Professor & Canada Research Chair in Innovative Learning and Technology at Royal Roads University

How do faculty benefit from renewable assignments?

Posted on December 13th, by George Veletsianos in open, scholarship. 1 Comment

* This was originally hosted on the BCCampus blog, but I’m cross-posting it here for posterity.

Open education advocates have promoted renewable assignments as a way to create/update knowledge, enable faculty and students to impact society in significant ways, and foster student learning in more meaningful ways. As individual faculty members are often involved in designing course assignments, it might be worthwhile to be explicit about the value that renewable assignments might garner for faculty members themselves.

David Wiley differentiates between disposable and renewable assignments. He writes:

“A Disposable Assignment is any assignment about which students and faculty understand the following:

  • Students will do the work
  • Faculty will grade the work
  • Students will throw away the work

A Renewable Assignment is any assignment where:

  • Students will do the work
  • Faculty will grade the work
  • The work is inherently valuable to someone beyond the class
  • The work is openly published so those other people can find and use (5R) it”

One form that renewable assignments might take is in the form of books and textbooks. Four examples of open access books that faculty and students collaboratively wrote, revised, or edited are the following:

The arguments for these types of assignments, and rightly so, often focus on students and society. They highlight the cost-savings that students might accrue while engaging in pedagogies that enable authentic, participatory, and valuable contributions to the common good.

Yet, we know that individuals face both individual and systemic barriers in adopting open practices, such as institutional constraints that might not necessarily recognize the value of spending extra time and effort on developing open books and textbooks with students. Convincing faculty members to develop renewable assignments might involve highlighting the benefits that faculty members might accrue by engaging in this process.

What then might be the individual benefits to faculty members from redesigning some of their assignments to be more “renewable?” One renewable assignment that I created materialized as the last book appearing in the list above. The benefits that I saw were the following:

  • Authentic mentorship. The assignment gave me an opportunity to mentor students in an environment in which the end goal was an essay intended for practitioners and researchers. In doing so, we often engaged in conversations about the goal of the project, the audience, and the outcomes that each student wanted for their essay. Such mentorship was personally satisfying and fulfilling.
  • Align my research with my teaching. Faculty members engage in diverse activities, and I’m a firm believer in engaging in activities that benefit multiple areas of my work. In other words, my research, teaching, and service often overlap and inform one another. By creating a renewable assignment that addressed my learning objectives and was aligned with my research, my students and I were able to produce scholarship that was of value to the field, as well as address the goals of my research agenda.
  • Enable students to publish their work. Beyond the personal benefits that students might accrue by engaging in renewable assignments, I found it immensely rewarding to see my students’ work being published and hear them describe that they felt empowered and supported. Importantly, our book was published by Hybrid Pedagogy, which practices collaborative peer review and treats the peer review process as pedagogical.
  • Better collaboration. It was much more pleasurable to work with students toward our shared goal. I found that this process eliminated some of the power imbalances and hierarchies in the classroom, enabling us to collaborate more effectively.

If you are a faculty member, consider the value that renewable assignments might have for students, society, but also for your own practice. If you are a learning designer that is advocating for renewable assignments, consider whether these arguments might be worthwhile in your conversations with faculty colleagues. And if you have experiences with renewable assignments, consider sharing them on social media and linking back to this article.

Recommended books of 2017

Posted on December 10th, by George Veletsianos in sharing. No Comments

Though there’s still a few weeks to go in 2017, I thought it’s the right time to highlight a few books I read this year that I found powerful, incisive, and significant in one way or another.  This is not a definitive list, but as I’m increasingly finding the bulk of the literature examining instructional design, educational technology, and learning sciences to be insular, I am drawn to other places for inspiration, compassion, and action.

  • Lower Ed: The Troubling Rise of For-Profit Colleges in the New Economy, by Tressie McMillan Cottom
  • Paying the Price: College Costs, Financial Aid, and the Betrayal of the American Dream, by Sara Goldrick-Rab
  • Kill All Normies: Online Culture Wars from 4Chan and Tumblr to Trump and the Alt-Right, by Angela Nagle
  • Living a Feminist Life, by Sara Ahmed
  • Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body, by Roxane Gay

What have you read this year that tops your list?

Institutional Use of Twitter – national analyses

Posted on November 5th, by George Veletsianos in my research, NPS, open, scholarship. No Comments

We recently wrote two papers that examined institutional uses of Twitter in Canada and the United States. As part of that work, we identified similar analyses taking place in other countries. These are listed below:

CountryCitation
AustraliaPalmer, S. (2013). Characterisation of the use of Twitter by Australian Universities. Journal of Higher Education Policy and Management, 35, 333–344.
CanadaVeletsianos, G., Kimmons, R., Shaw, A., Pasquini, L. & Woodward, Ss. (2017). Selective Openness, Branding, Broadcasting, and Promoting: Twitter Use in Canada’s Public Universities. Educational Media International, 54(1), 1-19.
TurkeyYolcu, O. (2013). Twitter usage of universities in Turkey. Turkish Online Journal of Educational Technology, 12, 360–371.
UKJordan, K. (2017). Examining the UK higher education sector through the network of institutional accounts on Twitter. First Monday, 22(5). doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.5210/fm.v22i5.7133
USAKimmons, R., Veletsianos, G., & Woodward, S. (2016). Institutional Uses of Twitter in Higher Education. Innovative Higher Education, 42(2), 97-111.

Lola Olufemi and student/faculty social media harassment

Posted on October 26th, by George Veletsianos in learner experience, my research, networked scholars, NPS, open, scholarship. 2 comments

Below is a short interview with Lola Olufemi. The description from the BBC reads “Lola Olufemi is 21 years old and Cambridge University Students’ Union Women’s Officer. She found herself on the front page of a national newspaper, the face of a campaign to “decolonise” the English curriculum at Cambridge University. She discusses with Jenni Murray how she feels she’s been scapegoated by the media and her fears for the impact this could have on other young, black women wanting to speak out.”

I was watching this unfold yesterday, and witnessed the racist and misogynistic tweets fly by. One of which came from a professor at a well-known unversity, and as I responded at the time, what sort of academic responds in such a vile way to a person, let alone a student. As was shared on Twitter the institution has policies processes to deal with the harassing faculty member, but the questions that have been preoccupying my thinking over the last few months is the following: In what ways should our universities respond to the harassment that their students and faculty receive online, and on social media in particular? What are the institutional and individual responsibilities when we encourage students and faculty to be present on social media?