Category: my research
I am writing a book focused on experiences and practices surrounding scholars’ online participation, and I don’t think I’ve blogged about it yet, though I’ve mentioned it multiple times. Let’s call this “the inaugural blog post concerning the Networked Scholars book.” The book will be published by Routledge. It’s due in mid-March.
Diagram of a social network. Image in the public domain.
I plan on blogging about the book as I am writing it. I want to share this work (and I have negotiated with the publisher to post 50% of the final product here), and I want to blog about it in order to think out loud about the book and to help improve it. Networked Scholars (the book, not the MOOC) summarizes the existing research on the use of social media and online networks by academics. In the book, I examine scholars’ practices and experiences with social media and online social networks. While the book synthesizes all existing research, the investigation is largely qualitative and ethnographic.
The book is currently divided in 8 chapters. Each chapter describes online social networks from a different angle:
Chapter 1: Introduction. Introduces the reader to networked participatory scholarship (social media, online networks, openness, networked practice). Introduces significant concepts appearing throughout the book: (a) deterministic perspective (social media shape scholarship), (b) social shaping perspective (technologies are shaped by social, cultural, economic, and political factors, and academics have the agency to accept or reject any particular technology or to find alternative uses for it that will better serve their needs), (c) context collapse, (d) “social media as instrument to achieve valued scholarly outcomes” narrative (e.g., more citations), and (e) “social media as gathering places” narrative (e.g., finding community).
Chapter 2: Networks of knowledge creation and dissemination. In this chapter, I describe how scholars are using online networks to engage in knowledge creation and dissemination. I describe how academics use particular technologies and practices to do and share research and present examples of academics doing research online, reaching new understandings, and supporting communities in creating knowledge. Case studies illuminate this chapter.
Chapter 3: Networks of tension and conflict. The main argument in this chapter is that even though the hope for positive outcomes has led many academics and educational institutions to advocate the adoption of social media, online social networks, and various open practices, scholars’ online participation appears to be rife with tensions, dilemmas, and conundrums. I describe a number of challenges that academics face when they online, and discuss how these shape participation.
Chapter 4: Networks of care and vulnerability. As contemporary narratives pertaining to impact, productivity, automation, efficiency, algorithms, follower counts, citation counts, impact factors, branding, and so on infuse academic lives, it’s easy to fall into the trap of viewing technologies merely as instruments that are used toward the achievement of particular professional outcomes. In this chapter, I discuss how social media & online networks function as places where (some) academics make themselves vulnerable and where they express and experience care.
Chapter 6: Fragmented Networks. In this chapter, I will explain that scholars’ identity online potentially consists of a constellation of identity fragments. What scholars reveal online about themselves is mediated by a variety of issues including professional concerns, collapsed contexts, imagined and invisible audiences, and identity work. This chapter will argue that what we see happening in social networks and media represents fragments of life.
Chapter 7: Transparent Networks. Here, I expand on openness and transparency and discuss how transparency relates to teaching, research, and scholarship. I discuss transparency in teaching and student-instructor interaction (e.g., instructor and teacher participation in open courses), transparency in the publishing process (e.g., The Paper Rejection Repository) and transparency in other areas of scholarship and participation (e.g., The Adjunct Project).
Chapter 8: Future Directions. Synthesis and suggestions for future research.
“xMOOC vs. cMOOC” is one way that is frequently used to describe the philosophical design of a MOOC. Tony Bates does an excellent job summarizing the philosophies behind the two. While this categorization is helpful in describing the foundations of the types of MOOCS that exist, I’m increasingly becoming more and more uncomfortable with this categorization as used to describe particular courses. I see MOOCs as a phenomenon more than anything, and when the xMOOC and cMOOC terms are used to describe courses, it seems that we are missing what actually happens in these courses, we are missing the details.
— George Veletsianos (@veletsianos) October 4, 2014
While the xMOOC and cMOOC labels are worthwhile to help individuals make sense of two opposing viewpoints, there is a spectrum the lies between the two. Between xMOOCs and cMOOCs, we see:
- MOOCs that blend aspects of xMOOCs and cMOOCs (e.g., #dalmooc, #scholar14)
- MOOCs that vary in their learning design (see the MOOC learning design project) and pedagogical practices (see Toven-Lindsey, B., Rhoads, R. a., & Lozano, J. B. (in press). Virtually Unlimited Classrooms: Pedagogical Practices in Massive Open Online Courses. The Internet and Higher Education)
- MOOCs that vary in size, openness, synchronous vs. asynchronous blend, and pacing.
- MOOCs that vary in instructional quality (see for example, Margaryan, A., Bianco, M., & Littlejohn, A. (2015). Instructional Quality of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs). Computers & Education, 80, 77–83).
There is wide variation between MOOCs, and it behooves us to examine how and why particular MOOCs differ, and how the differences impact learner experiences and outcomes.
The course is happening at an opportune time, providing ample material for us to examine. Academics are often encouraged to blog and participate online to increase their reach and impact. However, when scholars are online they face tensions, dilemmas, and conundrums. For example, some are concerned about navigating personal-professional boundaries on social media and others are worried about the degree to which online activities may be cause for termination, as revealed by the recent Kansas Board of Regents policy on “Improper Use of Social Media” and the ongoing case of Dr. Steven Salaita. It seems that these stories are never-ending: The Conversation included an article today entitled: To tweet or not to tweet: academic freedom and social media.
What do academics do on social media? What tensions do they face? Why do they continue being on these contentious spaces when a number of their senior colleagues advice them to “get off Twitter and write those papers?” These are questions that I am hoping we will explore together starting on Monday.
I have also finalized our guest experts for the course, and I’m happy to report that we have a wonderful group of colleagues from three countries joining us to discuss issues pertaining to networked scholarship. The live events are scheduled for the times/days listed below, so if you would like to join us, please add them to your calendar, and join our Google Hangout on Air events. If you can’t join us live, we will be recording and archiving the events so that you can watch them later at your convenience.
October 23 at 9am PST: Dr. Laura Czerniewicz from the University of Cape Town (South Africa) – Google Hangout on Air link
October 29 at 4pm PST: Dr. Royce Kimmons from the University of Idaho (USA) - Google Hangout on Air link
November 6, 10:30am at PST: Bonnie Stewart from the University of Price Edward Island (Canada) - Google Hangout on Air link
To convert these times to your local time zone, please use this tool: http://www.timeanddate.com/worldclock/converter.html
See you soon!
Image: The Art of Social Media by mkhmarketing
The Networked Scholars course starts in two weeks, on October 20th, with 2 options for participation.
1. Through the Canvas Network.
2. Through personal blogs and twitter accounts, syndicated, via the…. drumroll…. Networked Scholars Syndication hub. With special thanks to Alan Levine who has been helping a number of people implement this design, all readings and activities will be publicly-available, and this site syndicates blog/twitter feeds used as discussion/reflection spaces. The official Twitter hashtag for the course is #scholar14. If you are interested in this option, feel free to head over to the syndication hub, and connect your blog to the site!
Image: STS-131 Discovery Launch
The more we study social media and online networks, the more evidence we find that these spaces are replete with tensions.
In our latest published study (citation below) with my colleague Royce Kimmons, we found that expectations of professionalization in online social networks cut deeply into pre-service teachers self-concept. We found that participants generally had difficulty articulating what professionalism in online social networks actually looks like and what constitutes appropriate and inappropriate action online. As participants were exposed to a better understanding of what professionalism means online, participants recognized that they were not completely aware that their behavior might be watched and scrutinized by others, and this realization surprised them. Many pre-service teachers were also surprised at the severity of professional requirements and how the public might scrutinize seemingly innocuous behaviors on social media.
Numerous participants explained that as teachers they will need to be careful to not offend any community members, and the topics of politics and religion featured significantly in these conversations.
Though participants seemed to feel that a plurality of political opinion was a good thing and that they should have a right to political opinions, they nonetheless seemed to feel that teachers should take care in voicing those opinions.
Religion, on the other hand, seemed to be a different issue altogether, as participants seemed to feel that it was appropriate for them to express religious beliefs online even if others might happen to take offense or to disagree with them.
It’s important here to pause and consider the following: Participants’ preference of religion over politics likely reflects sociocultural values of the geographic region where the study took place (i.e. at a University in the South), and may not be generalizable.
These findings suggest that teacher education students might be willing to adjust the way that they participate in some ways to fit in with professional expectations (e.g., political opinions), but that there are some cases where what they feel might be expected of them cuts so acutely into their self-concept that they are afraid of losing their sense of identity (e.g., religious beliefs).
The implications of this study are the following:
First, teachers must consider how participating in SNS or altering their participation in them (e.g., content, connections, etc.) may impact their identity and sense of who they are.
Second, if teachers do not clearly understand how moral turpitude is defined in a given community, then how can they be sure that their behavior (online or offline) is beyond reproach?
The dilemma facing teachers in SNS is the following: As teachers present themselves in SNS in a way that is reflective of their complex and ever-developing identities, they may find it difficult to maintain meaningful social connections in online spaces as they pass through new phases of life and are simultaneously judged in an historical manner.
Kimmons, R., & Veletsianos, G. (in press). Teacher Professionalization in the Age of Social Networking Sites: Identifying Major Tensions and Dilemmas. Learning, Media, and Technology.
I will be visiting my colleagues at the University of Edinburgh in mid-June to give a seminar on MOOCs, automation, artificial intelligence and pedagogical agents. This is a free event organized by the Moray House School of Education at the U of Edinburgh and supported by the Digital Cultures and Education research group and DigitalHSS. Please feel free to join us face-to-face or online (Date: 18 June 2014; Time: 1-3pm) by registering here.
This seminar will bring together some of my current and past research. A lot of my work in the past examined learners’ experiences with conversational and (semi)intelligent agents. In that research, we discovered that the experience of interacting with intelligent technologies was engrossing (pdf). Yet, learners often verbally abused the pedagogical agents (pdf). We also discovered that appearance (pdf) may be a significant mediating factor in learning. Importanly, this research indicated that “learners both humanized the agents and expected them to abide by social norms, but also identified the agents as programmed tools, resisting and rejecting their lifelike behaviors.”
A lot of my current work examines experiences with open online courses and online social networks, but what exactly does pedagogical agents and MOOCs have to do with each other? Ideas associated with Artificial Intelligence are present in both the emergence of xMOOCs (EdX, Udacity, and Coursera emanated from AI labs) and certain practices associated with them – e.g., see Balfour (2013) on automated essay scoring. Audrey Watters highlighted these issues in the past. While I haven’t yet seen discussions on the integration of lifelike characters and pedagogical agents in MOOCs, the use of lifelike robots for education and the role of the faculty member in MOOCs are areas of debate and investigation in both the popular press and the scholarly literature. The quest to automate instruction has a long history, and lives within the sociocultural context of particular time periods. For example, the Second World War found US soldiers and cilvilians unprepared for the war effort, and audiovisual devices were extensively used to efficiently train individuals at a massive scale. Nowadays, similar efforts at achieving scale and efficiencies reflect problems, issues, and cultural beliefs of our time.
I’m working on my presentation, but if you have any questions or thoughts to share, I’d love to hear them!
One of the highlights of academia is working closely with students and seeing them grow, take on challenges, struggle, and create meaningful change in the world. This happens in classrooms, on the web, in design/development projects, in research endeavors, and so on. Kasey Ford, who was one of my advisees, recently completed her MA thesis examining #PhDChat, an online social network, and we have published a study out of that work in the Journal of Interactive Media in Education. I’m excited to share the abstract below:
#PhDChat is an online network of individuals that has its roots to a group of UK doctoral students who began using Twitter in 2010 to hold discussions. Since then, the network around #PhDchat has evolved and grown. In this study, we examine this network using a mixed methods analysis of the tweets that were labeled with the hashtag over a one-month period. Our goal is to understand the structure and characteristics of this network, to draw conclusions about who belongs to this network, and to explore what the network achieves for the users and as an entity of its own. We find that #PhDchat is a legitimate organizational structure situated around a core group of users that share resources, offer advice, and provide social and emotional support to each other. Core users are involved in other online networks related to higher education that use similar hashtags to congregate. #PhDchat demonstrates that (a) the network is in a continuous state of emergence and change, and (b) disparate users can come together with little central authority in order to create their own communal space.
Ford, K., Veletsianos, G., & Resta, P. (2014). The Structure and Characteristics of #PhDChat, an Emergent Online Social Network. Journal Of Interactive Media In Education, 18(1). Retrieved April 16, 2014, from http://www-jime.open.ac.uk/jime/article/view/2014-08
Below is a visualization of users mentioning #PhDChat, with users grouped into clusters. Users with frequent or exclusive ties, represented in this study as replies and mentions, are clustered together. Thus, each cluster represents users that are most closely associated to one another based on their frequency of interactions.
BCNET is a not-for-profit, shared information technology services organization focusing on British Columbia’s higher education system. The organization aims to to explore and evaluate shared IT solutions and hosts an annual conference. I delivered one of the keynote talks for this year’s conference, and shared examples and stories of online learning initiatives. I framed these examples in terms of research on online learning and the context of the historic realities of educational technology practice. These stories illustrate the multiple realities that exist in online education and highlight how emerging technologies and open practices have (a) broadened access to education, (b) reinforced privilege, and (c) re-imagined the ways that academics enact and share scholarship. I am including my slides below.