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

Dubious Ethics

Posted on September 23rd, by George Veletsianos in open, sharing. No Comments

You are in your first scheduled session at the University. Your prof says:

“You must buy these X books for the semester”
(on some level, that’s  ok, i guess)
“Copyright laws don’t allow you to photocopy more than 10% of the book”
(this is getting a bit weird)
“You should bring all your books to class”

“If I don’t see you with your own copy of the book, I won’t like it, and you don’t want that to happen”

(… you then realize that the author of the books is the instructor, and the build up to the threat makes sense)

As a student at the university, what do you do? What can you do without risking failing the course, and risking your career at the university?  Remember that in the background is the fact that throughout your educational career, you were being treated as an empty jar waiting for knowledge to be poured into you (at least that’s what the system and those that support it had you believe). Can you speak up?

More importantly, let’s shift our focus to the academic. How on earth can this behavior be reconciled with the goals of the university that employs you? As stated on the manual (available through the university’s website), the university, through research and teaching, aims to:

inspire and develop the values of intellectual freedom, free movement of ideas and dialogue, and tolerance to new or opposing views.
I placed this post under the “open” category because it’s anything but. I don’t have a category for closed and opportunistic. The problem of course isn’t just the individual instructor, but (s)he does keep oiling the cogs that keep the system going.
Throughout my career, students have come first. I spend hours upon hours, often taken from my leisure time, to work with them, to advice and help them, to ask more questions and to avoid providing simple answers. This kind of thing, student exploitation masqueradeing as education, not only frustrates me, but reinforces my belief in putting humanity at the center of education, regardless of discipline and level/grade.

Enhancing the interactions between pedagogical agents and learners

Posted on September 21st, by George Veletsianos in E-learning, emerging technologies, pedagogical agents. No Comments

One thing that I don’t usually post on this blog is information related to my research on pedagogical agents and virtual characters, which is one of the research strands that I’ve followed for the past 4 years. I am breaking away from that mold by posting this note : )

virtual character, pedagogical agent

Specifically, my colleagues (Aaron Doering and Charles Miller) and I developed a research and design framework to guide smooth, natural, and effective communication between learners and pedagogical agents. Our reasons for developing this framework were varied, but after four years of research and design in the field, I became convinced that to push the field forward, we needed guidance. I use the word “guidance” as opposed to the words “rules” or “laws” because we “anticipate that designers, researchers, and instructors will adapt and sculpt the guidelines of the EnALI framework into their unique instructional contexts, ultimately kindling future research and design that will expand the framework foundations.”

The framework (called Enhancing Agent Learner Interactions or EnALI) is grounded on three major theories: socio-cultural notions of learning, cooperative learning, and conflict theory. In this, we have tried to bring a humanist perspective and encourage designers and researchers to move beyond the use of pedagogical agents as dispassionate tools delivering pre-recorded lectures… but I’ll save that information for a different post. The paper is to appear in the Journal of Educational Computing Research as: Veletsianos, G., Miller, C., & Doering, A. (2009). EnALI: A Research and Design Framework for Virtual Characters and Pedagogical Agents. Journal of Educational Computing Research, 41(2), 171-194 [email me for a preprint].

The framework is posted below, but if you want a full explanation of the guidelines, please refer to the paper. As always questions, comments, and critique are appreciated:

1. Pedagogical Agents should be attentive and sensitive to the learner’s needs and wants by:

• Being responsive and reactive to requests for additional and/or expanded information.
• Being redundant.
• Asking for formative and summative feedback.
• Maintaining an appropriate balance between on- and off-task communications.

2. Pedagogical Agents should consider intricacies of the message they send to learners by:

• Making the message appropriate to the receiver’s abilities, experiences, and frame of reference.
• Using congruent verbal and nonverbal messages.
• Clearly owning the message.
• Making messages complete and specific.
• Using descriptive, non-evaluative comments.
• Describing feelings by name, action, or figure of speech.

3. Pedagogical Agents should display socially appropriate demeanor, posture, and representation by:

• Establishing credibility and trustworthiness
• Establishing role and relationship to user/task.
• Being polite and positive (e.g., encouraging, motivating)
• Being expressive (e.g. exhibiting verbal cues in speech).
• Using a visual representation appropriate to content.

The changing nature of publishing

Posted on September 17th, by George Veletsianos in Ideas, open, sharing, work. No Comments

This is another one of those mini posts related to the changing nature of the work that academics do; specifically, publishing. I wrote this after  being directed to the Public Library of Science site from Tony Hirst‘s tweet:


If you visit the website mentioned (here) you will see that the Public Library of Science will be making available a number of metrics intenting to evaluate the reach of published articles (I played with a similar concept here). These metrics (which will accompany each article) include reader notes and comments, ratings, social bookmakrs, citations in the academic literature, and so on. Not only is this a step toward transparently assessing the value of a publication, it provides another impetus for academics to seriously consider engaging with and participating in social media spheres. In an age where ongoing debate, collaboration, interaction, participation, and engagement are daily buzz words when envisioning improved education, shouldn’t the same ideas apply to our publications? If you are interested in these issues you may like to look at this cloudwork (and especially the comments made by Giota on the credibility, resistance, legitimacy, and power structures). It’s an interesting conversation.

Your thoughts?

Open and Free and Changing

Posted on September 15th, by George Veletsianos in open, sharing. 2 comments

During the month of September,

Can you see a trend?


Posted on September 12th, by George Veletsianos in sharing. No Comments

My colleagues and I just published a paper on the design and evaluation of an online learning environment titled Geothentic:

Doering, A., Scharber, C., Miller, C., & Veletsianos, G. (2009). GeoThentic: Designing and assessing with technology, pedagogy, and content knowledge. Contemporary Issues in Technology and Teacher Education [Online serial], 9(3).


In short, Geothentic is an online environment that provides problem-based learning modules for the teaching and learning of geography. The student side of the environment is based on the idea of scaffolding. The teacher side of the environment is based on the idea of Technological Pedagogical And Content Knowledge (or TPCK or TPACK). The paper discusses the evolution of the environment through a design-based research lens and highlights three technology-based ways to visually assess teachers’ TPACK.If you have any questions about the paper, feel free to get in touch.

The CITE journal is an open access publication and focuses on technology and teacher education.

P2PU and guess who’s a student!

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

Peer to Peer UniversityFor those of you that missed the announcement, the first courses at the Peer to Peer University started on September 9, 2009. The Peer to Peer University is an “online community of open study groups for short university-level courses”and it’s an exciting development for the changing nature of the educational landscape. While there’s lots of issues to resolve before such initiatives become widespread (accreditation being an important one), it’s great to see this come to life. To celebrate the launch, I have enrolled in the Introduction to Cyberpunk Literature course :). I am interested in the topic from lots of angles, and since I am interested in improving universities and their role in society I can also act as a participant-observer.