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

Category: online learning

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.”


What is it like to learn and participate in MOOCs?

Posted on November 16th, by George Veletsianos in learner experience, moocs, online learning, open. No Comments

We recently published a special issue for Educational Media International by asking authors to submit papers focusing on the following question: What is it like to learn and participate in MOOCs? This has now been published.

We developed this special issue to enhance our collective understanding of learner experiences and participation in MOOCs because the scholarly community still has an incomplete mosaic of students’ learning experiences with open online learning.

The following papers are included:

Editorial: Contributions to the mosaic describing learners’ experiences with open online learning (pdf)
George Veletsianos and Vrasidas Charalambos

Learning from MOOCs: a qualitative case study from the learners’ perspectives
Yeonjeong Park, Insung Jung and Thomas C. Reeves

A classroom at home: children and the lived world of MOOCs
Yin Yin, Catherine Adams, Erika Goble and Luis Francisco Vargas Madriz

What makes a cMOOC community endure? Multiple participant perspectives from diverse cMOOCs
Maha Bali, Maureen Crawford, Rhonda Jessen, Paul Signorelli and Mia Zamora

Fulfilling the promise: do MOOCs reach the educationally underserved?
Lorrie Schmid, Kim Manturuk, Ian Simpkins, Molly Goldwasser and Keith E. Whitfield

Examining learners’ perspective of taking a MOOC: reasons, excitement, and perception of usefulness
M. Liu, J. Kang and E. McKelroy


  • Note: While the journal is not open access, a number of the authors above have self-archived copies of their paper, like I am doing above.


Openness and Digital Learning Symposium

Posted on November 10th, by George Veletsianos in online learning, open, Royal Roads University, scholarship. No Comments

We are hosting a symposium on Openness, Digital Learning, and Networked Scholarship.

 Please consider joining us (for free) by visiting the livestream page (

November Tuesday 17th 2015, (10am- 3pm Pacific)

Organized by the School of Education and Technology & the Canada Research Chair in Innovative Learning & Technology


This symposium is intended to raise awareness about open educational resources, open pedagogy, and emerging approaches to digital learning. It provides a showcase for the work being done at Royal Roads University (RRU) and convenes open education practitioners and researchers.

In keeping with the RRU strategic mandate, this symposium builds on the work currently being done at RRU by our Canada Research Chair (CRC) in Innovative Learning and Technology and the School of Education and Technology (SET) to investigate promising innovations in educational technology. It is an opportunity to contribute back to the open community and further the developments in this area.


Time Item Who
10:00 – 10:05 First Nations Welcome Asma-na-hi (Asma) Antoine
10:05 – 10:15 What makes RRU unique and a hotspot for innovation? Steve Grundy
10:15 – 10:25 Introductions and context George Veletsianos
10:30– 11:00


What can Open be: Advances at the Provincial, National & International level Mary Burgess
11:05 – 11:40


For whom, for what? Not-yetness and challenging the “stuff” of open education Amy Collier

Jen Ross

11:45 – 12:55 Break  
1:00 – 1:30


Creative Commons: Where are we now? Paul Stacey
1:35 – 2:05


Expansive Openness: Why Reducing Cost is Not Enough for Realizing the Full Benefits of OER Royce Kimmons
2:15 – 2:45


Panel Discussion: What can Open do?


* Each panelist to weigh in on panel topic and then open to the floor for questions

Amy Collier; Jen Ross; Royce Kimmons; Center for Teaching and Learning; RRU Library; George Veletsianos
2:45 – 3:00 Wrap Up Elizabeth Childs


* Each session, excluding the panel will consist of a 20 minute presentation followed by a 10 minute Q&A


Speaker Bios

Mary Burgess is the executive director of BCCampus which supports the work of the B.C. post-secondary system in the areas of teaching, learning and educational technology. Prior to joining BCcampus in 2012, Mary Burgess was the Director of the Centre for Teaching and Educational Technologies at Royal Roads University where she started the University’s first open educational resources project. She is a career instructional designer and longtime advocate of OER.

Dr. Elizabeth Childs is an Associate Professor at Royal Roads University and the Program Head of the MA in Learning and Technology program. Her research interests include the design and implementation of flexible learning; online networked communities and, the professional development and support for learners and faculty in these emerging online learning environments.

Dr. Amy Collier is Associate Provost for Digital Learning at Middlebury College. She provides leadership in creating and sustaining a global learning community at Middlebury through the effective use of digital pedagogies and technologies. Amy studies how digital environments can foster emergence in teaching and learning.

Dr. Steve Grundy is vice-president academic and provost at Royal Roads University. He is responsible for the overall academic direction and quality of the university’s academic programs. He is particularly interested in the directions of post-secondary education, the evolution and development of online learning and new models of university governance and leadership.

Dr. Royce Kimmons is an Assistant Professor of Instructional Psychology and Technology at Brigham Young University where he studies technology integration in K-12/higher education, emergent technologies, open education, and social networks. He received his PhD from The University of Texas at Austin and formerly served as the Director of the Doceo Center for Innovation + Learning at the University of Idaho.

Dr Jen Ross is co-director of the Digital Education group at the University of Edinburgh, teacher and former programme director on the MSc in Digital Education, and co-creator of the E-learning and Digital Cultures MOOC and the manifesto for teaching online. Her research interests include online distance education, MOOCs, digital futures, reflective practices, and museum and gallery learning and engagement.

Paul Stacey is Associate Director of Global Learning at Creative Commons. Paul’s core expertise is in adult learning, educational technology, and open education. Prior to joining Creative Commons, Paul led Open Educational Resource (OER) and professional development initiatives across all the colleges and universities in British Columbia Canada

Dr. George Veletsianos holds a Canada Research Chair in Innovative Learning and Technology and is an Associate Professor at Royal Roads University. He has dedicated his research to understanding the practices and experiences of learners, educators, and scholars in emerging online settings such as online social networks and digital environments.

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.


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)

The buzzwords of #edtech

Posted on August 26th, by George Veletsianos in emerging technologies, my research, online learning, scholarship. No Comments

An interesting article this morning from Jeff Young at the Chronicle of Higher Education notes:

One of the obstacles to bringing “adaptive learning” to college classrooms is that professors, administrators, and even those who make adaptive-learning systems don’t always agree on what that buzzword means. That was a major theme of a daylong Adaptive Learning Summit held here on Tuesday. Several people interviewed at the summit, held by the education-innovation group National Education Initiative, noted that part of the problem is a proliferation of companies that make big promises based on making their technologies adaptive, yet all use the term slightly differently.

I would counter that the big (and unsubstantiated) promises are a greater problem than the buzzwords, but the lack of clarity on what these concepts refer to are an issue, too.

The introductory sentences from Online Learning: Emerging Technologies and Emerging Practices (the second edition of the Emerging Technologies in Distance Education book I edited, which is forthcoming in 2016), make a similar argument:

Many of these (new) approaches to education and scholarship can be categorized as either emerging technologies (e.g., automated grading applications within MOOCs) or emerging practices (e.g., sharing instructional materials online under licenses that allow recipients to reuse them freely).

The terms “emerging technologies” and “emerging practices” however, are catchall phrases that are often misused and haphazardly defined. As Siemens (2008, ¶ 1) argues, “terms like ‘emergence,’ ‘adaptive systems,’ ‘self-organizing systems,’ and others are often tossed about with such casualness and authority as to suggest the speaker(s) fully understand what they mean.”

A clearer and more uniform understanding of emergence and of the characteristics of emerging technologies and practices will enable researchers to examine these topics under a common framework and practitioners to better anticipate potential challenges and impacts that may arise from their integration into learning environments.

Multidisciplinary, interdisciplinary, and cross-disciplinary research on MOOCs and digital learning

Posted on July 2nd, by George Veletsianos in moocs, my research, online learning, scholarship. No Comments

Multidisciplinary, interdisciplinary, and crossdisciplinary research represent promising approaches for studying digital learning. Prior research however, discovered that research efforts directed at digital learning via MOOCs were dominated by individuals affiliated with education (Gašević, Kovanović, Joksimović, and Siemens, 2014). In their assessment of proposals submitted for funding under the MOOC research initiative (MRI), Gašević and colleagues show that more than 50% of the authors in all phases of the MRI grants were from the field of education. This result was interesting because a common perception in the field is that the MOOC phenomenon is “driven by computer scientists” (p. 166).

We were curious to understand whether this was the case with research conducted on MOOCs (as opposed to grant proposals) and used a dataset of author affiliations publishing MOOC research in 2013-2015 to examine the following questions:

RQ 1: What are the disciplinary backgrounds of the authors who published empirical MOOC research in 2013-2015?

RQ 2: How does the disciplinary distribution of the authors who published MOOC research in 2013-2015 compare to that of the submissions to the MRI reported by Gašević et al. (2014)?

RQ 3: Is the 2013-2015 empirical research on MOOCs more or less interdisciplinary than was previously the case?

Results from our paper (published in IRRODL last week) show the following:

– In 2013-2015, Education and Computer Science (CS) were by far the most common affiliations for researchers writing about MOOCs to possess
– During this time period, the field appears to be far from monolithic, as more than 40% of papers written on MOOCs are from authors not affiliated with Education/CS.
– The corpus of papers that we examined (empirical MOOC papers published in 2013-2015) was less dominated by authors from the field of education than were the submissions to the MOOC Research Initiative.
– A comparison of affiliations with past published papers shows that recent MOOC research appears to be more interdisciplinary than was the case in research published in 2008–2012.

We draw 2 implications from these results:

1. Current research on MOOCs appears to be more interdisciplinary than in the past, suggesting that the scientific complexity of the field is being tackled by a greater diversity of researchers. This suggests that even though xMOOCs are often disparaged for their teacher-centric and cognitivist-behaviorist approach, empirical research on xMOOCs may be more interdisciplinary than research on cMOOCs.

2. These results however, also lead us to wonder whether the trend toward greater interdisciplinarity of recent research might reflect (a) the structure and pedagogical model used in xMOOCs, (b) the greater interest in the field of online learning, and (c) the hype and popularity of MOOCs. Could it be that academics’ familiarity with the xMOOC pedagogical model make it a more accessible venue in which researchers from varying disciplines can conduct studies? Or, is increased interdisciplinary attention to digital education the result of media attention, popularity, and funding afforded to the MOOC phenomenon?

We conclude by arguing that “The burgeoning interest in digital learning, learning at scale, online learning, and other associated innovations presents researchers with the exceptional opportunity to convene scholars from a variety of disciplines to improve the scholarly understanding and practice of digital learning broadly understood. To do so however, researchers need to engage in collaborations that value their respective expertise and recognize the lessons learned from past efforts at technology-enhanced learning. Education and digital learning researchers may need to (a) take on a more active role in educating colleagues from other disciplines about what education researchers do and do not know about digital learning from the research that exists in the field and, (b) remain open to the perspectives that academic “immigrants” can bring to this field (cf. Nissani, 1997).”

For more on this, here’s our paper.