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OTESSA 2021 (Congress) Keynote – effectiveness, efficiency, engagement. Where’s equity?

At this year’s Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences, I gave a keynote talk as part of a keynote panel for the Open/Technology in Education, Society, and Scholarship Association, with Dr. Valerie Irvine and Dr. Bonnie Stewart. Below is a draft transcript of my comments.


Good morning everyone. Thank you to Michele Jacobsen (U of Calgary) and Anne-Marie Scott (Athabasca U) for putting together the excellent OTESSA program, and thank you to you all for joining us in our inaugural OTESSA conference. Today I’ll be talking about 4 e’s: effectiveness, efficiency, engagement, and equity.

I was going to talk about a paper that my colleagues and I wrote where we examined Canadian faculty experiences during the pandemic, but I changed my mind last night. I couldn’t sleep and I thought that there are more important and more urgent things to talk about. If you’re interested in that paper, you can read about it in the link that I put in the chat:

But, what might you say can be more important, more urgent, that the painful, anxiety-ridden, and inequitable experiences that faculty have gone through the pandemic?

As you have heard in the introduction of this session, a mass grave containing the remains of 215 children has been found in Tekamploos te sech-ewpmech, at the site of a residential school to what is now known as Kamloops, BC.

So, I would like to begin by acknowledging  that the neighborhood where I live, Royal Roads University, are on the territory of the Lekwungen peoples, the Xwsepsum, and the Esquimalt Nations. As a guest, I am grateful to live and work on these lands. I want to take this opportunity to give you a good sense of my positionality so as to set the context for my talk :

I was born and raised in Cyprus. Up until 1960, Cyprus was a colony, and it is still rife with colonial structures. The war of 1974 which divided Cyprus in half was partly a result of colonialism, animosity, and fascism. My parents were in their late teens in 1974. My father was imprisoned and my mother fled her home. When we were allowed to visit the North part of the country, where my mother grew up, we drove by the fields that my grandfather used to plow. These fields are now plowed by settlers.

Territorial acknowledgements should remind us of colonial structures. Importantly, for the topics we are discussing today, they should remind us that colonial structures impact our universities, and our teaching and learning practices, as faculty, as researchers, as students. In our efforts towards online and blended learning therefore, we need to keep decolonization and equity at the front and centre of it.

Much of the literature around the evaluation of the use of technology in education centers around three outcomes:

Is it effective? Meaning: Do students meet established learning goals and objectives;?

Is it efficient? Meaning, does instruction meet learning goals with minimal expenditure of resources, such as money and time?

And finally, is it engaging? Does instruction draw the sustained attention and positive response of learners?

Amongst the many frameworks available to evaluate instruction, this is the simplest, and focuses on core components. It’s often referred to as e to the power of 3. Charles Reigeluth and Dave Merrill both contributed to the development of this framework.

This simple framework has proven resilient and valuable. Some faculty teach it explicitly. Others use it explicitly in their research. For yet others, it is implicit in their research, in their dissertations, in their scholarship.

This framework is missing a 4th e: equity.

Equity refers to “freedom from bias or assumptions that negatively impact individual’s motivations, opportunities, or accomplishments.”

In other words, what I am coming around to say here is that a good course, a good university education, a good use of technology in education, a good implementation of online and blended learning, a good open education strategy, should not only be effective and engaging, but needs to be equitable.

I am becoming increasingly uncomfortable being in a field in which equity isn’t explicitly centered and visible. I think you should be too. If the pandemic taught us anything, it should be to ask the question: In what kind of world do we live in that we value efficiency more than equity?

Our colleague Brent Wilson asks pointedly: what is the value of a module, instructional interventions, technology and so on, that is engaging but sexist? Or racist? Or implicitly leaves some people behind?

What does this mean in practice? I’m not at a place to be as eloquent to numberous colleagues that have written about this (including many of you here and many of our colleagues who advocate for feminist praxis in our scholarship), but I’ll try: In practice this may mean a diverse and intersectional reading list. Or, it may mean that audiovisual materials used don’t (accidentally or otherwise) stereotype, shame, or degrade people. Or, it may mean that open educational resources are used instead of expensive textbooks. Or it may mean examining those OER to ensure that they don’t homogenize people or don’t privilege western viewpoints.

And that’s not all – we should examine the roots of our field: much of it is grounded in the military, in war, in colonialism, and so today, in addition to thinking about colonialism broadly, I want to ask you to reflect on the ways that our field is complicit with violence and colonialism.


Post-talk note #1: Bonnie highlighted ethics and their importance as a 5th e. That’s an important point. I was grouping ethics and equity together. In continuing to develop this framework, it would be worthwhile to explicitly acknowledge ethics rather than treat them as embedded within equity.

Post-talk note #2: For my US-based instructional design colleagues, I recommend this: Designed for Destruction: The Carlisle Design Model and the Effort to Assimilate American Indian Children (1887-1928) – chapter 4 here.

Resisting remote proctoring software – an imaginary assignment

Below is an imaginary assignment that may be used in a course, workshop, or speaking context aimed at resisting the use of remote proctoring software. This assignment aims to support participants in reflecting on ethics, advocacy, and resistance in the context of educational technology. Feel free to use/reuse.

Laura Czerniewicz argues that one way to respond to the “new normal” of higher education is through resistance. Such resistance, for example, may involve individual faculty members avoiding remote proctoring and surveillance software in particular; students petitioning the institution to stop using such tools or requesting alternative assessments; and institutions abandoning these tools or letting such  contracts end.

But what are some good alternatives to remote proctored exams and how do institutions implement them? How would “resisting” remote proctoring work at an institution? The case study describing the decision to avoid remote proctoring at the University of Michigan–Dearborn ends with the following quote: “We invite further writing and discussion of strategies for limiting the use of remote proctoring in different contexts with the goal of developing a robust, people-centered toolkit for supporting remote assessment in a diversity of campus contexts.” In response to this call, your task is to create a persuasive artifact aimed at encouraging faculty or administrators to avoid using remote proctoring tools. Your persuasive artifact may take many forms. It can be in the form of an email directed at the Center for Teaching and Learning or administrators at your institution encouraging rethinking decisions to adopt these tools; or it can be an infographic for social media distribution; or a leaflet for posting on campus; or a video that you create to raise awareness amongst a specific group of stakeholder; or a petition distributed to the faculty association or faculty council.

Digital education in post-secondary institutions in Canada 2017-2019

While the use of digital technology is education is pervasive in post-secondary contexts in Canada, pan-Canadian data on digital education are relatively scarce. To address this challenge the Canadian Digital Learning Research Association/Association Canadienne de Recherche sur la Formation en Ligne conducts pan-Canadian surveys of higher education institutions, collecting data on the digital education landscape and publishing annual reports of its results. Previous analyses of the data gathered in 2017, 2018, and 2019 have used quantitative approaches. However, the surveys also collected responses to open-ended questions.

Responses to the CDLRA National Survey 2017-2019

Year   n of HEIs invited to participate Response rate % of the Canadian student population base represented by responding institutions
n %
2017 203 140 69 78
2018 234 187 80 92
2019 234 164 70 90

Note. HEI = higher education institution.

Using the qualitative data gathered, colleagues and I completed a study exploring the digital education landscape in Canada and its changes over the 2017-2019 time period. Findings focus on five themes:

  • the growth of digital education,
  • the situated and multidimensional nature of digital education,
  • the adoption of openness,
  • quality and rigour, and
  • the development of alternative credentials.

The paper is available here: Veletsianos, G., VanLeeuwen, C.A., Belikov, O., & Johnson, N. (2021). An Analysis of Digital education in Canada 2017-2019. The International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning. 22(2), 102-117.

Beyond this though, IRRODL’s latest issue includes many interesting papers. My weekend reading list is now packed!

Automated website monitoring and notification

Last week, I had to figure out a new-to-me process to be alerted in real-time when a website changed. I’m describing the problem, solution, and process here in case others find it useful.


  1. I need to monitor a website for real-time changes
  2. I need to be alerted about any changes in real-time.
  3. I cannot manually and continuously refresh the site.
  4. I cannot check the site periodically for changes , as I would risk being alerted about the change late.
  5. To be notified in real-time I need to receive a text or a phone call – not an email. I am not on email all the time. Phone notifications (other than texts/calls) are too distracting, turning us all into pigeons. So, I don’t use them.


There’s a number of website monitoring services that one can use to scan a site for edits, such as visualping and sken. These services send you an email you when they notice a change to a website you are interested in

I used sken for this solution because I had a sense of when the site would be updated, and Sken allows for monitoring websites during specific windows of time at specific intervals (e.g., “check every 1 minute between 3 and 4pm daily”).

First, I created a motoring bot on Sken. Whenever a change is detected, I would receive an email.



Next, I created a filter in my email. I want to the filter to review any incoming emails, and when it notices an email from sken, to send a text message to my phone.

Did you know that you can send a text to a cell phone via email? Yep, that’s still a thing. All the filter above does it to send a text to my phone telling me that I have an email from sken. To do this for Canadian phone carriers, you just need to replace the [10-digit phone number] below with your number (e.g., the blurred forward above would be something like

  • Rogers Wireless: [10-digit phone number]
  • Fido: [10-digit phone number]
  • Telus: [10-digit phone number]
  • Bell Mobility: [10-digit phone number]
  • Kudo Mobile: [10-digit phone number]
  • Sasktel: [10-digit phone number]
  • Solo: [10-digit phone number]
  • Virgin: [10-digit phone number]


I’ve since  solved the problem and deleted the tracker and forwarding. I’m certain that there’s more elegant solutions available (e.g., a website monitoring service that also sends a text in addition to email), but this worked for me. In the process, I learned some things that I can conceivably see being used as part of a data collection strategy (e.g., identifying change over time, such as for example school/university guidance on remote teaching or plans for reopening, etc).

Surveys of Canadian students during the pandemic?

We are working on a project that is informed by surveys of Canadian post-secondary students during the pandemic. We have identified a number of surveys/reports and are making them available in this spreadsheet.

I’m certain we’re missing a few. Have you seen any other surveys or reports informed by student responses that we may be able to look at? Please leave us a comment below, and we’ll add new items to the spreadsheet.

Canadian faculty experiences during COVID-19: Never-ending repetitiveness, sadness, loss, and “juggling with a blindfold on

Many surveys examined faculty member experiences during the pandemic, highlighting the challenges and affordances of a mass transition to remote forms of teaching and learning, but also its unequal and disproportional impacts. In a new study, we wanted to develop a much more detailed and visceral description of what some faculty have been experiencing during the pandemic, informed by our specific interests in online learning and teaching with technology. This study is part of a broader SSHRC grant which funded the postdoc and research assistants who wrote this with me (thank you!). The abstract and citation is below:

VanLeeuwen, C.A., Veletsianos, G., Belikov, O. Johnson, N. (in press).  Never-ending repetitiveness, sadness, loss, and “juggling with a blindfold on:” Lived experiences of Canadian college and university faculty members during the COVID-19 pandemic. British Journal of Educational Technology. or author’s pre-print copy.

We report on the lived experiences of faculty members during the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic, exploring the broader experiences of faculty members as individuals living multi-faceted lives whose homes became their offices, their students scattered geographically, and their home lives upended. Using a phenomenological approach for data collection and analysis, we conducted twenty in-depth interviews with faculty holding varied academic appointments at universities across Canada. Experiences during the early months of the pandemic were described as being overwhelming and exhausting, and participants described as being stuck in a cycle of never-ending repetitiveness, sadness and loss, of managing life, teaching, and other professional responsibilities with little sense of direction. In keeping with phenomenological methods, this research paints a visceral picture of faculty experiences, seeking to contextualize teaching and learning during this time. Its unique contribution lies in portraying emergency remote teaching as an overlapping and tumultuous world of personal, professional, and day-to-day responsibilities.


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.

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