Category: sharing Page 4 of 37

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.

How many colleges and universities use proctoring software?

Understanding how many colleges and universities in North America use remote proctoring technologies matters to students, faculty, staff, and administrators, and it is important for practical, scholarly, and ethical reasons. Beyond rough estimates and statements on proctoring software sites, there’s little data on the prevalent of proctoring software. Royce Kimmons and I tried to estimate proctoring software penetration by programmatically searching 2,155 college and university websites in the U.S. (n = 1,923) and Canada (n = 232) to determine how widely these tools and services were being used. We found that nearly 63% of colleges and universities in the U.S. and Canada use proctoring software, with U.S. institutions being much more likely to use them than Canadian institutions. We report our detailed results in EDUCAUSE review.

Coursera’s IPO

Coursera has filed for an IPO, and here’s the S-1 form. The form is worth a read, if nothing else to get a sense of how the company sees itself. A few quick thoughts:

  • Coursera had 3 revenue streams in 2020:
    • consumer revenues ($192.9 million) – these are revenues directly from individuals (think a learner who bus a subscription)
    • enterprise revenues ($70.8 million) – these are from organisations (e.g., government) using coursera courses for training or universities using coursera courses for their students
    • degree revenues ($29.8 million) – these is the online program management (OPM) part of the company.
  • What does 2020 signify for Coursera? Is it the peak, as the world turned to online/remote learning? Or is it the year where the enterprise and degree offerings became regular parts of other organizations’ offerings? S-1 is transparent on this: “The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted, and may continue to impact, our business, key metrics, and results of operations in volatile and unpredictable ways.”
  • (Unsurprising to anyone, but worth mentioning that) Coursera is also a data company: “We leverage our large partner and customer base, our engaged learner community, and our focus on user-driven innovation to aggregate feedback on features and functionality and consistently improve our offerings and platform.”
  • The ongoing partnership with Google is interesting from a job-search/matching perspective, though the S-1 doesn’t include explicit mention the new offerings launched on March 11, 2021.
  • About half of Coursera’s revenue comes from the US, even though over 80% of learners come from outside the US.

Disclosure and disclaimer: I hold no stake or investments in education or educational technology companies/startups. The above is not financial advice, and if you’re considering investing in this space you should talk to a financial advisor.

New paper: Flexible learning, completion, time, and gender

Online learning is often framed in terms of flexibility, notably flexibility to participate in education from “anyplace” at “anytime.” Flexible designs are powerful – they allow enable access and enhance participation. But, such flexibility may not be afforded to everyone equally. Put differently, flexibility as a design feature or value may make courses more flexible, may accommodate schedules, but not everyone is able to equally take advantage of such flexibility. In other words: Some people are able to exercise more flexibility in their life than others, for a variety of factors, such as financial means, family support, etc etc. We have questioned the degree to which flexibility is equitable here and here, where we have argued that we need to stop assuming that flexible learning benefits everyone equally.

In a new paper, we provide some empirical support for these arguments. Here’s the abstract:

Flexible learning removes barriers relating to time, place, and pace. While time management skills have been identified as necessary for learners to take advantage of flexible learning, relatively little is known about the temporal dimensions of flexible learning and how gender might relate to temporal flexibility and its perceived benefits. To address this gap, we analyzed data from 380,000 students participating in two massive open online courses to create a model that predicts course completion likelihood from learner time management behaviors and gender. Results supported most a priori assumptions. Successful course completers logged in frequently, devoted longer amounts of time to each session, moved quickly through course materials, and completed coursework early. However, consistent study was associated with lower course completion likelihood, and women benefited more from reduced consistency. These findings suggest that temporal flexibility may especially benefit women.

Veletsianos, G., Kimmons, R. Larsen, R., & Rogers, J. (in press). Flexibility, Time, Gender, and Online Learning Completion. Distance Education. or author’s copy.

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