the information to forming an opinion. Which argument makes the most sense? Which one do I support more? Sometimes there is a desire to have all the information before one can make an informed decision. Other times one must make a decision with what little or plentiful information one has. As new information is received and synthesized, new opinions can be formed. Isn’t that why the science of medicine is a practice? Its because doctors continue to introduce, analyze and review new and old practices to see what works, what doesn’t, and what other possibilities are out there. In summary, I’ve found that it’s acceptable to form an opinion, right or wrong, with the information at hand. As I continue to learn about the advantages and disadvantages of DE and such areas of contention like the open courseware movement, I find that any opinion one has was formed based on the knowledge or wisdom harnessed up to that moment in time. When time constraints are introduced an opinion may change as inputs of new knowledge, wisdom, or wit are introduced. In the meantime, one musn’t let all the world’s knowledge and wisdom hinder one from forming an intelligible case when it is expected.


3 thoughts on “Managing the Balance between Synthesis and Action

  1. Jon, I love your last sentence in this post. We can get overwhelmed with very emotional arguments that have no credibility at all. To be an intelligent citizen, we know how to process information so we can form grounded, well-reasoned decisions.

  2. Jon, thanks so much for this post – it’s very helpful to me because it reflects my own state of mind and speaks to my own ‘paralysis’. I like the idea of consciously shifting from analysis to forming an opinion, given whatever information you have – and then accepting and even expecting one’s opinion to change when one comes across new information. I find it heartening, in that respect, that in online learning the jury’s still out on so many things, including its design and delivery. That ‘critical mass’ of practice and experience has yet to be achieved.

    But what I like to think is that it’s a two-way thing – the process of forming an intelligible opinion, writing about it, sharing it, doesn’t just reflect but feeds into that global body of knowledge and wisdom that you refer to. That sounds a bit grand but in these connected days is probably more true than in the past.

    Thanks for a great post.

  3. Excellent post Jon! You summed up a lot of my feelings quite well also. I have found my opinion on a number of things swaying back ‘n’ forth throughout the semester. The more I read, the more I want to know about different topics so the more I read. I keep digging and digging but there is just so much time. “In the meantime, one musn’t let all the world’s knowledge and wisdom hinder one from forming an intelligible case when it is expected.” Well said!

    Thanks much for your post!

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