A place to log ideas and thoughts

George Veletsianos, PhD

Category: my research Page 1 of 16

Teaching During a Pandemic: Spring Transition, Fall Continuation, Winter Evaluation

Informed by survey studies using nationally representative samples, in a recent project we examined the nature and magnitude of remote approaches to teaching and learning at three points in time:

  • April 2020: The pivot to emergency remote teaching was well underway.
  • August 2020: Prepping and planning for the fall offerings.
  • December 2020: Looking back at the fall term.

Some of the big picture findings include the following

  • agility and resilience in the face of numerous and ongoing challenges over the time period under investigation
  • the development of a new appreciation of and understanding about online education
  • growing reliance on technology
  • equity as a focal point of interest and concern
  • flexibility as a design feature that of interest and relevance

 

The report is CC-BY licensed and is available at: Johnson, N., Seaman, J. and Veletsianos, G. (2021) Teaching during a pandemic: Spring Transition, Fall Continuation, Winter Evaluation Bay View Analytics: Oakland CA, March 22, pp. 53.

 

 

Who supports scholars who receive online harassment and how effective are those supports?

“Imagine you publish a paper detailing the results of research you spent two years working on. You are excited and decide to share your work on social media, both so people can hear about it, and also because you know your university has a public scholarship strategy in place that encourages doing so. Within hours, however, the abuse pours onto your post. First you are told your research is wrong or useless, and you are surprised at the negative attention given the innocuous subject of your work. But soon it snowballs into something worse, with users descending into more aggressive harassment and even threatening violence against you and your family. Distressed, eventually you pull the post, unwilling to tolerate the vitriol, feeling defeated and diminished. You weren’t prepared for such an outcome, and you aren’t entirely sure what to do next.”

The quote is from the introduction of our latest paper on the harassment that scholars experience. The paper asks: What coping and support mechanisms – other than deleting post – do scholars use? Where does that support come from? Does it come from friends and family? University? The legal system? How effective are those supports perceived to be?

This is our fourth harassment-focused paper (see first, second, and third). Using data from 182 survey participants,  we identified gaps in the support that scholars receive when they face harassment. We identified lack of support at the university level (administration and colleagues) and at the level of digital platforms. We also noted that attitudes and values about gender, race, academic work, and online life worsen the problem, as some scholars noted that they refrained from speaking about “controversial topics” online (i.e. a chilling silencing effect), and also that they often “felt responsible” for the harassment directed at them. The table below summarizes some of these findings

You can access the paper from the link below. If you don’t have library access, here is the author’s copy of the submitted paper.

Houlden, S., Hodson, J., Veletsianos, G., Gosse, C., Lowenthal, P., Dousay, T., & Hall, N., (in press). Support for Scholars Coping with Online Harassment: An Ecological Framework. Feminist Media Studies. https://doi.org/10.1080/14680777.2021.1883086

Faculty social media use in 2021

Much of the research on faculty use of social media relies on Moran, Seaman, & Tinti-Kane (2011), Moran & Tinti-Kane (2013), and Bowman (2015) to demonstrate the degree to which faculty social media use is prevalent. These surveys show that (a) increasing adoption of social media tools for professional purposes over the years, (b) greater use of social media for personal rather than professional purposes, (c) around half of faculty members using social media for professional purposes, and (d) variation in the adoption rates and ways that different social media are used.

In a new study, we provide an updated picture of the prevalence of faculty social media use in 2021.

Significant findings include the following:

  • Faculty are most likely to have social media accounts on Facebook (75%) and LinkedIn (65%).
  • Faculty use social media professionally and personally; however, such use varies by platform (e.g., LinkedIn is used mainly for professional purposes, whereas Facebook is primarily used for personal purposes).
  • The frequency of social media use varies by platform (e.g., Facebook is used daily or every few days by 74% of faculty, whereas LinkedIn is used every few weeks, monthly, or rarely by 71% of faculty).
  • Faculty social media use is mostly passive. On all platforms, the majority of faculty reported posting content seldomly or never.
  • Around 25% of faculty have a personal website, such as a blog or portfolio site, which is a concerning statistic given calls for controlling one’s digital presence.
    • This faculty sub-group has several unique characteristics related to how they use social media, including an increased likelihood of Twitter use and being more likely to use Facebook, Instagram, Reddit, and Twitter for a mix of professional and personal uses.
  • Faculty have mixed feelings about social media, holding both positive and negative opinions about both tools and their impacts across personal and professional dimensions.
  • Compared to earlier studies, there has been very little change concerning faculty use of social media to communicate with students.

The report is CC-BY licensed and can be downloaded from here. Recommended citation: Johnson, N. & Veletsianos, G. (2021). Digital Faculty: Faculty social media use and communications. Bay View Analytics.

CICan perspectives live show: hacking education in a digital world

Recently, I was a guest on a live show hosted by Colleges and Institutes Canada. This episode focused on “hacking education in a digital world.” It focused on the question: How can colleges and institutes transform learning options to provide better access to postsecondary education for all Canadians in the context of a pandemic, and how can the success of the transformation be measured? The show is archived here, and past and current episodes are available on the CICan website.

My comments focused on a few major areas

  • that the impact of the pandemic on higher education institutions, students, and faculty in Canada has been uneven
  • that what we know from online learning research has much to offer to guide remote and emergency teaching and learning
  • that flexibility and flexible learning is important
  • that collaboration amidst the pandemic has served the higher education sector well, and we should do what we can to continue engaging in sharing and collaborations
  • that our post-pandemic future can be better (read more equitable, accessible, sensitive to student and societal needs, etc) than the pre-pandemic past

Talk: Radical Flexibility as a Potential Solution to the Challenges Facing Higher Education

Photo by Adam Valstar

I gave a keynote recently for the Centre for Research in Digital Education, University of Leeds, as part of their online symposium on Digital Transformation of Higher Education. The purpose of this symposium was to explore this transformation “from the perspective of existing and on-going research in digital education, to help the higher education sector to set a direction of travel which creates positive effects on access to higher education and enhanced student learning, through long-lasting changes.” My talk focused on Radical Flexibility as a Potential Solution to the Challenges Facing Higher Education, aiming to critique normative forms of flexibility that assume that everyone benefits from it in similar ways, and propose more broad forms of flexibility that account for diverse peoples’ unique and day-to-day realities. A recording is available here – and there recordings of all the other excellent talks are archived on this page. I drew on the following work for this talk:

Veletsianos, G., Kimmons, R. Larsen, R., & Rogers, J. (in press). Flexibility, Time, Gender, and Online Learning Completion. Distance Education.

Houlden, S., & Veletsianos, G. (in press). The Problem with Flexible Learning: Neoliberalism, Freedom, and Learner Subjectivities. Learning, Media, & Technology. https://doi.org/10.1080/17439884.2020.1833920

Veletsianos, G., & Houlden, S. (2020). Radical Flexibility and Relationality as Responses to Education in Times of Crisis. Postdigital Science and Education, 2(3), 849-862. https://doi.org/10.1007/s42438-020-00196-3

Johnson, N., Veletsianos, G., Seaman, J. (2020). U.S. Faculty and Administrators’ Experiences and Approaches in the Early Weeks of the COVID-19 Pandemic. Online Learning Journal, 24(2), 6-21.  http://dx.doi.org/10.24059/olj.v24i2.2285

Veletsianos, G. (2020). How should we respond to the life-altering crises that education is facing? Distance Education, 41(4), 1-3. https://doi.org/10.1080/01587919.2020.1825066

Houlden, S., & Veletsianos, G. (2019). A Posthumanist Critique of Flexible Online Learning and its “Anytime Anyplace” Claims. British Journal of Educational Technology, 50(3), 1005-1018.

Radical Flexibility and Relationality as Responses to Education in Times of Crisis

I am excited to share a new paper with you. I’m excited because it draws together themes from work Shandell Houlden and I have been doing over the last year and which now seems increasingly important. I’m also excited because the paper is part of a special issue of Postdigital Science and Education, which the Editor reports including “more than 50 articles, authored by nearly 200 people from more than 30 countries and all continents.” I’ve been reading many of these – they are currently posted here as Online First but should appear in an issue soon.

I thought I’d share a couple of snippets here, but I’d love to hear your feedback on this work. The paper is available as Open Access here: Radical Flexibility and Relationality as Responses to Education in Times of Crisis.

Our abstract summarizes the main ideas well:

As educational institutions negotiate numerous challenges resulting from the current pandemic, many are beginning to wonder what the future of education may look like. We contribute to this conversation by arguing for flexible education and considering how it can support better—more equitable, just, accessible, empowering, imaginative—educational futures. At a time of historical disorder and uncertainty, we argue that what we need is a sort of radical flexibility as a way to create life-sustaining education, not just for some, but for all, and not just for now, but far into the future. We argue that such an approach is relational, and centers justice and trust. Furthermore, we note that radical flexibility is systemic and hopeful, and requires wide-ranging changes in practices in addition to the application of new technologies.

We end the paper with this:

Solnit (2020) urges us to remember that ‘[o]rdinary life before the pandemic was already a catastrophe of desperation and exclusion for too many human beings, an environmental and climate catastrophe, an obscenity of inequality’, and this was in many ways as true in the halls of education as anywhere else. But she further reminds us that hope ‘offers us clarity that, amid the uncertainty ahead, there will be conflicts worth joining and the possibility of winning some of them’. If, out of this struggle, we ground our hope in attention to the relational nature of the many worlds in which we all live together, then perhaps we can achieve the radical flexibility truly liberatory education deserves.

 

Veletsianos, G., & Houlden, S. (2020). Radical Flexibility and Relationality as Responses to Education in Times of Crisis. Postdigital Science and Education, 2(3), 849-862. https://doi.org/10.1007/s42438-020-00196-3

 

How should we respond to the life-altering crises that education is facing?

Below is the the pre-published version of a short reflection I wrote for Distance Education, published here for posterity. The paper is Veletsianos, G. (2020). How should we respond to the life-altering crises that education is facing? Distance Education, 41(4), 1-3. https://doi.org/10.1080/01587919.2020.1825066

Abstract

Prior literature suggests that to address the problems facing education, researchers and practitioners of online and flexible learning should avoid placing too much emphasis on the potential of technology and consult the history and literature of the field. In this reflective article, I argue that in addition to these activities, we should expand our efforts to broaden the reach and impact of our field and engage in speculative work that asks: What should the future of digital, online, and flexible education look like?

Introduction

“In this increasingly unstable world, crises potentially impact our education systems. This will be true whether the crisis is caused by the circulation of a new pathogen, or something else entirely: hurricanes, flooding or wildfire, now more common due to climate change. We have before us a stark reminder that we should approach the promises of technological solutions with caution. Flexible and resilient educational systems require more than tools. They demand collaboration, care, preparation, expertise, resources and learning lessons from the past. (Houlden & Veletsianos, 2020)”

We wrote the sentences above in March 2020, 2 weeks before educational institutions in North America transitioned to remote education in an attempt to influence practitioners’ and researchers’ responses to the life-altering crises that education is facing. We were hoping to convince readers that even though technology may enable institutions of education to engage in some semblance of educational continuity, technology will not fix the crises facing our educational systems. Such reasoning flows from a long line of scholarship that details the problems of technological determinism and solutionism in our field (e.g., Bayne, 2015; Oliver, 2011; Tennyson 1994), urges researchers and practitioners to avoid placing too much emphasis on the potential of technology (e.g., Selwyn, 2011), and encourages us to heed the lessons embedded in the history of the field (e.g., Watters, 2014; Weller, 2020). Similar arguments are included in this issue of Distance Education as well. Baggaley, for instance, argues that “the surest way to make online learning effective is to consult the decades of practical experience in the distance education literature.” But what may be some additional responses to such life-altering crises as COVID-19 and climate change?

One possible response may include efforts to broaden the reach and impact of the distance and flexible education literature, as well as literature present in related fields, such as instructional design and technology, learning analytics, and the learning sciences. Such efforts may address limitations that restrict the literature’s helpfulness, applicability, and accessibility. For instance, the literature suffers from a problem of access. Much of our literature, like the literature of other fields, is written for researchers rather than practitioners, and much of it is locked behind paywalls (like this reflection). One set of responses, therefore, may be to refine and rethink the ways our own scholarship is accessed. For instance, at an individual level, we might strive to make our own articles available in open ways, expand our public outreach, engage in more practice-oriented scholarship, write for broader audiences, and address inequities in knowledge production, dissemination, and consumption (cf Czerniewicz, 2013; Scharber et al., 2019). At a systemic level, we may question practices like top-tier publishing, rankings, impact factors, and the various practices that sustain and encourage these, such as institutional policies on promotion and advancement and grant-funding decisions.

A second possible response may involve reflecting on our own scholarship and the scholarship we support, reward, and encourage. Reeves and Lin (2020) argue that to make a real difference in the lives of learners we should be studying and solving problems, rather than studying tools and technologies. In effect, these authors urge us to ask whether our particular work, the work of our students, and the work of our colleagues contributes to better educational futures. My intent here is not to draw demarcation lines between appropriate and inappropriate scholarship. Instead, if higher education is facing the very real possibility that the post-pandemic era may be radically different than our earlier “normal” (Cox et al., 2020), this may be a good time to ask: What should the future of digital, online, and flexible education look like?

This is not a call for more hopeful writing of the possibilities of online education or educational technology. Instead, it is a call for more critical and speculative writing and practice. Such critical efforts are gaining broader visibility and interest and can be found in recent work in both this journal (e.g., Valcarlos et al., 2020) and elsewhere (e.g., Lambert, 2018). To imagine possible educational futures, some researchers are turning to speculative methods as “research approaches that explore and create possible futures under conditions of complexity and uncertainty” (Ross, 2018, p. 197). Envisioning such futures does not solely mean employing fiction in our writing. Rather, speculative methods “inform us about what matters now in the field, what issues and problems we have inherited, and what debates define what can or cannot be currently thought about or imagined” (Ross, 2017, p. 220). Considering that the current state of education, at all levels, is situated within a context of ever-evolving social, cultural, political, and technological shifts, we face an urgent need to engage with uncertainty on multiple levels.

The use of speculative methods, therefore, may enable us to offer guidance when making current decisions related to the future of higher education, and to explore what may or may not be possible in different contexts. In a special issue of Learning, Media and Technology (Selwyn et al., 2019) for example, colleagues examined near-future educational scenarios and critically contemplated the use of technology in education. To use an example of present activities to speculate about desirable and undesirable educational futures, consider the now-broader use of proctoring tools, which were largely adopted to maintain the continuity of such familiar practices as invigilated exams. Now consider a future in which proctoring tools are as pervasive as the use of learning management systems or even email. Are proctoring tools consistent with desirable future educational systems? Asking this question forces us to deal with the ethics of our work. What if, in the process of asking this question, we realize that adopting proctoring software may not only become a barrier to alternative assessments but may also foster a culture of surveillance and mistrust (e.g., Fawns & Ross, 2020; Swauger, 2020)?

Conclusion

Clearly, technology alone will be unable to provide a solution to such a complicated problem as responding to the complex challenges that educational systems worldwide are facing. The two possible responses I offer—broadening the reach and impact of our scholarship and engaging in more imaginative, speculative, and critical work—are not panaceas either. Unlike technological solutionism though, these actions respond to calls by Facer and Sanford (2010), Ross (2017), Staley (2019), and Alexander (2020) to develop scenarios for the future of higher education as a way to address current challenges and work toward desirable outcomes. I imagine such futures to be inclusive, equitable, and just; to serve all of our learners; to prioritize collaboration over competition; to be flexible to learners’ needs; to exhibit care and trust for our students; and to be free of systems of oppression and injustice that operate within our own institutions.

References

Alexander, B. (2020). Academia next: The futures of higher education . Johns Hopkins University Press. 

Bayne, S. (2015). What’s the matter with ‘technology-enhanced learning’? Learning, Media and Technology , 40(1), 5–20. 

Cox, R. , Slick, J. , & Dixon, T. (2020). Surviving, thriving, or radical revisioning: Scenarios and considerations for pandemic recovery and response planning . Royal Roads University. 

Czerniewicz, L. (2013, April 29). Inequitable power dynamics of global knowledge production and exchange must be confronted head on. Impact of Social Science. https://press.rebus.community/openatthemargins/chapter/repost-inequitable-power-knowledge/  

Facer, K. , & Sandford, R. (2010). The next 25 years? Future scenarios and future directions for education and technology. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning , 26(1), 74–93. 

Fawns, T. , & Ross, J. (2020, June 3). Spotlight on alternative assessment methods: Alternatives to exams. Teaching Matters . https://www.teaching-matters-blog.ed.ac.uk/spotlight-on-alternative-assessment-methods-alternatives-to-exams/  

Houlden, S. , & Veletsianos, G. (2020, March 13). COVID-19 pushes universities to switch to online classes—but are they ready? The Conversation. https://theconversation.com/covid-19-pushes-universities-to-switch-to-online-classes-but-are-they-ready-132728  

Lambert, S. R. (2018). Changing our (dis)course: A distinctive social justice aligned definition of open education. Journal of Learning for Development , 5(3), 225–244. https://jl4d.org/index.php/ejl4d/article/view/290/334  

Oliver, M. (2011). Technological determinism in educational technology research: some alternative ways of thinking about the relationship between learning and technology. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning , 27(5), 373–384.

Reeves, T. C. , & Lin, L. (2020). The research we have is not the research we need. Educational Technology Research and Development , 68(4), 1991–2001.

Ross, J. (2017). Speculative method in digital education research. Learning, Media and Technology , 42(2), 214–229.

Ross, J. , (2018). Speculative method as an approach to researching emerging educational issues and technologies. In L. Hamilton & J. Ravenscroft (Eds,), Building research design in education (pp. 197–212). Bloomsbury. 

Scharber, C. , Pazurek, A. , & Ouyang, F. (2019). Illuminating the (in)visibility of female scholars: A gendered analysis of publishing rates within educational technology journals from 2004 to 2015. Gender and Education , 31(1), 33–61.

Selwyn, N. (2011). In praise of pessimism—the need for negativity in educational technology. British Journal of Educational Technology , 42(5), 713–718.

Selwyn, N. , Hillman, T. , Eynon, R. , Ferreira, G. , Knox, J. , Macgilchrist, F. , & Sancho-Gil, J. M. (Eds.). (2019). Education and technology into the 2020s: Speculative futures [Special issue]. Learning, Media and Technology , 45(1). 

Staley, D. J. (2019). Alternative universities: Speculative design for innovation in higher education . Johns Hopkins University Press.  

Swauger, S. (2020). Our bodies encoded: Algorithmic test proctoring in higher education. In J. Stommel, C. Friend, & S. M. Morris (Eds.), Critical digital pedagogy: A collection. Pressbooks. https://cdpcollection.pressbooks.com/chapter/our-bodies-encoded-algorithmic-test-proctoring-in-higher-education/  

Tennyson, R. D. (1994). The big wrench vs. integrated approaches: The great media debate. Educational Technology Research and Development , 42(3), 15–28.

Valcarlos, M. M. , Wolgemuth, J. R. , Haraf, S. , & Fisk, N. (2020). Anti-oppressive pedagogies in online learning: A critical review. Distance Education , 41(3), 345–360. 

Watters, A. (2014). The monsters of education technology. Tech Gypsies Publishing. http://monsters.hackeducation.com   

Weller, M. (2020). 25 years of ed tech . Athabasca University Press.

CFP: Attending to Issues of Social Justice through Learning Design

The call for proposals below comes at an opportune time following the Scholar Strike action that occurred on September 8 and 9 both in the US and in Canada.

Journal of Applied Instructional Design Special Issue 2020 
“Attending to Issues of Social Justice through Learning Design” 


We specifically seek contributions from K-12, higher education, and other organizational or workplace contexts (e.g., non-profit organizations, government, corporate) that focus on how learning design can serve as a tool for pushing back against and/or changing systems that often promote or perpetuate injustice and inequality. Such work will likely deviate from more traditional instructional design and performance improvement approaches or improve upon them in some way to address topics that include but are not limited to:

  • Culturally-situated and cross-cultural approaches to instructional design and research
  • Improving performance in the context of workplace inequity
  • Participatory models of learning (e.g., Youth-led Participatory Action Research)
  • Long-term projects that address disparity issues regarding access to technologies and resources (e.g., digital and pedagogical divide)
  • Applications of critical theory in learning design
  • Ethical and responsible (i.e., humanizing) concerns regarding the collection, analysis, and presentation of data and findings

Deadline October 16, 2020. Complete details can be found here:
https://aect.org/news_manager.php?page=21693

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