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

Tag: networked participatory scholarship

The Fragmented Educator

Posted on January 13th, by George Veletsianos in my research, NPS, open, papers, scholarship, sharing, work. 6 comments

We have a new paper available that continues our research on networked participation/learning and networked participatory scholarship. This one arises out of Royce Kimmons’  dissertation, which I had the joy, honor, and good fortune of chairing.

The media is filled with stories pertaining to educators’ and researchers’ participation in online social networks. For example, a debate erupted in Kansas in December 2013 regarding faculty members’ use of social media and teachers have found themselves in trouble for their social media updates. Yet, little research has been done to understand the relationship between educator identity and participation in Social Networking Sites (SNS) or to examine the implications that institutional regulation of such media may have upon educator identity.

In our latest research study, we developed a framework to understand how a group of teacher education students viewed their developing identities within social networking sites as they began the life transition to becoming educators. We found that educator identity consists of a constellation of interconnected acceptable identity fragments (AIF)*. These acceptable identity fragments are  intentional, authentic, transitional, necessarily incomplete, and socially-constructed and socially-responsive.


Fragments by Maria McMahon. Unchanged. CC -BY 2.0 license.

We arrived at the term “acceptable identity fragment,” because study participants:

  • shaped their participation in social networking sites in a manner that they believed to be “acceptable” to their audiences,
  • viewed this participation to be a direct expression of “identity” or their sense of self, and
  • felt this expression to only represent a small “fragment” of their complete identities.

The AIF suggests that participants in a given social context may limit their participation or expression of identity in a way that is appropriate to that specific context or is acceptable to the specific relationships they have with others in that context. The existence of the AIF means that educator identities within SNS are contextual and intentionally limited and structured. Participants believe that, when participating in SNS, they are expressing their identities in a limited, though authentic, manner. In their view, such expression represents a genuine fragment of their identities.

This view of educator identity contrasts sharply with previous views of identity by highlighting the complicated, negotiated, and recursive relationship that exists between educator participation in SNS and educator identity.

First, existing literature assumes that individuals have an authentic identity and suggests that they attempt to express these identities in varying degrees via social media. Our research finds that human beings may not ever find themselves in social contexts wherein they will choose to (or are even able to) express their full authentic identities and, instead, express a different AIF depending upon the situation.

Second, in Goffman’s view (1959), identity is adaptable and constantly emergent as we “act” in contexts. In the AIF view, there is no “acting” occurring, but rather we see a guarded revelation of fragments of the self. Thus, identity was not an emergent phenomenon of the scene; it was controlled and revealed partially.

Finally, Turkle (1995) suggests that the online self lacks coherence and is fluid. However, participants in our study were operating from what they believed to be a coherent sense of self and judged their SNS participation based upon alignment with that sense. Participation did not lack coherence  – it was merely a partial manifestation.

What does this mean for educators, educational administrators, and educational researchers?

First, if the AIF is intentional and authentic, then it seems important for educators to retain control of their SNS participation. If institutions seek to prescribe appropriate and inappropriate uses of the medium, then it seems that this will prevent educators from being able to make meaningful choices regarding authentic self-expression and self-representation

Second, if the AIF is transitional, social media technologies must accommodate individuals’ transition into new life phases. At present, social media spaces do not support this (e.g., Facebook’s Timeline and the difficulty of deleting participation history en masse). If technologies doe not support the transition into new life phases, they risk being abandoned.

Third, educators should seek to recognize the assumptions that SNS platform developers are making about human nature, meaningful social participation, relationships, and so forth and consider the impact that such assumptions may have on their participation and identity.

Fourth, judgments made about educators based upon their participation in SNS should consider life transitions, time-based contexts (e.g., behavior as a college freshman vs. behavior as a student teacher), and the embedded values of the media.

Finally, if the AIF is a necessarily incomplete component of a larger identity constellation, any judgments of educators based on SNS participation must recognize that the relationship of the AIF to overall identity is subject to interpretation and may not reflect an individual’s perception of how the AIF represents authentic identity. Fragmentation of identity, then, should be seen as a valuable response to complex social situations. SNS platforms should account for this, and as we make judgments about others based upon their fragmented identities, we should be cognizant of the complex relationship existing between the AIF and one’s larger identity and dispel the myth of a simple authentic vs. inauthentic binary.

You can download a pre-print copy of the study from the link below:

Kimmons, R., & Veletsianos, G. (2014). The Fragmented Educator 2.0: Social Networking Sites. Acceptable Identity Fragments, and the Identity Constellation. Computers & Education, 72, 292-301. Journal link.

* The usual grounded theory and interpretive research caveats apply.

November 13 CIDER Presentation: What Do Academics and Educators Do on Social Media and Networks?

Posted on November 11th, by George Veletsianos in my research, open, scholarship. 35 comments

November 16, 2013 update: This presentation was recorded and archived.

Title: What Do Academics and Educators Do on Social Media and Networks, and What Do Their Experiences Tell Us About Identity and the Web?
Facilitator:   George Veletsianos
Institution:   Royal Roads University
Date and time:   Nov 13, 2013 10:00am PST (click here to convert to local time)
Where: Adobe Connect:

I am giving an open presentation to the Canadian Institute of Distance Education Research. Don’t hesitate to join us if you have time and are interested on the topic! In this talk I will draw on empirical studies conducted by a number of researchers (including work by myself and Royce Kimmons) to examine academics’ and educators’ participation in networked spaces. These studies point to three significant findings: (a) increasingly open practices that question the traditions of academia, (b) personal-professional tensions in academic work, and (c) a framework of identity that contrasts sharply with our existing understanding of online identity.



Learner experiences with open online learning and MOOCs e-book

Posted on September 24th, by George Veletsianos in emerging technologies, online learning, open, scholarship, sharing. 23 comments

I’m excited to announce the publication of an open access e-book on learners’ experiences with open learning and MOOCs. The book consists of ten chapters by student authors and one introductory chapter by me. Part pedagogical experiment, part an exploratory investigation into learners’ experiences with emerging forms of learning, the aim of the book is to capture and share student stories of open online learning.


This publication is necessary for a number of reasons.

First, from a pedagogical perspective, whenever possible, we should be asking students to do a discipline, not just read about it. In this occasion, students were asked to do open online learning and reflect/write about their experience, instead of just reading about the field and the experience of others.

Second, in the frenzy surrounding the rise of “edtech” and MOOCs, it seems that student voices and experiences are rarely considered. This e-book is an attempt to remind designers and developers that the learning experience should be a central tenet of attempts to reform education. Let’s all remind ourselves that what we should be designing is learning experiences – not products for efficient consumption.

Third, the examination of learning experiences with open learning and MOOCs in the literature is scant. Further, recent literature tends to gravitate towards big data and analytics, and while those research endeavors are worthwhile, they tend to generate abstract descriptions of learner behaviors. A holistic understanding of learner experiences should include both investigations of patterns of how learners behave as well as in-depth qualitative descriptions of what learning in open environments is like. To illustrate, learning analytics research suggests that there are a number of ways learners typically engage with a course (e.g., completing, auditing, disengaging, sampling). Complementary to this, our book generates nuanced descriptions of some of these categories. For example, even though one of the authors would be considered as completing a MOOC he “was left with a partial sense of accomplishment and feelings of hollowness and incompleteness.”

The scholarly contributions from this book are two. They can be summarized as follows, but for in-depth descriptions, please read my full chapter, which is simultaneously published on Hybrid Pedagogy:

  • The realities of open online learning are different from the hopes of open online learning.
  • We only have small pieces of an incomplete mosaic of students’ learning experiences with open online learning.

As with the emerging technologies in distance education book that I edited in 2010 (also available as open access), please don’t hesitate to send me an email to let me know what you think about this book. I’d love your thoughts! If you are teaching a class on emerging learning environments, open education, online learning, and other related topics, and you find this book helpful as reading material, I’d love to hear about how you are using it!

P.S The book is published on Github, which means that you can effortlessly improve and expand on this work. If you want to learn more about this, Kris Shaffer, who was instrumental in making our github project happen, wrote an excellent article on Github and publishing.


The MOOC stories we are told, and the ones that remain untold

Posted on July 21st, by George Veletsianos in emerging technologies, my research, scholarship. 12 comments

I’ve been fascinated by the rhetoric surrounding MOOCs, and the storylines and narratives that are shared by providers of these initiatives.

One of the main storylines around MOOCs focuses on amazing individuals that overcome insurmountable struggles to succeed (e.g., individuals in conflict-ridden Afghanistan and Syria). I believe that we can all agree that these stories are inspiring. As I’ve argued in the past, these individuals are extraordinary. They will succeed despite shortcomings in pedagogy, platform, design, etc. These individuals can serve as role models, and they should be celebrated.

At the same time, one has to wonder about the numerous individuals that have struggled and abandoned MOOCs, individuals whose life circumstances, motivations, and needs negatively impact their learning. These stories, the stories of the individuals who are struggling, are rarely shared. They are, in fact, hidden. They become figures and statistics (e.g., “90% dropped out” or “82% completed the first two assignments), and as such their stories remain untold.


University of New Hampshire keynote talk

Posted on June 13th, by George Veletsianos in emerging technologies, online learning, open, scholarship. 19 comments

I have just returned from the University of New Hampshire where I gave a keynote talk at the 12th annual Faculty Instructional Technology Summer Institute. My hosts (Terri, Stephanie, Marshall, Dan, Ken, Shane) organized an excellent event and were so welcoming and gracious that it was difficult to leave!


Photo courtesy of UNH Information Technology

This year’s faculty member participants represented departments that have launched or were exploring the launch of an online program. Professional development events like this one have a number of goals including helping participants understand online education, gain technological and pedagogical skills, alleviate anxiety, share, foster community, and create a sense of shared purpose.

My talk focused on exploring the opportunities, challenges, truths, myths, and realities of online education. I argued that our goal as educators and designers is to create and foster learning experiences and opportunities that are effective, fulfilling, inspiring, meaningful, caring, empowering, and democratic. Using this goal as the starting point, my fellow faculty members and I explored the online learning landscape and discussed a variety of topics that included the “no significant difference phenomenon” as it pertains to online vs. face-to-face education, competency-based models, disaggregation and unbundling, online program management services, the role of the faculty member, the quest for efficiency and automation, and openness.

I am including my presentation below. This is the first talk in which I included practical advice and simple strategies that a faculty member new to online learning may find helpful in their teaching. If you are interested in that aspect of online education make sure to explore the last few slides of my talk.

Social Media in Learning, Teaching, and Scholarship: 6 Tales of Practice

Posted on May 8th, by George Veletsianos in my research, online learning, open, scholarship. 22 comments

I had the pleasure of delivering the opening keynote to the 2013 Teaching and Learning to the Power of Technology conference on May 1st. Our hosts (Heather Ross, Jim Greer, and Brad Wuetherick) from the Gwenna Moss Centre for Teaching Effectiveness at the University of Saskatchewan put together an excellent program! It was difficult to leave Saskatoon 2 days later as everyone was so gracious, kind, and eager to share his/her work! It was also great to spend time with Valerie Irvine (who did the 2nd keynote of the conference), Rick Schwier, and Alison Seaman!

My talk focused on Social Media in Education/Scholarship. I wanted to discuss a number of ideas including the rich history of the field of educational technology, the role of openness in scholarship, and the practices that open scholars engage in. Additionally, part of the talk included a call for individuals to become involved in the design of future educational systems/technologies. I highlighted my qualitative stance more strongly in this talk, essentially arguing that the world is grey (not black or white) and binary thinking is dangerous: There are multiple ways to see and read the world, there are multiple truths, and those truths can coexist at the same time.

Here is a video recording of the event. And, as always, here are my slides:

Upcoming research. In search of collaborators

Posted on March 15th, by George Veletsianos in sharing. 7 comments

Social media and open online learning have been extolled and decried in the popular press. Yet, as researchers, we still need to understand the experiences and practices of students, educators, and researchers with emerging practices and social media. We also need to understand why learners, educators, and researchers use social media and engage in open online education in the ways that they do. danah boyd (2012, ¶48) argues that “we need people engaging critically with the dynamics that unfold as a result of a new structure of connecting people.”

My research agenda centers around these issues, and seeks to answer the following questions:

  1. What does learning “look like” in open online courses?
  2. How do learners use social media for learning?
  3. What are learners’ experiences with open online learning?
  4. What does the experience of effective social media use for learning consist of?
  5. What is the lived experience of researchers/educators using social media for scholarly activities?
  6. How do scholars perceive and construct their identity using social media/networks?
  7. How do users use social media/networks  to cope with the expectations of their academic roles (e.g., being a doctoral student, being a newly-hired faculty member, etc)?

These questions form the core of my work. I am posting them here because I know that others are interested in finding answers to these questions as well. If you are like me, you enjoy collaborative work and qualitative research. If so, get in touch and let’s figure out how we can collaborate on (a) empirical work that answers the questions above, and (b) design and development work that integrates pedagogical knowledge and social technologies to create innovative learning environments.

“Sharing” as a valued and desirable educational practice

Posted on January 14th, by George Veletsianos in sharing. 23 comments

I recently gave a presentation in which I sought to capture some of the activities that I see happening when researchers are using social media to enact scholarship. In this presentation I argued that while faculty members have always shared their work with each other (e.g., through letters, telephone calls, and conference presentations), techno-cultural forces are prompting educators and researchers to share scholarly work in an ongoing and open manner. I also argued that “sharing” is a value and literacy that we should embrace and teach, not just because it is compatible with the purpose of higher education but also because it may contribute to a more equitable society.