Teaching During a Pandemic: Spring Transition, Fall Continuation, Winter Evaluation

Informed by survey studies using nationally representative samples, in a recent project we examined the nature and magnitude of remote approaches to teaching and learning at three points in time:

  • April 2020: The pivot to emergency remote teaching was well underway.
  • August 2020: Prepping and planning for the fall offerings.
  • December 2020: Looking back at the fall term.

Some of the big picture findings include the following

  • agility and resilience in the face of numerous and ongoing challenges over the time period under investigation
  • the development of a new appreciation of and understanding about online education
  • growing reliance on technology
  • equity as a focal point of interest and concern
  • flexibility as a design feature that of interest and relevance


The report is CC-BY licensed and is available at: Johnson, N., Seaman, J. and Veletsianos, G. (2021) Teaching during a pandemic: Spring Transition, Fall Continuation, Winter Evaluation Bay View Analytics: Oakland CA, March 22, pp. 53.



Who supports scholars who receive online harassment and how effective are those supports?

“Imagine you publish a paper detailing the results of research you spent two years working on. You are excited and decide to share your work on social media, both so people can hear about it, and also because you know your university has a public scholarship strategy in place that encourages doing so. Within hours, however, the abuse pours onto your post. First you are told your research is wrong or useless, and you are surprised at the negative attention given the innocuous subject of your work. But soon it snowballs into something worse, with users descending into more aggressive harassment and even threatening violence against you and your family. Distressed, eventually you pull the post, unwilling to tolerate the vitriol, feeling defeated and diminished. You weren’t prepared for such an outcome, and you aren’t entirely sure what to do next.”

The quote is from the introduction of our latest paper on the harassment that scholars experience. The paper asks: What coping and support mechanisms – other than deleting post – do scholars use? Where does that support come from? Does it come from friends and family? University? The legal system? How effective are those supports perceived to be?

This is our fourth harassment-focused paper (see first, second, and third). Using data from 182 survey participants,  we identified gaps in the support that scholars receive when they face harassment. We identified lack of support at the university level (administration and colleagues) and at the level of digital platforms. We also noted that attitudes and values about gender, race, academic work, and online life worsen the problem, as some scholars noted that they refrained from speaking about “controversial topics” online (i.e. a chilling silencing effect), and also that they often “felt responsible” for the harassment directed at them. The table below summarizes some of these findings

You can access the paper from the link below. If you don’t have library access, here is the author’s copy of the submitted paper.

Houlden, S., Hodson, J., Veletsianos, G., Gosse, C., Lowenthal, P., Dousay, T., & Hall, N., (in press). Support for Scholars Coping with Online Harassment: An Ecological Framework. Feminist Media Studies. https://doi.org/10.1080/14680777.2021.1883086

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.

EDUCAUSE Horizon Report 2021 – exemplar projects solicitation

Once again, this year I am supporting EDUCAUSE with their effort at producing this year’s Horizon Report by participating on the expert panel. The 2020 report was the first I contributed to, and I was incredibly excited with the shape it took compared to past Horizon Reports.

We have recently concluded the voting for the six most important technologies and practices for teaching and learning in higher education.

For 2021, we are continuing the long-standing tradition of reaching out to the community for projects that illustrate these technologies and practices in action. If your institution is working with any of the six (listed below), we encourage you to submit your projects and initiatives via the below-linked form. You are welcome to submit more than one project.

This work can be in almost any form: production or pilot programs, research projects, faculty undertakings, emerging technology trials, or evaluation/assessment projects. The intent is to give readers a more concrete sense of how these technologies and practices are playing out in higher education. We include three such exemplary projects for each of the six technologies and practices highlighted in the EDUCAUSE Horizon Report. We will also be inviting a subset of the authors of the submissions to write up their work in the post for the EDUCAUSE Review Teaching and Learning channel, or present this work in other venues including conferences or webinars.

The six emerging technologies and practices selected by the expert panel for 2021 are:
Artificial intelligence (AI)
Growth of micro-credentialing for educators and students
Learning analytics
Open educational resources (OER)
Proliferation of blended/hybrid modes/teaching models
Shift from remote teaching to quality online learning

The URL for the submission form is:


The deadline for submission is March 15, 2021. These exemplar projects are the heart of the Horizon Report. Many thanks in advance for contributing to the 2021 edition!

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. https://doi.org/10.1080/01587919.2020.1869523 or author’s copy.

One year on; Homegrown expertise, expectations, and inequities

In March 2020, just a few days before higher education institutions and k-12 in North America shuttered down, my colleagues Shandell Houlden and I published a short op-ed. There’s one point in that op-ed continues to continues require our attention. There’s a second point that did not make it into the published version for a number of reasons, but also requires our attention. March 2020 would have been a great time to address these two issues. February 2021 is still a good time, so I am posting them here


The need for skill and preparedness should serve as a reminder that institutions need to cultivate their in-house pedagogical and online learning expertise. The process of unbundling and outsourcing that many institutions have engaged in with respect to online learning in recent years–while enabling them to benefit from the expertise of others–leaves institutions vulnerable to third parties. When Phipps writes that a vendor “offered their platform for free to students in China for three weeks” we should 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.”

[Main points: Cultivate online learning expertise; short-term responses vs. long-term efforts/expectations/processes; be suspicious of “free” offers, as edtech has a history of bait-and-switch offers]

Notably, these lessons will apply beyond higher education. Many K-12 schools faced closures in 2009 in response to the H1N1pandemic, and this is newly becoming a possibility outside of China. The challenges faced here will also be somewhat different, as caregivers negotiate work and children, a struggle which many people are ill-prepared for.

[Main points: Inequities; some people have the resources, knowledge, skills, social-economic-cultural capital, and power to cope and manage and thrive while some do not; e.g., new NBER research [pdf] showing how women academics, especially mothers of young children have been disproportionately impacted] 


We ended with this: “In this increasingly unstable world, crises potentially impact our education systems as much as anything else in their way. This will be true whether the crisis is caused by the circulation of a new pathogen, or something else entirely: war, flooding, or wildfire, as are more common due to climate change. What we have before us is a stark reminder that we should approach the promises of technological solutionism with caution. Flexible and resilient educational systems require more than tools. They demand collaboration, preparation, expertise, resources, and use of lessons learned in the past.”

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