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

Category: my research

Introduction to Mao Zedong Thought MOOC & open course transparency

Posted on November 25th, by George Veletsianos in moocs, my research, open, sharing. 3 comments

The New York Times published an article on an edX course (Introduction to Mao Zedong Thought) offered by Tsinghua University. Inside Higher Ed (IHE) wrote about it, too. The following quote from IHE articles summarizes the articles:

“That course is raising eyebrows because, despite hours of video lectures and supplemental material in the course, students would still have to tab over to Wikipedia to learn about the millions who died as a result of Mao’s land reforms or that his economic initiatives led to what may have been the greatest famine in human history, which killed tens of millions. Introduction to Mao Zedong Thought references those events glancingly in passing as “mistakes,” and generally heaps praise on Mao and his philosophies.”

I was asked to provide commentary for the New York Times article, and since it wasn’t included in the writeup, I thought it would be a good idea to share it publicly rather than leave it hidden away in my email inbox. Here is what I said:

Open courses are transparent, and that’s one of their positive aspects. They allow anyone to examine the ways that course creators think about a topic. The instructional materials from the Mao course are available to anyone to examine and study. One can look at the materials and ask: How do these materials position Mao Zedong? What are the elements of Mao’s thought that the creators of this course want to highlight? What elements of Mao’s thoughts are left behind and what are the elements that are being highlighted? What is the story that is being told here, and who stands to benefit from this story?

Stephen Downes made a similar argument in the IHE article: ““courses that might have been offered behind closed doors are offered for everyone to see.”

Now, that’s parsimonious :)


Are professors naive users of social media?

Posted on November 20th, by George Veletsianos in my research, networked scholars, open, sharing. 1 Comment

The Chronicle of Higher Education published a commentary some time ago that argued that professors are “naive users of social media” and must exercise caution. It’s difficult to argue with the recommendation to exercise caution, when one looks at the list of scholars who found themselves in trouble in the last year: Salaita, Goldrick-Rab, Grundy, and so on.

But, the claim that professors are naive users of social media is unsubstantiated and reveals a limited understanding of the literature on how professors actually use social media and what they think about them. My colleagues and I have been conducting research on networked scholarship and scholars’ use of social media since 2009, and since that time, I can’t recall interviewing a faculty member or reading a study that revealed naiveté regarding social media and the challenges/tensions they introduce. If anything, most academics have an astute understanding of how social media intersect with their professional (and personal) lives and make informed (and tactical) decisions regarding their use of these technologies.

Granted, many find themselves in conundrums as a result of being in collapsed contexts and being exposed to unanticipated audiences, but to argue naiveté is misinformed.

Theorizing Openness at #opened15

Posted on November 19th, by George Veletsianos in my research, online learning, open, scholarship. No Comments

I’m at the Open Education 2015 conference, and I am struck by the continuing focus on costs, and the absence of theorizing openness, (and by extension OER and open textbooks). Is this a problem? Reducing costs is of course important. There’s no question about it. But whether the absence of theory is a problem depends what we believe theory does. After hearing many talks start with statements akin to “we asked faculty to use open textbooks, but…” or “we hoped the institution would embrace openness because it reduced costs, but…”, I thought that it might be worthwhile to ask more why questions:

  • Why do some faculty do and others do not adopt open textbooks?
  • Why do some faculty revise OER?
  • Why do some faculty choose to publish their work in closed journals?

Theorizing openness can help us answer many of these questions. Because openness does not exist in a vacuum. I think that a sociocultural theoretical framing of openness  can help practitioners and researchers make better sense and use of openness. Here’s a quote from a recent paper that argues for and clarifies this framing:

“A sociocultural perspective on openness, open practices and open scholarship views these practices as being socially shaped, and the technologies used to enact openness as necessarily, if not always intentionally, embedding their developers’ worldviews, values, beliefs, and assumptions into their design and the activities they support and encourage. By recognizing that open practices are shaped by social, cultural, economic, and political factors, this perspective rejects the notion that such practices are deterministic and holds that, with adequate information and evidence, learners, instructors, and researchers have the agency to accept or reject any particular technology or practice or to find alternative uses for it that will better serve their needs.” (p. 202)

Veletsianos, G. (2015). A Case Study of Scholars’ Open and Sharing practices. Open Praxis 7(3), 199-209.

Related: See this presentation by Royce Kimmons which argues the following:

“[O]penness is more than economy. The freedoms afforded by open practices have great promise for improving the pedagogy and professionalism in our educational institutions as educators are empowered to differentiate, collaborate, and innovate in ways that were impossible under non-open paradigms.”


Social Media in Academia: Networked Scholars – reviews

Posted on November 11th, by George Veletsianos in my research, networked scholars, NPS, scholarship. No Comments

I just received the final covers for my upcoming book, Social Media in Academia: Networked Scholars (see below). More importantly though, some very kind people I admire have read the book and have written some very nice things about it:

“A timely and significant contribution to the field. Many books tend to take either an advocacy stance or dystopian view of technology in scholarship, but Veletsianos manages to take a critical perspective that is both grounded in theory and rooted in practical experience. For any academic interested in the impact of networked technology on teaching or research, this is highly recommended.”

–Martin Weller, Professor of Educational Technology at the Open University, UK

Social Media in Academia is one of those rare books that every new assistant professor and doctoral student should read and take to heart. Establishing one’s public profile through networked scholarship is not a task to be undertaken casually, but one that requires mindfulness and discernment. Veletsianos provides invaluable guidance that all academics, but especially those just starting out, should heed.”

–Thomas C. Reeves, Professor Emeritus of Learning, Design, and Technology at the University of Georgia, USA




Making sense of the Digital Learning Research Network gathering (#dLRN15)

Posted on October 20th, by George Veletsianos in emerging technologies, my research, online learning, sharing. No Comments

I was at a small gathering last week, called the Digital Learning Research Network. It was hosted at Stanford and it aimed to explore the messiness of digital learning. This was not representative of Silicon Valley’s uncritical love affair with technology. Many colleagues wrote reflections about it: Catherine CroninKristen Eshleman,  Josh KimJonathan Rees, Tim Klapdor,  Alyson Indrunas, Adam Croom, Whitney Kilgore, Matt Crosslin, Laura Gogia, Patrice Torcivia, and Lee Skallerup Bessette (to name a few). When was the last time you were at a small conference, other than the ones focusing on blogging, and this many people took time after the event to blog about it?

The messiness of digital learning isn’t a new development. It is something that educational technology evangelists ignore, but as a researcher who has an affinity for qualitative data, and as one who is increasingly using data mining techniques on open social data, I can tell you that mess is the norm and not the exception. I’m not the only one.

For me, the conference questioned educational technology but looked to it for empowerment. It critiqued universities but saw them as places to create a more just and equitable society. It brought attention to the US-centric conversations happening in this space, but recognized that we can learn from one another. It sought research, but did not seek to emulate research-focused conferences. It allowed Dave to share his thoughts but called him out on it when it was time to stop. ;)

I see the conference as the start of a longer and larger conversation. Many of us are doing research in this space and many were missing. Let’s expand the conversation.

Strategies for designing student- centered, social, open, and engaging digital learning experiences

Posted on October 6th, by George Veletsianos in emerging technologies, learner experience, my research, online learning, open, scholarship. No Comments

Recently, I had the privilege of organizing a workshop for the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences at Athabasca University. The goal was to help the organization work through what they might need to do to put in practice a new strategic plan which calls for student-centered and open digital learning. I used the slides below to assist faculty, instructors, and instructional designers translate theory into practice.


Networked Scholars, or, Why on earth do academics use social media and why should we care? (workshop)

Posted on October 5th, by George Veletsianos in my research, networked scholars. No Comments

Below are slides from a workshop I gave on the use of social media by academics. During the workshop I described how/why academics use social media and online networks for scholarship, and explored the opportunities and tensions that exist in these spaces. Throughout the workshop, I  facilitated small group and large group conversations on this topic based on participant interests. Topic we investigated included social media participation strategies; self-disclosures on social media; capturing and analyzing social media data; ethics of social media research; and social media use for networked learning.


Digital Learning, Emerging Technologies, Abundant Data, and Pedagogies of Care

Posted on September 3rd, by George Veletsianos in my research, online learning, scholarship. No Comments

I was at the Emerging Technologies in Authentic Learning Contexts Conference in Cape Town this week, where I gave one of the keynotes. In my talk, I highlighted some of the assumptions of the Educational Technology evangelists and explained how educational technology as an industry departs from educational technology as a field of study. I argued for context-driven innovation, and gave some examples from our current/upcoming research to explain these arguments. My slides are below.

My visit in Cape Town included many highlights – amongst them, meeting Jan Herrington, Gilly Salmon, Dick Ng’ambi and revisiting with Johannes Cronje and Nick Rushby. Spending time with Laura Czerniewicz though, was a real treat. Here’s proof (selfie #1 by Laura, photo of selfie by Jolanda Morkel)