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

Category: my research

Doctoral students’ and academics’ use of social media – research study invitation

Posted on May 11th, by George Veletsianos in my research, networked scholars, NPS, open, scholarship. 29 comments

Update (May 13): As a result of your amazing response to this invitation, we are not currently seeking to interview any more people. We are deeply humbled by everyone’s desire to contribute and will be sharing our results in due course. Thank you!

We are inviting PhD students/candidates and academics to participate in a research study that we are conducting entitled “Academics’ use of social media: care and vulnerability.”

While the research community has studied the use of social media for teaching/research, we don’t know much about how social media are used by academics to share the challenges they face, express their vulnerabilities, and experience care online.

If you have disclosed a professional challenge that you have faced on social media (e.g. blogged eponymously or anonymously about: being denied tenure, a dissertation committee conflict, or underemployment or adjunct challenges), we invite you to participate in this study.

If you know of any colleagues who have disclosed such challenges on social media, please feel free to share this call with them.

We believe that these experiences are significant to share and discuss and we would love the opportunity to interview you to learn and write about your experiences.

If you are interested in participating in this study, please visit the following page to read the consent form that provides more details about this project: http://survey.royalroads.ca/index.php?sid=44151

We understand that this topic is very personal and discussing it with us may be difficult. If you have any questions or concerns regarding this study, please don’t hesitate to contact us. We would love to talk to you more about it.

Yours,

George & Bonnie

Dr. George Veletsianos
Canada Research Chair and Associate Professor
Royal Roads University

Dr. Bonnie Stewart
Post-Doctoral Fellow
Royal Roads University/University of Prince Edward Island

Who studies MOOCs? (or, thinking with Siemens & Downes)

Posted on May 2nd, by George Veletsianos in my research, online learning, open, papers. 28 comments

If it wasn’t abundantly clear by now, George Siemens and Stephen Downes are two individuals that are making significant contributions to the field. I respect them both and I enjoy engaging with their work. They have been having a conversation  regarding the research and academic diversity in MOOCs, (here and here and here) as a result of a report that George and colleagues released on the history and current state of blended, distance, and online education.

I am writing to add to that conversation because my colleagues and I analyzed some parts of the literature published on MOOCs, and have some results that are relevant and interesting. The paper is under review but the editor gave me permission to share our findings.

We studied the disciplinary distribution of the authors who published MOOC research in 2013-2015 and compared it to the submissions to the MOOC Research Initiative (MRI) reported in Gašević et al., (2014). Our tests showed that the MOOC literature published in 2013-2015 differed significantly from the MRI submissions: our corpus had a greater representation of authors from Computer Science and the Gašević et al., corpus had a greater representation of authors from Education and Industry. In other words, our corpus was less dominated by authors from the field of education than were the MRI submissions. One of Downes criticisms is the following: “the studies are conducted by people without a background in education.” This finding lends some support to his claim, though a lot of the research on MOOCs is from people affiliated with education, but to support that claim further one could examine the content of this papers and identify whether an educational theory is guiding their investigations. 

We also compared author affiliation information in our papers with the papers used in Liyanagunawardena et al.’s (2013) review of the 2008-2012 MOOC literature. We found that the two samples differed significantly. For example, the Liyanagunawardena et al. corpus was relatively over-represented in the Independent Researcher category. This result suggests that the bodies of literature published in 2008-2012 and 2013-2015 differ in significant ways. This may or may not hold true for the writing that has occurred in blogs, unpublished reports etc. We don’t know and we haven’t studied that. 

Finally, and most significantly, we found that the disciplinary makeup of the literature is changing over time: there’s greater interdisciplinary activity in MOOC research now than in the past. This result is very interesting and its implications are worth examining. Suffice to say that this provides opportunities (can we capitalize on the expertise of one another to improve education?) and challenges (are newcomers to the field capitalizing on what we now about the science of learning?). The move to greater inter- and cross- disciplinarity in the field is evident in other initiatives. See for example, the Digital Learning Research Network.

Keep in mind that this research faces some of the same limitations raised by Downes (i.e. like Siemens, our inclusion criteria mean that some research is included while other is excluded). However, it also addresses some of those criticisms. For example, we tried to verify whether some of our results could have arisen by chance by running 10,000 computer simulations on the samples. The computer is confident that they could not have arisen by chance.

I’m hoping this paper will be out of peer-review soon so that I can share, but I’m thankful to the editor that allowed us to share our findings.

The couches of strangers, and three perspectives on the relationship between social media and scholarship

Posted on April 28th, by George Veletsianos in my research, networked scholars, NPS. 5 comments

I am editing, revising, and re-writing various parts of my book, Networked Scholars.  Here’s another rough draft, which is a followup from yesterday’s entry : 

The thought of spending a night on a stranger’s couch many elicit apprehension and concern. The thought of spending time online may elicit many trepidation for scholars. Scholars are worried about the time commitment of such activities when universities may not value them. Scholars may also be concerned about personal-professional boundaries. Both couchsurfing and networked scholarship offer opportunities for growth as well: couchsurfing may allow people from different cultures to get to know one another; networked scholarship might allow scholars from disparate disciplines to meet and collaborate. Alternatively, both activities may have relatively mundane outcomes: sleeping on a stranger’s couch does not necessarily mean that one will have a life-changing experience, in the same way that going online does not mean that one will find a welcoming and supportive scholarly community. And engagement with couchsurfing or networked scholarship may require certain literacies for successful participation.

The practice of networked scholarship isn’t without perils. While advocacy for open, social, and digital scholarship features prominently in the literature (Kimmons, 2014), the reality on the ground is that scholars’ activities on social media are both exceptional and mundane, and their experiences are inspiring and harrowing – but above all, such experiences are neither universal nor pre-determined.

Siemens and Matheos (201X) argued that educational institutions reflect the societies which house them: as societies change, so do their educational institutions and the scholarly practices that they support and encourage. As social media and openness become increasingly popular, sharing economies gain hold, and online networks permeate every aspect of life, the scholarly enterprise and the work that educators and researchers do is experiencing social, cultural, and technological tensions to change. However, we should be careful in our attribution of causality. Academics may have always wanted to share more freely, connect in better ways, and social media simply supported that desire. 

At the same time, we should be weary of the perspective that technologies are neutral tools that merely respond to the needs of users. Technologies have assumptions and worldviews embedded in their design that shape the experiences and behaviours of their users. The algorithms used by Facebook to deliver tailored timelines and the recommender systems used by Amazon are representative examples of the ways that technologies are influenced by their developers worldviews. 

Thus, the relationship between academic practices and technologies is negotiated and complex. It can be seen via three perspectives.

The first perspective suggests that social media (and their design and affordances) shape scholarship and participation. This is the technological deterministic perspective that is often revealed in narratives pertaining to social media having an impact on scholarship. Institutional encouragement to use social media to increase scholarly reach and citations falls under this perspective. 

The second suggests that teaching and scholarship (and the structures, rewards, practices of academia) shape how social media are used. This perspective reflects a social shaping of technology approach. This perspective recognizes that networked scholarly practices are shaped by social, cultural, economic, and political factors, rejecting the notion that technologies (and practices) are deterministic. 

The third perspective is an extension of the second and anticipate that academics adapt and appropriate social media to fulfill personal and professional desires and values. This perspective holds that, with adequate information and evidence, learners, instructors, and researchers have the agency to accept or reject any particular technology or to find alternative uses for it that will better serve their needs. Such agency is recognized in scholars’ strategic uses of technology in scholarship broadly, and in teaching and research in particular.

These three perspectives are often unstated, but permeate the literature and conversation pertaining to social media use in education and scholarship.

Introduction: What does couchsurfing have to do with networked scholarship?

Posted on April 27th, by George Veletsianos in my research, networked scholars, NPS. 11 comments

I am editing, revising, and re-writing various parts of my book, Networked Scholars.  The current draft of the introduction is as follows:

Introduction: What does couchsurfing have to do with networked scholarship?

It’s 2005. I’m a graduate student at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis.

Though I don’t always enjoy driving, I am particularly fond of road trips and the opportunities they provide for learning about the world. That summer, my girlfriend and I decided to take a road trip from Minnesota to Tennessee following the roads that run parallel to the Mississippi River.

A few months prior to this trip I discovered Couchsurfing.com and this site provided one of my early experiences with modern social media

“Couchsurfing” refers to spending a night or two on the couch of a stranger. The website facilitated interactions between individuals who were interested in hosting others and individuals who were interested in spending nights on someone else’s couch.

Given my mild disdain of driving long distances, we divided our trip in such a way so as to limit daily driving to 4 to 6 hours. We arranged for accommodations driving South toward Tennessee because we wanted to follow the Great River Road, but we decided to return back to Minneapolis via a different route so as to visit more states.

Using couchsurfing.com, we found two individuals who were willing to host us on their couch. One in Diamond City, Arkansas and one in Kansas City, Kansas.

An elderly couple was willing to let us sleep on their couch in Diamond City, Arkansas. We knew nothing about Diamond City, but once we arrived we learned that Diamond City is a small retirement town, seemingly a destination only for those visiting their parents who retire there.

We arrived in Diamond City around 5pm. We stopped at one of the two local diners prior to joining our hosts so as to have an early dinner and pre-empt being a burden to our hosts. Our hosts were welcoming and friendly, and we spend the next few hours in their living room getting to know each other.

In getting to know each other, we learned that our hosts were as unsure as we were of this arrangement. We were the first people who reached out to them for hosting, and, while they were apprehensive at first, they decided to host us, as we seemed to be “just a couple of kids from the Midwest.”

Eventually we made our way to the porch. We continued our conversation, enjoying a beautiful August night, when out of nowhere, 10 or so people joined us there. They brought their chairs and musical instruments. We quickly learned that these were our hosts friends who were preparing a “hootenanny” for us.  A hootenanny – an informal gathering involving folk music and dancing- was as foreign to me as I was to them. The spent many hours at the hootenanny. We danced, we learned about life in retirement towns, and discussed the demise of small-town America.

Our hosts generosity and hospitality stayed with me. These individuals were not only willing to make themselves vulnerable and share their house with us for the night, but they also went out of their way to organize a hootenanny and share this aspect of their life with us. The next morning, a group of our hosts’ friends prepared breakfast, and we left  for our next couchsurfing destination: Kansas City, Kansas.

Dave, our gracious Kansas City host, invited his friends to have dinner and drinks with us, gave us a tour of Kansas City, and offered us his bed instead of the couch: He had painted his living room the night before and the smell of paint was still lingering. “Guests don’t need to be exposed to toxic fumes” he argued.

When I share these two stories with others, I often face puzzling looks and questions regarding my sanity. “What if your host was an axe murderer?” someone asked me once. “And you really don’t know these people?” is another question I am asked often. While the idea of sleeping at a stranger’s couch may not be appealing to everyone, and may sound a bit too trusting, all my limbs are still intact.

But more importantly, these stories demonstrate the power and potential of networks and openness. Supported by the Web as a social platform that allows individuals to consume, produce, remix, and contribute content without the need for specialized technical know-how, networks and openness question scholars’ foundational activities and assumption. This is one of the main ideas underpinning this book.

Social media have become part of the fabric of contemporary societies and our educational systems. Worldwide experiences with social media suggest that these technologies are actively transforming various aspects of common culture in both intentional and unexpected ways. For instance, as news agencies adopt social media to engage audiences and increase revenues, they are simultaneously reporting on instances where the use of social networking sites has led to harm. Social media have also penetrated the higher education sector, and have influenced not only the ways students connect with each other, but also the ways scholarship is organized, delivered, enacted, and experienced (Weller, 2011). Recent reports note that YouTube and Facebook are popular sites for academics with “over 90% of [2,000 faculty surveyed were] using social media in courses they’re teaching or for their professional careers outside of the classroom” (Moran, Seaman, Tinti-Kane, 2011). Open practices in a variety of educational and scholarly settings have also gained wide interest and attention in recent years (Wiley, 2006; Wiley & Hilton, 2009). Proponents of openness claim that open practices may “broaden access to education and knowledge, reduce costs, enhance the impact and reach of scholarship and education, and foster the development of more equitable, effective, efficient, and transparent scholarly and educational processes” (Veletsianos & Kimmons, 2012).

This book differs from other books focusing on social media in education and digital scholarship in a number of significant ways.

First, this is not a how-to book. You will find no advice in this book about how to use social media to share your research, engage students, or increase your citations.

Second, this book does not advocate for networked scholarship. My goal is to understand and problematize the concept of networked scholarship and its implications.

This book focuses upon scholars’ experiences and activities online because the ways that social media are used and experienced by academics are not well understood and the evidence describing the experiences of scholars engaged in scholarly practices online is both limited and fragmented.

A number of high-profile news items illustrate the tensions and diverse opinions that exist around this topic, as well as the strong emotions attached to professors’ online participation:

  • “If you’re a professor in Kansas, better stay off the Internet,” proclaims the byline on a December 2013 magazine article, following the Kansas Board of Regents decision to adopt guidelines regarding “improper use of social media” that followed a professor’s Twitter update.
  • Elsevier is cracking down on professors who share their research online in violation of the copyright agreements that they signed, and professors are striking back, promoting boycotts of Elsevier’s academic journals.
  • While some university administrators, like the President of the University of British Columbia might “despise” social media and consider Twitter to be “one of the worst things” created in his lifetime, some academics have found community and solidarity in social media spaces.

Although the statistics regarding scholar participation on social media are worthwhile to examine, the stories behind the statistics are much more interesting and meaningful. Even in the cases where news articles present stories regarding academics’ social media participation, these fall short of the intricate tensions that arise in networked practice. For example, in addition to promoting boycotts of Elsevier numerous academics are refusing to review for publishers who do not provide open access to their work, and, more interestingly, are using networked technologies to share copyrighted materials with each other. And even though social networking sites are disparaged by some, academics have used these places to develop legitimate online learning communities, launch research projects, and share intimate details of their lives (e.g., their struggles with debilitating diseases) – converting places like Twitter into networks of care and bonding. Alternatively, even though social media allow widespread access, issues like power and influence may mediate participation, calling into doubt the democratizing potential of these technologies.

I used Couchsurfing.com once more when I was living in the UK in 2009. I was going to spend a few days in Faro, Portugal and had sent the following note to my potential host:

Dear Eric,

I am writing in the hopes that you will be interested in hosting me on your couch for 2 nights. I can see from your profile that it’s your birthday on May 2nd, and I would completely understand if you have something else planned.

A little bit about me: I live in the UK and moved here to teach at the University of Manchester. I lived in the United States (Minneapolis) for 8 years, but I am originally from Cyprus. I speak Greek and English and love to explore and travel, learn about different cultures, photography, music, beer, and good company. I am very friendly and considerate and am looking forward to visiting Portugal for the first time!

Please look at my profile and if there’s anything that you would like to know, please feel free to ask!

Within a few hours, Eric responded and noted that he had birthday plans and I should join. Specifically, he and his friends were having a party on an island off the coast of Faro and I should join them. The party was starting on the 1st and ending on the 3rd and long as I didn’t mind “sleeping on the floor or even on the beach” Eric was happy to host me.

Next… tying it all together.

The Defining Characteristics of Emerging Technologies and Emerging Practices in Online Education

Posted on April 14th, by George Veletsianos in my research, online learning, scholarship. 12 comments

My amazing colleagues Amy Collier and Jen Ross have been blogging about the chapter they wrote for the second edition of my Emerging Technologies in Distanced Education book, and have thus encouraged me to blog about it :)

First, the good news: Athabasca University Press will be publishing Online Learning: Emerging Technologies and Emerging Practices in an open access format.

One of the interesting aspects of editing a book is interacting with chapter authors (15 in this case) and helping to create a coherent narrative. In this case, we were starting with the first edition of the book as a foundation, but more importantly, we were building on the first chapter of the first book in which I defined “emerging technologies.” I’ve clarified in the second book that this collection focuses as much on the emerging practices of online learning/participation (e.g., networked scholarship, open education, learning analytics) as much as it focuses on the technologies that underpin them. Hence the new title.

In the first edition of the book, I argued that emerging technologies are “not yet fully researched” and “not yet fully understood.” Thus, you can quickly begin to see that emerging technologies and emerging practices are intertwined, as, open scholarship for example, or learners’ experiences with automated assessment, are not yet fully research and not yet fully understood.

In the second edition of the book, I revisit this work, and argue that what makes technologies and practices emerging are not specific technologies or practices, but the environments in which a particular technology or practice operate. This definition recognizes that learning, teaching, and scholarship are sociocultural phenomena situated in specific contexts and influenced by the cultures in which they take place. Emerging technologies and practices appear to share four characteristics:

  • Emerging Technologies and Emerging Practices are Not Defined by Newness
  • Emerging Technologies and Emerging Practices Are Evolving Organisms that Exist in a State of “Coming into Being”
  • Emerging Technologies and Emerging Practices Are Not Yet Fully Understood or Researched (what Amy and Jen branded as not-yetness)
  • Emerging Technologies and Emerging Practices Have Promising But as Yet Unfulfilled Potential

There’s 8 more great chapters in the book, and I’m looking forward to sending them off to the publisher. More in the coming months!

Mediated learning experiences and activities in MOOCs and open courses

Posted on April 13th, by George Veletsianos in emerging technologies, moocs, my research, online learning, open. 17 comments

At AERA this week, Amy Collier, Emily Schneider, and I will be presenting a paper that makes a series of arguments regarding learner activities and experiences in MOOCs in relation to clickstream-based MOOC research. One of the implications of our work is the following: learners’ participation and experiences in these courses resist binary and monolithic interpretations as they appear to be mediated by a digital-analog continuum as well as a social-individual continuum. In other words, learning and participation in MOOCs are both distributed and individually-socially negotiated. The following visual (which provides some hints on our results) makes this point clearer:

digital-analog-social-individual

* and since the work of peer reviewers often goes unrecognized, let it be known, that this insight was prompted by a comment from one anonymous reviewer. So, whoever you are, thank you for your input.

 

Social media in academia & Networked Scholars: The book cover

Posted on March 11th, by George Veletsianos in my research, networked scholars, NPS, scholarship. 33 comments

In my spare time (that’s a joke), I am writing a book about faculty members’ experiences and practices online. The focus is social media and online social networks, and the book draws on our research on networked participatory scholarship.  I was really excited yesterday to see the Chronicle of Higher Education publish a story largely focusing on the tensions surrounding social media use in academia (chapter 3 in my book). And a couple of weeks ago, Kristen Esheleman wrote about the value of networked research for digital learning at Inside Higher Ed.

More exciting though,. today, I received four covers to choose from, and I thought I’d share them here. I have a favorite, but I’d love your input, too! Which one (1, 2, 3, or 4) would you choose? Why?

822757_roughs-4
822757_roughs-3
822757_roughs-2
822757_roughs-1

Emerging Practices in Open Online Learning Environments

Posted on February 23rd, by George Veletsianos in emerging technologies, moocs, my research, NPS, online learning, open, scholarship. 34 comments

I joined Audrey Watters, Philipp Schmidt, Stephen Downes, and Jeremy Friedberg in Toronto last week, to give a talk at Digital Learning Reimagined, an event hosted and organized by Ryerson University’s Chang School. I presented some of our latest research, and tried to highlight research findings and big ideas in 15 minutes. Below are my slides and a draft of my talk.

Welcome everyone! It’s a pleasure and an honor to be here. Even though I’m the person giving this talk, I’d like to acknowledge my collaborators. A lot of the work that I am going to present is collaborative and it  wouldn’t have been possible without such amazing colleagues. These are: Royce Kimmons from the University of Idaho, Amy Collier and Emily Schneider from Stanford University, and Peter Shepherdson from the University of Zurich. The Canada Research Chairs program, the National Science Foundation and Royal Roads University have funded this work.

I want to start my talk by telling a story.

This castle that you see here is one of the most recognizable parts of Royal Roads University (RRU). But, don’t let the castle fool you. RRU was created in 1985. It’s purpose was to serve the needs of a changing society by serving working professionals through graduate digital education and multidisciplinary degrees. It has grown since 1985. It has matured, developed a social learning model that is now infused in all courses, developed new areas of focus, forged global partnerships, and continues to explore how to improve what it does through pedagogical and technological approaches.

Why am I sharing this short story about RRU?

Because this story, minus the specific details, is a common story. It’s also a Ryerson story, a story that is played out at the University of Southern New Hampshire, a story that Open Universities around that world have gone through. It is a story that repeats itself over and over for years and years.

What is the essence of the story?

It is often assumed that universities have been static, unchanging since the dawn of time. The short story I shared illustrates that universities are, and have always been, part of the society that houses them, and as societies change, universities change to reflect those societies. The economic, sociocultural, and technological pressures that universities are facing are sizable, and for better or for worse, usually for both, there’s a continuous re-imagination of education throughout time. Throughout time. Universities have always been changing.

As universities are changing and exploring different ways to offer education, faculty, researchers, and administrators engage in a number of practices that I like to describe as emerging. Emerging practices & emerging technologies are those that are not necessarily new, not yet fully researched, but appear promising.

Online learning and openness are example of emerging practices.

Online learning has a long history. But it also has a new history, with the development of multimedia platforms, media that can be embedded across platforms, syndication technologies that enable learners to use their own platforms for learning and so on. So, even though some of the problems that online learners are facing in contenmporary situations are not new (eg dropout), learners abilities’ to congregate in online communities is expanded through newer technologies and that poses different sorts of challenges and opportunities.

Another emerging practice is openness. Openness refers to liberal policies for the use, re-use, adaptation, and redistribution of content. Openness is also a value: It refers to adopting an ethos of transparency with regards to access to information. And this ethos ranges from academics publishing their work in open formats, to teaching open courses, to creating open textbooks. And it doesn’t stop at individual academics or institutions. In 2014 the Premiers of Alberta, British Columbia, and Saskatchewan signed a Memorandum of Understanding to facilitate creation, sharing, and use of Open Educational Resources. In the same year, SSHRC, NSERC, and CIHR have drafted a tri-agency open access policy to improve access to and dissemination of research results (NSERC, 2014);

There is a growing interest in and exploration of online learning and openness, practices which are still emerging. Next, I will share four recent results from our research into these practices that I believe are interesting to consider because they reveal the tensions that exist when dealing with emerging topics.

First, research into online learning is becoming more interdisciplinary

Interdisciplinary research into online learning means that individuals from a diverse range of disciplines, not just education, are interested in making sense of online learning. It is hoped that more research into online learning and more research from multidisciplinary groups will help us learn more about online learning and about learning in general.

We have evidence to show that research into online learning is becoming more interdisciplinary. I won’t bore you with the statistics, but we measure diversity in published research using a nifty measure and found that the period 2013-2014 can be described as more interdisciplinary than the period 2008-2012.

This is a positive trend, but before I explain its significance, let me explain to you how I view technology.

My perspective on online learning centers around the idea that technology is socially shaped . That means that technology always embeds its developers’ worldviews, beliefs, and assumptions into its design and the activities it supports and encourages.

What does this mean for interdisciplinarity? This means that we have both an opportunity and a challenge.

Our opportunity: to use our respective expertise to improve education.

Our challenge: to actually do interdisciplinary thinking and to go into the study and design of future educational systems with an open mind and the realization that our own personal experiences of education may not be generalizable. A lot of educational technology is produced by people of privilege and to develop educational technology that matters and makes societal difference, we need diversity in thinking and experience.

Our second finding refers to the increasing desire to collect, mine, and analyze data trails to make inferences about human behavior and learning. This practice is often referred to as learning analytics and educational data mining. This practice is a reflection of a larger societal trend toward big data analytics. The idea is that by looking at what people do online one can understand how to improve education.

A couple of things that researchers discovered for example are:

-Students generally stop watching online videos after 4-5 minutes. This then encourages the creation of 4-5 minute lecture videos
-Students fall in discrete categories when they are in MOOCs. For example students who are just sampling content, students who are disengaged,  or they are on track for completing. Once you identify categories you can identify and support learner needs

Data trails. Nearly everything that learners do online is tracked. Can we understand learners and improve learning by analyzing their data trails?

While these approaches can help us explain what people do, they often don’t tell us why they do they things they do nor how they actually experience online education.

My colleagues and I are interviewing MOOC students to learn about their experiences in MOOCs.

I am now going to tell you about our third result. We find that learners schedule their learning, use of resources, and participation to fit their daily life. This is in stark contrast to the idea of undergraduate education situated at a university and happening at particular time periods.

One retired individual in Panama that we interviewed works on his class early in the morning every day. Why does he do that? He does that because at that time his daughter is asleep. She is homeschooled and once she wakes up she needs access to the 1 computer that they have in the household to do her own schoolwork. In this case a lack of resources necessitates this scheduling.

One individual that we interviewed moved from the UK to the USA to be with her partner. She is currently waiting for her work permit, driver’s license, and so on, and she was enrolled in multiple MOOCs at the same time. She would work on her courses on Monday because she just “wanted them out of the way,” and so she would work on these courses straight throughout the day.

The fourth and final finding that I have for you today, is that MOOC platforms to date have not offered learners the ability to keep notes, so that particular activity, by virtue of being unsupported by the platform goes undetected when researchers only look at data trails.

Unsurprisingly, learners keep notes. A number of students that we talked to described that they keep notes on paper, frequently keeping a notebook for particular courses and returning to them during exams or during times that they needed them. Learners of course also keep notes in digital format. Usually in word documents, but again documents are dedicated to particular courses, but sometimes they are dedicated to particular topics across courses.

To give you an example, of how we believe this activity could be supported in the future and how we believe innovations  can contribute to learning, we recommend designers support this practice by pedagogical innovations such as scaffolding notetaking, but also by technological innovations, by developing online systems for notetaking. What is important here is that such systems should support learning by being interoperable, by allow learners full and unrestricted access to their notes, supporting them to be able to import & export their notes between platforms. Such a design is in line with emerging ideas in the field which call for learners to own their data.

To summarize:

1. Online learning is becoming more interdisciplinary, but we need to work together and address our assumptions
2. There is excitement about learning analytics, but we also need to understand why people do the things that they do
3. For example, we see that online education needs to accommodate lives as opposed to the other way round
4. And we see that by interviewing people we can get a better sense of the things that they do that don’t get captured by the digital trails they leave behind.

Thank you for being a great audience. I am really excited to hear the speakers that follow me, as I am sure you are!

visual

A visualization of my talk, created by Giulia Forsythe