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

Category: my research

Imagine a future in which technologies teach humans

Posted on October 17th, by George Veletsianos in emerging technologies, my research, online learning, papers, scholarship. No Comments

Pause for a few minutes and imagine a future in which technologies teach humans. Call them robots, bots, chatbots, algorithms, teaching machines, tutoring software, agents, or something else. Regardless, consider them technologies that teach.

robo_teacher

Vector created by Freepik

How far into the future is that time?

What do these technologies look like? Are they anthropomorphous? Are they human-like? In what ways are they human-like? Do they have voice capabilities, and if so, do they understand natural language? Are they men or women?  Do they have a representation in the way that one would imagine a teacher – such as a pedagogical agent – or do they function behind the scenes in ways that seem rather innocuous – such as the Mechanical MOOC?

Do these technologies teach humans of all ages? Do they teach independently, support human teachers, or do human teachers assist them? Are they featured in articles in the New York Times, The Guardian, and The Economist as innovations in education? Or, are they as common as desks and chairs, and therefore of less interest to the likes of the New York Times? Are they common in all learning contexts? Who benefits from technologies that teach? Is being taught by these technologies better or worse than being taught be a human teacher? In what ways is it better or worse? Are they integrated in affluent universities and k-12 schools? Or, are they solely used in educational institutions serving students of low socioeconomic status? Who has access to the human teachers and who gets the machines? Are they mostly used in public or private schools?

How do learners feel about them? Do they like them? Do they trust them? Ho do learners think that these technologies feel about them? Do they feel cared for and respected? How do learners interact with them? How do human teachers feel about them? Would parents want their children to be taught be these technologies? Which parents have a choice and which parents don’t? How do politicians feel about them? How do educational technology and data mining companies view them?

Do teaching technologies treat everyone the same based on some predetermined algorithm? Or, are their actions and responses based on machine learning algorithms that are so complex that even the designers of these technologies cannot predict their behaviour with exact precision? Do they subscribe to pre-determined pedagogical models? Or, do they “learn” what works over time for certain people, in certain settings, for certain content areas, for certain times of the day? Do they work independently in their own classroom? Or, do colonies of robo-teachers gather, share, and analyze the minutiae of student life, with each robo-teacher carefully orchestrating his or her next evidence-based pedagogical move supported by Petabytes of data?

Final question for this complicated future, I promise: What aspects of this future are necessary and desirable, and why?

Institutional use of Twitter: Can universities surpass brand image to make their social media relevant?

Posted on July 5th, by George Veletsianos in my research, scholarship. 1 Comment

The article below was originally published on The Conversation with the launch of their Canadian-focused site. The original article is on their site, but it is posted here for posterity.

Disconnected: Can universities surpass brand image to make their social media relevant?

File 20170616 14532 cerqrr

Universities portray campus life as idyllic, but may be missing an opportunity to truly connect with students.
(Shutterstock)

George Veletsianos, Royal Roads University and Ashley Shaw, Royal Roads University

Universities fail to exploit social media’s most compelling features, tending to broadcast their brands instead of engaging students and the public online, new research suggests.

Visualise this: smiling students and successful faculty. In the background, beautiful buildings framed by blue skies.

These are the ways that Canadian universities choose to represent themselves on social media. This picture is somewhat accurate, but a tad misleading.

Social media are a staple of Canadian universities. Twitter — where one can quickly and easily share information, pictures and videos — is particularly used by nearly all Canadian universities. Researchers have generally found that universities use Twitter to broadcast information about themselves, both to potential students and to the wider public.

Twitter use by universities raises many questions for us as educators and researchers with an interest in social media. In our research, we have looked closely at exactly what universities are posting on Twitter, asking two important questions: What messages are universities conveying through their official Twitter accounts? How is university life depicted in their tweets? We examined over nine months’ worth of tweets from public universities in Canada, paying particular attention to the images and videos shared as well as the text accompanying them.

Positive branding

What we found was troubling. Based on the information shared from these official university accounts, one would likely conclude life in Canadian universities is universally gratifying, enjoyable and beautiful.

Students in images were nearly always smiling and happy. Faculty members — almost all middle-age white males — were shown giving speeches or conducting research. Campuses were always portrayed as attractive and sunny, boasting shiny buildings and new facilities. References to graduation ceremonies, groundbreaking research and sporting victories were all too common.

Teaching and learning received much less attention. This is not just a Canadian representation. We replicated our research using the Twitter feeds of more than 2,000 U.S. universities. The results were similar.

Institutional Twitter accounts seem to highlight and market an institutional brand — a positive ideal that they would like the public and potential students to hold. It’s understandable that universities, like individuals, want to present their ‘best self’ on social media. This makes sense from a marketing perspective.

Obscured reality

This carefully crafted and tightly controlled representation gives an incomplete and unrealistic portrayal of the people and activities of the university. There is little suggestion in this portrayal of the struggles students face in their studies, health and well-being, finances, and so forth. There is little mention of the day-to-day effort, difficulty and struggles of teaching and learning.

We are compelled to ask: What is it that drives universities to use social media as they do? In what ways have social, economic and political forces (such as the reduction in public funding and greater emphasis on competition) led universities to use these powerful social technologies in the service of branding and marketing?

We want to encourage Canadian universities to use Twitter, and other social media, in different ways — ways that would improve Canadian society.

Social media provide an opportunity not just to broadcast a message to the public, but to foster two-way engagement and communication between stakeholders. Universities could make more meaningful contributions to our broader society by using social media to summarise research findings for public use, connect alumni with students and provide educational opportunities to those outside the institution.

George Veletsianos, Professor and Canada Research Chair, Royal Roads University and Ashley Shaw, Researcher and Ph.D candidate, Royal Roads University

The Conversation

MA and PhD student research assistantships available

Posted on July 4th, by George Veletsianos in my research, networked scholars, open, papers, Royal Roads University, scholarship. No Comments

We have two part-time research assistantships open for individuals to work with us (one for an MA and one for a PhD student).

PhD student: https://humanresources.royalroads.ca/job-posting/research-assistant-3-0

MA student: https://humanresources.royalroads.ca/job-posting/research-assistant-2-0

Successful applicants need to be legally able to work in Canada at the time of application, enrolled in a MA/PhD program. They do not need to be enrolled at a Canadian University.

Successful individuals will support an international team of researchers with research and knowledge mobilization activities pertaining to online harassment and faculty use of social media.

Research Dissemination, Research Mobilization, and Reaching Broader Audiences

Posted on June 21st, by George Veletsianos in emerging technologies, engagement, my research, open, research shorts. 1 Comment

I gave an ignite talk at the Canadian Society for the Study of Higher Education in early June, sharing some of the lessons learned in creating whiteboard animation videos for mobilizing research and reaching broader audiences. We’ve now turned that talk into a whiteboard animation video. It’s all very meta. Here it is below:

RA positions for students to join our research team

Posted on June 16th, by George Veletsianos in my research, open, Royal Roads University, scholarship, sharing. 1 Comment

 

If you are doctoral student or know of one interested in a research assistantship, please share this job posting with them:

https://humanresources.royalroads.ca/job-posting/research-assistant-3-x2

Successful applicants need to be Canadian citizens (or permanent residents) and enrolled in a doctoral program, but they do not need to be enrolled at a Canadian University. We will have two more research assistantships available for MA/PhD students as well. Those are not posted yet, but please don’t hesitate to contact me with questions if interested.

These positions are aimed at hiring MA/PhD students to work with my colleagues and I on two separate projects.
The first project is in collaboration with Royce Kimmons and the second is in collaboration with Jaigris Hodson. The students hired will work with us (and the rest of the research team) to conduct qualitative and quantitative research on social media use over time and faculty/student experiences with online learning and social media.

Being online: Recommendations for early-career academics

Posted on May 15th, by George Veletsianos in Ideas, my research, online learning, open, papers, scholarship, sharing. No Comments

When I wrote my book Networked Scholars, I was very intentional in my writing. I wanted to avoid writing a “how to” book. Not that there’s anything wrong with “how to use social media” books, but there’s plenty of those, not to mention countless blog posts and advice columns on outlets like Inside Higher Ed, The Chronicle, etc.

Beyond that though, my interests aren’t social media per se. My interests are on the ways that people learn online and the ways that knowledge is managed, negotiated, developed, and shared in digital environments. Though social media are central to these process these days – and let’s face it, most media are social nowadays – there are practices central to knowledge exchange and dissemination that have nothing to do with the technology, such as open access publishing and self-archiving.

What does this have to do with networked scholars? Well, I think the time is ripe to actually write a book of suggestions, principles if you will, for early-career academics (PhD students, new assistant professors). The suggestions will go beyond social media, aiming to (a) help people be more effective and productive online, and (b) help faculty and faculty trainers prepare people in these efforts.

This book will be different. It will be laconic and will nudge individuals to be more awesome in their online practices. I’m partnering with a graphic artist to create it. Below is a page from our early work.

Do you know of a publisher who might be interested? Are you a publisher that is interested? I am exploring Punctum Books, but would love to hear other suggestions.

Liberate your research

Educational Technology as a Sociocultural and Ideological Phenomenon

Posted on April 10th, by George Veletsianos in emerging technologies, my research, papers, scholarship. 1 Comment

Rolin Moe and I just published an article in Educause Review that examines the rise of educational technology as a phenomenon within the context of broader political, economic, ideological, and technological issues of concern to the future of higher education. This paper continues the call for thinking critically about the impacts, aims, and uses of technology in education, in our educational institutions, and in students’ and academics’ lives.

The paper posits that the rise of educational technology represents (a) a response to the increasing price of higher education, (b) a shift in political thought from government to free-market oversight of education, (c) a view of education as a product to be packaged, automated, and delivered, and (d) a technocentric belief that technology is a solution to the problems of higher education.

This investigation questions both the potential outcomes and ideological aims of technodeterministic thinking and argues that educational technology may ultimately exacerbate rather than mitigate the very problems it purports to solve.

Digital Learning and Social Media Research Funding: 2017

Posted on March 9th, by George Veletsianos in my research, online learning, papers, Royal Roads University. 2 comments

Digital Learning and Social Media Research Funding for 2017

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 (http://www.thedlrgroup.com/) 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.

Aims

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.

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.

Deadlines

Potential researchers should submit their application materials by April 15, 2017.

Start date is around May 15th

Deliverables

Submission of a co-authored research study to a peer-reviewed journal.

Duration

Research opportunities are expected to last anywhere from 3 to 5 months

Requirements

  • 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.

Questions?

Questions regarding this opportunity can be send to CRCILT.Research@RoyalRoads.ca

Application Process

Interested applicants are invited to submit the following materials to CRCILT.Research@RoyalRoads.ca  April 15, 2017:

  • Curriculum Vitae (CV)
  • A single-authored paper (single-authored 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 YouTube). 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
What does informal learning look like on YouTube? ~1.4 million YouTube comments

For examples of research studies in this area conducted by the research group, please refer to:

http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1096751616300033

http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/bjet.12428/abstract

http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/jcal.12101/abstract

https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s12528-017-9131-7

 

The individuals receiving funding in 2016 have:

  • Used historical twitter data to study the discourse surrounding openness over time
  • Examined the ways that instructional design & technology programs use Twitter
  • Investigated whether empathy, civility, and thoughtfulness are present in the comments posted in a YouTube community

Compensation

$2,000 CAD upon submission of the study.