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

Tag: openness

How do faculty benefit from renewable assignments?

Posted on December 13th, by George Veletsianos in open, scholarship. 1 Comment

* This was originally hosted on the BCCampus blog, but I’m cross-posting it here for posterity.

Open education advocates have promoted renewable assignments as a way to create/update knowledge, enable faculty and students to impact society in significant ways, and foster student learning in more meaningful ways. As individual faculty members are often involved in designing course assignments, it might be worthwhile to be explicit about the value that renewable assignments might garner for faculty members themselves.

David Wiley differentiates between disposable and renewable assignments. He writes:

“A Disposable Assignment is any assignment about which students and faculty understand the following:

  • Students will do the work
  • Faculty will grade the work
  • Students will throw away the work

A Renewable Assignment is any assignment where:

  • Students will do the work
  • Faculty will grade the work
  • The work is inherently valuable to someone beyond the class
  • The work is openly published so those other people can find and use (5R) it”

One form that renewable assignments might take is in the form of books and textbooks. Four examples of open access books that faculty and students collaboratively wrote, revised, or edited are the following:

The arguments for these types of assignments, and rightly so, often focus on students and society. They highlight the cost-savings that students might accrue while engaging in pedagogies that enable authentic, participatory, and valuable contributions to the common good.

Yet, we know that individuals face both individual and systemic barriers in adopting open practices, such as institutional constraints that might not necessarily recognize the value of spending extra time and effort on developing open books and textbooks with students. Convincing faculty members to develop renewable assignments might involve highlighting the benefits that faculty members might accrue by engaging in this process.

What then might be the individual benefits to faculty members from redesigning some of their assignments to be more “renewable?” One renewable assignment that I created materialized as the last book appearing in the list above. The benefits that I saw were the following:

  • Authentic mentorship. The assignment gave me an opportunity to mentor students in an environment in which the end goal was an essay intended for practitioners and researchers. In doing so, we often engaged in conversations about the goal of the project, the audience, and the outcomes that each student wanted for their essay. Such mentorship was personally satisfying and fulfilling.
  • Align my research with my teaching. Faculty members engage in diverse activities, and I’m a firm believer in engaging in activities that benefit multiple areas of my work. In other words, my research, teaching, and service often overlap and inform one another. By creating a renewable assignment that addressed my learning objectives and was aligned with my research, my students and I were able to produce scholarship that was of value to the field, as well as address the goals of my research agenda.
  • Enable students to publish their work. Beyond the personal benefits that students might accrue by engaging in renewable assignments, I found it immensely rewarding to see my students’ work being published and hear them describe that they felt empowered and supported. Importantly, our book was published by Hybrid Pedagogy, which practices collaborative peer review and treats the peer review process as pedagogical.
  • Better collaboration. It was much more pleasurable to work with students toward our shared goal. I found that this process eliminated some of the power imbalances and hierarchies in the classroom, enabling us to collaborate more effectively.

If you are a faculty member, consider the value that renewable assignments might have for students, society, but also for your own practice. If you are a learning designer that is advocating for renewable assignments, consider whether these arguments might be worthwhile in your conversations with faculty colleagues. And if you have experiences with renewable assignments, consider sharing them on social media and linking back to this article.

Diversity, Justice, and Democratization in Open Education and #opened17

Posted on July 31st, by George Veletsianos in Ideas, open, work. 1 Comment

This post is more about connecting some dots for myself, and drawing parallels (see 4 especially), than making a fully comprehensible argument.

Blog work-in-progress, they say.


Diversity by Manel Torralba

1. In 2012, we wrote that the open movement, and thereby the individuals associated with it, assume “ideals such as democratization, human rights, equality, and justice.” We argued that individuals should be vigilant and reflective of their practices, and that “such vigilance should focus both on determining who profits from [open] practices and who is excluded from them so as to combat both under-use by some (e.g., those lacking entry to or knowledge of useful networks) and over-use or exploitation by those with the wealth, power, and prestige necessary to effectively strip mine sources.”

2. I was reminded of this recently, as there has been many conversations around diversity in the open education movement. Some, but not all, of these conversation surround the choice of a keynote talk at the Open Education 2017 conference. Here are a few tweets to contextualize this conversation.

3. As part of the Digital Learning and Social Media Research Group, we’ve been awarding funding to individuals interested in conducting research with us. One of the papers resulting from these research opportunities contributes somewhat here. Michael Paskevicius was interested in examining discourses surrounding openness on Twitter and we analyzed a large Twitter dataset for this purpose. In that (forthcoming) paper, we wrote: “Inherent in the idea of openness is the attitude that all should be able to participate and share and reap the benefits of open communities. However, our results on the national and gender demographics of participants raises questions as to the ongoing diversity of the open education community. Notably, the U.S. dominates English-speaking conversations about openness, and though this might be somewhat expected given the relative size of that country, overrepresentation of males in the community should lead us to consider whether there are social or other barriers of entry for female participants. Interestingly, females gradually gained traction in the community and even overtook males in 2013, but this trend swiftly reversed the following year, and males now participate more than females at a rate of 1.8-to-1. The reasons for this up- and then down-turn is unclear… At any rate, if diversity of perspectives would be valued in any community, we would anticipate that this would be the case within open communities, so we suggest that leaders in this area should consider ways to better understand this issue and the reasons why many who should be participating in these conversations are not.” [emphasis mine] From: Paskevicius, M., Veletsianos, G., & Kimmons, R. (in press). Content is king: An analysis of how the Twitter discourse surrounding open education unfolded from 2009 to 2016. The International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning.

4. In response to a question I asked a couple of weeks ago, Martin Weller noted open universities’ contributions to the ideal of democratizing education/learning. Others, noted openness in general. To what extent can an innovation/approach/activity be said to be democratizing when itself could be more diverse and more inclusive? Put differently, can open education be democratizing when itself and its community could benefit from being more democratic, diverse, and just? If i had to venture a guess, I would say that many in the open education community would say “yes, open education can concurrently be democratizing and in need of growth.” Warning: How is this different from techno-utopian SV approaches to educational technology that go like this: “We are democratizing/uberizing/disrupting education, even though we do need to work on our privileged heteronormative ways?” Perhaps what’s different is that in the open education community there seems to be a desire to do better, to be better, or at least, to start with, an acknowledgement that we can do better.

As I said… work-in-progress.

BCcampus Open Education Advocacy & Research Fellowships

Posted on January 31st, by George Veletsianos in my research, open. No Comments

It’s February, already?! This year, I’m excited to spend some time collaborating with a group of open education colleagues, as part of a BCcampus Open Education Advocacy and Research Fellowship. The rest of the team consists of Jennifer Barker, Ken Jeffery, and Rajiv Jhangiani. Good company!


Group selfie, by Rajiv Jhangiani (CC-BY)

The aims of the fellowship are to raise awareness of open educational practices and to conduct, present, and publish research on open educational practices at BC institutions. You can read more about what each of us is hoping to achieve in this announcement.

And since this fellowship is related to advocacy, please take 4 minutes and 40 seconds to watch the video below which summarizes the empirical evidence on efficacy and perceptions surrounding open textbooks.

Video: A review of the effectiveness and perceptions of OER as compared to textbooks

Posted on December 5th, by George Veletsianos in sharing. 3 comments

In a prior post, I explained how we’ve been creating video and audio summaries of our research. A number of colleagues have told me that they liked these, so I thought that it would be interesting and worthwhile to do one of these for someone else’s important research. So, we summarized the following paper: Hilton, J. (2016) Open educational resources and college textbook choices: a review of research on efficacy and perceptions. Educational Technology Research and Development, 64(4), 573 – 590.

Students spend a lot of money on textbooks. Alternatives to the expensive textbooks that come from commercial publishers are open educational resources, or OER. But, are these free resources as effective or of the same quality as textbooks? The research says yes. The animation summarizes the available research synthesized by Dr. John Hilton III in the aforementioned paper.


The rest of our animations are on our YouTube channel, ResearchShorts, and appear below:

The Life Between Big Data Log Events: Learners’ Strategies to Overcome Challenges in MOOCs

YouTube URL:

Veletsianos, G., Reich, J., & Pasquini, L. A. (2016). The life between big data log events: Learners’ strategies to overcome challenges in MOOCs. AERA Open, 2(3); 1–10. doi: 10.1177/2332858416657002

Digital Learning Environments

YouTube URL:

Veletsianos, G. (2016). Digital Learning Environments. In Rushby, N. & Surry D. (Eds) Handbook of Learning Technologies (pp. 242-260). Wiley.

A Systematic Analysis And Synthesis of the Empirical MOOC Literature Published in 2013-2015

YouTube URL:

Veletsianos, G. & Shepherdson, P. (2016). A systematic analysis and synthesis of the empirical MOOC literature published in 2013-2015. The International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning, 17(2).

The Structure & Characteristics of #PhDchat, an emergent Online Social Network.

YouTube URL:

Ford, K., Veletsianos, G., & Resta, P. (2014). The structure and characteristics of #phdchat, an emergent online social networkJournal of Interactive Media in Education, 18(1).

Scholarship on Social Media and the Academic Self

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

Scholars’ Open and Sharing Practices

YouTube URL:

Veletsianos, G. (2015). A case study of scholars’ open and sharing practices. Open Praxis, 7(3), 199-209.

Emergence and Innovation in Digital Learning

YouTube URL:

Veletsianos, G. (2016). Emergence and Innovation in Digital Learning: Foundations and Applications. Edmonton, AB: Athabasca University Press.

Digging Deeper Into Learners’ Experiences in MOOCs

YouTube URL:

Veletsianos, G., Collier, A., & Schneider, E. (2015). Digging Deeper into Learners’ Experiences in MOOCs: Participation in social networks outside of MOOCs, Notetaking, and contexts surrounding content consumption. British Journal of Educational Technology 46(3), 570-587.

Who Studies MOOCs?

YouTube URL:

Veletsianos, G., & Shepherdson, P. (2015). Who studies MOOCs? Interdisciplinarity in MOOC research and its changes over time. The International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning, 16(3).

Using Twitter as a Conference Backchannel

YouTube URL:

Kimmons, R. & Veletsianos, G. (2016). Education Scholars’ Evolving Uses of Twitter as a Conference Backchannel and Social Commentary Platform. British Journal of Educational Technology, 47(3), 445—464.

How Do Professors and Students Use Twitter?

YouTube URL:

Veletsianos, G., & Kimmons, R. (2016). Scholars in an Increasingly Digital and Open World: How do Education Professors and Students use Twitter? The Internet and Higher Education, 30, 1-10.

Why do professors, staff, and students disclose challenging personal and professional issues online?

YouTube URL:

Veletsianos, G., & Stewart, B. (2016). Discreet Openness: Scholars’ Selective and Intentional Self-Disclosures Online. Social Media+ Society, 2(3), 2056305116664222.