Category: my research
My colleague Ash Shaw and I are working on a book. The book aims to highlight student voices in online learning. The main aims are to surface the experiences of online learners in an evocative and accessible manner, synthesize literature on the topic, and present our original work. Below is our draft table of contents. If you have a couple of minutes, could you take a look at it and let us know if there are any topics/debates/issues that might be of interest to the average faculty member and student that we are missing?
|#||Topic||Summary and questions answered|
|2||Demographics||Examines who today’s online learners are and how online learners demographics have changed over time. Who are today’s online learners? How many students enroll in online courses nationally and globally? How have demographics changed over time?|
|3||Who succeeds? (or, The online paradox)||Investigates the reasons why students who take online courses have greater degree completion rates when online courses are characterized by higher attrition rates.|
|4||Motivations||Investigates the reasons that individuals take online courses. Shows that students take online courses for a variety of reasons, and reveals that reasons differ depending on the type of online course (e.g., some learners take MOOCs for different reasons than online courses).|
|5||Digital Literacies||Examines the need for skills and the skills required to participate productively in online courses.|
|6||Note-taking||Uses note-taking to illustrate that online learning research that focuses on tracking student activity on platforms alone is insufficient to understand the human condition and hence improve learning outcomes.|
|7||Self-directed learning||Investigates self-directed learning as a process necessary for contemporary learners to develop and apply.|
|8||Openness||Investigates the meaning of the term openness in the context of online learning.|
|9||Personalized learning||Examines efforts to develop adaptive learning software and automate instruction (system control), and juxtaposes those efforts with designs that allow learners to personalize their own learning (learner control). Explores instructor strategies and designs to personalize learning.|
|10||Flexibility||Examines the ways that online courses can be designed to accommodate learners’ lives and allow flexible participation. Investigates issues of modality and (a)synchrnonicity.|
|11||Social Media||Investigates how social media are used in online courses and shows how intentional integration of such tools can lead to positive outcomes.|
|12||Loneliness or “The student who watched videos alone”||Examines how online learning can be a lonely and isolating experience and proposes strategies for enhancing presence and immediacy.|
|13||Emotions||Shows that learning online is an emotional experience, calling for a more caring pedagogy and critiquing the calls to employ online learning to simply make online learning offerings more efficient.|
|14||Lurking or “The student who learned as much by just watching videos”||Investigates the topic of lurking. Highlights the visible and invisible practices that online learners engage in. Demostrates…|
|15||Time or “The student who stole time from his family to study”||Explores the topic of time-management in online students’ lives, and investigates how courses can be designed to fit with the complexity of learner’s day-to-day realities (e.g., work and family requirements).|
|16||Dropout, Attrition, and Persistence||Explores the topic of attrition, as online courses often face higher attrition rates than alternatives.|
|17||Instructor||The role of the instructor in online learning environments. Investigates instructor presence, support, and explores how instructors can contribute to meaningful and effective learning experiences|
|18||Online vs. face-to-face learning||Investigates the question as to whether face-to-face learning is better than online learning. Presents the empirical research on the question and highlights (a) how different forms of education serve different needs, and (b) how learning design is a more significant factor in determining learning outcomes than modality.|
|19||MOOCs or “The student who completed 200 courses: And other, less profound, online learning experiences”||Explores the topic of MOOCs and summarizes the empirical research that exists on the topic. Explains the origins of the term, the different designs, and how the concept has evolved over time, with particular emphasis on students’ experiences in MOOCs.|
|20||The Learning Management System and Next-Generation Digital Learning Environments||Investigates the idea that Learning Management Systems contribute little to student learning. Proposes the courses are “nodes in a network” as opposed to hermetic containers of knowledge. Shows how course design differs between these two ideas.|
|21||Challenges and remediation strategies||Investigates the challenges that online learners face and the strategies employed by themselves and others to remediate them.|
Athabasca University Press has just published Emergence and Innovation in Digital Learning, a book I edited that owes its existence to the insightful authors who contributed their chapters on the topic. Like other titles published by AU Press, the book is open access.
Emerging technologies (e.g., social media, serious games, adaptive software) and emerging practices (e.g., openness, user modeling) in particular, have been heralded as providing opportunities to transform education, learning, and teaching. In such conversations it is often suggested that new ideas – whether technologies or practices – will address educational problems (e.g., open textbooks may make college more affordable) or provide opportunities to rethink the ways that education is organized and enacted (e.g., the collection and analysis of big data may enable designers to develop algorithms that provide early and critical feedback to at-risk students). Yet, our understanding of emerging technologies and emerging practices is elusive. In this book, we amalgamate work associated with emergence in digital education to conceptualize, design, critique, enhance, and better understand education.
If you’ve ben following the conversations in the last two years, there will be some themes that you’ll recognize here. To mention a few: defining emerging technologies; not-yetness; data mining; technology integration models; open and social learning; and sociocultural aspects of MOOCs.
In the days that follow, I will summarize each chapter here.
Digital Learning and Social Media Research Funding for PhD students and very early career researchers
Digital Learning and Social Media Research Funding
May 3 Update: A note on eligibility
- If you don’t fulfil the requirements for this call (e.g., you don’t hold a valid emlpoyment visa for Canada or are a later-career scholar), but are still interested in collaborating with us, we would still love to hear from you. Please head over to the form available on the opportunities & collaboration page of our website.
Description of Opportunity
The Canada Research Chair in Innovative Learning and Technology at Royal Roads University invites applications from advanced doctoral students (i.e. those who completed their graduate coursework) and post-doctoral associates to conduct research with the Digital Learning and Social Media Research Group.
Funding for five (5) research opportunities are available.
The Digital Learning and Social Media Research Group is an international and interdiciplinary team of researchers investigating the ways that social media and other emerging technologies are used in learning, teaching, scholarship, and institutional settings. The group is led by Dr. George Veletsianos (Canada Research Chair & Associate Professor, Royal Roads University) and Dr. Royce Kimmons (Assistant Professor, Brigham Young University). The Digital Learning and Social Media Research Group executes the CRC’s program of research.
The research funding opportunities aim to involve applicants in the scholarly endeavors of the research group and thus provide experiential mentoring focused on supporting the students’ or post docs’ scholarly and professional development. With a mentor, each student or post doc will co-plan, execute, and submit for publication a research study. The outcome of each research opportunity will be the publication of one (1) peer-reviewed paper.
Funding is available for research that focuses on one or more of the following areas: networked scholarship, social media use in education, digital/online learning, open learning, emerging technologies, learning analytics, social network analysis, or educational data mining.
Potential researchers should submit their application materials by May 16, 2016.
Start date is around June 6th
Submission of a co-authored research study to a peer-reviewed journal.
Research opportunities are expected to last anywhere from 3 to 5 months
- Advanced doctoral student status (usually in the 3rd or 4th year of their studies) OR post doctoral status having completed a graduate degree (PhD/EdD) within the last 3 years.
- Enrolment in or having attained a graduate degree (PhD/EdD) in education, educational technology, learning technologies, learning sciences, curriculum and instruction, cognitive science, or other related field.
- Individuals must be Canadian citizens or permanent residents of Canada, or must hold a valid employment visa or work permit issued by the Government of Canada.
To be well-suited for this opportunity, individuals must have excellent organizational abilities, analytic skills, and be familiar with methodologies involving the analysis of quantitative or qualitative data.
Interested applicants are invited to submit the following materials to Dr. George Veletsianos (george.veletsianos *at* royalroads.ca) by May 16, 2016:
- Curriculum Vitae (CV)
- A single-authored paper (class papers are acceptable)
- An expression of interest or research proposal (not to exceed 2 single-spaced pages) that includes the following:
- Description of a research project that the applicant wishes to complete under the auspices of the research group (This description should include at least 2-3 research questions of interest and a proposed methodology)
- Description of experiences analyzing quantitative or qualitative data
Applications will be evaluated by an academic panel.
Though the research group is interested in any proposal examining digital learning and social media use in higher education, we are especially interested in proposals focusing on analyzing large-scale datasets such as those gathered from public sources (e.g., Twitter, university websites, and others). The research group has expertise in this area and can collect, structure, and organize data necessary for such endeavors. Thus, we welcome applications from those with and without technical expertise. Past studies conducted in this context include the following:
|Research question||Data sources|
|How do students and professors use Twitter?||~600K tweets from ~400 Twitter profiles|
|What narratives do institutional Twitter acccounts construct for students and faculty?||Images posted by public Canadian Universities on Twitter|
|How well do institutional websites meet mandated accessibility requirements?||~3,000 U.S. university homepages|
For examples of research studies in this area conducted by the research group, please refer to:
$2,000 CAD upon submission of the study to a journal to reimburse the student or post doc for their time working on
Over the last year or so, we’ve interviewed more than 200 individuals who have participated in a number of open courses. We are working on a project in which we are using learner narratives and vignettes from these interviews to help administrators, faculty, researchers, and learning designers understand learners and improve their learning experience. Though there are many ways that are used to understand learners (e.g., dashboards) we believe that in-depth vignettes of typical experiences may allow for greater sensitivity of the learners’ lifeworld and realities. We will be using these stories to problematize various aspects of digital learning. Each story will be followed by a longer analysis of the issues raised in the story. For now, below is one such (DRAFT!) story. What do you think? Is there anything else that you’d like to see in this narrative? Is it interesting? If you are an administrator, faculty, researcher, or learning designer, does this story add anything valuable?
Title: Why not?
Theme: Open learning opportunities are oftentimes costless and relatively risk-free.
Mary and her demanding Pomeranian, Kylie, live deep in the heart of Texas. “I have a passion for the law!” the thirty-year-old exclaimed when we called her on her landline. She had seriously considered going to law school and had even passed her LSATS, the law school entrance exams used for US Universities. But having just finished four intense years of a bachelor’s degree, she decided to wait a bit. “Law school just didn’t seem like a good choice at the time,” she reflected. Five years later, Mary has settled into her work as a business consultant. Her interest in the law is still keen, and she’s never completely given up the dream of law school, but it’s been tempered with a bit of realism. “I don’t know if I can afford to spend another three years in the classroom,” she confided to us, “I don’t know if I still have the same passion for the legal industry as I did five years ago.”
During an afternoon enjoying frozen mango margaritas with a friend, trying to cope with the scorching sun, Mary learned about MOOCs. Shortly thereafter, she signed up for a number of courses, dabbling in some and promptly forgetting about others. One day, ContractsX, a course on contract law taught by a Harvard professor, popped up on her screen and she decided to “give it a shot”. What had she got to lose? “It’s a free class, taught at one of the more well-respected institutions. Why not?!” she laughed.
The course was flexible and fit into her busy life. On Saturday mornings she would sit in her office, with Kylie by her side and a warm cup of dark roast coffee in her hand, and use her trusted iPad to watch Harvard Law lectures. These weren’t just any lectures. Professor Fried was a masterful storyteller, a king of his trade. It was through these short, interesting, and memorable stories that Professor Fried taught concepts relating to contract law. “I can’t believe that I’m sitting here, I’m learning this material from Harvard law!” The fast pace and cramped content made the course challenging, Mary acknowledged, and she didn’t always do as well as she would have liked on the course tests. But, as she was able to go back to review the answers and re-watch the videos, this didn’t stress her too much, and she ended up passing the course with flying colours. Proud of her certificate of accomplishment, Mary enthused, “It makes me want to keep coming back for more!”
Even though it was a personal interest in the law that led her to sign up for this course, Mary has found what she learned in ContractsX helpful when she has to deal with contracts in her own job. She has enthusiastically recommended the course to co-workers and friends. She’s currently taking a number of other open courses and is anxiously awaiting the second version of the Contracts course. While Mary’s dream of attending law school, may not have changed, her confidence in herself has: “I never thought of applying to Harvard. There was no way I would be getting in. But then, five years later, I’m taking a course from Harvard. I wouldn’t say that I’m a Harvard law student, but at least now I could sit across from a Harvard law student and have a clear conversation with them. It’s very rewarding to know that.”
Education Scholars’ Evolving Uses of Twitter as a Conference Backchannel and Social Commentary Platform
The scholarly community faces a lack of large-scale research examining how students and professors use social media in authentic contexts and how such use changes over time. Continuing our investigation into how professors and students use social media, Royce Kimmons and I just published a paper in which we used data mining methods to better understand academic Twitter use during, around, and between the 2014 and 2015 American Educational Research Association annual conferences both as a conference backchannel and as a general means of participating online. The first paper we published using similar methods, data, and comparing students and professors’ social media use is here. All of our research on networked scholarship and students’ and faculty members’ use of social media is gathered here.
Descriptive and inferential analysis is used to explore Twitter use for 1,421 academics and the more than 360,000 tweets they posted. Results demonstrate the complicated participation patterns of how Twitter is used “on the ground.” In particular, we show that:
- tweets during conferences differed significantly from tweets outside conferences
- students and professors used the conference backchannel somewhat equally, but students used some hashtags more frequently, while professors used other hashtags more frequently
- academics comprised the minority of participants in these backchannels, but participated at a much higher rate than their non-academic counterparts
- the number of participants in the backchannel increased between 2014 and 2015, but only a small number of authors were present during both years, and the number of tweets declined from year to year.
- various hashtags were used throughout the time period during which this study occurred, and some were ongoing (ie, those which tended to be stable across weeks) while others were event-based (ie, those which spiked in a particular week)
- professors used event-based hashtags more often than students and students used ongoing hashtags more often than professors
- ongoing hashtags tended to exhibit positive sentiment, while event-based hashtags tended to exhibit more ambiguous or conflicting sentiments
These findings suggest that professors and students exhibit similarities and differences in how they use Twitter and backchannels and indicate the need for further research to better understand the ways that social technologies and online networks are integrated in scholars’ lives.
Here’s the full citation and paper:
Kimmons, R. & Veletsianos, G. (2016). Education Scholars’ Evolving Uses of Twitter as a Conference Backchannel and Social Commentary Platform. British Journal of Educational Technology, 47(3), 445—464.
Scholars are often encouraged to be public intellectuals – to ‘go online’ and engage with diverse audiences. Yet, scholars’ online activities appear to be rife with tensions, dilemmas, and conundrums. In a presentation that I gave last week at AERA, I discuss some tensions and challenges scholars face when engaging networked publics and highlight some uncomfortable realities of being a public scholar. Evangelizing public and networked scholarship without acknowledging the existence of tensions is detrimental to the field and misleading to the scholars who may be considering greater public engagement- becoming more networked, more public, and more “digital.” Individual scholars and institutions need to evaluate the purposes and functions of scholarship and take part in devising systems that reflect and safeguard the values of scholarly inquiry.
A number of literature reviews have been published on MOOCs. None has focused exclusively on the empirical literature. In a recent paper, we analyzed the empirical literature published on MOOCs in 2013-2015 to make greater sense of who studies what and how. We found that:
- more than 80% of this literature is published by individuals whose home institutions are in North America and Europe,
- a select few papers are widely cited while nearly half of the papers are cited zero times,
- researchers have favored a quantitative if not positivist approach to the conduct of MOOC research,
- researchers have preferred the collection of data via surveys and automated methods
- some interpretive research was conducted on MOOCs in this time period, but it was often basic and it was the minority of studies that were informed by methods traditionally associated with qualitative research (e.g., interviews, observations, and focus groups)
- there is limited research reported on instructor-related topics, and
- even though researchers have attempted to identify and classify learners into various groupings, very little research examines the experiences of learner subpopulations (e.g., those who succeed vs those who don’t; men vs women).
We believe that the implications arising from this study are important for research on educational technology in general and not jut MOOC research. For instance, given the interest on big data and automated collection/analysis of the data trails that learners leave behind on digital learning environments, a broader methodological toolkit is imperative in the study of emerging digital learning environments.
Here’s a copy of the paper:
Veletsianos, G. & Shepherdson, P. (2016). A Systematic Analysis And Synthesis of the Empirical MOOC Literature Published in 2013-2015. The International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning, 17(2).
Royce Kimmons and I have been exploring the use of large-scale data in a number of recent studies. We just published a paper that tries to make sense of students’ and professors’ social media participation on a large scale. We are continuing our qualitative investigations to understand “why, in what ways, and how” scholars (students & professors) are using social media, but this is our first data mining study making use of Twitter data. It’s also the first study using large-scale Twitter data to make sense of how professors and students of education are using Twitter.
Here’s a high-level summary of three of our findings:
- There is significant variation in how scholars participate on Twitter. The platform may not be the democratizing tool it is often purported to be: The most popular 1% scholars have an average follower base nearly 100 times that of scholars in the lower 99% and 700 times those in the bottom 50%.
- Civil rights and advocacy seem to be an important activity of social media participation – this is rarely captured in research to date, which most often focuses on how social media are used in teaching & research. Scholars’ participation on Twitter extends well beyond traditional notions of scholarship.
We found that those scholars who follow more users, have tweeted more, signal themselves as professors, and have been on Twitter longer will have more followers. This model predicts 83% of the variation on follower counts. This finding raises questions as to the meaning of follower counts and its use as a metric in conversations pertaining to scholarly quality/reach.
Veletsianos, G., & Kimmons, R. (2016). Scholars in an Increasingly Digital and Open World: How do Education Professors and Students use Twitter? The Internet and Higher Education, 30, 1-10.