A place to log ideas and thoughts

George Veletsianos, PhD

Category: scholarship Page 2 of 20

In education, what can be made more flexible?

Even though flexibility and flexible learning most usually focus on enabling learners some degree of control and freedom over the location, time, and pace of their online studies (hence the terms “anytime anyplace” learning), flexibility may be applied to a wide range of pedagogical and institutional practices. Here’s some examples:

  • Flexible assessments (e.g., providing learners with “a menu” of assessment options to select from. Dr. Joan Hughes for instance allows students to complete a proportion of pre-determined set of badges in her course. This could also apply to assignment deliverables, wherein some students, for example, may produce essays while others may create videos)
  • Flexible admissions (e.g., providing multiple admission paths. For instance, at Royal Roads University students who do not hold an undergraduate degree may apply for admission under a flexible path that asks them to demonstrate how prior coursework and experience has prepared them for graduate study)
  • Flexible “attendance” (e.g., providing learners to attend class based on their emerging needs. Dr. Valerie Irvine for instance calls this multi-access learning; a situation where a face-to-face classroom is set up in a way that allows learners to choose whether they can attend in f2f or online mode, and to make that decision as needs arise/change).
  • Flexible pacing, not only with respect to activities pertaining to a course, but also with respect to program pacing (e.g., start-end dates).
  • Flexible exit pathways. While flexible admissions refers to an entry pathway, exit pathways refer to how learners choose to finalize their program (e.g., thesis vs. coursework vs. work-integrated learning project options).
  • Flexible coursework options. This is the option where students have some control about the courses they enroll in. Imagining this on a continuum, on the one end students have no option of electives and at the other end students create their own unique interdisciplinary degrees. Typically, students have electives that they select, though that option could be made more flexible through, for example, allowing learners to choose electives from institutions/organizations other than their own.
  • Flexible course duration and flexible course credits. At the typical institution, courses last for X weeks and are worth Y credits (e.g., semester-long and 3-credits, or some variation of the 3-credit system including 1-credit, 6-credits and so on). Flexibility could be applied to this form of structure as well, with course duration and credit dependent on learning needs vis-a-vis a predetermined calendar/schedule. One could imagine for example a 2-credit course, or a 1.5-credit course within a university that typically offers 3-credit courses.

While there’s benefits to flexibility, such as empowering learners through greater agency, I am not arguing for flexibility to embedded in all of these forms. There’s philosophical questions to explore. And practical concerns that need to be overcome: Student information systems for example, might prevent the creation of fractional-credit courses, as I’m certain many of of you know.

What are some other ways that institutions, courses, learning design practices, and education more broadly can be made more flexible?


So you want to publish your #edtech or digital learning book in an open access format?

Every now and then someone asks me whether I know of any non-commercial publishers that don’t charge thousands of dollars in OA fees to publish open access books in the field. In this post, I’ll share two such efforts that I support:

  1. A new venue for your open access book publishing in our area is EdTechBooks.org Not only is this project ingenious, I believe it will quickly scale and grow into something extraordinary. I have a long personal and professional connection to the people running this project, so take that prediction with a grain of salt. If you’re interested in publishing with them, contact them at admin@edtechbooks.org
  2. Athabasca University Press publishes the award-winning Issues in Distance Education book series. Partly because AU Press is one of the few university presses that publish books in open access formats in our field and partly because I’d like to help expand the conversations that we are having in our field I recently agreed to co-edit this series with Dr. Terry Anderson. If you’re interested in publishing with AU Press feel free to contact me. As far as my personal interests go, I am keen to support and see more books from:
  • Under-represented authors, such as women and people of color, whose perspectives and research on topics pertaining to digital education challenge the dominant ways of thinking.
  • Authors who are interrogating various aspects of the history of the field.
  • Authors who are conducting rich ethnographic work (e.g., What’s life like as an instructional designer? What’s it like at an online program management company?)
  • Authors who are conducting critical investigations of various aspects of the field, such as for example, interrogating discourses pertaining to online learning, or interrogating issues relating to power and privilege.
  • Authors whose work provides practical recommendations for addressing the significant challenges and tensions that our community is facing.


Are there any other non-commercial open access publishers in the area that you would recommend?

Women scholars’ experiences with online harassment and abuse

For the last year or so, my colleagues and I have been working on a SSHRC-funded project examining the experiences of harassment that women academics face online. “We” refers to my colleagues Jaigris Hodson, and our two amazing research assistants Chandell Gosse and Shandell Houlden. We’re now at a point where we will start sharing artifacts from this work more and more broadly, including a wesbsite, scenario-based simulations, webinars, and, in due course, cc-licensed pedagogical materials to lead workshops on understanding and responding to online harassment.

Our first two papers sought to understand the experience of online harassment: what does it do? how do women cope with it? what supports do they use to respond to it?

These two papers are available below.

Veletsianos, G., Houlden, S., Hodson, J., Gosse, C. (2018). Women Scholars’ Experiences with Online Harassment and Abuse: Self-protection, Resistance, Acceptance, and Self-Blame. New Media & Society, 20(12), 4689-4708. [PDF Preprint]

Abstract: Although scholars increasingly use online platforms for public, digital, and networked scholarship, the research examining their experiences of harassment and abuse online is scant. In this study, we interviewed 14 women scholars who experienced online harassment in order to understand how they coped with this phenomenon. We found that scholars engaged in reactive, anticipatory, preventive, and proactive coping strategies. In particular, scholars engaged in strategies aimed at self-protection and resistance, while often responding to harassment by acceptance and self-blame. These findings have important implications for practice and research, including practical recommendations for personal, institutional, and platform responses to harassment, as well as scholarly recommendations for future research into scholars’ experiences of harassment.

Hodson, J., Gosse, C., Veletsianos, G., Houlden, S. (2018). I Get By With a Little Help From My Friends: The Ecological Model and Support for Women Scholars Experiencing Online Harassment. First Monday, 23(8). doi: https://doi.org/10.5210/fm.v23i8.9136

Abstract: This article contributes to understanding the phenomenon of online abuse and harassment toward women scholars. We draw on data collected from 14 interviews with women scholars from the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom, and report on the types of supports they sought during and after their experience with online abuse and harassment. We found that women scholars rely on three levels of support: the first level includes personal and social support (such as encouragement from friends and family and outsourcing comment reading to others); the second includes organizational (such as university or institutional policy), technological (such as reporting tools on Twitter or Facebook), and sectoral (such as law enforcement) support; and, the third includes larger cultural and social attitudes and discourses (such as attitudes around gendered harassment and perceptions of the online/offline divide). While participants relied on social and personal support most frequently, they commonly reported relying on multiple supports across all three levels. We use an ecological model as our framework to demonstrate how different types of support are interconnected, and recommend that support for targets of online abuse must integrate aspects of all three levels.

Three new Tier 2 Canada Research Chair postings

Won’t you be my colleague? Royal Roads University has posted three new Tier 2 Canada Research Chairs. Please consider applying or sharing them with interested colleagues:

Indigenous Justice
Digital Strategy, Digital Transformation and the Future of Business
Digital Communication in the Public Interest

 

ECAR Study of Undergraduate Students and Information Technology, 2018

Last week, EDUCAUSE released its 2018 study of Undergraduate Students and Information Technology. I served as a subject-matter expert on this project and I’m excited to see the report appear in public. The EDUCAUSE team did a fantastic job on this. The sections entitled Experiences with Instructors and Technology and A Day in the Online Life of a Student are really interesting, the former for its highlighting that banning technology in the classroom is an equity issue and the latter for providing a glimpse into students’ self-reported online activities.

The key findings are provided below, drawn directly from the report:

  • Practically all college and university students have access to the most important technologies for their academic success. US students reported near-universal access to a desktop, laptop, tablet, or smartphone, with no systematic differences in access based on ethnicity, gender, age, and socioeconomic status. However, students reported low levels of access to newer, more expensive technologies such as augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) headsets and 3D printers.
  • While laptops, hybrids, desktops, and smartphones continue to be rated as very to extremely important to student success, the importance of these devices differs considerably by student demographics. Generally, women, students of color, students with disabilities, first-generation students, students who are independent (with or without dependents of their own), and students who come from disadvantaged socioeconomic backgrounds see their devices as significantly more important to their success than do their counterparts. White students are significantly less likely than non-white students to think desktops, tablets, and smartphones are important to their success.
  • Students’ overall technology experiences continue to be correlated with their evaluation of campus Wi-Fi reliability and ease of login.Students’ evaluation of campus Wi-Fi in various locations has remained largely flat in recent years, but significant gaps remain in terms of the quality of connectivity in dormitories/student housing and outdoor spaces, as well as ease of network login.
  • LMS use remains prevalent across higher education institutions, with continued high rates of use and student satisfaction. Three-quarters of all students reported being either satisfied or very satisfied with their institution’s LMS, and more than three-quarters of students reported their LMS was used for most or all of their courses. This likely reflects satisfaction primarily with the functional aspects of their institution’s LMS.
  • A majority of students continue to express preferences for learning environments that fall somewhere on the “blended” continuum (from mostly face-to-face to mostly online). While a plurality (38%) of students prefer fully face-to-face classroom environments, students who have taken some fully online courses are significantly more likely to prefer blended environments and less likely to prefer purely face-to-face courses.
  • Although a majority of students said their instructors use technology to enhance their pedagogy, improve communication, and carry out course tasks, there are limitations when it comes to personal device use. Instructors encourage students to use their laptops more than smartphones, but nearly a third of students are not encouraged to use their own devices as learning tools in class, suggesting that many students take courses in which faculty discourage or ban the in-class use of students’ technology.
  • Nearly three-quarters of students (72%) who live off campus reported their internet connections at their home/off-campus residence are either good or excellent, and only 2% reported having no internet access at home. Students who live off campus have a stronger preference for online and blended courses than do their on-campus counterparts. This preference may reflect how online learning can benefit those who need to juggle work schedules and family responsibilities.
  • The typical student is fairly serious about doing the work of being a student, spending 1 to 4 hours per day online doing homework and conducting research. Contrary to popular belief, students do not appear to spend most of their time using social media, watching TV, or playing video games. Indeed, the typical student spends 1 to 2 hours on social media and another 1 to 2 hours streaming video; more than half of students reported that they do not play video games.
  • A plurality of students who self-identify as having a physical and/or learning disability requiring accessible or adaptive technologies for their coursework rated their institution’s awareness of their needs as poor. According to students, larger and DR public institutions tend to have poorer awareness of disabled students’ needs than do smaller and AA institutions. In addition to institutional limitations, students’ fears of being stigmatized or penalized for disclosing their disabilities and engaging disability services to receive the aid they need may be contributing to low rates of awareness.
  • Students continue to view student success tools as at least moderately useful. Students view success tools that help with transactional tasks related to the work of being students (e.g., conducting business, tracking credits, planning degrees, conducting degree audits) as slightly more useful than those that help them academically (e.g., early-alert systems, academic resources, course recommendations, improvement of academic performance).
Joseph D. Galanek, Dana C. Gierdowski, and D. Christopher Brooks. ECAR Study of Undergraduate Students and Information Technology, 2018. Research report. Louisville, CO: ECAR, October 2018.

How People Learn II: Learners, contexts, and cultures

The newest edition of How People Learn has been released. Much research has gone into this new edition and I’m looking forward to reading it and sharing it with my students (and, ahem, some of those who approach me with edtech products). Chapter 8 in particular focuses on digital technology, but the whole book is worth our attention.

 

You can download a pdf or read it online for free here.

Open Access Educational Technology books

I want to tell you about a new site that Royce Kimmons is launching: http://edtechbooks.org

This aims to become go-to location for open texts related to educational technology, instructional design, learning design and technology, and related fields. If you’d like to add a book to this collection, bring it to the attention of Royce!

 

The seduction of the digital

Josh Kim wrote a very kind post today over at Inside Higher Ed, highlighting what he sees as three indictments of the role of technology in higher education. There’s good food for thought there, and I’d like to focus on Josh’s third indictment which states that digital technologies distract.

The crux of the matter (for me) is here: “Nor are students the only people on campuses likely to use technologies in a way that inhibits, rather than promotes, learning.”

This point gets lost in the broader conversation around technology distracting from learning. The broader conversation focuses on learners being distracted by… all sorts of things… laptops, social media algorithmically perfected to demand never-ending attention, and so on.

Yet, we talk little about the seductive appeal of technology that positions it as an easy solution to all sort of problems. That seductive property is what is distracting faculty, administrators, instructional designers, and other higher education professionals, not the technology itself, not technology as an object. Problem-solving – dare I say innovation – can exist without the latest gizmo or platform, and I’ve said that so many times, and heard it so many times, that I feel like we should be past this point. We *need* to be past this point. But, in a practice characterized by historical amnesia as Martin Weller aptly reminds us, we need reminders.

Four years ago I gave a talk at the University of Edinburgh. It was a wonderful event, with many amazing people, but I’ll always remember one comment that Jen Ross made. I’m paraphrasing, but she essentially said: We can be frustrated that we have to remind people of the history of the field, of the role that technology plays in education, of its potential and shortcomings. Or, we can be excited that more and more people are joining the field, and more and more people need to learn that “technology” isn’t the one and easy solution.

She was, and is, right. The needle is slow to move, but, at this moment, I choose to be excited.

 

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