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

Category: work

US vs UK: academic differences

Posted on October 26th, by George Veletsianos in work. 2 comments

If you follow this blog, or know me personally, you know that two months ago to this day I moved from the US to the UK. I knew that there were differences between the two educational systems, but I didn’t know too many details. Below is a list of differences. I am sure there are more but as I start internalizing the differences, I am assuming that it will become harder and harder to verbalize them. I don’t know if these apply to all fields, but this is how it goes in the education departments that i’ve experienced:

  • At the end of your master’s degree, if you are in the US you write a thesis and if you are in the UK you write a dissertation. If you are doing a phd, it’s called a disseration in the US and a thesis in the UK.
  • Master’s levels papers are judged by a committee in the US and you receive a pass/fail (usually a pass).  In the UK, your paper is graded by your advisor (called a tutor in the UK). Graded means being given an actual mark (0-100). A second person independently grades your paper too. Then, the two come together to discuss the individuals grades. If they disagree the paper goes to an external evaluator who grades it. The external evaluator also looks at all papers that are receive a “fail” mark and also looks at a representative sample from all dissertations/thesis.
  • In the UK, blind marking is the norm. I have never blind marked a paper in the US (and I don’t see how bling marking will work since I already know what my student’s final project will be about)
  • My students are supposed to turn in their papers to an administrator by the due date. I then receive those papers. I always received the papers in the US.
  • My students can ask for a deadline extension from the University (which is usually granted, i believe). In the US I had complete control over deadline extensions and I could negotiate it on an individual or collective basis.
  • UK grants are budgeted at “100% Full Economic Cost.” FEC means that all costs should be accounted for in a grant. “All costs” means all costs related to a project (yes, this includes items such as my time working on the project, but also things like electricity use, computer depreciation, and so on). US grants are not budgeted like this.
  • Committee work is minimal in the UK (for a lecturer at least). My US colleagues have to do quite a bit of committee work.
  • US institutions make an offer to the academics they intend to hire. The academics then make a counter-offer and negotiate their salary and benefits. In the UK, (to a large extent) there is no negotiation. I learned this one pretty quickly :).
  • The UK has a national academic pay scale. The US does not.
  • US academics get a pay rise when they move to a new university. In the UK, your salary goes up every year until you reach the top scale of your position. Moving to a new institution does not necessarily mean a raise (see point above).
  • In the US the academics are called assistant professors, associate professors, (full) professors. In the UK we are called lecturers, senior lecturers, readers, and professors.
  • In the US, you are on a tenure-track position. In the UK you are on a permanent position (usually with a probationary period of 4 years).
  • If you do not have a UK teaching certificate and this is the first time you are teaching in the UK, you have to go through a New Academics Programme where you will be taught some fundamentals of the system, university, and teaching. If you change institutions, you do not have to go through the programme again. There is no such formal process in the US.
  • In the US, I could use my grades as an incentive to encourage people to do better/more work. Specifically, i could give bonus marks for going over and beyond some task, or if students chose to engage with a particularly difficult (optional) task I had assigned. Apparently, the practice of “bonus points” is “unorthodox” in the UK and discouraged (banned, may be a more appropriate word) [added on Nov 18].

That’s all I can remember right now. Below is a list of relatively funny differences:

  • “Pissed” means drunk (UK) or mad (US).
  • Color is colour.
  • WebCT Vista (UK) is Blackboard (UK). This is more weird than funny. For those of you who don’t know the background. Blackboard and WebCT were two learning management systems companies. Blackboard bought webct. WebCT Vista is the Learning Management’s System name (US). In the UK it’s simply called Blackboard because, I was told, people kept confusing Vista with the Vista operating system. Understandable. But, this begs the question: Don’t US academics have the same problem? Why is it still Vista over there?
  • Cell phones = mobile phones.

And the obvious similarities (and pieces of advice):

  • Be friends with the tech people – they are invaluable. Enough said. Actually be friends with everyone :)
  • Powerpoint is still evil :))

I would like to see an IRRODL conversation on connectivism

Posted on October 23rd, by George Veletsianos in open, work. 2 comments

My inbox brought a present today. In the latest issue of The International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning (Vol 9, No 3, 2008), Rita Kop and Adrian Hill discuss whether Connectivism represents a theory of learning. They reach the conclusion that while not necessarily a theory, Connectivism represents an important development in the contemporary learning and teaching landscape, “A paradigm shift, indeed, may be occurring in educational theory, and a new epistemology may be emerging, but it does not seem that connectivism’s contributions to the new paradigm warrant it being treated as a separate learning theory in and of its own right.  Connectivism, however, continues to play an important role in the development and emergence of new pedagogies, where control is shifting from the tutor to an increasingly more autonomous learner.”

While I enjoyed reading this paper, I would like to see a conversation around connectivism and this paper situated within one location, such as an IRRODL special issue. While I am sure that Siemens and Downes will respond in one way or another to this paper (after all, there is a blog post dedicated to the issues and arguments against connectivism on the Connectivism & Connective Knowledge online course and from Rita’s blog it seems that George and Stephen already have Rita’s paper), discovering this information can be rather difficult. On the other hand, dedicating a special issue of an open access journal to dicsussing connectivism and its ctitique may be worthwhile.

Academic Multiculturalism

Posted on October 19th, by George Veletsianos in work. No Comments

Friday and Saturday nights in cities that boast large universities aren’t the best nights to go out if you are looking for some peace and tranquility. Yet, last night, I thought i’d venture out and find a relatively quiet pub to get together with a couple of friends. Although, unlike google’s suggestion, the pub we went to wasn’t as quiet, I found myself lost in our conversations and blocking off other distractions. I’ve written about learners conversing with pedagogical agents finding themselves blocking outside distractions (in a paper that comes out in November at the British Journal of Educational Technology), but last night it was clear (to me at least) that the conversation, topic, AND the context in which this takes place make a difference. While our conversation was interesting, the context in which it was occuring was also very interesting. Parts of the conversation were contextualized in our experiences working and living abroad and it was fascinating! What else would you expect when you bring a Japanese, an Irish, and a Cypriot together at a pub in Engand? Especially when the Japanese and Cypriot guys drink Guiness and the Irishman refuses to touch it because outside of Ireland it just isn’t Guiness anymore :)

So, going back to the title of this posting, all three of us are academics. The Irish friend is working on his PhD studying a very interesting and popular wiki (no, it’s not wikipedia, but it’s similar). The Japanese friend, is teaching Japanese as a foreign language and has written papers on technology-enhanced learning. I am teaching and doing research on electronic learning environments and emerging technologies/practices. The multicultural societies we live(d) in and work(ed) in have defined our work and outlook of work and life. And for this, being able to get together with a group of people from diverse cultures and life experiences, I am thankful to be at the University of Manchester – wait till you hear about my class of 16 students from 10 different countries :)

BJET Special Issue CFP: Learning and Teaching in Virtual Worlds

Posted on August 18th, by George Veletsianos in cfp, E-learning, learner experience, work. No Comments

Click here to access a PDF document of this call

Crossing boundaries:

Learning and teaching in virtual worlds

While the concept of multi-user virtual worlds is not a new one, the rising popularity of virtual world applications has been rapid over the last five years. Although much attention around such immersive environments has centred upon Second Life, there are currently 80 virtual world applications available and another 100 planned for 2009, with some targeting specific populations (e.g., young girls with BarbieGirls) and others catering for broader audiences (e.g., training applications in The appeal of virtual worlds is that they allow users to cross over into new spaces that can be used to support a range of social interactions. In this way, they have proven to be quite versatile, embracing varied activities and purposes, including business, cultural activities as well as having educational capabilities.

With its focus upon the educational uses of virtual world applications, this special issue of the British Journal of Educational Technology (Volume 40, Issue 6) aims to provide a definitive profile of the current status of virtual worlds for education and training. Specifically, we invite contributions from the research community to advance our understanding of this field of study and research. In order to build upon existing research, and to support the development of the field as a unique academic discipline, in this unique issue the editors are interested in hosting a forum for rigorous and leading edge contributions to the nascent field that:

  • explore new frameworks, approaches and pedagogical models,
  • present case studies of practice where innovative techniques are pioneered,
  • investigate new methods of teaching, learning and research in the area,
  • evaluate the experiences of teachers, learners and institutions using immersive worlds.

The aim of the special issue is to bring together the most leading edge research and development in the field and allow practitioners and researchers to benefit from these valuable contributions. Towards this aim, recommended topics of interest for this special issue include, but are not limited to, the following research questions:

  • What value can virtual world applications add to conventional methods of education and what evidence exists to support such propositions?
  • What are the institutional changes needed to accommodate learning approaches centred on virtual worlds?
  • What pedagogies and approaches are needed to make the use of virtual world applications most effective and engaging, and what evidence exists to support such approaches?
  • Are particular learner groups engaged more with virtual world applications than others?
  • What are the main challenges for tutors and trainers using virtual world technologies?
  • What are the main technological challenges associated with using virtual world applications?
  • What frameworks and approaches can be developed to support effective, engaging and transformative usage of virtual worlds?
  • Does the use of virtual worlds necessitate more learner-centred approaches? What evidence exists to support claims for or against such approaches?
  • Will using these applications change how people learn? If so, what evidence exists to support such a claim?
  • Do virtual world applications offer greater support than alternative technologies for building and supporting distributed learning communities?
  • How do learners experience virtual worlds? How do they experience their interactions with others?
  • How do learners choose to represent themselves in virtual worlds?

The issue also envisages contributions that relate to a wider range of virtual world applications particularly where learning and training issues are highlighted. Studies focusing upon massively multiplayer role-playing games (e.g. World of Warcraft), mirror worlds (e.g. Google earth) and hybrid worlds (e.g. mixed reality experiences) will also be considered for the issue where they make sure that the focus is upon learning activities and practices and where lessons learnt may be applied to virtual worlds for learning.

The issue will also be twinned with the First International IEEE Conference on Serious Games and Virtual Worlds which will be held in March 2009 at the University of Coventry, UK.

Submission Process

April 1, 2009: Full length papers due (see for guidelines). Please send an email to the editors with the title of your submission and submit your paper online using Manuscript Central. To make a submission, go to If this is the first time you have used the system you will be asked to register by clicking on ‘create an account.’ Full instructions on making your submission are provided.  You should receive an acknowledgement within a few minutes.  Thereafter, you will be kept in touch with the progress of your submission through refereeing, any revisions that are required, and – hopefully – to final acceptance.

Please advise Sara de Freitas that you have made a submission for the special issue.  If you do not then it will be treated as an ordinary submission for a subsequent general issue

June 1, 2009:  Notification of acceptance

July 1, 2009: Final papers with revisions due

November, 2009: Publication date

Note: Submissions to the Crossing boundaries Serious Games and Virtual Worlds conference to be held at Coventry University in March 2009 that fit the purpose of this call may be recommended for co-submission to the special issue. Authors will be contacted directly where this is the case so that they can revisit the paper for the BJET special issue review process. Successfully reviewed papers will be processed by BJET in the normal way and according to the normal peer-review procedures. For those wishing to submit papers to the conference, details can be found at:

Special Issue Editors

Dr. Sara de Freitas B.A. (Hons), M.A., PhD

Sara de Freitas is Director of Research at the hub for research and development in serious games and virtual worlds at the Serious Games Institute at the University of Coventry, UK. Her research interests include evaluating the efficacy of serious games and virtual world applications, pedagogic modelling and policy and strategic development of e-learning. Sara chairs the Lab Group, speaks internationally and has a significant publications list in the field of e-learning, game-based learning and lifelong learning. Sara also holds a visiting fellowship at the University of London where she continues to build on leading edge research in the field at the London Knowledge Lab. She currently has four books in publication and is setting up an interdisciplinary research group focusing upon artificial intelligence, evaluation and validation for immersive forms and developing links between physical and virtual spaces through smart buildings. (Address: Sara de Freitas, PhD, Serious Games Institute, University of Coventry, Cheetah Road, Coventry, CV1 2TL, United Kingdom; s.defreitas|at|

Dr. George Veletsianos B.A., M.A., Ph.D

George Veletsianos is Lecturer of Digital Technologies, Communication & Education at the University of Manchester, UK. His research interests involve the design, development, and evaluation of electronic learning environments, adventure learning, emerging technologies in distance and hybrid education, virtual characters, and the learner experience. His research and development work has been published in excess of 30 times in articles and manuscripts in academic journals, books, and conference proceedings, while his work has been presented at over 40 national and international conferences. (Address:  George Veletsianos, PhD, LTA, School of Education, Ellen Wilkinson Building, University of Manchester, Oxford Road, Manchester, M13 9PL, United Kingdom; veletsianos|at|

Call for Chapters: Using Emerging Technologies in Distance Education

Posted on July 3rd, by George Veletsianos in cfp, E-learning, Ideas, open, work. 2 comments

Dear everyone,

I am very excited to announce a CFP on the use of emerging technologies in distance education. Specifics are listed below. The CFP can also be downloaded in pdf form.


Proposal Submission Deadline: September 1, 2008

Using Emerging Technologies in Distance Education
edited by George Veletsianos (University of Manchester, UK)

Part of the Issues in Distance Education series
edited by Terry Anderson (Athabasca University, Canada)

and planned publication online and in paper format by Athabasca University Press as an
Open Access publication


Emerging technologies – such as virtual worlds, serious games, wikis, and social networking sites – have been heralded as technologies that are powerful enough to transform learning and teaching. Nevertheless, minimal work has investigated the affordances of such tools in the context of distance education. Most often, the literature presents a description of such technologies along with classroom integration ideas, presenting an incomplete picture of how such technologies are used in distance education. In particular, the goal of this book is to amalgamate work in the use of emerging technologies to design, enhance and deliver distance education. Researchers and practitioners interested in the above issues reside in varied academic domains, rendering the sharing and dissemination of their work a formidable task. Via this book, we hope to harness dispersed knowledge and multidisciplinary perspectives. The target audience is both members of research communities and innovative distance education practitioners.


The book will be limited to the use of emerging technologies for distance education. Recommended emerging technologies of interest for the book include, but are not limited, to:
• Blogs
• Microblogging platforms,
• Wikis and Wikibooks
• Social Networking Sites
• Virtual worlds
• Video games
• Cell/mobile phones and devices,
• Virtual characters, Avatars, and Pedagogical Agents
• Web 2.0 and data mashups
• Pod and video casts
• Online grassroots video
• Open Educational Resources and Open Access Technologies
• Pod usage production models

Invited Submissions

The book will consist of chapters (5,000 – 8,000 words) showcasing best practices, illustrating and analyzing how emerging technologies have been used in diverse distance learning and teaching areas. Via such work, it is expected that each chapter will contribute a list of ideas and factors that need to be considered when emerging technologies are adopted for distance teaching and learning. Equally important, contributing authors should highlight the pedagogical, organizational, cultural, social, economic, or political factors that influence the adoption and success/failure of emerging technologies.


This book is intended to be used as a one stop locale for work relating to the use of emerging technologies in distance education. As such, it is expected to be relevant to researchers, practitioners, and students. Importantly, due to the fact that interested parties reside in multiple disciplines and academic departments, chapters should be accessible to a broad audience.

Submission Procedure

By September 1, 2008: Submit a 1-2 page chapter proposal summarizing the intended submission.
Papers should be submitted via email to: veletsianos |AT|

October 1, 2008: Author notification along with chapter guidelines

December 1, 2008: Full chapters are due.

All submitted chapters will be reviewed on a double-blind review basis.
Expected Publication date is late 2009.