Category: futures Page 2 of 4

(OA version) We need to get online learning right before the next crisis hits

The Globe and Mail published an op-ed I wrote. As a condition of being featured in the publication, the paper has first publication rights for the first 48 hours. Since it’s been more than 48 hours, and for posterity, I’m making a copy available below.

We need to get online learning right before the next crisis hits

George Veletsianos is a professor of education and Canada Research Chair in Innovative Learning and Technology at Royal Roads University.

Classrooms this month feel more like the days before the COVID-19 pandemic. As schools and universities across Canada ditch mass testing, universal masking, screening forms and vaccination campaigns, they’re also ditching online learning. They’re abandoning it even though there are circumstances in which it can be even better than in-person learning.

The prevailing idea that online learning was a temporary and inadequate facade of the real thing to help us get through the COVID-19 pandemic jeopardizes this powerful approach to education. As a researcher who has been studying online learning for nearly two decades, and as an educator with more than 10 years of online teaching experience, I also find it alarming and short-sighted, but ultimately unsurprising.

It is alarming because our schools and universities are going to face new crises for which they will need online learning. Chief among them is the climate emergency.

When my home province of British Columbia was battered by atmospheric rivers last winter, schools closed owing to floods, mudslides and highway damage. Switching to online forms of education ensured continuity. Scientists warn that extreme weather events like this one are becoming more frequent and more violent. Natural disasters are the same way. Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans and the earthquakes in Christchurch, New Zealand also required, and benefited from, emergency responses to education continuity.

It is short-sighted because many of our fellow citizens are unable to access in-person education.

Who are they? People with disabilities. People who live in remote and rural communities. Military personnel. Professionals who work full-time. Students who work while completing their studies. People who care for their children or families full-time. In-person learning limits their access to education, raises barriers to their aspirations, and excludes them. Online learning can be designed in flexible ways to cater to their diverse needs and responsibilities.

Over the years, my colleagues and I interviewed hundreds of online learners. One that stands out for me is a mid-thirties mother who was taking online coursework while caring for an infant. She was studying to improve her child’s life and was exceptional in her tenacity. But online learning was a good fit for her regular life, not an emergency measure.

The rejection of online education is unsurprising because ever since its development, it has been considered the poor cousin of in-person education.

The body of evidence that is available generally shows that under the right circumstances online learning works, and can be as good as, if not better than, in-person education. Still, the belief that it is inferior persists. To be certain, the evidence isn’t absolute: online learning doesn’t work for everyone all the time. It is not as appropriate for young children as it is for adults and a recent study showed that when some students enroll in some in-person courses they are more likely to earn a degree than those who enroll exclusively in online courses. More importantly, whether online learning is successful or not primarily depends on its design.

Designers and researchers working with the Academic Learning Transformation Lab at Virginia Commonwealth University know a great deal about online learning design. When the 2015 UCI Road World Championship bicycle race descended in Richmond, Va., rather than deal with the disruptions caused by crowds, congestion and road closures, the university cancelled classes for its Monroe Park campus. Under the leadership of the lab, faculty took advantage of the opportunity to create 26 online courses that inspired students to explore a slew of topics related to cycling. The race became a setting for the students to collect and analyze data that related to physics, entrepreneurship, health, event planning and so on.

Design makes or breaks online learning, which is the exact reason why much of the online learning that happened during the pandemic – what researchers have dubbed emergency remote learning – was indeed awful. It was designed and delivered by professionals who were never trained for it, who never signed up for it and who were doing it while dealing with grief, loss, anxiety and the broader repercussions of the pandemic. What students need more than access to education is access to well-planned and purposefully designed education.

If one thing is certain right now it is that our world is filled with crises and uncertainty. In times like this, foresight and proactiveness are key. Ditching online learning is myopic. We will need it. It’s not a question of if – it’s a matter of when.

Before it’s too late: On Neil Selwyn’s introduction to “studying digital education in times of climate crisis”

With the same criticality and thoughtfulness that characterizes the rest of his work, Neil Selwyn recently gave a talk for our friends at the U of Edinburgh’s Centre for Research in Digital Education titled “Studying digital education in times of climate crisis: what can we do?” It’s a great talk, and worth watching and reflecting upon.

At the beginning of the talk, Neil makes this comment:

This is a really unfamiliar topic for me to be thinking about and talking about…But I’ve been working since 1995 on various critical lines of digital technology in education and never thought about sustainability, really. I’ve basically spent 27 years pointing out why things don’t work. But, coming over to Australia 10 years ago has given me just a real personal visceral wake-up call to climate crisis and I’ve quickly become super mindful of the need to get my own work, and also my own area of work, edtech, up to speed with issues relating to sustainability, climate breakdown, possible eco-compromised futures to come and all the rest of it. So, the fundamental challenge that I’m currently wrestling with and the challenge which I’m now gonna burden you with, I think is terrifyingly simple. Do we actually need digital education? Is digital education a realistic part of a livable future or even just a survivable planet? And if we think it is, in what form and what do we do about it?

These are important questions, and I expect that more and more researchers in our field will explore facets of them. I would like to add another one that doesn’t quite have to do with edtech, but I think deserves the attention of researchers and designers in our field: How do we help people understand and respond to issues of sustainability and climate catastrophe before they become personal?

Like Neil, i didn’t grapple with climate change in any concerted and scholarly way until recently. I don’t think we’re unique in this regard. The broader literature that I’ve been engaging with over the past two years relating to COVID-19 misinformation includes models that suggest that people negotiate and respond to perceived risks to their health based on their perception of susceptibility to an illness or disease; belief in severity of risk; belief that taking action would reduce severity or susceptibility and therefore have benefits, etc, etc. In other words: How could we help people understand that climate change will impact them (or their children, nieces, nephews, etc?) in significant ways (i.e. susceptibility, severity) and that the benefits of responding to climate change outweigh the costs of not doing so? Importantly, how do we do that before the issue becomes personal*?

To be certain, this is an interdisciplinary question: colleagues in climate science, public policy, and educational psychology are likely dealing with aspects of this already, and partnerships can be mutually beneficial. It would be good to engage with this soon, while climate change still feels like somewhere else, somewhere a little bit distant, because by the time it becomes personal for most of us, it may be too late.

* There’s a debate focusing on the worth/value of individual vs. systemic responses here that I’m going to ignore for this post. Suffice to say it’s an issue worth thinking about.

New paper: A synthesis of surveys examining the impacts of COVID-19 and emergency remote learning on students in Canada

Around the first year of the pandemic, we gathered all the student surveys we could find that examined emergency remote learning in Canada and its impacts on students. We made this work available immediately as a pre-print because we knew it would take a while to actually be published, and in many talks and conversations since then. The paper is now available in the Journal of Computing in Higher Education. The abstract and citation are below.

During the COVID-19 pandemic numerous institutions around the world have surveyed students to gain an understanding of their experiences. While these surveys are valuable at a local institutional level, it is unclear as to which findings from individual
surveys reflect the broader higher education environment, and which patterns may be consistent across student surveys. It is worthwhile to synthesize survey findings in order to explore patterns and potentially new understandings that may arise
from such analysis. In this paper, we reviewed and synthesized 21 surveys examining the impacts of COVID-19 and emergency remote learning on approximately 155,000 student respondents in Canada. Findings reveal that the impacts of COVID-
19 and emergency remote learning on students centered around (1) educational experiences, (2) mental health and wellbeing, (3) financial concerns, (4) impact on future plans, and (5) recommendations for future practice.

Houlden, S., & Veletsianos, G. (in press). A synthesis of surveys examining the impacts of COVID-19 and emergency remote learning on students in Canada. Journal of Computing in Higher Education. Preprint (pdf) or

New paper: Focusing on the ecological aspects of online and distance learning

As part of a special issue on Systemic Implications for Online Education, colleagues and I wrote a commentary highlighting the ways in which online teaching and learning are more than individual and social practices. They’re situated in environments with particular people, in particular contexts, with particular technologies, within particular institutions. To make this more concrete, we described a near-future speculative scenario of a student’s experience, as a way to help individuals – both at our institution and elsewhere – consider technology use in higher education beyond the pedagogical level.  You can download a preprint (pdf) or the final version (which isn’t that different than the preprint) from

Person in environment: Focusing on the ecological aspects of online and distance learning

Online and distance learning is a practice situated in environments—places, spaces, and times, with particular people, in particular contexts, with particular technologies, within particular institutions. In other words, the practice of online and distance learning is not wholly individual: it is situated within broader environments. In this reflective article, we argue that to understand learning in online contexts, it is important for researchers to understand the broader environments in which learners are located. We illustrate this argument by presenting a narrative of a fictitious learner pursuing a degree in decentralized finance.

Veletsianos, G., Childs, E., Cox, R., Cordua-von Specht , I., Grundy, S., Hughes, J., Karleen, D., & Wilson, A. (2022). Person in environment: Ecological aspects of online and distance learning. Distance Education, 43(2), 318-324.

Learning futures and queer futuring

Our efforts to study and produce learning futures have led us to thinking about the following question: what are some just and ethical approaches that we can use toward creating more imaginative, hopeful, and powerful learning futures? In other words, how do we approach the work of generating learning futures with humility, openness, and recognition of the various ways in which various systems limit who participates in this conversation. For instance, there’s a dearth of instructional design models that account for equity, diversity, inclusion and justice, (OK, there’s maybe 2), and Stephanie Moore notes that the “models have are not the models we need.”

One approach specifically tied to learning futures that I came across comes from Fleener, M.J. and Coble, C. (2022), “Queer futuring: an approach to critical futuring strategies for adult learners”, On the Horizon, Vol. 30 No. 1, pp. 1-11.

Extended abstract in case others find it interesting is below.


The purpose of this paper is to develop queer futuring strategies that take into consideration adult learners’ needs in support of transformational and sustainable change for social justice and equity.


This paper develops the construct of queer futuring, which engages queer theory perspectives in a critical futures framework. Adult learning theory informs queer futuring strategies to support adults and inform education to sustain transformational changes for social justice and equity.


With social justice in mind, queer futuring opens spaces and supports opportunities for adults to engage in learning activities that address historical and layered forms of oppression. Building on learning needs of adults to create meaning and make a difference in the world around them, queer futuring strategies provide tools for activism, advocacy and building new relationships and ways of being-with.

Research limitations/implications

The sustainability of our current system of growth and financial well-being has already been called into question, and the current pandemic provides tangible evidence of values for contribution, connection and concern for others, even in the midst of political strife and conspiracy theories. These shifting values and values conflict of society point to the questions of equity and narrative inclusivity, challenging and disrupting dominant paradigms and structures that have perpetuated power and authority “over” rather than social participation “with” and harmony. Queer futuring is just the beginning of a bigger conversation about transforming society.

Practical implications

Queering spaces from the perspective of queer futuring keeps the adult learner and queering processes in mind with an emphasis on affiliation and belonging, identity and resistance and politics and change.

Social implications

The authors suggest queer futuring makes room for opening spaces of creativity and insight as traditional and reified rationality is problematized, further supporting development of emergentist relationships with the future as spaces of possibility and innovation.


Queer futuring connects ethical and pragmatic approaches to futuring for creating the kinds of futures needed to decolonize, delegitimize and disrupt hegemonic and categorical thinking and social structures. It builds on queer theory’s critical perspective, engaging critical futures strategies with adult learners at the forefront.


What Comes After Disinformation Studies(CFP)? What comes after universities?

The CFP below is relevant to education researchers who study mis/disinformation, digital literacies, and design/evaluate education interventions to interrupt misinformation flows. I’m also posting it as an example of a CFP that’s relevant to something a “what if” scenario been thinking about: what comes after universities? In other words, what does a radically different higher education landscape look like? What should such a landscape look like? While this work overlaps with the disciplines I find myself in (ID, education, edtech, curriculum & instruction, learning sciences), it has interesting interdisciplinary tentacles and connects with platform studies, platform cooperativism, postdigital studies, anticipation studies, decolonial studies, etc.

ICA Pre-Conference: What Comes After Disinformation Studies?

Paris, May 25, 2022

The médialab at Science Po

Submissions due: Friday, February 18, 2022 at 12pm ET

Submit here


The title of this pre-conference, “What Comes After Disinformation Studies?”, is something of a deliberate provocation. With an ongoing increase in authoritarian and nationalist politics globally over the past several years and the weakening of democratic institutions in many countries, scholarly and media attention to disinformation has exploded, as have institutional, platform, and funder investments towards policy and technical solutions. This has also led to critical debates over the “disinformation studies” literature. Some of the more prominent critiques of extant assumptions and literatures by scholars and researchers include: the field possesses a simplistic understanding of the effects of media technologies; overemphasizes platforms and underemphasizes politics; focuses too much on the United States and Anglocentric analysis; has a shallow understanding of political culture and culture in general; lacks analysis of race, class, gender, and sexuality as well as status, inequality, social structure, and power; has a thin understanding of journalistic processes; and, has progressed more through the exigencies of grant funding than the development of theory and empirical findings. These concerns have also been surfaced by journalists and community organizers in public forums, such as Harper’s Magazine’s special report “Bad News” in late August 2021; or, organizers highlighting the exclusions of communities of color in existing discourse and subsequent responses.

Even as disinformation has been the subject of growing academic debate, the relationship between disinformation, technology, and global democratic backsliding, white supremacy, inequalities, nationalisms, and the rise of authoritarianism globally remains unclear, and raises important questions of what constitutes healthy democratic systems.

Given this, the time is right to create and advance an interdisciplinary, critical, post-disinformation studies agenda that centers questions of politics and power. We are particularly excited to take the best existing aspects of the research that has been done so far and put it into dialog with other fields (such as history, feminist science and technology studies, critical race and ethnic studies, anthropology, social movement studies, etc.) that have their own perspectives on how to understand and study politics, technology, and media in the 21st century.

Submission Guidelines

This pre-conference is not structured around the traditional academic practice of “submitting a paper,” making a brief presentation, and then fielding follow-up questions from the audience. Instead, we ask everyone to submit a 2-3 page (1200-1500 word) “big idea” argument for what might come after, replace, or supplement disinformation studies (submission details at the end of the CFP). This paper should formulate a proposal for what comes after disinformation studies, analyze what needs to be done to supplement its analytical and methodological tools, or critique one or more of the major works in the field of disinformation studies as a jumping off point for considering the limits, and promises, of the existing field. Or, the proposal can be a combination of some or all of these things. In sum, we are looking for arguments that spur debate, discussion, and the generation of new perspectives.

In particular, this pre-conference seeks short reflections and provocations that answer, What should we be focusing our scholarly energies on, and how can we move our understandings of contemporary threats to democracy, public knowledge, political and social equality, and multi-racial and multi-ethnic societies forward? These submissions might address some of the following:

  • Draw on diverse traditions of scholarship (e.g. mass audience theory, cultural studies, postcolonial and decolonial studies, political economy and critical race theory) that help us place disinformation research within an interdisciplinary or cross-disciplinary context. For example, how might critical theory from the Frankfurt School or sociological theory from W.E.B Du Bois offer new lenses and perspectives on disinformation?
  • Emphasize non-U.S. and Anglocentric contexts and/or transnational approaches to the study of politics and platforms.
  • Historicize what are often very presentist debates on technology and information.
  • Discuss the ways in which often neglected social structures, social categories, and social identities play a role in differential experiences of disinformation, technological structures, and democracy, such as political expression and suppression; inequalities and asymmetries of information and technological access; or modes of state and institutional governance and the mobilization of security infrastructures.
  • Detail the theoretical, conceptual, and methodological tools necessary for understanding disinformation in different social, political, economic, cultural, and technological contexts (e.g. cross-disciplinary collaborations, community-engaged approaches, and qualitative and interpretive methods).
  • Draw on original empirical research in order to complicate the often-simplistic relationship between mis- and disinformation and political dysfunction and/or to offer considerations for how we may re-conceptualize approaches to digital harm and safety, platform governance, institutional trust, etc.

Please submit your “big idea” paper via this form by 5pm UK Time on Friday, February 18 (12 pm EST). 

Submissions should not exceed 3 single-spaced pages (or 1500 words maximum) and be submitted in .pdf or .docx format. Please include your complete name, title, and affiliation in the document header.


Pre-Conference Format

The conference aims to foster a series of overlapping conversations that will also introduce original empirical and theoretical research. It also aims to “democratize” the idea of the conference keynote. To these ends, the conference will operate in an “onion” format. There will be four, relatively short, invited keynotes presented over the course of the day (2 in the morning and 2 in the afternoon). These keynotes will then be followed by 3-4 also relatively brief paper presentations that will be related to the topic of the keynote just presented. The organizers will select the keynotes and paper presenters from submissions to the preconference based on consideration of the quality of the arguments, fit with other submissions, and interventions to address critical gaps in the field, as well as on the diversity of research profiles, methodologies and theoretical perspectives of the authors. After these talks, we will quickly open the conversation up to the audience so we can engage the entire room.

Cost and Logistics

There is no cost to attend this preconference. Coffee, tea, meals and dessert will be served over the course of the day.

The conference will be located at Sciences Po, Paris, 27 rue Saint-Guillaume (room Leroy-Beaulieu). It will also be possible to participate virtually.


Email with any questions. 


ICA Lead sponsor: Political Communication Division

ICA Co-sponsor: Ethnicity and Race in Communication Division

University of North Carolina Center for Information, Technology, and Public Life (CITAP)

University of Leeds School of Media and Communication

Science Po médialab

BC floods and school closures

We experienced destructive floods and mudslides in BC this week, due to an atmospheric river. The province has declared a state of emergency. Much has been said and written since March 2020 about the ongoing pandemic and school/university closures. At the same time, more and more colleagues are exploring the relationships between crises such as climate catastrophe and schools, education, and the futures of teaching and learning.

Below is an example of how this event is described as impacting MEI, an independent school district in Abbotsford BC, by the head of MEI Schools:

MEI will be CLOSED WEDNESDAY to FRIDAY, November 17th – 19th, 2021. Our staff will make every effort to provide online learning opportunities to our students on Thursday and Friday through the platforms we have used in the past including Schoology, Seesaw, and Zoom.

This has been a very difficult decision.

Abbotsford is in the midst of a formal State of Emergency. Late last night, the Emergency Operations Center (EOC) notified Abbotsford residents of what could be a “catastrophic” event in Sumas Prairie with the potential failure of the Barrowtown Pump Station. If it happens, this additional layer to the existing crisis will “pose a significant risk to life” impacting beloved MEI families ( The crisis is not yet receding, but seems to be gaining momentum.

I can confirm that our campus is ready to receive our staff and students, but the city does not seem ready to receive 1800 of us on the roads. Abbotsford’s EOC has given their support for schools west of Sumas Way to open for in-person learning. Although MEI is located in this region, we are not a catchment school. Rather, we are a commuter school with our community arriving from all parts of Abbotsford, Mission and into the Fraser Valley both east and west of our campus.

Currently, two of my 7-person leadership team, multiple staff, and MEI families have been trapped in the Hope/Coquihalla region since Sunday night. Additionally, multiple teachers, support staff, and many families representing more than 100 students will simply not be able to cross the prairie from the Chillwack area to report for work or attend classes.

If we open, we may not have enough staff for meaningful learning to take place or the basic supervision needed for the safety of our students. Additionally, we anticipate having classes that include some students in attendance and others unable or uncomfortable to attend…


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