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

Tag: online learning

Vote for our #MOOC production fellowship application?

Posted on May 7th, by George Veletsianos in courses, emerging technologies, my research, online learning, scholarship. 28 comments

Audrey Watters and I submitted an application for Iversity’s MOOC production fellowship program. If funded, we will co-teach a course that is desperately needed: Foundations of Educational Technology. Our goal is to help individuals learn the history, research, practice, and debates of the field.

We want to improve education. To do so, we believe that educational technology developers, learning designers, and practitioners need to know the answers to a number of important questions including:
(a) how do people learn?
(b) how does technology/pedagogy impact learning?
(c) why have educational technology efforts failed/succeeded in the past?

Our course focuses on these pillars.

The fellowship recipients are selected by a jury of peers and by a process of public voting. If you think that this is a worthwhile cause, we would love your support. If so, please *vote for our proposal*. To vote for our proposal first you have to  register on the platform and then you have to click on the green vote button. While you are there you can also read more about our application. There you will notice that our proposed course blends pedagogies, approaches, and ideals that originate from the progressive and open education movements (e.g., OER reuse, cMOOCs, knowledge-building, communities of practice ideas) while introducing artifacts and values that we feel should be staples in xMOOCS (e.g., personal learning plans and instructor-supported community interactions).



The next step, if you are so inclined, is to help spread the good word. Please tell your colleagues and friends about it. Send them to this blog post, to Audrey’s post, or to our proposal, and ask them to help us help the world design meaningful, purposeful, effective, and equitable educational technologies. Remix it, share it on Twitter, Facebook, Google +, your department’s listserv, shout it from your rooftop, write a song about it, create a banner…. do whatever else pleases you to help spread the word. Or, just grab the message below and post it on your favorite social media platform:

I voted for the Foundations of Educational Technology class! Help me spread the word: #edtechCourse

Finally: I’m very excited about this course. However, I am humbled, I am in awe actually, that friends and colleagues from around the world have offered to help us with the course. So far, 13 students from the University of Texas at Austin have volunteered to be Teaching Assistants for the class and Dr. Valerie Irvine from the University of Victoria and Dr. Rick Schwier from the University of Saskatchewan have also offered to help with various aspects of the course. I am in awe of my colleagues and students who unselfishly offer their time to improve education. The world is a better place because of you. And for that, we thank you!

George & Audrey

#et4online notes, thoughts, reflections

Posted on April 15th, by George Veletsianos in emerging technologies, my research, online learning, open, scholarship. 19 comments

I just returned from the 2013 Sloan-C Emerging Technologies for Online Learning conference in Las Vegas. What a fantastic gathering! The value of the conference to me was the numerous great conversations with new friends (Jen Ross, Christopher Brooks, Amy Collier, David Wicks) and old friends (Tanya Joosten, Laura Pasquini). And, as always, I finally met friends and colleagues who I have interacted with online for a while (Mark Lee, Rolin Moe).

* * *

Amy notes that the unconference was fantastic. She is spot on!

I’ve been trying to make sense of the conference and my experiences since I left. My friend and colleague Joel Donna (of 3ring) came to Austin to spend some time with me on Saturday-Monday and the conversations I had at the conference continued with him as well. Here’s what has been on my mind:

1. Three years ago, I used to have conversations with colleagues wherein I was desperately trying to make the case that technology-enhanced pedagogy was a powerful approach to have in our “how to improve education” toolkit. I wouldn’t  be surprised if at times I was called a technology evangelist (any of you that follow my work know that I am not). Nowadays, I am finding myself on the other end of the spectrum – cautioning colleagues about the narrative that education is broken, educational technology is the fix, and for-profit corporations are here to save the day. If Gardner Campbell was here, he would have said, “That is not what I meant at all; That is not it, at all.” What is education for? Who is it for? What does it mean to learn? If education really “is broken,” what exactly is broken? Is the funding structure broken? Are the pedagogies that we use broken? Is instructor preparation broken? Is our understanding of how people learn broken? Is the notion of academic freedom broken? What is broken?

In the world that I inhabit, “broken” refers to educational systems that employ unjust practices, disregard unequal access, promote exploitation, and embrace pedagogies of hopelessness and marginalization. Unfortunately, I suspect that the notion of “broken” that I perceive may be unlike the notion of “broken” that popular narratives embrace.

2.  I can try to convince individuals that this contemporary fable of education being broken is a story told and retold by powerful individuals/entities who have something to gain by creating alternative systems (…and just to clarify, I am not arguing that education is perfect – see above). Do we stop there? Ideally, no. What educators and researchers need to do is to become involved in the design and development of educational systems and educational technology. If we don’t, someone else will design our future for us. Do we really want that? Do we really want future educational systems designed without input from educators and researchers? I hope not. I am working on a project related to this and I hope to be able to share it with you within the next two weeks.

3. I met a a lot of colleagues at the conference that are thinking about similar issues. This makes me quite happy. And I am very glad and fortunate to be able to spend time with all of you!

* * *

I had a great time participating in the Career Forum roundtables, giving advice to PhD students about academia and sharing my own experiences. I value this. I value having conversations with students and spending time together answering difficult questions. The question that keeps coming up here is: What is your passion? Is it teaching? Is it service? Is it a particular research method, a particular pedagogy, or worldview? How does that relate to the world at present? How can you pursue your passion? And to close the circle, unstructured time with colleagues is important and can be very productive for these types of conversations.

* * *

I was originally invited to the conference to give a plenary talk on emerging technologies. Huge thanks to David and Jen for all their help in making this a success. My presentation was recorded and I am really hoping that it will be made available online for free (hint, hint). My slides are  below, and a storify of my talk, courtesy of Laura Pasquini, is here.

Keynote at the University of New Hampshire (Faculty Instructional Technology Summer Institute)

Posted on March 27th, by George Veletsianos in my research, online learning, open, scholarship. 10 comments
Interactive Narrative by aaron13251, on Flickr
Interactive Narrative by  aaron13251  licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License

The University of New Hampshire holds a Faculty Instructional Technology Summer Institute for instructors and faculty members each summer. I was invited to give the keynote presentation at this year’s institute. Unlike prior keynotes and plenaries that I will be giving that will be focusing on stories and tales, I am framing this talk in terms of a debate, in terms of the stories that are told with respect to education, and in terms of the forces that are shaping it:

Title: Online Learning Myths and Truths

We live in opportune times. We live at a time when education features prominently in the national press and discussions focusing on improving the ways we design education are a daily occurrence. Stanford President John Hennessy notes that “a tsunami” is coming – and Pearson executives are calling the impending change an “avalanche.” We are told that “education is broken” and that technology provides appropriate solutions for the perils facing education. But, what do these solutions look like? Will these be the times that capture Dewey’s and Freire’s visions of education? Will these be times of empowered students, democratic educational systems, learning webs, and affordable access to education? Or, will these be the times where efficiency, venture capital, and market values dictate what education will look like? Is technology transforming education? If so, how? During this keynote presentation, I will highlight how learning and education are (and are not) changing with the emergence of certain technologies, social behaviors, and cultural expectations. Using empirical research and evidence I will discuss myths and truths pertaining to online education and present ways that faculty members and educators can make meaningful contributions to the future educational systems that we are creating today.


What is the experience of instructors who use a social networking site in their teaching?

Posted on February 11th, by George Veletsianos in my research, scholarship. 8 comments

It has been suggested that the use of social technologies (e.g., social media, social networking sites) in higher education may be a worthwhile endeavor. Nevertheless, empirical literature examining user experiences, and more specifically instructor experiences, with these tools is limited. My colleagues and I conducted a study recently to address this gap in the literature. Our goal was to  identify, describe, and make sense of initial instructor experiences with a social networking platform (Elgg) used in higher education courses. This follows a prior study in which we examined learner experiences with Elgg.

This study does not purport to describe the experiences of all instructors. Rather, it provides an in-depth examination and rich description of the experiences of five instructors who used a social networking platform in their courses. Readers should examine the context in which this study occurred and decide whether these findings may apply in their own situations.

We found that instructors:

  • had expectations of Elgg that stemmed from numerous sources
  • used Elgg in heterogeneous ways and for varied purposes
  • compartmentalized Elgg and used it in familiar ways, and
  • faced frustrations stemming from numerous sources.

Importantly, the ways that Elgg came to be used “on the ground” was contested. These ways contrasted starkly with the narrative of how social software might contribute benefits to educational practice. Furthermore, we found that learning management systems (e.g., Blackboard, Moodle, Canvas, Desire2Learn) may frame the ways through which other tools, such as social media and Elgg, are understood, used, and experienced, as instructors in our study continuously discussed their experiences with Elgg in comparison to an LMS, even though Elgg is not a traditional LMS.

Veletsianos, G., Kimmons, R., & French, K. (2013). Instructor experiences with a social networking site in a higher education setting: Expectations, Frustrations, Appropriation, and Compartmentalization (pdf). Educational Technology, Research and Development, 61(2), 255-278

You can download a pdf of the paper from the link above, or visit for the published version.


Designing MOOCs for powerful learning experiences

Posted on September 19th, by George Veletsianos in sharing. 6 comments

I have proposed a session for the SXSWedu conference. The sessions to be presented are partly decided by community votes and comments. If you feel that my proposal is interesting or worthwhile, would you consider voting for it? You will need to create an account and register to do so. Here’s my proposal in detail:

Designing MOOCs for powerful learning experiences

Description: The mass media have embraced MOOCs and celebrated the disruptive nature of online education and the death of higher education institutions. On the other hand, critics’ responses to MOOCs have ranged from fetishizing face-to-face education to questioning the potential of technology. Both of these positions miss the research surrounding online education and the potential role that MOOCs may play in society. In this presentation, I will discuss how some MOOCs can be more appropriately described as commodified education, rather than the type of open education initiatives suggested by their acronym. The goal of this critique is to help us envision MOOCs as a means for powerful learning experiences and personally relevant/meaningful transformation. This can be attained through the following:
– Design opportunities that allow engagement beyond course activities
– Design for lasting impression
– Design for intrigue, risk-taking, and challenge
– Design for engagement and reflection

Questions Answered:
How do we create MOOCs that are exciting, that pull learners into the experience and hold their attention?
How do we design MOOCs that foster powerful and meaningful learning experiences?
How do we use emerging technologies to create learning *experiences* rather than efficient products?

online education, mooc, research

Format: Solo Presentation

Category: OER and MOOCs

Level: Intermediate

Speakers: George Veletsianos,  The University of Texas at Austin