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

Category: E-learning

A definition of emerging technologies for education

Posted on November 18th, by George Veletsianos in E-learning, Ideas, open, sharing, work. 23 comments
[Update 3: The definition below has been updated and appears in the second edition of my emerging technologies and emerging practices book. More details on the updated definition are here. The updated definition is in chapter 1 of the new book]


[Update 2: The ideas discussed below appear in full detail at: Veletsianos, G. (2010). A Definition of Emerging Technologies for Education. In G. Veletsianos (Ed.), Emerging Technologies in Distance Education (pp. 3-22). Edmonton, AB: Athabasca University Press. You can download a pdf of this chapter from: ]


[Update 1 : Nov 30, 2008: I was feeling a bit uneasy to write that noone has yet come up with a definition of emerging technologies. So, I emailed George Siemens asking if he had a definition that he is using in his work. He asked the question on twitter here, and posted the replies he received here. Picking up on the twitter message and George’s blog post, a few other definitions have emerged here and here. Thank you everyone for contributing your thoughts! The working book chapter with the definition of emerging technologies for education, teaching, and learning is updated and available]


Surprisingly enough, the education, e-learning, educational technology, instructional design, and so on literatures do not include a definition of emerging technologies for education. Below is my attempt at defining the term. This definition will be part of a book chapter to be published in 2009. The complete chapter will be posted here by the end of January 2009. Enjoy, and if you have any comments, or if you happen to stumble upon a definition of emerging technologies, please feel free to comment!

Emerging Technologies are tools, innovations, and advancements utilized in diverse educational settings (including distance, face-to-face, and hybrid forms of education) to serve varied education-related purposes (e.g., instructional, social, and organizational goals). Emerging Technologies (ET) can be defined and understood in the context of the following five characteristics:

1. ET can be, but are not necessarily, new technologies. It is important to note that in this context the words emerging and new are usually treated as synonymous, but they may not necessarily be so. While a definition of new might be perilous and contentious, ET may represent newer developments (e.g., utilizing the motion sensing capabilities of the Wii Remote to practice surgical techniques) as well as older ones (e.g., employing open source learning management systems at higher education institutions). Even though it may be true that most emerging technologies are newer technologies, the mere fact that they are new, does not necessarily categorize them as emerging. This idea of new technologies being emerging technologies also begs the following two questions: When do technologies cease to be new? When technologies cease to be new, do they also cease to be emerging? For example, synthetic (or virtual) worlds were described as an emerging technology more than ten years ago (Dede, 1996). Today, virtual worlds are still described as emerging technologies (e.g. de Freitas, 2008). Newness, by itself, is a problematic indicator of what emerging technologies, as older technologies can also be emerging– the reasons for this will become clearer after we examine the characteristics that follow.

2. ET are evolving organisms that exist in a state of “coming into being”. The word evolving describes a dynamic state of change and continuous refinement and development. Twitter, the popular social networking and micro-blogging platform, represents an illustrative example of an ET that is “coming into being.” Twitter’s early success and popularity would often cause frequent outages. Such issues were most noticeable during popular technology events (e.g., during the MacWorld keynote address). After a while, Twitter’s outage issues were both lambasted and anticipated by the industry. When a new company moved into Twitter’s old offices, an image was posted on the office door (Figure 1) as a tongue-in-cheek statement regarding Twitter’s downtime and office relocation. Early attempts to satisfy sudden surges in demand included using more servers and implementing on/off switches to various Twitter features (e.g., during the 2008 WorldWide Developers Conference), while later efforts included  Re-designing the application’s architecture and withdrawing services (e.g., free SMS and instant messaging support). Existing in a state of evolution, Twitter continuously develops and refines its service, while maintaining its core purpose, and still being an emerging rather than an established technology.

3. ET go through hype cycles. Today’s emerging technology might be tomorrow’s fad, and today’s simple idea might be tomorrow’s key to boosting productivity. While it is easy to fall into the trap of believing that today’s innovations will completely restructure and revolutionize the way we learn and teach, it is important to remain critical to hype. Even though technology has had a major impact on how distance education is delivered, managed, negotiated, and practiced, it is also important to recognize that due to organizational, cultural, and historical factors, education, as a field of study and practice, is resistant to change (c.f. Cuban, 1993; Lortie, 1975). Technologies and ideas go through cycles of euphoria, adoption, activity and use, maturity, impact, enthusiasm, and even infatuation. In the end, some of today’s emerging technologies (and ideas) will become stable (and staple), while others will fade in the background.

One way to describe the hype that surrounds emerging technologies and ideas for education is to observe the Hype Cycle model (Fenn & Raskino, 2008) developed by Gartner Inc. This model evaluates the relative maturity and impact of technologies and ideas and follows five stages that have been successfully applied to diverse topics (table 1). Most specific to the topic of this book are the hype cycle models developed for Higher Education (Gartner, 2008a) e-learning (Gartner, 2006), and emerging technologies (Gartner, 2008b).

4.      ET satisfy the “not yet” criteria. The “not yet” criteria refer to two interrelated issues:

a. ET are not yet fully understood. One factor distinguishing ET from other forms of technology is the fact that we are not yet able to understand what such technologies are, what they offer for education, and what they mean for learners, instructors, and institutions. For example, what exactly is mobile learning? How does it differ from other forms of learning? What does it mean to have access to data regardless of geographic location? What are the social and pedagogical affordances of mobile learning in relation to alternative forms of learning? As a result of ET not being fully understood, a second issue arises:
b. ET are not yet fully researched or researched in a mature way. Initial investigations of ET are often evangelical and describe superficial issues of the technology (e.g., benefits and drawbacks) without focusing on underdtanding the affordances of the technology and how those affordances can provide different (and hopefully better) ways to learn and teach at a distance. Additionally, due to the evolutionary nature of these technologies, the research that characterizes it falls under the case study and formative evaluation approaches (Dede, 1996), which, by itself, is not necessarily a negative facet of research, but it does pinpoint to our initial attempts to understand the technology and its possibilities. Nevertheless, because ET are not yet fully researched, initial deployments of emerging technology applications merely replicate familiar processes, leading critics to argue that technologies are new iterations of the media debate (e.g., Choi and Clark, 2006; c.f. Clark, 1994; Kozma, 1994; Tracey & Hasting, 2005). Unfortunately, to a large extend, they are right – newer technologies are often used in old ways: Linear PowerPoint slides replace slideshow projectors; blogs – despite the opportunities they offer for collaboration – replace personal reflection diaries; and pedagogical agent lectures replace non-agent lectures (e.g., Choi and Clark, 2006).

5. ET are potentially disruptive but their potential is mostly unfulfilled. Individuals and corporations recognize that a potential exists, but such potential hasn’t yet been realized. The potential to transform practices, processes, and institutions, is both welcomed and opposed. For example, open access journals have the potential to transform the ways research and knowledge are disseminated and evaluated. While this advancement has the potential to disrupt scholarship, to date, the majority of research is still published at closed access journals and periodicals.

As I have said before, i developed the above “definition/description” because i couldn’t find one in the literature. If you have one that for one reason or another i couldn’t find, please feel free to add the citation/reference to the comments or send me an email. If you have any critiques, i also wouldn’t mind hearing those either :)

BJET Special Issue CFP: Learning and Teaching in Virtual Worlds

Posted on August 18th, by George Veletsianos in cfp, E-learning, learner experience, work. No Comments

Click here to access a PDF document of this call

Crossing boundaries:

Learning and teaching in virtual worlds

While the concept of multi-user virtual worlds is not a new one, the rising popularity of virtual world applications has been rapid over the last five years. Although much attention around such immersive environments has centred upon Second Life, there are currently 80 virtual world applications available and another 100 planned for 2009, with some targeting specific populations (e.g., young girls with BarbieGirls) and others catering for broader audiences (e.g., training applications in The appeal of virtual worlds is that they allow users to cross over into new spaces that can be used to support a range of social interactions. In this way, they have proven to be quite versatile, embracing varied activities and purposes, including business, cultural activities as well as having educational capabilities.

With its focus upon the educational uses of virtual world applications, this special issue of the British Journal of Educational Technology (Volume 40, Issue 6) aims to provide a definitive profile of the current status of virtual worlds for education and training. Specifically, we invite contributions from the research community to advance our understanding of this field of study and research. In order to build upon existing research, and to support the development of the field as a unique academic discipline, in this unique issue the editors are interested in hosting a forum for rigorous and leading edge contributions to the nascent field that:

  • explore new frameworks, approaches and pedagogical models,
  • present case studies of practice where innovative techniques are pioneered,
  • investigate new methods of teaching, learning and research in the area,
  • evaluate the experiences of teachers, learners and institutions using immersive worlds.

The aim of the special issue is to bring together the most leading edge research and development in the field and allow practitioners and researchers to benefit from these valuable contributions. Towards this aim, recommended topics of interest for this special issue include, but are not limited to, the following research questions:

  • What value can virtual world applications add to conventional methods of education and what evidence exists to support such propositions?
  • What are the institutional changes needed to accommodate learning approaches centred on virtual worlds?
  • What pedagogies and approaches are needed to make the use of virtual world applications most effective and engaging, and what evidence exists to support such approaches?
  • Are particular learner groups engaged more with virtual world applications than others?
  • What are the main challenges for tutors and trainers using virtual world technologies?
  • What are the main technological challenges associated with using virtual world applications?
  • What frameworks and approaches can be developed to support effective, engaging and transformative usage of virtual worlds?
  • Does the use of virtual worlds necessitate more learner-centred approaches? What evidence exists to support claims for or against such approaches?
  • Will using these applications change how people learn? If so, what evidence exists to support such a claim?
  • Do virtual world applications offer greater support than alternative technologies for building and supporting distributed learning communities?
  • How do learners experience virtual worlds? How do they experience their interactions with others?
  • How do learners choose to represent themselves in virtual worlds?

The issue also envisages contributions that relate to a wider range of virtual world applications particularly where learning and training issues are highlighted. Studies focusing upon massively multiplayer role-playing games (e.g. World of Warcraft), mirror worlds (e.g. Google earth) and hybrid worlds (e.g. mixed reality experiences) will also be considered for the issue where they make sure that the focus is upon learning activities and practices and where lessons learnt may be applied to virtual worlds for learning.

The issue will also be twinned with the First International IEEE Conference on Serious Games and Virtual Worlds which will be held in March 2009 at the University of Coventry, UK.

Submission Process

April 1, 2009: Full length papers due (see for guidelines). Please send an email to the editors with the title of your submission and submit your paper online using Manuscript Central. To make a submission, go to If this is the first time you have used the system you will be asked to register by clicking on ‘create an account.’ Full instructions on making your submission are provided.  You should receive an acknowledgement within a few minutes.  Thereafter, you will be kept in touch with the progress of your submission through refereeing, any revisions that are required, and – hopefully – to final acceptance.

Please advise Sara de Freitas that you have made a submission for the special issue.  If you do not then it will be treated as an ordinary submission for a subsequent general issue

June 1, 2009:  Notification of acceptance

July 1, 2009: Final papers with revisions due

November, 2009: Publication date

Note: Submissions to the Crossing boundaries Serious Games and Virtual Worlds conference to be held at Coventry University in March 2009 that fit the purpose of this call may be recommended for co-submission to the special issue. Authors will be contacted directly where this is the case so that they can revisit the paper for the BJET special issue review process. Successfully reviewed papers will be processed by BJET in the normal way and according to the normal peer-review procedures. For those wishing to submit papers to the conference, details can be found at:

Special Issue Editors

Dr. Sara de Freitas B.A. (Hons), M.A., PhD

Sara de Freitas is Director of Research at the hub for research and development in serious games and virtual worlds at the Serious Games Institute at the University of Coventry, UK. Her research interests include evaluating the efficacy of serious games and virtual world applications, pedagogic modelling and policy and strategic development of e-learning. Sara chairs the Lab Group, speaks internationally and has a significant publications list in the field of e-learning, game-based learning and lifelong learning. Sara also holds a visiting fellowship at the University of London where she continues to build on leading edge research in the field at the London Knowledge Lab. She currently has four books in publication and is setting up an interdisciplinary research group focusing upon artificial intelligence, evaluation and validation for immersive forms and developing links between physical and virtual spaces through smart buildings. (Address: Sara de Freitas, PhD, Serious Games Institute, University of Coventry, Cheetah Road, Coventry, CV1 2TL, United Kingdom; s.defreitas|at|

Dr. George Veletsianos B.A., M.A., Ph.D

George Veletsianos is Lecturer of Digital Technologies, Communication & Education at the University of Manchester, UK. His research interests involve the design, development, and evaluation of electronic learning environments, adventure learning, emerging technologies in distance and hybrid education, virtual characters, and the learner experience. His research and development work has been published in excess of 30 times in articles and manuscripts in academic journals, books, and conference proceedings, while his work has been presented at over 40 national and international conferences. (Address:  George Veletsianos, PhD, LTA, School of Education, Ellen Wilkinson Building, University of Manchester, Oxford Road, Manchester, M13 9PL, United Kingdom; veletsianos|at|

Call for Chapters: Using Emerging Technologies in Distance Education

Posted on July 3rd, by George Veletsianos in cfp, E-learning, Ideas, open, work. 2 comments

Dear everyone,

I am very excited to announce a CFP on the use of emerging technologies in distance education. Specifics are listed below. The CFP can also be downloaded in pdf form.


Proposal Submission Deadline: September 1, 2008

Using Emerging Technologies in Distance Education
edited by George Veletsianos (University of Manchester, UK)

Part of the Issues in Distance Education series
edited by Terry Anderson (Athabasca University, Canada)

and planned publication online and in paper format by Athabasca University Press as an
Open Access publication


Emerging technologies – such as virtual worlds, serious games, wikis, and social networking sites – have been heralded as technologies that are powerful enough to transform learning and teaching. Nevertheless, minimal work has investigated the affordances of such tools in the context of distance education. Most often, the literature presents a description of such technologies along with classroom integration ideas, presenting an incomplete picture of how such technologies are used in distance education. In particular, the goal of this book is to amalgamate work in the use of emerging technologies to design, enhance and deliver distance education. Researchers and practitioners interested in the above issues reside in varied academic domains, rendering the sharing and dissemination of their work a formidable task. Via this book, we hope to harness dispersed knowledge and multidisciplinary perspectives. The target audience is both members of research communities and innovative distance education practitioners.


The book will be limited to the use of emerging technologies for distance education. Recommended emerging technologies of interest for the book include, but are not limited, to:
• Blogs
• Microblogging platforms,
• Wikis and Wikibooks
• Social Networking Sites
• Virtual worlds
• Video games
• Cell/mobile phones and devices,
• Virtual characters, Avatars, and Pedagogical Agents
• Web 2.0 and data mashups
• Pod and video casts
• Online grassroots video
• Open Educational Resources and Open Access Technologies
• Pod usage production models

Invited Submissions

The book will consist of chapters (5,000 – 8,000 words) showcasing best practices, illustrating and analyzing how emerging technologies have been used in diverse distance learning and teaching areas. Via such work, it is expected that each chapter will contribute a list of ideas and factors that need to be considered when emerging technologies are adopted for distance teaching and learning. Equally important, contributing authors should highlight the pedagogical, organizational, cultural, social, economic, or political factors that influence the adoption and success/failure of emerging technologies.


This book is intended to be used as a one stop locale for work relating to the use of emerging technologies in distance education. As such, it is expected to be relevant to researchers, practitioners, and students. Importantly, due to the fact that interested parties reside in multiple disciplines and academic departments, chapters should be accessible to a broad audience.

Submission Procedure

By September 1, 2008: Submit a 1-2 page chapter proposal summarizing the intended submission.
Papers should be submitted via email to: veletsianos |AT|

October 1, 2008: Author notification along with chapter guidelines

December 1, 2008: Full chapters are due.

All submitted chapters will be reviewed on a double-blind review basis.
Expected Publication date is late 2009.

Sharing is Caring: Free e-book on Research Methods

Posted on March 30th, by George Veletsianos in E-learning, open, sharing. No Comments

In the spirit of sharing, and with permission Dr. Justus Randolph, I’d like to draw your attention to the following message. Personally, I was looking for such a book, and the fact that Justus has made in freely available is more than generous – Hurray for open and shareable educational materials!

Dear e-learning colleagues,


As a professional courtesy, I would like to inform you of a free e-book, Multidisciplinary Methods in Educational Technology Research and Development, recently published by HAMK University of Applied Sciences Press. In that text I theoretically and empirically chart the methods currently being used in our field and also provide information on planning, conducting, and reporting educational technology research and development projects. I hope that you will find it to be a useful text for educational technology research methods courses, a helpful resource for conducting (or supervising) research, and a rich source of empirical information on the art and science of educational technology research.


In the spirit of the open education movement, this is a free resource that you are welcome to use, reproduce, and distribute as you see fit, barring commercial uses or derivate works. It can be downloaded from:


Best wishes,

Justus Randolph

Rovaniemi, Finland

How do we design for learning engagement

Posted on March 28th, by George Veletsianos in E-learning, engagement, Ideas, learner experience. 1 Comment

How do we design for engagement? This is a question that has hovered over my shoulders for a while. Although not explicitly verbalized it is part of my work with avatars, pedagogical agents, and virtual characters. For example, see this paper in the British journal of Educational Technology. In addition, in my dissertation, I also argue that pedagogical agents/virtual characters may incite such deep and engaging experiences so as to distract learners from the task they are engaged with (I am of course talking about the conversational type agents and NOT the passive pedagogical agents that prominently appear in instructional design research – yes, I am being sarcastic). Outside of my tiny little contributions, others have thought about this issue. Pat Parrish, drawing on the work of Dewey and others, has written extensively on learner engagement. Charlie Miller, coming for an interaction design perspective, has also talked about engagement. And, the other day, a blog by Joseph from BYU, noting sister issues of engagement, emotion, and narrative. Granted, the ID field has for long (and long overdue) been focusing on information delivery and wow-look-at-what-this-can-do, but I think there are enough people thinking and writing about learner engagement, that the topic may gain prominence – as it should.


Back to the original question: How do we design for engagement? Honestly, if I knew how to verbalize this, I would probably write it up. But, I have a few ideas. First, I think that this question spurs multiple other questions. For example, how do K-12 teachers engage children? What are the characteristics of engaging lessons? What are the characteristics of engaging learners? Note that I am writing about characteristics in qualitative (and possibly interpretive, and further, possibly phenomenological) terms. What are the characteristics of boring lessons? What are the characteristics of engaging electronic learning environments/experiences? What is the process of engagement? How do we measure engagement? Again, I think that “measuring” engagement should be done in qualitative terms – this is a poor way of measuring something as malleable and inherent to our existential being, but it’s at least a start. Could we provide some sort of guidelines for the design of engaging electronic learning experiences? What does social psychology say about this? More on the last question in an upcoming post…


A set of preliminary ideas that I have is that “fun” has a lot to do with it. The HCI field discussed funology for a while, but I haven’t seen anything recently. Additionally, I think that a sense of achievement, contribution, belongingness, ability to change things, and purpose, matter. That’s an initial list, and it is very rough. There are numerous other ideas that need to be covered, including aesthetics, transformational learning, and, alas, the learner. But, I’ll leave that for a different time because I need to do some dissertation work.