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

Open Practices and Identity: Evidence from Researchers and Educators’ Social Media Participation

Posted on March 19th, by George Veletsianos in emerging technologies, NPS, open, scholarship. 22 comments

I recently wrote a paper which examined the activities and practices arise when researchers and educators use social media and online networks. This is part of my ongoing work to understand open scholarship, networked participatory scholarship, and scholars’ practices online. In this paper, I used ethnographic data and my own experiences to try to make sense of scholars’ online participation. Some of the interesting findings are the following:

  • numerous scholarly practices are occurring in the open (e.g., sharing drafts of manuscripts, sharing syllabi, supporting doctoral students)
  • participation in online social networks is not limited professional endeavors; For example, they share “their vulnerabilities and struggles (e.g, with a divorce) and [seek] help with personal issues and causes that they are passionate about (e.g., equal rights legislation).” Importantly, engagement with and and sharing about issues unrelated to the profession is a value that is celebrated by this community. It is not uncommon, for example, to encounter blog entries discussing the positive outcomes of social sharing and Twitter profiles proudly declaring that updates are composed of a mix of personal and professional tweets.
  • scholars have appropriated social technologies and utilized peer-to-peer networks to access and share research papers that they do not have access to (e.g., PirateUniversity.org, ThePaperBay.com, the Scholar subreddit, the #ICanHazPdf hashtag)

The last point is particularly significant. In the paper, I argue that the use of social networks and peer-networks to share knowledge that is often behind journal paywalls suggests that individuals are willing and able to circumvent and defy restrictions to the sharing of knowledge and research. In fact, open scholarship is a value that is close to the hearts and minds of numerous scholars who use the Internet for professional purposes. Kroll (2011) described the sharing of copyrighted manuscripts as “an act civil disobedience toward the scientific publishing enterprise” and since I published this paper, Elsevier has started taking action against this activity by sending takedown notices to academia.edu. How does one respond to actions that are in direct conflict to strongly-held values and ideals? That is a question that every academic needs to consider.

A copy of the paper, along with its citation and abstract appear below:

Veletsianos, G. (2013). Open Practices and Identity: Evidence from Researchers and Educators’ Social Media Participation. British Journal of Educational Technology, 44(3), 639-651.

The ways that emerging technologies and social media are used and experienced by researchers and educators are poorly understood and inadequately researched. The goal of this study is to examine the online practices of individual scholars in order to explore and understand the activities and practices that they enact when they use social media for scholarship. Using ethnographic data collection methods and basic interpretive analysis techniques, I describe two emergent phenomena evident in scholars’ social
media participation: scholarly practices enacted openly in digital spaces and the self that is disentangled from academic matters. These phenomena raise issues related to “sharing,” scholar identity, participation and social media as a place of gathering.

Note: As with any qualitative and ethnographic work, the results should be seen in context and shouldn’t be generalized to “all scholars participating online do X.”

SXSWedu 2014 events

Posted on February 28th, by George Veletsianos in sharing. 12 comments

I’ll be at SXSWedu 2014, and I’m hoping that the event has matured a bit since last year’s “learning outcomes come second” suggestion. Austin is probably the best US city to host this event as the city itself is undergoing massive change.

I’ll be on two panels this year, and I’m really excited to participate in both. The first panel is one organized with my colleagues Tanya Joosten, Amy Collier, and Audrey Watters:

Startups Should Talk with Researchers and Educators
George Veletsianos (Royal Roads University)
Amy Collier (Stanford University)
Audrey Watters (Hack Education)
Tanya Joosten (University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee)

Educational technology startups seem to ignore the knowledge that educators and researchers have amassed that can help startups succeed. Last year’s SXSWedu event felt more like a vendor gathering than a space for “meaningful conversation.” If we want to change how we do education, these groups must converse. In this panel, we will discuss how educators/researchers can help startups improve products and answer questions pertaining to education research, how people learn, and classroom practice.

The second panel is a meetup organized by Coursetalk:

Karen Francis, Chairman and CEO of AcademixDirect, parent company to CourseTalk
Dr. Anant Agarwal, President, edX
Jason Palmer, Deputy Director, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation
Dr. George Veletsianos, Canada Research Chair/Associate Professor, Royal Roads University
Stephanie Banchero, National Education Writer, The Wall Street Journal
Jane Swift, CEO, Middlebury Interactive Languages
Education, Training, and Professional Development technology innovations have disrupted the way we learn across the globe. Some are calling online education and MOOCs the pathway to solve the skills and knowledge gaps of today’s global workforce. Others are predicting these technology innovations are the road map to an influx of loss of jobs as more things become automated. Many are collaborating and developing models to improve student outcomes and to connect students with the resources needed to grow and succeed in a global and competitive job market.

AECT 2014 Call for Proposals. Due Feb 24.

Posted on February 17th, by George Veletsianos in cfp. 5 comments

The last day to submit a proposal to the 2014 AECT International Convention is Feb 24th, 2014.

Please consider submitting your proposal to the Research and Theory Division. The Research and Theory division promotes the development and advancement of theory; promotes, presents, and disseminates rigorous research and scholarship; advocates the study of social and cultural issues in the field; and supports, fosters, and mentors emerging scholars. Any studies that embody excellent research methods in any area of interest to AECT members could be appropriate for submission to division. Topics such as the relationship between research and theory, innovative research methods, ethical considerations in research, challenges associated with conducting research with data from web-based sources, and the position of Educational Technology as a field in the context of related fields such as the Learning Sciences, Cognitive Science, Psychology, etc., might be of particular interest to R&T division members.

We continue to encourage authors to submit their work in the following categories:

Category 1: Completed Study
Report findings from a study that is complete.

Category 2: Work in Progress
Report the progress of a study currently underway (e.g., as a Reflection Paper Session).

Category 3: Research Methodology
Report innovative research methodologies in the field.

Category 4: Theory
Report on theory pertinent to the field.

The following slides provide more information on submitting a proposal to the Research and Theory Division/

Research and Theory Division team
Jonathan McKeown President-Elect
Michael Grant Past President
George Veletsianos President
David Richard Moore Division Representative to the AECT Board
Wei Wang Secretary
Royce Kimmons Board Member at Large
Pinar Arpaci Graduate Student Board Representative
Enilda Romero-Hall RTD Professional Development Facilitator
Min Kyu Kim RTD Professional Development Facilitator
Lina Metlevskiene Communications Officer

ELI 2014, learner experiences, MOOC research, and the MOOC phenomenon

I was at the Educause Learning Initiative conference last week (#ELI2014), where I had some interesting conversations and discussions around online learning, MOOCs, research methods, and the future of higher education.

Amy Collier and I presented early results from our qualitative studies looking at learners’ MOOC experiences (if you have not yet responded to our call to share your lived experiences with us, please consider this invitation). Our talk was entitled “Messy Realities: Investigating Learners’ Experiences in MOOCs.” Our thinking is guided by the notion that even though surveys and big data yield insights into general behavioral patterns,  these  methods are detached and can distance us rather than help us understand the human condition. As a result, the phenomenon of “learning in a MOOC” is understudied and undiscovered. During the session, we shared what we have been finding in our studies, highlighting the messiness of learning and teaching in the open.

Karen Vignare and Amy Collier were also very kind to extend an invitation to a number of us to share our work with individuals participating in the leadership seminar they organized. It was fantastic to hear  Katie Vale (Harvard), Matt Meyer (The Pennsylvania State University), Rebecca Petersen (edX, MIT), and D. Christopher Brooks (EDUCAUSE) discuss their work, and once again, I felt grateful that we are having these conversations more openly, more frequently, and with greater intent.

Below are my rough notes from my 5-7 minute presentation. I appreciate parsimony (who doesn’t?), and in the words of D. Christopher Brooks, this is the litany of things I think:

I am a designer and researcher of education and learning. I study emerging technologies and emerging learning environments. I’m also a faculty member , and I have been teaching in higher education settings both face-to-face and online since 2005.

To contextualize my comments on MOOCs, first I want to describe my experiences with them:

- I have facilitated one week of the #change11 MOOC was organized by George Siemens and Stephen Downes in 2011. This MOOC had a distinctively connectivist flavor with each week being facilitated by 1 person.
- I have enrolled in a number of MOOCs, and have even completed a small number of them.
- I have repurposed MOOCs in my own courses. For example, I have asked students to enroll in MOOCs and write about them.
- I have published an e-book with my students, sharing stories of student experiences with MOOCs.
- Finally, I am actively involved in studying learners’ experiences in MOOCs in order to understand the human element in these emerging learning environments.

I have recently come to the realization that I have an ambivalent relationship with MOOCs. My relationship with MOOCs is one of the most ambivalent relationships I have had with anyone or anything. This relationship is more ambivalent than the love-ignore-hate relationship that my cat has with me!

On the one hand, I appreciate the opportunities for open learning that MOOCs provide. I also appreciate how MOOCs have brought us together to discuss issues around technology, teaching, and learning. At the same time, I cringe at the narratives around big data, I cringe at the hype, at the ignorance around what education is and should be about.

I want to talk about two topics today: MOOC research and the MOOC phenomenon.

On MOOC Research

- We don’t know much about MOOCs
- The things that we know about MOOCs are mostly the result of surveys, learning analytics, and big data research
- The existing research and the existing methods that we use are informative, BUT they simply paint an incomplete picture of MOOCs. We should be asking more in-depth questions about learner and instructor experiences in MOOCs
- Qualitative and interpretive research methods can and will help us better understand MOOCs, open learning, and open scholarship
- Descriptions of learner behaviors are helpful, but these descriptions only provide a glimpse and superficial summary of what students experience and what they do in digital learning environments. To give you an example, emerging research suggests that students may be “sampling” courses; a behavior that we don’t frequently see in traditional online courses or traditional face-to-face courses. Nonetheless, “sampling” is not how participants would describe their experiences or the ways they participate MOOCs. To illustrate, consider family-style Mediterranean meals that consist of numerous dishes, where participants sample a wide array of food. If you ask a person to describe this meal, to explain it to someone else, or to simply tell you about the meal, they will likely describe the meal as a feast, they might describe the tahini as lemony, the variety of flavors as intriguing, the whole meal as satisfying. Different people will also describe the meal differently: Tourists might describe the meal as fulfilling, heavy, or even extravagant; locals might describe the same meal as appropriate, or better than or worst than meals that they have had at other restaurants. “Sampling” may be an appropriate descriptor of the act of eating a family-style meal, or exploring a MOOC, but the descriptor does not fully capture the experience of sampling.

 

On the MOOC as a Phenomenon

MOOCs. The acronym stands for massive, open, online courses. That is not what MOOCs are though. MOOCs are a phenomenon. They represent something larger than a course and should be seen in conjunction to the rebirth and revival of educational technology. They represent symptoms, responses, and failures facing Higher Education. For instance,  MOOCs are a response to the increasing costs of Higher Education; represent the belief that the purpose of education is to prepare students for the workforce; represent the belief that technology is the solution to the problems that education is facing; are indicative of scholarly failures; seem to represent the belief that education is a product that can be packaged, automated, and delivered; and, are a response to failures by researchers, designers, administrators, and institutions to develop effective and inspiring solutions to the problems of education (alternatively, they might also represent the failure of existing systems to support creative individuals in enacting change)*.

The  MOOC is an acronym that elicits strong feelings: excitement, fear, defiance, uncertainty, hope, contempt…. To address these feelings we have to address the failures of higher education and the underlying causes that have given rise to MOOCs. For this reason, instead of talking about MOOCs at my own institution, I discuss innovations and approaches that I value, including networked scholarship, openness, flexibility, social learning, and the design and development of new technologies.

 

* NOTE: Rolin Moe and I are working on a paper refining and delineating these. If you have thoughts, concerns, or input on any of these issues, we’d love to hear form you!