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

Category: scholarship

Syllabus for my course: Technology, Education, and Learning Institutions in 2025

Posted on August 29th, by George Veletsianos in courses, open, scholarship, sharing. 9 comments

I have finished compiling my syllabus for an undergraduate seminar I am teaching, and I thought I would share it. This is a syllabus for a course in which we investigate major trends influencing education, and understand how education and learning institutions are (and are not) changing with the emergence of technologies, social behaviors, and cultural expectations. The syllabus is embedded below, but you can also download it from Scribd though this link

 

SEO strategies for academics. Or, when others search for you, what do they find?

Posted on August 8th, by George Veletsianos in NPS, scholarship, sharing. 3 comments

In their paper “Intentional Web Presence: 10 SEO Strategies Every Academic Needs to Know” Patrick Lowenthal and Joanna Dunlap offer excellent advice to academics mindful of their web presence and cognizant of the potential impact that the Internet may have on their scholarship. I’ve come to use most of these strategies over the years, but I am excited to see these collected at one location.

I’ll add an 11th strategy: Use an RSS aggregator to (e.g., Google Reader) to gather resources of interest effortlessly and consistently. For example, I receive alerts of the latest journal issues at my aggregator (you can also have these emailed to you). I also follow a number of colleagues’ blogs through there, so I don’t have to visit individual sites. My RSS aggregator also serves as an archiving mechanism.

As academics and scholars engage in the emerging practice of using “participatory technologies and online social networks to share, reflect upon, critique, improve, validate, and further their scholarship” (which is an argument that we made in this paper), these strategies are important to keep in mind.

What other strategies do you use?

A summary of the Adventure Learning approach to education

Posted on July 31st, by George Veletsianos in adventure learning, scholarship. No Comments

Readers of this blog may be interested in a short encyclopedia entry, summarizing the adventure learning approach to education that colleagues and I are using in a few of our projects (e.g., YoTeach and AL Water expeditions). The paper also summarizes productive avenues for future research:

Veletsianos, G. (2012). Adventure Learning. In Seel, N. (Ed.), Encyclopedia of the Sciences of Learning (pp. 157-160). Springer Academic.

What education research and instructional design practice can offer to Coursera MOOCs

Posted on July 30th, by George Veletsianos in courses, engagement, moocs, my research, NPS, online learning, open, scholarship. 1 Comment

This is part of my ongoing reflection on moocs. See the rest of the entries here.

I have signed up to a number of MOOCs as a student (and led one of the #change11 weeks), and have spoken in general terms a couple of weeks ago about how education research can help improve the type of education offered through a MOOC. In this post, I will give specific suggestions, focusing on the University of Pennsylvania MOOC: Listening to World Music, offered through Coursera. I am signed up to this course, which started on June 23, and I just submitted the first assignment. I decided to post these thoughts early because of two reasons. First, the beginning of any course is an important moment in its success and I find that it takes a lot of planning and reflection. Second, MOOCS are discussed as being experiments in online education. The Atlantic even calls them “The single most important experiment in higher education.” I agree that they are experimental initiatives, and as such would benefit from ongoing evaluation and advice. Where I disagree with is the notion that they are a departure from what we know about online (and face-to-face) education. This post is intended to highlight just a couple of items that the Coursera instructional designers and learning technologists could have planned for in order to develop a more positive learning experience.

1. Length of the video lectures.

The syllabus lists the length of the video lectures (e.g., video 1 is 10:01 minutes long and video 2 is 10:45 minutes long.) However, this length is not provided on the page that students visit to watch the videos, which is where they need that information. I’ve annotated this below.

 

2. Opportunities for interaction.

The platform provides forums for students to interact with each other. Learners are of course instrumental and will figure out alternative, and more efficient and effective ways to communicate with each other, if they need to. For instance, in a number of other MOOCs students set up facebook groups, and I anticipate that this will happen here as well. What Coursera could do to support learners in working with each other is to integrate social media plugins within each course. I am surprised that this isn’t prominent within the course because you can see from the images below that Coursera uses social media plugins to allow students to announce participation in the course:

For instance, it appears that the course uses the #worldmusic hashtag, though it’s not integrated within the main page of the course, not does it seem to be a unique hashtag associated with the course.

3. How do you encourage students to watch the videos?

Let’s say that we added the length of each video next to its title. Now, the learner knows that they need about an hour to watch the video. Some learners (e.g., those who are intrinsically motivated by the topic) will watch them without much scaffolding. But, how do you provide encouragement for others to do so? Here’s where some social psychology insights might be helpful. By providing learners with simple descriptions of how the majority of their colleagues are behaving (i.e. appealing to social norms), then one might be able to encourage individuals to watch the videos. For example, the videos might include a dynamic subtitle that informs learners that “8 out of 10 of your peers have watched this video” or that “70% of your peers have completed the first assignment” and so on. This is the same strategy that hotels use to encourage users to reuse towels and the same strategy that Nike uses when it compares your running patterns to the running patterns of other runners, as shown in the image below:

4. Peer-grading expectations.

This course is different from others that I’ve participated in because it includes an element of peer-grading. This is exciting to me because I’m a firm believer in social learning. One minor concern however is the following: I don’t know how many peers I am supposed to evaluate. I thought I was supposed to evaluate just one, but each time I finish my evaluation, I am presented with the option to “evaluate next student.” Do I keep evaluating? How many do I need to evaluate before I can move to the next step? I don’t know. In other words, it’s always helpful to inform the learner of what s/he has to do. For instance, in my case, I just stopped evaluating peers after having evaluated 4 because I don’t know how much I am expected to do. Perhaps there’s no minimum… and this information would be helpful to me as a learner.

Overall, my experience with this course is positive, though there is a lot of room for improvement here, which is to be expected. For example, I haven’t touched much on the pedagogy of the course, but there’s a few more weeks left… so stay tuned!

Notes:

Nike photo credit. Thanks to my colleague Chuck Hodges for directing my attention to the Nike example.

MOOCs can, and should, learn from past research in education

Posted on July 17th, by George Veletsianos in moocs, online learning, open, scholarship. 7 comments

This entry is part of a reflective series of posts/questions relating to online learning, MOOCs, and openness. See the first one here.

Coursera announced today that it is adding a dozen or so universities as partners. In an article in the New York Times, Sebastian Thrun notes that MOOC courses are still experimental and argues: “I think we are rushing this a little bit,” he said. “I haven’t seen a single study showing that online learning is as good as other learning.”

This perception of online education as “better than” or “as good as” other forms of education (I imagine that Sebastian Thrun is referring to face-to-face education here), is rampant. I believe it is rampant because our field has not done a good job disseminating what we know and what we don’t know about online education. At the same time, individuals do not tend to go back to the foundations of the field to investigate what others have discovered.

The result: A lack of understanding that there’s a whole field out there (here?) that has developed important insights on how we can design online education effectively. The list of references at the end of this post are merely a few of the resources one can use to get started on what we know and what we don’t know about comparison studies (i.e. studies that compare learning between delivery modes).

The point of this entry is to argue that there’s no point to reinvent the wheel. There’s no point to make the same mistakes. And above all, past research has shown that there’s no point to study whether online education is as good as (or as bad as) other forms of education because what one will discover is that:

 

  1. There are no significant differences in learning outcomes between face-to-face education and online education.
  2. When differences are found between the two, the differences can be attributed to (a) pedagogy, or (b) and a lack of controls in the experimental design.

 

It is important to point out that the effectiveness of an educational approach is influenced greatly by other variables, such as instructor support or pedagogical approach. Therefore, it is very difficult (if not impossible) to compare face-to-face and online education because when one is not a replication of the other, they are vastly different, are based on different learner-instructor interactions, and offer different affordances. While researchers have tried to minimize differences and compare face-to-face learning and online learning in experimental ways, the interventions end up being meaningless for the types of powerful online/face-to-face teaching we might envision. Comparing delivery mechanisms therefore, blinds us to the important variables that truly impact how people learn.

The important and informative questions to ask are not comparative. Rather they focus squarely on understanding online education:

  1. How can we design effective and engaging online education (e.g., MOOCs)?
  2. What is the nature of learning in a MOOC?
  3. What is the learning experience in a MOOC like?

These questions are difficult. They won’t be answered by comparing survey responses and they won’t generate one simple answer. They will however generate answers that will be different depending on context. And that’s what’s exciting about doing research on online education.

References:

Technology, Education, and Learning Institutions in 2025

Posted on June 18th, by George Veletsianos in courses, online learning, scholarship. 4 comments

“Technology, Education, and Learning Institutions in 2025” is a signature course that I will be teaching for the School of Undergraduate Studies at UT Austin in Fall 2012. Thus, I was excited to learn the other day that George Siemens and colleagues will be teaching an open course entitled The Current/Future State of Higher Education. While the audiences and purposes of these two course may differ, it’s exciting to know that other groups are thinking that it’s important to lead a course that asks participants to think critically about the potential futures and alternative narratives of education. Anyone can make predictions about the future of education (e.g., predictions about the demise of higher education institutions are a dime a dozen). Yet, it’s hard for newcomers to differentiate between wishful thinking, “real” change, incremental change, and potential change. Thus, a well-rounded understanding of educational systems, and the multiple purposes they serve, is important.

Signature courses at UT are interdisciplinary seminar courses for incoming students emphasizing “discussion, critical thinking, short research projects, student presentations, and writing on interdisciplinary topics of contemporary importance.” Importantly, all UT signature courses carry the Writing Flag, meaning that they must meet certain writing requirements in order to ensure that students hone in on their writing skills. To this end, students in this course will write papers describing potential and alternative educational futures and institutions. To instill a sense of commitment, responsibility, encouragement, and hope , I approached the editor of Educational Technology and asked if he was willing to work with me on dedicating a special issue on student’s informed perspectives on the future of education. While we discuss the future of education, I think it’ important to hear from students and learn from what they have to say. Since Educational Technology magazine goes to about 2,000 readers in more than 100 countries around the world, I think that this is a great way to get some of these voices in the mainstream. Our guiding prompt will be the following: If you were going to design an educational system of the future today, what would it look like? This is a question that others have asked as well (e.g., Levin, 2002)

This is how I described the course to potential students:

What will education look like in 2025? What role will technology play in future learning institutions? What will schools and universities look like? Will we invent new forms of education that reside outside of schools and universities? What is the purpose of education and how will it change in the next 10-15 years? Will we still use lectures halls? Will online education be the norm? Are we reaching a point where “anyone can learn anything from anyone else at any time?” Or, are Google, Facebook, and Twitter “infantilizing our minds,” distracting us from meaningful learning and purposeful living? Together, we will answer these questions. Just as societies, governments, and other social groups adapt and change over time, so do institutions of learning, the work that they do, and how they do that work. We live at a transient time for education, at a time where entrepreneurs, politicians, philanthropists, college professors, and university presidents are defining what education may look like in 2025. Together, we will investigate major trends influencing education, and understand how education and learning institutions are changing with the emergence of certain technologies, social behaviors, and cultural expectations.

I’ll be posting my syllabus, readings, videos, and additional learning resources here in due course.

Critical perspectives on Educational Technology

Posted on April 22nd, by George Veletsianos in online learning, scholarship. 4 comments

I was in Vancouver at AERA 2012 last week, where I had the opportunity to present some of my recent work and catch up with colleagues. A few of the conversations I had centered around the increasing interest our field is receiving. This is a great time to be involved with educational technology, though there’s a lot of discussion about what higher education may look like a few years down the road. At the same time however, contemporary discourse on how technology can “transform” education concerns me because it is largely guided by techno-enthusiasm, techno-determinism, and a desire to improve “efficiency,” on models grounded on marginal costs and revenues. This is not a new concern – I wrote about it in the past as well. However, George Siemens does a great job  describing what current thinking in the edtech corporate world looks like. My perspective is that, if we want to improve education for all, we have to engage with educational technology critically, involve educators in designing innovations, and use the research that a lot of us have done on learning, education, and technology.

To this end, I decided to share a a list of papers from my research library that offer a critical perspective on the use of technology in education. This is not a rant against the field. Rather, this is an attempt to highlight alternative ways of thinking. Alternative perspectives are important, because they help us question our assumptions and worldview. I thought it was about time for this, as the last entry that I wrote on this issue was about two years ago. If you have any additional work that might fit into this category, please share it in the comments section, and I will update the blog entry with those. Alternatively, you can add papers to this group on mendeley (feel free to join as well).

Amory, A. (2010). Education Technology and Hidden Ideological Contradictions. Educational Technology & Society, 13(1), 69- 79.

Bayne, S. (2010). Academetron, automaton, phantom: uncanny digital pedagogies. London Review of Education, 8(1), 5-13.

Friesen, Norm. (2010). Education and the social Web: Connective learning and the commerical imperative. First Monday, 15(12).

Friesen, Norm. (2011). Critical Theory: Ideology Critique and the Myths of E‐Learning, (February), 1-20.

Kahn, R., & Kellner, D. (2007). Paulo Freire and Ivan Illich: technology, politics and the reconstruction of education. Policy Futures in Education, 5(4), 431-448.

Njenga, J. K., & Fourie, L. C. H. (2010). The myths about e-learning in higher education. British Journal of Educational Technology, 41(2), 199-212.

Oliver, M. (2011). Technological determinism in educational technology research: some alternative ways of thinking about the relationship between learning and technology. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, (November 2010), no-no. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2729.2011.00406.x

Peck, C., Cuban, L., & Kirkpatrick, H. (2007). Techno-Promoter Dreams,Student Realities. Phi Delta Kappan, 83(6), 472-480.

Piña, A. A. (2010). Online diploma mills : implications for legitimate distance education. Distance Education, 31(1), 121-126. doi:10.1080/01587911003725063

Ravenscroft, A. (2001). Designing E-learning Interactions in the 21st Century: revisiting and rethinking the role of theory. European Journal of Education, 36(2), 133-156. doi:10.1111/1467-3435.00056

Sahay, S. (2007). Beyond Utopian and Nostalgic Views of Information Technology and Education: Implications for Research and Practice. Information Systems, 5(7), 282-313.

Selwyn, N. (2010). Looking beyond learning: notes towards the critical study of educational technology. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, 26(1), 65-73. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2729.2009.00338.x

Selwyn, Neil. (2011). Editorial: In praise of pessimism—the need for negativity in educational technology. British Journal of Educational Technology, 42(5), 713-718.

Selwyn, Neil, & Gorard, S. (2004). Exploring the role of ICT in facilitating adult informal learning. Education, Communication & Information, 4(2-3), 293-310. doi:10.1080/14636310412331304726

Warschauer, M. (2007). The paradoxical future of digital learning. Learning Inquiry, 1(1), 41-49. doi:10.1007/s11519-007-0001-5

Weston, M. E., & Bain, A. (2010). The End of Techno-Critique : The Naked Truth about 1 : 1 Laptop Initiatives and Educational Change. The Journal of Technology, Learning, and Assessment, 9(6).

Digital Scholarship: Visualizing a Twitter hashtag

Posted on March 30th, by George Veletsianos in emerging technologies, learner experience, scholarship. 9 comments

As part of my research on digital scholarship and the experiences/practices of scholars in online networks, I am working with the Texas Advanced Computing Center and the newly-established Visualization Lab at the College of Education to understand learner and scholar participation patterns on the social web. Below is our first visualization, which shows interactions between three types of users who are contributing to a hashtag (red, blue, green). It’s a directed graph, with nodes representing users, and edges representing interactions between users. The thickness of the edge represents # of interactions (thick = more interactions). When nodes of a different color interact with each other, the edges take the color of the two node (e.g., when a blue node interacts with a red node, the edge is purple). What does this visualization tell us?

We are still trying to make sense of this, and we are slowly learning from the tutorials that Tony Hirst has created. This is what (i think) this says: First of all, we know that the majority of the people contributing to this hashtag are not having a conversation with each other (#nodes making up the dataset are 3 times the group shown above – this is not shown  on the graph). Second, it looks likes there’s a few “central” folk through which conversations occur. Finally, even though interactions happen between red and blue nodes, it looks like the majority of the interaction is happening within those two groups. And that’s important in this situation because one of our hypothesis was that the red group was joining this community to interact with the blue group (if that was the case, we would be seeing more purple in the image above). We definitely need additional ways to evaluate some of these statements, but that’s what it “looks like” from the image above. And here’s where I think data visualizations start becoming really valuable: You can quickly see patterns and ask questions, and continue from there. We have some ideas and hypotheses, but we also want to let the data bring up phenomena that we haven’t thought about. I don’t yet feel confident that I fully understand what I am seeing here, but I am quickly learning a lot! So my question to you is: how would you interpret this? What questions do you have of what you are seeing here?