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November 2021 talks/panels/events

I participated in four online events in November.  Do I miss being with colleagues in person? Yes. But, I don’t think I’d be able to be with so many colleagues in person in different parts of the world in the span of a month. Would I have tried? Perhaps. And I would have likely exhausted myself over and over.

The first was an invited talk for Université Laval.

Better than normal: Finding a future beyond “a return to normal” on campus | Cette conférence s’inscrit dans une série d’activités visant à poser un regard réflexif sur l’évolution de l’enseignement supérieur, et ce, sous de multiples perspectives et points de vue.

Rather than a return to an imagined “normal” that existed in pre-pandemic times, this talk invites us to explore the future of our teaching and learning environments. What do they look like? What should they look like? Who do they serve, and do they serve everyone equitably? Grounded in ongoing research projects examining student experiences with online and remote learning, and studies examining what the future of education may look like, this talk invites us to recognize that various pre-pandemic teaching, learning, and institutional practices were problematic. “Normal” was (and is) problematic. What are some better futures for students, faculty, and institutions of higher learning?

Plutôt que d’imaginer un « normal » qui existait à l’époque prépandémique, ce webinaire vous invite à explorer l’avenir de nos environnements d’enseignement et d’apprentissage. À quoi ressemblent-ils ? À quoi devraient-ils aspirer? Qui servent-ils et servent-ils nos populations équitablement ? Fondée sur des projets de recherche en cours qui examine l’expérience des étudiantes et des étudiants avec l’apprentissage en ligne, à distance et des études qui s’intéresse à quoi pourrait ressembler l’avenir de l’éducation, cette séance vous invite à reconnaître les problématiques de nos diverses pratiques d’enseignement et d’apprentissage ainsi que nos politiques institutionnelles prépandémiques. Notre “normal” était (et est toujours) problématique. Quelles décisions concernant l’avenir présentent potentiellement de meilleurs résultats pour les personnes étudiantes, le corps professoral, les membres du personnel enseignant et les établissements d’enseignement supérieur ?


The second was a panel discussion hosted by the Open and Distance Learning Association of Australia, as part of the Asia-Pacific Online Distance Education (APODE) week.

Lessons from Learners: Students’ Insights on Effective Learning Online
This webinar features a lively panel discussion with three leading scholars working in online distance education with a strong learner focus to their work. Professor George Veletsianos holds the Canada Research Chair in Innovative Learning and Technology and the Commonwealth of Learning Chair in Flexible Learning. He is well-known internationally for his research in online distance education and is author of the book Learning Online: The Student Experience (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2020). Dr Elaine Beirne works in the National Institute for Digital Learning at Dublin City University, Ireland and has a strong interest in the role of emotions in online learning. She played a key role in the development of A Digital Edge: Essentials for the Online Learner, a free course that has attracted over 10,000 people worldwide. Dr Melissa Bond, previously a Researcher Officer at University College London (UCL) and who has recently returned to Australia, is known for her meta-analysis research on student engagement in educational technology contexts. Melissa is co-author of several seminal major systematic literatures reviews in this area. The panel will discuss lessons that we have learnt from learners and other valuable insights into the online learning experience from a student perspective.


The third was a panel webinar discussion on Instructional Design In & After COVID-19 hosted by Royal Roads University and our MA in Learning and Technology program.
Description: The field of instructional design and instructional designers’ role and value has been amplified by the pandemic as organizations work to continue to provide education and training offerings to their students, staff, and employees. Join us for a conversation with leaders in this space as they share their perspectives on instructional design and the field of educational technology and how it has responded to the challenges and opportunities resulting from the global pandemic.


The fourth was a fireside chat on Gender Equality and Social Inclusion in Open and Distance Learning. This was an internal event for the Commonwealth of Learning (COL), with Dr. Suzan Koseoglu (Goldsmiths, University of London, U.K) and Dr. Sindile Ngubane (Institute for Open and Distance Learning, University of South Africa) aimed at introducing COL staff to current
thinking on equality and social inclusion in Open and Distance Learning, from concepts such as feminist pedagogy, to perspectives on current challenges of social inclusion in learning contexts during COVID-19.

Twine as a reprieve from yet-another-meeting

On Wednesday, my work day started at 8. That’s how it starts, every day (well, except on those days that it starts at 5, like today). And then it went like this:

  • Empirical Educator Project summit 8-9 (in Engageli)
  • Team meeting: Education for Misinformation project 9-10 (in Bluejeans)
  • Break & email 10-1030
  • OTESSA board meeting 10:30-11:30 (Zoom)
  • Research grants budget overview/planning meeting 11:30-12:00 (Teams)

I imagine the above meeting-after-meeting rings true for many of you, as well. My days weren’t like this in the before times, especially the “what platform am I supposed to be in for this meeting now?” feeling.

But I did get to spend some time in the afternoon working on an education simulation in the form of narrative fiction that the misinfromation team is developing (Chandell Gosse, Shandell Houlden, Jaigris Hodson).

We’re working with Twine, and there’s lots to appreciate about that tool. For example, because it generates an html file and works on the browser- rather than the server-side, you can  download/import other people’s projects, and explore their storylines. A while back I imported Hana Feels (TW: self-harm) and September 7, 2020 (a student learning in the pandemic), tinkering with the structure and seeing how it may work for our own project. It would have been incredibly hepful to know this earlier, but I didn’t figure it out until after we created our first simulation. That one aimed at helping people understand the experience of a faculty member facing online harassment.


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.

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