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

Category: sharing

Compassion, Kindness, and Care in Digital Learning Contexts

Posted on April 5th, by George Veletsianos in Ideas, learner experience, open, scholarship, sharing. 5 comments

Bear with me. This work-in-progress is a bit raw. I’d love any feedback that you might have.

Back in 2008, my colleagues and I wrote a short paper arguing that social justice is a core element of good instructional design. Good designs were, and still are, predominantly judged upon their effectiveness, efficiency, and engagement (e3 instruction). Critical and anti-opressive educators and theorists have laid the foundations of extending educational practice beyond effectiveness a long time ago.

I’m not convinced that edtech, learning design, instructional design, digital learning, or any other label that one wants to apply to the “practice of improving digital teaching and learning” is there yet.

I’ve been thinking more and more about compassion with respect to digital learning. More specifically, I’ve been reflecting on the following question:

What does compassion look like in digital learning contexts?

I’m blogging about this now, because my paper journal is limiting and there is an increasing recognition within various circles in the field that are coalescing around similar themes. For instance,

  • The CFP for Learning with MOOCs III asks: What does it mean to be human in the digital age?
  • Our research questions reductionist agendas embedded in some approaches to evaluating and enhancing learning online. Similar arguments are made by Jen Ross, Amy Collier, and Jon Becker.
  • Kate Bowles says “we have a capacity to listen to each other, and to honour what is particular in the experience of another person.”
  • Lumen Learning’s personalized pathways recognize learner agency (as opposed to dominant personalization paradigms that focus on system control)

Compassion is one commonality that these initiatives, calls to action, and observations have in common (and, empowerment, but that’s a different post).

This is not a call for teaching compassion or empathy to the learner. That’s a different topic. I’m more concerned here with how to embed compassion in our practice – in our teaching, in our learning design processes, the technologies that we create, in the research methods that we use. At this point I have a lot of questions and some answers. Some of my questions are:

  • What does compassionate digital pedagogy look like?
    • What are the theories of learning that underpin compassionate practice?
    • What does a pedagogy of care look like? [Noddings’s work is seminal here. Some thoughts from a talk I gave. thoughts from Lee Skallerup Bessette and a paper describing how caring is experienced in online learning contexts.]
  • What are the purported and actual relationships between compassion and various innovations such as flexible learning environments, competency-based learning, and open education?
    • What are the narratives surrounding innovations [The work of Neil Selwyn, Audrey Watters, and David Noble is helpful here]
  • What does compassionate technology look like?
    • Can technologies express empathy and sympathy? Do students perceive technologies expressing empathy? [Relevant to this: research on pedagogical agents, chatbots, and affective computing]
    • What does compassion look like in the design of algorithms for new technologies?
  • What does compassionate learning design look like?
    • Does a commitment to anti-oppressive education lead to compassionate design?
    • Are there any learning design models that explicitly account for compassion and care? Is that perhaps implicit in the general aim to improve learning & teaching?
    • In what ways is compassion embedded in design thinking?
  • What do compassionate digital learning research methods look like?
    • What are their aims and goals?
    • Does this question even make sense? Does this question have to do with the paradigm or does it have to do with the perspective employed in the research? Arguing that research methods informed by critical theory are compassionate is easy. Can positivist research methods be compassionate? Researchers may have compassionate goals and use positivist approaches (e.g., “I want to evaluate the efficacy of testing regimes because I believe that they might be harmful to students”).
  • What does compassionate digital learning advocacy look like?
    • Advocating for widespread adoption of tools/practices/etc without addressing social, political, economic, and cultural contexts is potentially harmful (e.g., Social media might be beneficial but advocating for everyone to use social media ignores the fact that certain populations may face more risks when doing so)

There’s many other topics here (e.g., adjunctification, pedagogies of hope, public scholarship, commercialization….) but there’s more than enough in this post alone!

A helping hand?

Posted on February 17th, by George Veletsianos in sharing. 1 Comment

When my friends Jon Becker and Alec Couros were applying for tenure, they did something open, innovative, and thoughtful: They asked the community for  feedback on their work and scholarship. This feedback often gets missed in tenure applications because it the impact and reach of scholarship tends to be evaluated in basic ways: How many times was a publications cited? In how many high-impact factor journals did one publish in? Alec’s and Jon’s request serve to add another dimension to the evaluation of their work.

I find myself in a similar position. Would you please help me provide a more diverse evidence for my application? If my work has impacted you in any way, could you please add a note below? Perhaps my research was helpful in helping you get started on your MA/PhD thesis/dissertation. Or perhaps you used my work to provide professional development for teachers/faculty. Or, you assigned my work as reading. Or, you reused one of the teaching activities I shared on my blog. Or, you learned something from me at some time. Many of these “indicators of impact” are invisible, so, in essence what I am asking is to help me make them visible.

If you have a few moments to spare, I’d appreciate your feedback in the form below, which has the same format as the one created by Jon (Thanks, Jon!). My plan is to include these data with my application in raw and summary form.

Open PhD-position in Cognitive Science at Lund University

Posted on February 3rd, by George Veletsianos in sharing. No Comments

Below is an available position in Cognitive Science at Lund University, with possibility of placement in the Educational Technology group. Lund University is a great institution, and so are the colleagues at the Educational Technology research group.

Announcement follows.

I would like to bring to your attention an open PhD-position in Cognitive Science at Lund University. Applications are welcome in all areas in Cognitive Science represented at the department including Educational Technology

**The Educational Technology Group**     consists of senior researchers, Ph D students and master students. The group develops educational technology systems and prototypes with two purposes: (1) exploiting them as research instruments to explore learning processes, and (2) coming up with pedagogical software with a real-world value as pedagogical tools.

The two purposes are intertwined. The developed software builds on empirical findings about the human mind within the cognitive and the learning sciences. The software is used to extend our knowledge, and the knowledge gained is fed back into the software as we develop it further. Our projects are characterized by an orientation towards school’s and preschool’s educational practices, together with the use of iterative processes of evaluation and redesigning.

The Educational Technology Group has close collaborations with some other national groups and with AAA-lab at Stanford University. Other essential collaborators are a number of schools and preschools, in Sweden and in the U.S., with their students, teachers and headmasters.

For more information about the group and the research domain contact
Professor Agneta Gulz  —

More information about Lund University Cognitive Science can be found at the homepage:

Type of employment: Limit of tenure, Maximum 4 years
Extent: 100 %  If combined with up to 20% teaching, the length is extended accordingly.

A completed master education in a relevant field is required to be eligible for the position.

Apply online (from February 1st):

Application must be received before March 1st, 2016.

The application must include:

– records of first- and second-cycle studies (Ladok transcript or other transcript of courses and grades)

– first- and second-cycle theses/degree projects

– a list of other relevant administrative and educational qualifications

– scholarly journal articles, reports or papers of relevance for the subject

– where applicable, documented skills in a language of relevance for the research studies

– project proposal (1500 words max. excluding references)

For general information please contact:

Christian Balkenius, Professor
046-222 32 51

Social Media in Academia: Now available

Posted on January 27th, by George Veletsianos in my research, networked scholars, NPS, sharing, work. 1 Comment

Martin Weller sent me a photo of my book a couple of weeks ago. I was away from the office, and that was the first time I saw a photo of the physical book. I saw the physical one a week later when I returned to my office. There it was. In print. And published.


I wanted to write a book about the complicated realities of the use of technology in education. I wanted to write about us. About the people who use technology as part of their day-to-day professional life – and about the times that professional and personal life are intertwined. I am tired of the recycled unsubstantiated claims regarding the potential of new solutions and new technologies. So, I wrote a book about scholars and social media. A book about what scholars – professors and doctoral students – do on social media and why the use them. A book about those times that the potential is realized, those times that new technologies are put into familiar uses, and those times that the issues become a tad more complex. No surprises there – I’ve been working on this area for a few years now.

If you would like me to talk to your colleagues or students about this area, I would be happy to do so. I hope the short blurb below describes the essence of the argument:

Social media and online social networks are expected to transform academia and the scholarly process. However, intense emotions permeate scholars’ online practices and an increasing number of academics are finding themselves in trouble in networked spaces. In reality, the evidence describing scholars’ experiences in online social networks and social media is fragmented. As a result, the ways that social media are used and experienced by scholars are not well understood. Social Media in Academia examines the day-to-day realities of social media and online networks for scholarship and illuminates the opportunities, tensions, conflicts, and inequities that exist in these spaces. The book concludes with suggestions for institutions, individual scholars, and doctoral students regarding online participation, social media, networked practice, and public scholarship.

Introduction to Mao Zedong Thought MOOC & open course transparency

Posted on November 25th, by George Veletsianos in moocs, my research, open, sharing. 3 comments

The New York Times published an article on an edX course (Introduction to Mao Zedong Thought) offered by Tsinghua University. Inside Higher Ed (IHE) wrote about it, too. The following quote from IHE articles summarizes the articles:

“That course is raising eyebrows because, despite hours of video lectures and supplemental material in the course, students would still have to tab over to Wikipedia to learn about the millions who died as a result of Mao’s land reforms or that his economic initiatives led to what may have been the greatest famine in human history, which killed tens of millions. Introduction to Mao Zedong Thought references those events glancingly in passing as “mistakes,” and generally heaps praise on Mao and his philosophies.”

I was asked to provide commentary for the New York Times article, and since it wasn’t included in the writeup, I thought it would be a good idea to share it publicly rather than leave it hidden away in my email inbox. Here is what I said:

Open courses are transparent, and that’s one of their positive aspects. They allow anyone to examine the ways that course creators think about a topic. The instructional materials from the Mao course are available to anyone to examine and study. One can look at the materials and ask: How do these materials position Mao Zedong? What are the elements of Mao’s thought that the creators of this course want to highlight? What elements of Mao’s thoughts are left behind and what are the elements that are being highlighted? What is the story that is being told here, and who stands to benefit from this story?

Stephen Downes made a similar argument in the IHE article: ““courses that might have been offered behind closed doors are offered for everyone to see.”

Now, that’s parsimonious :)


Are professors naive users of social media?

Posted on November 20th, by George Veletsianos in my research, networked scholars, open, sharing. 1 Comment

The Chronicle of Higher Education published a commentary some time ago that argued that professors are “naive users of social media” and must exercise caution. It’s difficult to argue with the recommendation to exercise caution, when one looks at the list of scholars who found themselves in trouble in the last year: Salaita, Goldrick-Rab, Grundy, and so on.

But, the claim that professors are naive users of social media is unsubstantiated and reveals a limited understanding of the literature on how professors actually use social media and what they think about them. My colleagues and I have been conducting research on networked scholarship and scholars’ use of social media since 2009, and since that time, I can’t recall interviewing a faculty member or reading a study that revealed naiveté regarding social media and the challenges/tensions they introduce. If anything, most academics have an astute understanding of how social media intersect with their professional (and personal) lives and make informed (and tactical) decisions regarding their use of these technologies.

Granted, many find themselves in conundrums as a result of being in collapsed contexts and being exposed to unanticipated audiences, but to argue naiveté is misinformed.

Crafting a research agenda

Posted on November 9th, by George Veletsianos in scholarship, sharing. No Comments

One of my favorite aspects of my work is mentoring. I get to do this work in many contexts, but last week at AECT 2015 I gave the following presentation at the NSF early career symposium, and had a lovely conversation with colleagues on research agendas, career trajectories, and institutional expectations.


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.