Category: my research
Researchers have proposed that social media might offer many benefits to Massive Open Online Courses. Yet such claims are supported by little empirical evidence. The existing research exploring the use of social media in MOOCs has been conducted with individual courses and convenience samples, making it difficult to know to what extent research results are generalizable. In this mixed methods research, I used data mining techniques to retrieve a large-scale Twitter data set from 116 MOOCs with course-dedicated hashtags. Using quantitative and qualitative methods, I then examined users’ participation patterns, the types of users posting to those hashtags, the types of tweets that were posted, and the variation in types of posted tweets across users. I found little evidence to support the claims that Twitter as an adjunct to MOOCs is used much/effectively. Results show that learners make up only about 45% of users and contribute only about 35% of tweets. The majority of users contribute minimally, and an active minority of users contributes the preponderance of messages.
These findings do not reveal substantive evidence of learners contributing to multiple hashtags, which may suggest that learners did not find Twitter to be a useful space that provided added value or responded to their needs. Ultimately, these results demonstrate the need for greater intentionality in integrating social media into MOOCs.
I am linking to the pdf pre-print of this article below.
Veletsianos, G. (in press). Toward a Generalizable Understanding of Twitter and Social Media Use Across MOOCs: Who Participates on MOOC Hashtags and In What Ways? Journal of Computing in Higher Education.
It’s February, already?! This year, I’m excited to spend some time collaborating with a group of open education colleagues, as part of a BCcampus Open Education Advocacy and Research Fellowship. The rest of the team consists of Jennifer Barker, Ken Jeffery, and Rajiv Jhangiani. Good company!
Group selfie, by Rajiv Jhangiani (CC-BY)
The aims of the fellowship are to raise awareness of open educational practices and to conduct, present, and publish research on open educational practices at BC institutions. You can read more about what each of us is hoping to achieve in this announcement.
And since this fellowship is related to advocacy, please take 4 minutes and 40 seconds to watch the video below which summarizes the empirical evidence on efficacy and perceptions surrounding open textbooks.
Last week, a reporter from EdSurge reached out to me to shed some light on what Pearson called their Learning Design Principles. The EdSurge article is here, but below is a more detailed rough draft of the points that I made to share. I am posting them here for a fuller picture of some of my thoughts.
- Nothing proprietary (yet, perhaps). I saw a number of sources note that Pearson released their proprietary learning design principles. There’s not much proprietary in the principles. All of these ideas are well-documented in the literature pertaining to educational technology found in cognitive psychology, learning sciences, instructional design, and education literature.
- It’s good to see that Pearson is using findings from the education literature to guide its design and development. Some of these principles should be standard practice. If you are creating educational technology products without considering concepts like instructional alignment, feedback, and scaffolding, authentic learning, student-centered learning environments, and inquiry-based learning, you are likely creating more educational harm than good. The point is that using research to guide educational technology should be applauded and emulated. More educational technology companies should be using research to inform their designs and product iterations.
- BUT, since around 2011, the educational technology industry has promoted the narrative that education has not changed since the dawn of time. With a few exceptions, the industry has ignored the history, theory, and research of the academic fields associated with improving education with technology. The industry has ignored this at its own peril because we have a decent – not perfect, but decent – understanding of how people learn and how we can help improve the ways that people learn. But, the industry has developed products and services starting from scratch, making the same mistakes that other have done in the past, while claiming that their products and services will disrupt education.
- Not all of the items released are principles. For example, “pedagogical agents” is on the list but that’s not a principle. Having studied the implementation of pedagogical agents for more than 7 years, it’s clear that what Pearson is attempting to do is figure our how to better design pedagogical agents for learning. Forgive me while I link to some pdfs of my past work here, but, should amagent’s representation match the content area that they are supporting (should a doctor look like a doctor or should she have a blue mohawk?). Table 1 in this paper provides more on principles for designing pedagogical agents (e.g., agents should establish their role so that learners have a clear anticipation of what the agent can and cannot do: Does the agent purport to know everything or is the agent intended to ask questions but provide no answers?)
- As you can tell from the above, I firmly believe that industry needs research/researchers in developing, evaluating, and refining innovations.
But more importantly, happy, merry, just, and peaceful holidays to everyone!
I wrote a guest post for the Chronicle’s Prof Hacker section describing our use of video and audio to summarize our research findings. The post was published today and it is available here, but I am reposting it below as well.
Street: First pass – CC licensed image
I use an eclectic assortment of learning resources in my courses. Books, peer-reviewed journal articles, op-eds, white papers, websites, documentaries, lecture videos, podcasts. Readings – especially peer-reviewed journal articles – are integral to my teaching, but I am intentional in my desire to go beyond text, to be inclusive and diverse in my selection of learning resources. In my research, and in my attempts to include multimodal learning resources in my teaching, I discovered that we could do a better job at sharing our scholarship.
One of the ways that I am using to share my scholarship in different ways is through the creation of short video and audio clips that accompany each one of my published papers. I believe these might be helpful to colleagues, students, and broader audiences. Colleagues might use them as a way to introduce, humanize, and explore a topic. Students might access them at times when listening is preferable to reading. For example, I listen to podcasts on bus rides because reading on the bus makes me feel dizzy. Others might be in the same predicament. Some students in our research noted that they watched video lectures when engaging in other activities – such as cooking – as a way to accommodate their studies in their busy lives. Broader audiences, such as the general public or journalists, might find video and audio clips valuable as well, as these clips contain information that usually resides behind journal paywalls.
We have created a dedicated YouTube channel to host these videos. Here is a playlist of some of them:
The audio is hosted on my personal SoundCloud channel. Here’s a playlist:
We follow a simple process to create these. For each published paper, I collaborate with members of my research group to (a) write a script, (b) record an mp3 file, and (c) produce an animated movie. These media are produced by two individuals using off-the-shelf software. One person writes the script and shares it with the other using a shared Dropbox folder. When I narrate the script, I use Audacity to create the audio file. When my colleague Laura Pasquini narrates, she uses GarageBand. We use instrumental music shared under Creative Commons licenses as background. Once the audio file is created, I post it in on my SoundCloud channel and users can stream it or download it from there. Next, we use VideoScribe to create the animation and since the software is cloud-based, we can both review the draft version of the video prior to publication. The final video is then posted on a YouTube account dedicated to these videos.
My research team and I are enjoying exploring the many ways available at our disposal to share our scholarship. We know that creating a video trailer or writing a blog post about a publication isn’t a substitute for high-quality scholarship, but we are enthused at the opportunity to use new technologies to mobilize our research. What are some other ways that you have discovered to share your research with colleagues, students, and the broader public?
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.”