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

Category: sharing

Design Challenges in Pedagogical Agent Implementations

Posted on June 20th, by George Veletsianos in my research, pedagogical agents, sharing. No Comments

When creating pedagogical agents for use in online learning environments, designers face numerous challenges. These range from technological (e.g., How do I ensure proper lip-synching when speech is generated in real-time?) to pedagogical (e.g., How do I ensure that the agent provides scaffolding that is appropriate to the students’ needs at a given point in time?) to social (e.g., How can I develop an agent that is sensitive to students’ varying social needs?). While designers deal with these questions frequently and decide on what we deem to be the best approaches to tackle them, we don’t often share the our design thinking with others.

My colleagues and I (Gulz, Haake, Silvervarg, Sjoden, Veletsianos), have just published a book chapter that deals with this issue. In this chapter we discuss design challenges we faced when developing a pedagogical agent, and the steps we took, and decisions we made to tackle those challenges. The challenges we discuss are the following:

  1. how do we manage learners’ expectations of the agent’s knowledge and social profile,
  2. how do we deal with learners’ who engage in off-task conversations with an agent, and
  3. how do we manage abusive comments directed to the agent?

These issues were observed in studies that both Agneta Gulz and myself have independently conducted in the past, and sharing our design thinking with the community sounded like a great idea – hence the publication. A copy of this publication (1.7MB pdf) is provided below:

Gulz, A., Haake, M., Silvervarg, A., Sjoden, B., & Veletsianos, G. (2011). Building a Social Conversational Pedagogical Agent: Design Challenges and Methodological approaches. In Perez-Marin, D., & I. Pascual-Nieto (Eds.), Conversational Agents and Natural Language Interaction: Techniques and Effective Practices (pp. 128-155). IGI Global.

As always, I’d love to hear your input!

Faculty Use of Social Media: When numbers say little

Posted on June 1st, by George Veletsianos in sharing. No Comments

In April, Pearson released a report entitled “Teaching, Learning, and Sharing: How Today’s Higher Education Facutly Use Social Media.” There’s increasing attention being paid to how faculty use social media sites  and the report provides evidence and insight into how faculty use such sites (e.g., YouTube and Facebook being the most popular sited for academics). Additionally, survey results from 1,921 respondents indicated that “over 90% of all faculty are using social media on courses they’re teaching or for their professional careers outside of the classroom.” This is impressive.

But what does “using social media” mean? We know that instructors use technology, but how and why are they using social media, and, more importantly, are they using social media in a fashion that aligns with the philosophies behind social media? For instance, are they using social media to democratize the educational process? Are they using social media to embrace diversity of opinion? Are they using social media to connect to individuals who are outside of the classroom?

Or, are social media co-opted and used in familiar ways, and in the process, being stripped of their social media affordances? For instance, there’s multiple ways one could use YouTube. Let’s say that a faculty member is discussing  Cognitive Load theory. S/he scours YouTube for a video clip relevant to the topic and comes across the following lecture:

There’s multiple ways that one could use this artifact, that could be categorized under “using social media in teaching.” Here’s two fictitious (and quite different) examples to demonstrate that not all “use” is equal:

  • You show the video as a way to start class. In your mind, showing the video might get students excited about the topic.
  • In semester 1, you ask students to watch the movie and evaluate the arguments presented. You ask them to create videos presenting evidence against the theory and to post them on YouTube as a response to the original. You then invite colleagues to respond to those videos, in an attempt to extend the conversation beyond class. In semester 2, you ask your new students to watch the original video and the responses, and create counter-arguments posted as videos on YouTube. Again, you ask colleagues to contribute and extend the conversations (and you ask students to reciprocate).

There’s a multitude of ways that technologies can be used in class. And while the optimist in me knows that good instructors capitalize on the opportunities provided by technology to empower their pedagogy, the pessimist in me also knows that technology adapts to fit familiar practices.

Student Adventure Learning Project: Why We Don’t Teach

Posted on May 10th, by George Veletsianos in adventure learning, courses, my research, online learning, sharing. No Comments

This is the second entry on student projects developed during my Spring 2011 Adventure Learning course. Students in this class  developed online learning environments using the Adventure Learning approach, and one team focused their project on teachers who leave the profession and examined their reasons for doing so. I particularly enjoyed this project because (a) it informs an important and pertinent topic, and (b) it departs from traditional adventure learning projects, treating “adventure” as a location-independent activity. What follows is a description of the project, largely based on student text:

Video from student project depicting one of the project findings: Studies have shown that one of the major reasons
that teachers leave the profession is related to what they consider to be bureaucratic or administrative issues.

Why We Don’t Teach is an Adventure Learning project intended to give policy makers, administrators, and others interested in the current state of public education in the United States an understanding of why teachers are leaving the profession. It has recently been shown that the shortage of quality teachers we are facing as a nation stems from problems of retention rather than problems of recruitment. According to one study, nearly 50% of all teachers leave the field within their first five years of teaching.

Why is this happening? While this topic is complex with many factors that confound easy remediation, the Why We Don’t Teach environment offers resources and curriculum (e.g., Session 1, Session 2, Session 3) for exploring the issue both systemically and from the perspective of teachers who have left the profession.

Educational Technology Peer-reviewed Journals

Posted on May 5th, by George Veletsianos in scholarship, sharing. 2 comments

About a year and a half ago, I published a list of open access educational technology journals. This list is available as an editable spreadsheet, so you can contribute if you wish, by adding journals (or indicating the ones that have become defunct). The list has garnered quite a lot of attention, so let me also take this opportunity to thank those who contributed to it.

The reason for this entry however, is because Scott McLeod asked whether I had a list of EdTech journals that are not open access. I do. I have lists that I consult, but let me preface that with the following:

Even though I have specific journals in mind when writing a manuscript, I consult lists of educational technology journals to remind myself of my options prior to actually writing. The open access list above is just one of those and it does not always fit my purposes. I also consult the following lists (which do not necessarily differentiate between open/closed access):

  • The European Reference Index for the Humanities (ERIH) and the ERIH lists. While the purposes of this project are complex, one of its aims was to create journal rankings in the humanities, including educational research
  • The 2007 Ascilite list
  • The Instructional Technology Publications list created by Dr. Ross Perkins and colleagues
  • and, finally, if you are interested in distance education, this article provides a list of journals that may be valuable (in addition to some extra food for thought): Zawacki-Richter, O., Anderson, T., & Tuncay, N., (2010). The Growing Impact of Open Access Distance Education Journals: A Bibliometric Analysis. The Journal of Distance Education, 24(3). Retrieved from

I hope this is helpful… if nothing else, these are now collected at one place, so that I can direct my students to this entry when they are asking for journals to explore.

Supercomputers and Open Science

Posted on April 15th, by George Veletsianos in my research, NPS, online learning, scholarship, sharing. No Comments

The University of Texas at Austin, along with numerous partners, has dedicated Lonestar 4, its latest supercomputer, to the scientific community for research purposes. Researchers around the world have already been using UT’s supercomputers for scientific exploration, and I was really excited to find out that social scientists have increasingly been inquiring about using the supercomputer for their data needs. To put the system’s capabilities in context, Lonestar 4 encompasses:

  • 302 teraflops peak performance
  • 44.3 terabytes total memory
  • 1.2 petabytes raw disk

One of my research strands is focusing on educator and researcher participation in online networks (which is a topic closely related to digital scholarship), and I am in the process of investigating the opportunities provided by supercomputer to understand various facets of digital scholarship. Incidentally, I came across the following TED video yesterday that touches upon a similar idea, namely scientists participation in online spaces with an eye towards embracing open science and enhancing research outcomes and processes:

Emerging Technologies and Transformative Learning

Posted on February 25th, by George Veletsianos in my research, online learning, open, papers, sharing. 1 Comment

I’m excited to announce the publication of a special issue that Brendan Calandra and I did for Educational Technology, focusing on the complex relationship(s) between emerging technologies and transformative learning [Educational Technology, 51(2)]. The  issue is in part the result of a conversation we have had over the last two years about emerging technologies and their potential to foster unique types of learning. We have found that these unique types of learning to be qualitatively different than goal-based and performance-oriented learning, and to share many characteristics with Jack Mezirow’s original notion of transformative learning such as disorienting dilemmas, critical reflection, dialogue, and changes to frames of reference (1978, 1991, 1997). Our suggestions for future work include further examination of how transformative learning might be negotiated in technology-enhanced contexts, and how emerging technologies might foster and influence transformative outcomes.

Here is a copy of the introduction to the special issue: Emerging Technologies and Transformative Learning.

The papers for this issue are as follows:

Teaching in an Age of Transformation: Understanding Unique Instructional Technology Choices which Transformative Learning Affords
Kathleen P. King

Transformative Learning Experience: Aim Higher, Gain More
Brent G. Wilson
Patrick Parrish

Learning Experience as Transaction: A Framework for Instructional Design
Patrick Parrish
Brent G. Wilson
Joanna C. Dunlap

The Seven Trans-disciplinary Habits of Mind: Extending the TPACK Framework Towards 21st Century Learning
Punya Mishra
Matthew J. Koehler
Danah Henriksen

Virtual Worlds as a Trigger for Transformative Learning
Steve W. Harmon

Using digital video to promote teachers’ transformative learning
Brendan Calandra
Anton Puvirajah

Opportunities for and Barriers to Powerful and Transformative Learning Experiences in Online Learning Environments
Benjamin B. Bolger,
Gordon Rowland,
Carrie Reuning-Hummel,
Stephen Codner

Designing Opportunities for Transformation with Emerging Technologies (pdf posted by permission)
George Veletsianos

Shaping global citizens: Technology enhanced inter-cultural collaboration and transformation
P. Clint Rogers

A Framework for Action: Intervening to Increase Adoption of Transformative Web 2.0 Learning Resources
Joan E. Hughes,
James M. Guion,
Kama A. Bruce,
Lucas R. Horton,
Amy Prescott


The importance of ALT-J going open access

Posted on February 15th, by George Veletsianos in my research, open, scholarship, sharing. 3 comments

The ALT-J Journal has been renamed to “Research in Learning Technology”, but more importantly, starting in January 2012 the journal will be published under an open access license.Why is this important? ALT-J is quite respected in the field, and the number of high-profile, highly-respected journals in the field that are open access is limited. As high-profile, high-quality journals take the open access route, it is highly likely that more and more researchers will entertain the idea of publishing in venues that embrace openness (and not the type of “openness” that requires researchers to pay to have the ability to disseminate their work).

Scholarly publishing has traditionally been evaluated in terms of perceived journal quality and citation counts. Empirical research has indicated (a) citation advantages for papers published in an open access manner [Hajeem, Harnad, & Gingras, 2005], or (b) no significant differences in terms of citation counts between open access and non-open-access journals [Zawacki-Richter, Anderson, & Tuncay, 2010]. As far as journal quality goes: even though the number of high-quality open access in the field is limited, open access does not necessarily mean low quality. ALT-J’s move into the open access realm demonstrates this, and a number of people even predict that ALT-J will gain a higher status in the field.


Hajjem, C., Harnad, S. and Gingras, Y. (2005) Ten-year cross-disciplinary comparison of the growth of open access and how it increases research citation impact. IEEE Data Engineering Bulletin, 28(4), 39-47.

Zawacki-Richter, O., Anderson, T., & Tuncay, N. (2010). The growing impact of open access distance Education journals: A bibliometric analysis. The Journal Of Distance Education / Revue De L’ÉDucation à Distance, 24(3).

Full disclaimer: I serve on ALT-J’s editorial board.

Scenes and Symbolisms of Learning

Posted on February 9th, by George Veletsianos in sharing. 1 Comment

Mike Wesch recently put out a call asking for “2 minute video[s] showing us scenes of what you see in your everyday life during your most critical learning moments.” Crowdsourcing video is a powerful strategy to gather authentic and interesting data from a wide range of contributors, and the contributions that Dr. Wesch has received so far demonstrate this point clearly.

I used this call to develop the first 30-minute “in-class” activity my students engaged with in my Spring 2011 course entitled “Online Learning in the Participatory Age.” This video contributes to the project described above, but also serves as our first contribution to participatory cultures (with follow-up activities designed to understand the implications of online participation for individuals). Our discussions not only denoted critical learning moments, but, we believe, reveal the spectrum of learning that may exist between the new and the old, the formal and the informal, the traditional and the non-traditional. More importantly however, we tried to stay away from binaries and from elevating one form of learning over another, using the video as a jumping point for the Spring semester.

The video is posted here, and is also embedded below: