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

Category: scholarship

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.

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

Educational Technology Journals

Posted on April 15th, by George Veletsianos in scholarship. 12 comments

The note below comes from Dr. Ross Perkins and was posted on the IT Forum listserv – Great work Ross!

As some who’ve been on this listserv for a while are aware, I developed and have been maintaining a spreadsheet that lists multiple dozens of educational/instructional technology journals and publications of related fields. This was first done through a simple Google Spreadsheet published to the web, starting seven years ago or so. The interface is now (hopefully) more user-friendly. Among its features: the site is ‘mobile responsive,’ the list can be sorted in a variety of ways, can be searched, and it contains columns the user can toggle on/off. The list now contains 265 titles.

http://www.edtechjournals.org

The purpose of the site is to inform people in the field of educational/instructional technology about which outlets they might use (the list contains both subscription or open journals) to either read or publish scholarship (learn more at “About this Site“)

A huge thanks goes to Mr. Tony Hetrick, a doctoral student and grad assistant in the Boise State University Ed Tech EdD program. Tony is the brains behind the ‘mobile responsive’ interface, and he also developed code for WordPress that connects the site’s MySQL db to a GoogleSheet. Thanks goes to my BSU colleague, Dr. Patrick Lowenthal for his advice about the site and contents, and especially for his vital collaboration on open access journal research (our article is in review). And thanks also goes to Dr. George Veletsianos for leading the development of a parallel spreadsheet of open access journals a few years ago; the OAJs on that list are now integrated into the database.

The site is ever evolving; we would love to get your formative feedback.

Feel free to cross-post on other lists, social media, etc.

Best regards,

- Ross

—————————-
Ross A. Perkins, Ph.D.
Associate Professor, Educational Technology
MS/EdD Program Coordinator
Boise State University
Boise, Idaho, USA

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. 10 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!

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

Universities have always been changing

Posted on February 26th, by George Veletsianos in scholarship. 5 comments

Serendipity.

I’ve just mentioned to a room full of people that universities have always been changing and that the narrative of the static university unchanging since the dawn of time is a myth. I then look at my RSS feed, and see that Martin Weller writes:

“It is quite common to hear statements along the lines of “education hasn’t changed in 100 years”. This is particularly true from education start-up companies, who are attempting to create a demand for their product by illustrating how much change is required in the sector…If you were to come to a university campus, superficially it looks as though things are pretty unchanged.”

The reality is that universities have always been changing, shifting, largely to reflect the societies that house them. Martin notes a couple of things that have been changing: student demographics and the role of the technology.

Other changes include

  • institutional makeup and diversification: liberal arts colleges, community colleges, for-profit universities, public universities, mega universities, dual-institution degrees, online universities, and the list goes on and on
  • institutional funding: Institutions in the US and Canada used to receive a lot of their funding from the state/province. State/Province contributions have been declining, with some institutions in the US receiving less than 10% of their operating budget from the state
  • Faculty roles and responsibilities have been shifting and I expect that this will continue to happen, with greater involvement of instructional designers and media developers in the course development process

Perhaps when people say that education hasn’t changed or that universities have haven’t changed, they mean that universities have been present for a long time and go on to falsely assert that they haven’t changed their practices. That’s true, universities have existed for a long time, but they are much different than the universities of let’s say 100 years ago.

This of course doesn’t mean that universities are perfect. There’s a lot to improve upon, which is why this is an exciting time to be in the field!

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. 33 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