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

Category: sharing

A comment on “tips and resources for instructional designers entering the field”

Posted on May 16th, by George Veletsianos in sharing. Comments Off on A comment on “tips and resources for instructional designers entering the field”

What advice and resources would you offer to early-career instructional designers? That’s the question Inside Digital Learning asked practicing instructional designers. There’s many worthwhile insights for aspiring designers in the piece. I enjoyed reading it, and you might like it, too.

I’d like to add three points:

The Association for Educational Communications and Technology (AECT) is the flagship organization for instructional designers in North America. The organization’s annual convention is usually in October. Members participate in one or more divisions of interest (e.g., Distance Learning, School Media & Technology, etc), and divisions often offer free webinars. For example, here’s Dr. Patrick Lowenthal discussing the use of live meetings in asynchronous online courses. [Disclosure: I have been a member of AECT since 2005, and at one point I was the president of the Research & Theory division. In other words, I’m biased]. Other organizations that may be of interest to IDs, but don’t necessarily focus on ID as much as Educause, OLC, and ALT (UK).

Instructional design is about problem-solving. Are you interested in helping others solve instructional and learning problems? You’re in the right field. You might be asked to collaborate with others in order to improve learning outcomes, reduce dropout rates, improve course participation rates, convert face-to-face courses to online courses, and so on. Be warned though: Some problems may be more interesting than others, and even though instructional designers should be working collaboratively with faculty members and others(e.g., media developers, data scientists, etc), that doesn’t always happen (unfortunately).

Problem-solving is not just about technology. The best way to illustrate this is to use a problem from the list above, so let’s pick the wicked problem of “improving learning outcomes.” Novice instructional designers might gravitate towards exploring what technologies might help them address the problem, in what Tanya Joosten describes as the act of throwing spaghetti on the wall hoping that it will stick. Instructional design involves analysis: Why are learning outcomes poor? Might it be that they are not well-defined? Are objectives, instruction, and assessment well-aligned? Perhaps enrolled learners don’t have the pre-requisite knowledge coming into the course? Could it be that learners are facing significant challenges that have nothing to do with the content of the course, but which nonetheless conflict with the design of the course? Solutions to these (and a slew of other problems) can be found in redesigning courses, policies, and practices without necessarily adding/removing technology to/from the mix. In our Master’s program, we highlight design – sometimes coupled with technology, often without – as central to innovation.

What other advice do you have for aspiring instructional designers?

What audiences do academics imagine finding online?

Posted on March 5th, by George Veletsianos in my research, networked scholars, scholarship, sharing. Comments Off on What audiences do academics imagine finding online?

When online, people draw on the limited cues they have available to create for themselves an imagined audience. This audiences shapes our social media practices and the expression of our identity. While institutions encourage scholars to go online, and many scholars perceive value in online networks themselves, limited research has explored the ways that scholars conceptualize online audiences.

Audiences by NordForsk/Stefan Tell

 

In a recent paper, we were interested to understand how scholars conceptualize their audiences when participating on social media, and does that conceptualization impacts their self-expression online. Below is a short summary of the results. The full study is here: Veletsianos, G., & Shaw, A. (2018). Scholars in an Increasingly Open and Digital World: Imagined Audiences and their Impact on Scholars’ Online Participation. Learning, Media, & Technology, 43(1), 17-30.

We used a qualitative approach to this study, interviewing 16 individuals who represented a range of academic disciplines and roles. Data were generated from two sources: semi-structured interviews with each participant, and examination of the social media spaces they used (e.g. blogs, Facebook, Twitter).

Participants identified four specific groups as composing their social media audiences: (1) academics, (2) family and friends, (3) groups related to one’s profession, and (4) individuals who shared commonalities with them. Interviewees felt fairly confident that they had a good understanding of the people and groups that made up their audiences on social media, but distinguished their audiences as known and unknown. The known audience included those groups and individuals known to interviewees personally. The unknown audience consisted of members whom participants felt they understood much about but did not know personally. Interviewees reported using their understanding of their audience to guide their decisions around what, how or where to share information on social media. All participants reported filtering their social media posts. This action was primarily motivated by participants’ concerns about how postings would reflect on themselves or others.

The audiences imagined by the scholars we interviewed appear to be well defined rather than the nebulous constructions often described in previous studies. While scholars indicated that some audiences were unknown, none noted that their audience was unfamiliar. This study also shows that a misalignment exists between the audiences that scholars imagine encountering online and the audiences that higher education institutions imagine their faculty encountering online. The former appear to imagine finding community and peers and the latter imagine scholars finding research consumers (e.g., journalists).

Recommended books of 2017

Posted on December 10th, by George Veletsianos in sharing. Comments Off on Recommended books of 2017

Though there’s still a few weeks to go in 2017, I thought it’s the right time to highlight a few books I read this year that I found powerful, incisive, and significant in one way or another.  This is not a definitive list, but as I’m increasingly finding the bulk of the literature examining instructional design, educational technology, and learning sciences to be insular, I am drawn to other places for inspiration, compassion, and action.

  • Lower Ed: The Troubling Rise of For-Profit Colleges in the New Economy, by Tressie McMillan Cottom
  • Paying the Price: College Costs, Financial Aid, and the Betrayal of the American Dream, by Sara Goldrick-Rab
  • Kill All Normies: Online Culture Wars from 4Chan and Tumblr to Trump and the Alt-Right, by Angela Nagle
  • Living a Feminist Life, by Sara Ahmed
  • Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body, by Roxane Gay

What have you read this year that tops your list?

Recharging

Posted on August 6th, by George Veletsianos in sharing. Comments Off on Recharging

I remember watching a TV show back when I moved to Canada in which the protagonist said something to the effect of “Like most Canadians, I enjoy the great outdoors.” I don’t know whether enjoyment of the outdoors is a Canadian trait but I do know that there’s many hiking trails in BC that I’ve enjoyed. One of them is the Heart Trail on Pender island, which is exactly what I think I need on a daily basis.



RA positions for students to join our research team

Posted on June 16th, by George Veletsianos in my research, open, Royal Roads University, scholarship, sharing. 1 Comment

 

If you are doctoral student or know of one interested in a research assistantship, please share this job posting with them:

https://humanresources.royalroads.ca/job-posting/research-assistant-3-x2

Successful applicants need to be Canadian citizens (or permanent residents) and enrolled in a doctoral program, but they do not need to be enrolled at a Canadian University. We will have two more research assistantships available for MA/PhD students as well. Those are not posted yet, but please don’t hesitate to contact me with questions if interested.

These positions are aimed at hiring MA/PhD students to work with my colleagues and I on two separate projects.
The first project is in collaboration with Royce Kimmons and the second is in collaboration with Jaigris Hodson. The students hired will work with us (and the rest of the research team) to conduct qualitative and quantitative research on social media use over time and faculty/student experiences with online learning and social media.

#NotAllEdTech and critical #edtech conversations

Posted on May 19th, by George Veletsianos in emerging technologies, scholarship, sharing. Comments Off on #NotAllEdTech and critical #edtech conversations

The article below was posted on Inside Higher Ed. I’m copying and pasting it here for posterity.

 

#NotAllEdTech Derails Critical Educational Technology Conversations

Last month, Rolin Moe and I published an essay in EDUCAUSE Review highlighting ideological and sociocultural factors associated with the rise of Educational Technology (hereafter EdTech). Motivated by two responses to our essay, I decided to write this additional piece highlighting an argument/misunderstanding that can often circumvent and derail critical discussions in the field.

The critique, offered by Downes and Kim, counters our underlying premise. They say: Not all educational technology is characterized by technocentric, market-centric, and product-driven ideologies. Downes argues that the way we describe educational technology doesn’t describe him – and by implication many that work in the field. Kim notes that he doesn’t know anyone in the field who thinks and behaves in the ways that aligns with how we describe the rise of EdTech.

Moe parsimoniously summarized these responses as #NotAllEdTech, as a hashtag version of not all educational technology is this way, paralleling usage of the phrase “not all men.”

I will unpack the meaning of #NotAllEdTech here.

#NotAllEdTech posits that not all educational technology is malevolent and not all educational technology represents an insidious attempt at privatizing and automating education. The #NotAllEdTech argument notes that there are many good people in our field. People who care. Entrepreneurs, researchers, and colleagues of many vocations – instructors, instructional designers, directors of digital learning  – who are working, in their own way, to improve teaching and learning with technology. Not all educational technology is sinister, atheoretical, ahistorical, and driven by unsavory desires. #NotAllEdTech. Individuals that make this argument seem to want to guard themselves, and others, against being defined by the ideologies we identified in our original paper.

This all makes sense, of course. If it weren’t for the thoughtful, caring, creative, innovative, and justice-oriented people in the field focused on making positive change in education and society, I would have switched careers a long time ago. Moe and I, and countless colleagues, use educational technology toward valued ends, from providing educational opportunities where none have existed before, to providing them in more flexible ways, to re-thinking the ways students learn and instructors teach. Making a meaningful contribution to society is at the core of this multi-faceted and exciting field.

We know that there is good in educational technology. To borrow Downes’s terminology, we know that educational technology can be benign.

But, that’s not the point.

Just because there are many well-intentioned people in the field, just because our essay doesn’t accurately characterize Downes, just because Kim doesn’t “know of ” anyone who thinks of educational technology in the ways we described, it doesn’t mean that educational technology is operating outside of socio-cultural, -economic, and –political forces.

I’m certain that many well-intentioned people were involved in a wide-range of initiatives that ended up being problematic. Many well-intentioned individuals believed in xMOOCs and for-profit online universities as emancipatory. Many well-intentioned individuals write, adopt, and otherwise participate in the operations of the textbook publishing industry despite the exorbitant prices that some publishers charge. Many well-intentioned individuals review for or publish in non-open-access journals and otherwise support the academic publishing industry despite the restrictions the industry places upon knowledge dissemination. Many well-intentioned individuals imagined the aforementioned practices as ways to democratize access, but the presence of well-intentioned individuals did not ensure positive outcomes.

The most pressing problem with the #NotAllEdTech argument though, is that it perpetuates a dangerous counternarrative.

#NotAllEdTech can be a tactic that derails and deflects from discussions of educational technology as a practice that needs deep questioning. #NotAllEdTech could, perhaps inadvertently, redirect attention on the optimism surrounding educational technology, ignoring the broader landscape around which educational technology operates. It might also create a false binary: the heroes and good guys of EdTech vis-à-vis the bad ones (e.g., for-profits, large companies, and so on). Most importantly, such a binary might imply that those on the good side are somehow shielded by outside forces (some of which, such as pressures to rethink our practices, might in fact be very useful).

What I fear, and hope to avoid, is a world where conversations about educational technology focus solely on individuals (e.g., those who use the technology, create the technology, etc.), while avoiding criticisms of educational technology as an overly optimistic practice shaped by societal trends. It’s easy to shift the focus on individuals. It’s easy to blame teachers for not using technology in participatory ways, faculty for not employing more progressive digital pedagogies, and researchers for not publishing in open access venues. But such blame, such a “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” approach, ignores the unequal distribution of power in our social systems and ignores sociocultural and sociopolitical constraints that individuals face. Teachers might face testing regimes that favor certain (poor) pedagogies. Researchers might face institutional policies or disciplinary norms that favor publishing in certain (closed) journals. Using a parallel example, it’s easy (and tempting) to claim that Uber drivers enjoy opportunities to supplement their income, work at their leisure, and make use of idle resources (i.e. their cars), and easy to avoid investigations of the broader social trends surrounding the gig economy.

Have we had successes using educational technology to re-imagine pedagogical approaches, expand flexibility, reduce costs, improve outcomes, and escalate access? Of course we have. And the future is bright. But, if we keep ignoring the ways that educational technology is a symptom of powerful forces, such as our changing economy[1], outside of the control of any single well-intentioned individual we might find ourselves supporting systems and practices that are in conflict with the positive societal ideals that we are aspiring towards.

Through such conversations, our field becomes more vibrant, critical, and reflective. And, for that, despite our disagreements, I’d like to thank Downes and Kim.

Being online: Recommendations for early-career academics

Posted on May 15th, by George Veletsianos in Ideas, my research, online learning, open, papers, scholarship, sharing. Comments Off on Being online: Recommendations for early-career academics

When I wrote my book Networked Scholars, I was very intentional in my writing. I wanted to avoid writing a “how to” book. Not that there’s anything wrong with “how to use social media” books, but there’s plenty of those, not to mention countless blog posts and advice columns on outlets like Inside Higher Ed, The Chronicle, etc.

Beyond that though, my interests aren’t social media per se. My interests are on the ways that people learn online and the ways that knowledge is managed, negotiated, developed, and shared in digital environments. Though social media are central to these process these days – and let’s face it, most media are social nowadays – there are practices central to knowledge exchange and dissemination that have nothing to do with the technology, such as open access publishing and self-archiving.

What does this have to do with networked scholars? Well, I think the time is ripe to actually write a book of suggestions, principles if you will, for early-career academics (PhD students, new assistant professors). The suggestions will go beyond social media, aiming to (a) help people be more effective and productive online, and (b) help faculty and faculty trainers prepare people in these efforts.

This book will be different. It will be laconic and will nudge individuals to be more awesome in their online practices. I’m partnering with a graphic artist to create it. Below is a page from our early work.

Do you know of a publisher who might be interested? Are you a publisher that is interested? I am exploring Punctum Books, but would love to hear other suggestions.

Liberate your research

Learning Design at Pearson

Posted on December 21st, by George Veletsianos in learner experience, my research, online learning, pedagogical agents, scholarship, sharing. Comments Off on Learning Design at Pearson

Last week, a reporter from EdSurge reached out to me to shed some light on what Pearson called their Learning Design Principles. The EdSurge article is here, but below is a more detailed rough draft of the points that I made to share. I am posting them here for a fuller picture of some of my thoughts.

  1. Nothing proprietary (yet, perhaps). I saw a number of sources note that Pearson released their proprietary learning design principles. There’s not much proprietary in the principles. All of these ideas are well-documented in the literature pertaining to educational technology found in cognitive psychology, learning sciences, instructional design, and education literature.
  2. It’s good to see that Pearson is using findings from the education literature to guide its design and development. Some of these principles should be standard practice. If you are creating educational technology products without considering concepts like instructional alignment, feedback, and scaffolding, authentic learning, student-centered learning environments, and inquiry-based learning, you are likely creating more educational harm than good. The point is that using research to guide educational technology should be applauded and emulated. More educational technology companies should be using research to inform their designs and product iterations.
  3. BUT, since around 2011, the educational technology industry has promoted the narrative that education has not changed since the dawn of time. With a few exceptions, the industry has ignored the history, theory, and research of the academic fields associated with improving education with technology. The industry has ignored this at its own peril because we have a decent – not perfect, but decent – understanding of how people learn and how we can help improve the ways that people learn. But, the industry has developed products and services starting from scratch, making the same mistakes that other have done in the past, while claiming that their products and services will disrupt education.
  4. Not all of the items released are principles. For example, “pedagogical agents” is on the list but that’s not a principle. Having studied the implementation of pedagogical agents for more than 7 years, it’s clear that what Pearson is attempting to do is figure our how to better design pedagogical agents for learning. Forgive me while I link to some pdfs of my past work here, but, should amagent’s representation match the content area that they are supporting (should a doctor look like a doctor or should she have a blue mohawk?). Table 1 in this paper provides more on principles for designing pedagogical agents (e.g., agents should establish their role so that learners have a clear anticipation of what the agent can and cannot do: Does the agent purport to know everything or is the agent intended to ask questions but provide no answers?)
  5. As you can tell from the above, I firmly believe that industry needs research/researchers in developing, evaluating, and refining innovations.

But more importantly, happy, merry, just, and peaceful holidays to everyone!