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

Category: scholarship

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.

Networked scholars – final table of contents

Posted on August 12th, by George Veletsianos in my research, networked scholars, NPS, open, scholarship. No Comments

I’ve received the publisher queries on my book yesterday, and the table of contents has been finalized as below.

I’ve opted for a few first-person narratives, interviews, and descriptions of the habits of academics who use social media in their day-to-day life. One gap in the literature that is becoming increasingly problematic is that researchers are focusing on social media use for scholarship – when social media are intertwined in scholars’ lives in complicated ways. One example is the use of social media for activism and raising awareness (e.g., targeting casualization). A second example is the use of social media to connect with friends and family in social media spaces where colleagues and supervisors are present and figuring out how to navigate the personal-professional tensions that arise as a result of the collapsing contexts.

Social Media in Academia: Networked Scholars

Section

Title

Chapter 1

Introduction

Chapter 2

Networked Scholarship

Chapter 3

Anna: A Social Media Advocate

Chapter 4

Knowledge Creation and Dissemination

Chapter 5

Realities of Day-to-Day Social Media Use

Chapter 6

Networks of Tension and Conflict

Chapter 7

Nicholas: A Visitor

Chapter 8

Networks of Inequity

Chapter 9

Networks of Disclosure

Chapter 10

Fragmented Networks

Chapter 11

Scholarly Networks / Scholars in Networks

Chapter 12

Conclusion

References

References

Index

Index

New publication: A case study of scholars’ open and sharing practices

Posted on August 4th, by George Veletsianos in my research, open, papers, scholarship, sharing. No Comments

I have a new paper out that sought to identify and describe faculty members’ open and sharing practices at one North American institution. Part of the goal was to juxtapose open practices and sharing practices. The paper highlights individual and environmental influences on open and sharing practices. The paper also suggests that defaults (e.g., the default youtube license) may be exerting pressures on the ways that scholars share their teaching, research, and scholarship. In other words, one way to instigate further change in this domain might be to rethink the default options.

Although the open scholarship movement has successfully captured the attention and interest of higher education stakeholders, researchers currently lack an understanding of the degree to which open scholarship is enacted in institutions that lack institutional support for openness. I help fill this gap in the literature by presenting a descriptive case study that illustrates the variety of open and sharing practices enacted by faculty members at a North American university.

Open and sharing practices enacted at this institution revolve around publishing manuscripts in open ways, participating on social media, creating and using open educational resources, and engaging with open teaching. This examination finds that certain open practices are favored over others. Results also show that even though faculty members often share scholarly materials online for free, they frequently do so without associated open licenses (i.e. without engaging in open practices). These findings suggest that individual motivators may significantly affect the practice of openness, but that environmental factors (e.g., institutional contexts) and technological elements (e.g., YouTube’s default settings) may also shape open practices in unanticipated ways.

The paper, open access and all, is here in pdf, or directly from the source: Veletsianos, G. (2015). A case study of scholars’ open and sharing practices. Open Praxis, 7(3), 199-209. http://openpraxis.org/index.php/OpenPraxis/article/view/206/168 

University curricula should include the teaching of Networked Scholarship

Posted on July 21st, by George Veletsianos in my research, networked scholars, NPS, scholarship, sharing. No Comments

This year’s AERA call for proposals focuses on public scholarship. But how do faculty members and scholars come to learn how to use social media and be “public scholars” in the networked world that they inhabit?

Given recent events surrounding professor’s use of social media (e.g., Salaita, Sara Goldrick-Rab, Kansas Board of Regents “improper use of social media” policy, the list goes on), it seems to me that we need to create curricula to help future scholars make sense of networked societies and networked cultures.

The need for such curricula is pressing because (a) scholars/professors face significant tensions when they are online and (b) many of the practices and innovations inherent to networked scholarship appear to question traditional elements of scholarly practice and institutional norms (e.g., questioning peer-review, publishing work-in-progress, accessing literature through crowdsourcing).

In other words, universities need to grapple with networked scholarship, as well as with the changing nature of scholarship, on a curricular level. Universities need to address  networked scholarship on a policy level too (e.g., clarifying ex ante, and not ex post facto whether social media participation is scholarship), but that’s a blog post for the future.

Networked scholarship curricula will need to balance a focus on tools and issues. The teaching of tools could instill future scholars with the abilities to use networked technologies productively. For instance, networked scholars might employ the services of text-mining techniques (e.g., Google Alerts) to track mentions of their name, areas of research, or publications such that they can keep track of and participate in discussions mentioning their work. Many trends, including the publication of journals in digital form, the pervasive use of institutional profiles, and the use of social media services for personal reasons combine to make it highly likely that scholars are already searchable and findable online. Thus online presence is assumed to exist regardless of whether a scholar has taken any steps in cultivating such a presence, and the teaching of tools to manage one’s presence may be necessary. The teaching of issues pertaining to networked scholarship is also significant. Scholars would benefit from making sense of issues such as networked societies, context collapse, alternative metrics, homophily, filter bubble, open access publishing, digital literacies, and community-engaged scholarship. For instance, doctoral preparation curricula might problematize the fact that while Twitter might allow researchers to follow one another and discuss topics of interest, such discussions may go unchallenged, if scholars are only followed by those who have similar educational training and beliefs to them.

Further,  scholars will benefit greatly from gaining a well-rounded understanding of networks that does not privilege a technodeterministic perspective, but rather accounts for a sociocultural understanding of networks that positions them as places where knowledge is produced and disseminated, tensions and conflict are rampant, inequities exists, disclosures often occur, and identity is fragmented. University curricula might also prepare scholars to work in an increasingly uncertain world: What challenges will scholars face at their institutions or in the broader culture as they enact networked practices?

networked-scholarship-meme

“It will be fun, they said” meme – applied to Networked Scholarship

 The concept of “sharing” is a persistent finding in my research, and it might be a topic worth exploring in university curricula. The individuals who are embracing sharing practices are finding value in doing so, and often advocate that others should share too. It is not unusual for example to encounter quotes such as “good things happen to those who share,” or “sharing is caring,” or “education is sharing.” These quotes illustrate and exemplify the values of the networked scholarship subculture. While faculty members have historically shared their work with each other (e.g., through letters, telephone calls, and conference presentations), and open access publishing is gaining increasing acceptance, educators and researchers are increasingly sharing their scholarship online in open spaces. Wiley and Green (2012, pp. 82) even argue that “[e]ducation is, first and foremost, an enterprise of sharing. In fact, sharing is the sole means by which education is effected.” However, education, both K-12 to higher education, has generally lacked a culture of sharing. Barab, Makinster, Moore, and Cunningham (2001) note that “change efforts [in K-12] have often been unsuccessful due in large part to the lack of a culture of sharing among teachers (Chism, 1985).” A core value of this subculture seems to be that sharing should be treated as a scholarly practice. As such, future scholars may benefit from an examination and critique of this practice to understand both its implications as well as its ideologies. Significantly, doctoral preparation curricula may need to grapple with how “sharing” interfaces with “open practice” and what the implications of various means of sharing are for scholars and the academy. For example, posting copyrighted scholarship on academia.edu may constitute a form of sharing, but this is not the same as “openness.”Academia.edu provides a distribution mechanism in the form of a social network, but does little to foster and promote open licensing and creative commons policies with respect to scholarship.

* This is an edited exceprt from my book, Networked Scholars (due out in January, 2016).

The Invisible Learners Taking MOOCs

Posted on July 7th, by George Veletsianos in learner experience, moocs, my research, open, scholarship. No Comments

The op-ed below first appeared on Inside Higher Ed. This is a first glimpse of a partnership with HarvardX intended to examine learners’ experiences in open courses.

The Invisible Learners Taking MOOCs

“Anyone, anywhere, at any point in time will be able to take advantage of high quality education.”

That could be a tagline from just about any enthusiast or provider of open online courses (often called MOOCs). The intention certainly seems laudable and, if not transformational, at least desirable.

What are the caveats?

Recent research suggests that the majority of people enrolled in these open online courses are highly educated. As far as US participants are concerned, a large percentage also live in high-income neighborhoods.

And yet, despite the extensive research and data on open online courses, we really do not know much about these millions of learners engaged in everything from courses on computer science to poetry to physiotherapy to gender studies to bioinformatics.

In fact, apart from a few anecdotes of extraordinary individuals who overcome insurmountable struggles to succeed (e.g., the exceptional Nigerian man who completed 250 courses) or abstract descriptions of learners and their activity (e.g., “less than 10% complete courses,” “auditors,” or “latecomers”) these learners might as well be invisible.

And thus, my fellow researchers and I are asking more questions. We want to better understand open courses and their learners (and their successes and their failures). How do these people experience open courses? Why they do they things that they do in these courses?

We are currently in the midst of conducting the largest series of interview studies in open courses, and we have just released our first study. Our research is motivated by the fact that very few commentators and researchers to date have paused to talk to learners and to listen to them describe their experiences and activities.

In fact, what researchers know about MOOCs is largely the result of analyzing the data trails that learners leave behind as they navigate digital learning environments.

So far we have interviewed more than 70 individuals who have completed a range of MOOCs. Three of our initial findings question the initial excitement that surrounded MOOCs and contradict the initial hope that these types of courses can help anyone, anywhere, at any point in time to succeed.

Successful online learners have sophisticated study skills. For example, nearly every individual that we have interviewed described his or her notetaking strategies. Learners described how they combine notes across multiple courses and how they arrange notes in order to use them in their exams or future studies.

Learners also described an array of strategies to deal with unfamiliar content, such as using resources external to MOOCs to clarify their understanding of what they learned.

Bjorn, one of the learners we interviewed, reported watching all lecture videos twice. He said: “I read an article about how priming really helps the mind cement content.” And then he applied that insight to his studies: “Instead of watching the videos and taking notes and pausing constantly,” he “watched the video in fast speed first, just really concentrating on the content, and then afterwards, watched it through while taking notes.” This strategy was aimed at improving the processing of new information and demonstrates the sophistication with which some learners approach studying.

Such complex approaches to studying are neither innate nor universal, and throw a cast of doubt over the claim that “anyone” can equally participate in and benefit from these courses.

Flexibility and a flexible life are often essential for engaged participation. A significant proportion of the learners we interviewed either live flexible lives that enable them to participate or appear to be exceptional in their abilities to create time to participate in these courses.

Individuals that live flexible lives are often retirees who frequently tell us that they have time available to explore topics that interest them. Numerous others shared with us that they create time to participate.

For example, a British engineer goes to work an hour earlier every morning in order to work on MOOCs, and an American mother watches MOOC videos when she is not busy caring for her newborn.

Personal and professional circumstances structure the ways that people participate in MOOCs. And here is the conundrum: While online learning experiences can generally be more flexible than face-to-face ones, time is a limited resource, and the individuals who have the privilege of time and flexibility are not necessarily the ones that the quest for the democratization of education via MOOCs aspired to serve.

Online learning is an emotional experience. Somewhere between enrollment numbers, statistics describing completion rates, and the fascination with big data, we forgot that learning experiences are deeply emotional.

Anxiety, appreciation, embarrassment, and pleasure are some of the emotions that learners used to describe their experience in these courses to us.

One of our interviewees, Maria, lives in Greece and works for the public sector. She was “pleasantly surprised” with her experience, especially because she “never thought [she] would be able to study the subject.” She continued: “The most important thing for me is that I can actually learn about the things I have wanted to learn about ever since I was a child. It’s really a dream come true. I will never be able to use it for work or I will never be able to change my profession under the circumstances right now  – but I really like and I really want to learn about astronomy and cosmology just for the – just for the joy of it. And that’s why I am going to keep on taking classes.”

Understanding why learners had these emotions is significant in improving digital learning initiatives. More importantly, innovation that lacks care and appreciation for the human condition is not an aspirational strategy to get behind for a bright future.

Now what?

Our research is providing a better understanding of open online learning and the learners that participate in such endeavors. We are finding that the democratization of education and knowledge are noble goals, but free access to content can only go so far in eliminating societal and global inequities.

What’s the value of a course that features high completion rates but perpetuates gender stereotypes?

What’s the value of a course that is freely available but cannot be accessed by people in remote areas of East Texas or remote areas of British Columbia because of language or technological barriers?

Alternatively, isn’t a course that helps people explore their passions desirable, even if only a small minority participate for the duration of it?

We’ve interviewed learners in Australia, Canada, El Salvador, France, Greece, India, Ireland, the Netherlands, Puerto Rico, the United Kingdom, and the United States. These individuals are not mere statistics to which phrases like “any” “always” and “anywhere” can apply.

Ultimately, our research calls into question whether open courses, in their current form, are the democratizing forces they are sometimes depicted to be—and even whether “educating a billion” with MOOCs is a laudable goal.

By getting to know these invisible learners, we think we can build a better foundation for online learning, the design of digital learning experiences, and the use of technology in education. It is already clear from our initial interviews that in order to create more egalitarian structures for education, we need to start peeling away the multitude of barriers that prevent the most vulnerable populations from participating. And that’s a good goal for all of us who care about learning, teaching, and education.

 

Acknowledgements: Numerous colleagues, research associates, and students contributed to the research reported here, including: Amy Collier (Stanford), Emily Schneider (Stanford), Peter Shepherdson (University of Zurich), Laura Pasquini (Royal Roads University), and Rich McCue (University of Victoria & Royal Roads University). Special thanks to Justin Reich and Rebecca Petersen (Harvard University) and the rest of the HarvardX research team.

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.

Excited for #dlrn15

Posted on May 29th, by George Veletsianos in scholarship, work. No Comments

I am really excited for #dLRN15 because the (awesome) group organizing the conference is asking the right set of difficult questions. Various research results that colleagues and I are in the process of reporting reflect the themes of the conference (e.g., increased interdisciplinary activity in digital learning research, significant variation in how education scholars participate online, unequal student activity on digital environments), and I’m excited that space is provided for us to have these conversations. Plus, the organizers are thinking in caring ways about the conference.

The conference themes are the following:

Ethics of Collaboration

Digital networks have the potential to redraw the maps of global educational influence and enable new models of international collaboration. More commonly, however, investment has been directed towards the consolidation of existing relations of prestige and influence, extending the reach of elite institutions into larger and more dispersed markets. In this strand, we are interested in papers that explore the ethical dimension of international digital learning initiatives, and in particular, that consider ways of advancing global learning through models of reciprocity and exchange.

Individualized Learning

In this strand, we are interested in papers that examine the emergence of individualised digital and networked learning as an educational priority. What are the technical and strategic drivers of the shift to adaptive, personalised learning? How are new edu models designing frameworks for student agency? What can learners of the future be expected to manage for themselves over their life course, and what do we assume about the skills, devices and network access they will need to do this?

Systemic Impacts

In this strand, we are interested in papers that will provide insight into how faculty and institutional leaders are responding systemically to the use of digital networks. Examples might include: alternative assessment methods, prior learning assessment, competency based learning, partnerships with external capacity providers, changing forms of scholarship, academic innovation hubs (R&D), and so on. Research that assesses the impact of new systemic structures on student success will be of particular importance.

Innovation and Work

In this strand, we are interested in papers that examine the impact of networked innovation on the experience of working inside and alongside higher education. How has digital learning affected the academic profession, whether for the minority with tenure, or the much larger number working insecurely? What does it feel like to work alongside higher education from within other industries and sectors? In this strand, we particularly encourage papers that address the intersection of digital innovation, academic labour, and the education workforce of the future.

Sociocultural Implications

This strand invites concept and research papers on the relationships between networks, higher education, and sociocultural inequalities both in local and global contexts. While digital and networked higher education initiatives are often framed for the media in emancipatory terms, what effects does the changing landscape of higher education actually have on learners whose identities are marked by race/gender/class and other factors within their societies? Papers exploring societal factors, power structures, and their relationships to networked higher education are encouraged.