A place to log ideas and thoughts

George Veletsianos, PhD

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Tiny Tips #2: COVID-19 and Online Learning

Today’s article in the Chronicle of Higher Ed, Coronavirus and the Great Online-Learning Experiment, argues that researchers should use the natural experiment afforded to them by COVID-19 to examine comparative outcomes between online and in-person courses.

This is bad advice, for the following reasons:

  • A large body of literature has already examined outcome differences between in-person and online courses, and the findings have typically been “no significant differences.” In the cases that researchers found differences, those are typically the result of factors other than the mode of teaching (e.g., extra time to study, better design in one of the two modes, etc). I cover this in the very first chapter in my book Learning Online: The Student Experience which arrives next month.
  • The online classes produced under emergency situations aren’t going to be comparative to the in-person courses. I wish I was optimistic enough to imagine a course designed under stressful conditions within the span of a week to be be as good as the courses which one had months – even years – to create and iterate.

There’s nothing “natural” about the state that we are in. This is not a “natural” experiment of the kind of research that we need. The kind of research that we need asks:

  • What made some faculty, students, and institutions successful in achieving the outcomes they defined?
  • What institutional supports proved to be helpful to students and faculty in times of crises, and in what ways?
  • What roles did instructional designers play in this transition, and what made some more successful than others?
  • What vulnerabilities did this shock reveal and how may we address them?
  • What are the positive and negative externalities of using emergency online teaching/learning?
  • In what ways is this crisis being exploited, to what means, and by whom?

The kind of research that we need also inquires into the stories of people (students, faculty, administrators) to reveal our humanity: How did we come together during this time of crisis? How did we support and care and love one another to do what we could for education at a time of urgent and pressing need?

Tiny Tips #1: COVID-19 and Online Learning

The kind of online learning that many of us aspire to requires careful thought and planning. But what do you do when you don’t have time to carefully orchestrate a well-crafted online learning experience, such as when COVID-19 requires you to abruptly abandon your in-person teaching and switch to an online solution?

Here’s a few tiny tips:

  1. Recognize that you are now in a new environment. You’ll find yourself wanting to replicate your face-to-face course. That’s a losing battle. You have neither the time, and if you’ve never taught online, neither the expertise to do that. And that’s OK. Let me reassure you once again. It’s OK that you aren’t an online learning expert. It’s OK that your new course isn’t dealing with the intricacies of everything that you planned but are now unable to do.
  2. Reach out to colleagues on your campus who have either taught online or whose job is to help others teach online. You probably have an office on campus that’s called The Center for Teaching and Learning or The Center for Teaching Excellence or something similar. There’s people with expertise there, and they can help. But do keep in mind that those colleagues also probably already overwhelmed, so be patient.
  3. Reach out to colleagues online. Over the last 3 days I saw many more threads that I can count on platforms like Twitter, Facebook, Reddit, and individual blogs. There are some great ideas/tips/approaches being shared there, including this post by Tannis Morgan on teaching with one of the most basic tools that we all use on a day-to-day basis – email.

For some of us, online and digital learning is our bread and butter, the world we live in and the world we are experts in. Doctors, and nurses, and epidemiologists respond to COVID-19 in the ways that they were trained to keep the rest of us healthy. At times like these, we can lend a helping hand to each other in the ways that we are familiar with.

(but, beware of vendors that appear our of nowhere promising to put your courses online or offering free software to help you through the crisis, and heed Ayebi-Arthur’s recommendation, who in writing about educational technology responses to the 2011 earthquake in New Zealand, notes that such free gifts “set in motion long-term expectations that need to be managed.”)

CFP: Learning Analytics – Pathways to Impact

Call for proposals for a Special Issue to be published by the Australasian Journal of Educational Technology on the topic of Learning Analytics: Pathways to Impact.

Guest Editors

  • A.Prof Linda Corrin, Swinburne University of Technology, lcorrin@swin.edu.au
  • Prof. Dragan Gasevic, Monash University, dragan.gasevic@monash.edu.au
  • Dr. Maren Scheffel, Open University of the Netherlands, Maren.Scheffel@ou.nl

Focus of the special issue

The field of learning analytics has evolved over the past decade to provide new ways to view, understand and enhance learning activities and environments in tertiary education. It brings together research and practice traditions from multiple disciplines to provide an evidence base to inform student support and effective design for learning. This has resulted in a plethora of ideas and research exploring how data can be analysed and utilised to not only inform educators in the classroom, but also to drive online learning systems that offer personalised learning experiences and/or feedback for students. However, a core challenge that continues to face the learning analytics community is how the impact of these innovations can be demonstrated. As more and more institutions implement strategies to take advantage of learning analytics as part of core business, it is important that such impact can be evaluated and scaled to ensure effectiveness and sustainability.

This special issue provides an opportunity to explore the pathways to impact of learning analytics-based interventions and implementations in the tertiary education environment.

Topics for this special issue may include, but are not limited to:

  • Approaches to scaling adoption and impact of learning analytics
  • Strategies for measuring the impact of learning analytics
  • Evaluation frameworks for learning analytics implementation
  • The intersection between learning analytics and learning design
  • Theoretical lens that help to determine how data can be used as indicators of learning
  • Validity and reliability of indicators and data analysis models in learning analytics
  • Factors that mediate the impact of learning analytics (e.g. ethics)
  • Approaches that promote the interpretability of analytics outputs for stakeholders
  • Policy and strategy frameworks for implementation of learning analytics
  • Leadership models for planning and implementation of learning analytics
  • Approaches that promote stakeholder involvement in adoption of learning analytics
  • Participatory design and co-creation of learning analytics
  • Case studies of learning analytics implementation and impact

Manuscript Submission Instructions

Manuscripts addressing the special issue’s focus should be submitted through the AJET online manuscript submission system. Please review the Author Guidelines and Submission Preparation Checklist carefully, and prepare your manuscript accordingly. Information about the peer review process and criteria is also available for your perusal.

NOTE: When submitting your manuscript, please include a note in the field called ‘Comments for the Editor’ indicating that you wish it to be considered for the “Learning Analytics” special issue. Please direct questions about manuscript submissions to Linda Corrin at: lcorrin@swin.edu.au. 

Deadlines for authors

  • Strict submission deadline: 1st July 2020
  • Decision on manuscripts: 15th September 2020
  • Revised/final manuscripts: 15th October 2020
  • Expected Publication: December 2020

A new graduate certificate program in Science and Policy of Climate Change at Royal Roads

Royal Roads University is launching an online graduate certificate program in Science and Policy of Climate Change. The online certificate will enable students to identify climate solutions and take action to address the climate crisis. This is in partnership with ECO-Canada a non-profit organization that provides strategic human resource solutions for the environmental sector. More details are here.

CFP: Partnerships for scaled online learning and the unbundling of the traditional university

Call for proposals for a Special Issue to be published by the Australasian Journal of Educational Technology.

Partnerships for scaled online learning and the unbundling of the traditional university

Guest Editors

  • Dr. Henk Huijser, Queensland University of Technology, h.huijser@qut.edu.au  
  • Dr. Rachel Fitzgerald, Queensland University of Technology, r8.fitzgerald@qut.edu.au  
  • Professor Gilly Salmon, Online Education Services, UK & Swinburne University of Technology, gilly.salmon@oes.com

Focus of the special issue

Support services and technology platforms have long been delivered in a range of partnerships with external providers. However, partnerships as part of core business have much wider implications for educational technology policy and practice. While digital learning environments make partnerships easy to envisage and execute, partnerships in this area are often complex and at least partially driven by financial motives and marketization (Swinnerton et al., 2018). We believe there are genuine opportunities to open education to international audiences, fulfill the social purpose of higher education and afford opportunities to include non-traditional learners. However, there are concerns about the impact that such partnerships have on educational quality, academic freedom, university reputation and shared governance (Sundt, 2019). For example, online learning in these models may favour individualist over social constructivist approaches to learning, under the banner of personalisation. We acknowledge that developing unbundled models creates challenges regarding curriculum and learning design, however we also believe there are also opportunities for creative and transformational thinking as we move towards a digitally integrated future (Salmon, 2019).

We welcome contributions from early adopters to discuss effective practice and challenges faced. We are particularly interested in the impact of partnerships with private providers on technology enhanced learning and how that should inform both university and government policy.

Call

We invite authors to submit studies, reviews and conceptual articles on topics including, but not exclusive to:

  • Unbundling of the traditional university
  • Reputation maintaining, enhancing and building in entirely global environments
  • The third partners – involving stakeholders such as employers in the mix
  • University arrangements with private companies and their impact on online teaching and learning
  • Models of partnership
  • Social progress and inclusion of non-traditional learners
  • The role and impact of micro-credentialing on partnerships
  • Achieving personalized, active and student-centred digital learning
  • Agile, scalable learning design­­­­
  • The role of technology in online partnerships
  • Flexible delivery models – modes and structures
  • Exploring online and global curriculum
  • The role of academic interventions, tutoring, and support services in partnerships

Manuscript Submission Instructions 

  • Manuscripts addressing the special issue’s focus should be submitted through the AJET online manuscript submission system.
  • When submitting your manuscript, please include a note in the field called ‘Comments’ that you wish it to be considered for the ‘Partnerships for scaled online learning and the unbundling of the traditional university’ Special Issue of AJET.
  • Please review the Author Guidelines and Submission Preparation Checklist carefully, and prepare your manuscript accordingly.
  • Information about the peer review process and criteria is also available for your perusal.

Deadlines for authors 

  • Submission deadline: 2nd March 2020
  • Expected decision on manuscripts: 1st May 2020
  • Revised/final manuscripts due: 5th June 2020
  • Expected Publication of Special Issue: late 2020

Further questions 

Please direct questions about manuscript submissions to Henk Huijser h.huijser@qut.edu.au or Rachel Fitzgerald r8.fitzgerald@qut.edu.au

References

Hill, P. (2018, April 2). Online Program Management: Spring 2018 view of the market landscape [Blog Post]. Retrieved from https://eliterate.us/online-program-management-market-landscape-s2018/

Salmon, G. (2019, Feb 1). From partnership to fusion: Future educational landscapes. [Blog Post]. Retrieved from https://wonkhe.com/blogs/from-partnership-to-fusion-future-educational-landscapes/

Sundt, M. (2019). Professors, ask hard questions of your online providers. Inside Higher Ed. Retrieved from https://www.insidehighered.com/digital-learning/views/2019/01/30/professors-should-ask-hard-questions-their-corporate-online

Swinnerton, B., Ivancheva, M., Coop, T., Perrotta, C., Morris, N., Swartz, R., … Walji, S. (2018) The unbundled university: Researching emerging models in an unequal landscape. Preliminary findings from fieldwork in South Africa. In M. Bajić, N. Dohn, M. de Laat, P. Jandrić, & T. Ryberg, T. (Eds.), Proceedings of the 11th International Conference on Networked Learning 2018 (pp. 218-226). Zagreb, Croatia, 14-16 May 2018.

An example of algorithmic bias

The text below illuminates certain issues of interest, including algorithmic bias, positionality, exclusion, and resistance to algorithmic interventions. It comes from p. 62 in Amrute, S. (2019). Of Techno-Ethics and Techno-Affects. Feminist Review, 123(1), 56–73. https://doi.org/10.1177/0141778919879744

In 2015, anthropologist Kathryn Zyskowski (2018) shadowed working-class Hyderabadi women from Muslim backgrounds as they sat through computer-training programmes to advance their careers…Many women regarded becoming computer literate as an aspiration towards entering an Indian middle class, and therefore not only strictly pursued career skills but also the technological and social trappings of a middle-class lifestyle. However, the very systems to which they aspired often applied sociotechnical filters to keep them out. In a particularly telling example from Zyskowski’s (ibid.) research, a young woman named Munawar who enlisted the researcher’s help to set up a Gmail account was rebuffed at several points. First, Munawar’s chosen email address, which contained the auspicious number 786 (standing for Bismillah-hir-Rahman-nir-Raheem, in the name of God the most gracious the most merciful), was rejected because of the quantity of addresses using that number. Then, over the course of sending several test emails to Zyskowski, the email address was deactivated. Google’s spam filters deemed the address a likely fake and automatically disabled it. Finally, after Zyskowski sent several emails to the account, taking care to write several lines and to use recognisable American English-language spacing, punctuation, forms of address and grammar, the address was reinstated. Zyskowski (ibid.) hypothesises that her interlocutor’s imperfect English grammar, location, name and lack of capitalisation caused the spam filter to block the account. The spam filter, as a kind of ‘sieve’, separated out ‘desired from undesired materials’ (Kochelman, 2013, p. 24). It did this work recursively, making correlations between a set of traits and fraudulent behaviour. As it did, the filter developed a ‘profile’ of a fraudulent account that also marked a population. For Munawar, the population was hers—Muslim, Indian, non-native English speaker. Once identified, the Google algorithm automatically suspended her account. Zyskowski—with her proper grammar, her United States location and her Westernised email address—was able to retrain the algorithm to recognise the new address as legitimate. This example shows one of the fundamental forms of corporeal attunement, namely the way bodies are trained to fit the profile of successful digital subjects. Those bodies that cannot form themselves correctly may not even know they have been excluded from its forms and react with perplexity to these exclusions (Ramamurthy, 2003). Notably, Munawar’s other bodily comportment towards an everyday spirituality as embodied in the 786 had to be erased in order for her to be recognised as a member of a technological contemporary. Those without the correct comportment, which Munawar would not have achieved without the intervention of the US-trained anthropologist, become risky subjects to be surveilled at the peripheries of sociotechnical systems.

Won’t you be my colleague? Vice President, Academic & Provost search at Royal Roads University.

We have a search for an executive-level position. Please share with anyone you think may be interested in joining us.

Reporting to the President, the Vice-President, Academic and Provost (VPA) serves as the chief academic officer and is a key member of the executive team. The VPA has lead responsibility for the development and implementation of academic programs, academic and student support services, academic quality assurance, faculty appointments and faculty relations and academic administrative appointments. The ideal candidate will be a visionary and globally minded leader, who brings experience as an outstanding teacher and researcher and who will respect and thrive in RRU’s collegial culture. A natural tendency of inclusivity, accountability, consultation and transparency is critical for success. With strong interpersonal and communication skills, an inclusive and principled approach to leadership and respect for diversity, the successful candidate will be a proven relationship and community builder. An earned doctorate and experience as a department chair or dean is expected.

Royal Roads University is strongly committed to fostering diversity within its community, welcoming those who would contribute to the further diversification of faculty and staff including, but not limited to, women, visible minorities, Indigenous people, persons with disabilities and persons of any sexual orientation or gender identity.

The University welcomes applications from those who will contribute to the diversity of its community. All qualified candidates are encouraged to apply; however, Canadian citizens and permanent residents will be given priority.

Royal Roads University is being supported in this search by The Geldart Group, an executive search and leadership consulting firm. Should you wish to learn more about this unique leadership opportunity, please call Maureen Geldart at (604) 926-0005. To apply, forward your CV, a letter of introduction and the names of three referees in strictest confidence to info@thegeldartgroup.com.

Yet another end of 2019 post

I wasn’t planning on writing an end-of-year post, but I am feeling inspired by Tannis Morgan, Clint Lalonde, D’Arcy Norman, Martin Weller, and Tony Bates. Notice how 4 of these passionate people are Canadian, and even the one who isn’t, is a hockey superfan?

Lumberjack and hockey player discuss metrics. Photo by CIRA/.CA

CIRA recently published a few seemingly-serious but funny Canadian-themed photos. I thought that the metrics-focused one shown above was appropriate for end-of-year posts that centre around numbers of reader visits, books read, papers written, and so on.

In no particular order, and resisting to make this post solely about professional matters, these are the areas that come to mind as I reflect back on 2019

  • I did a little bit more consulting than other years, and I enjoyed doing so. The highlight was a needs analysis, training, and evaluation to support a University in the Caribbean launch a first-of-its-kind online program.
  • I mentored and employed four doctoral students and one post-doctoral researcher. I would not have been able to do this without federal grants.
  • I took time off and spent a week in Argentina.
  • More and more friends and colleagues have asked me questions about veganism. The surging popularity of and interest in plant-based eating was a trend I followed with excitement in 2019. I transitioned to a vegan lifestyle in 2009, and things have changed a lot since then. I’m excited for what the new decade holds.
  • I’ve done a lot of cooking this year, but not enough baking. Yet, I ate more than enough baked goods.
  • I joined the 2020 Horizon Report expert panel run by EDUCAUSE (and really enjoyed thinking about future trends with others) and the BC Open Education Advisory Board (and with every meeting, I am more and more appreciative of the work that BCcampus does in our province).
  • I continued with a consistent running schedule, then injured myself and had to pause, and now I am running again.
  • I didn’t read as many fiction books as I would have liked, and I am hoping to read more near-future speculative work.
  • I completed the major writing projects that I had in mind for this year.
  • I did not blog as much as I wanted to. I would like to do better next year.
  • I spent a few hours with my grandmother in November. It’s very likely that I won’t see her again, but I didn’t know this at the time.

I hope 2020 brings more health, peace, and happiness to you and your families.

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