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The Beautiful, Messy, Inspiring, and
Harrowing World of Online Learning
George Veletsianos, PhD
Canada Research Chair, Associate Professor
School of Education and Technology
Royal Roads University
Islands
School of Education and Technology
http://tinyurl.com/RRUMALAT
You probably know of it because of
its unparalleled beauty…
• Serve & support working professionals (i.e. what most
Schools/Colleges of Education do in Canada/US)
• Focus on outcomes and the learning experience
• Guided by social learning theory
• Refined by learning sciences & education research
• Learning designers working with faculty members
• Flexible
• (1-3 weeks Face-to-face + online = Hybrid) OR (Online)
• Prior-learning assessment, flexible admissions policy
But, here’s what you really need to
know…
We live in fascinating times
Universities are facing numerous
powerful forces that may shape
their future.
a worldwide
economic downturn
globalization and
competition
changing
demographics
reduction of public
funding
accountability
pressures
impact of emerging
technologies
(Morrison, 2003; Schwier, 2012; Siemens & Matheos, 2010; Spanier, 2010).
Questions around the
purpose of education
Rebirth of edtech
“I feel like I’ve been here before”
1922: “motion picture is
destined to revolutionize
our education system …
in a few years it will
supplant largely, if not
entirely, the use of
textbooks”
1999: “education over
the Internet is going to
be so big it is going to
make e-mail usage look
like a rounding error”
Techno-enthusiasm
& techno-determinism
e.g., Technology will ____________
Educational Technology suffers from
exuberant positivity and optimism
(Selwyn, 2011a)
“curious amnesia, forgetfulness”
(Selwyn, 2011b)
Our memento moments
With respect to beliefs…
what we have is two opposing
perspectives
Online learning as wondrous
Online learning as monstrous
They coexist.
Both are accurate.
Both capture the realities of online
learning.
Realities. Plural.
Beautiful
Messy
Inspiring
Harrowing
Online learning can be…
Synonymous with:
appealing. caring. empowering.
flexible
Beautiful Online Learning
Beautiful Online Learning
“Examples of
outstanding [online] instruction
are hard to find.”
Wilson, Parrish, & Veletsianos, 2008
Beautiful Online Learning
•  Engaging students in knowledge
production
Beautiful Online Learning
•  Engaging students in knowledge
production
•  Creation of worthwhile digital artifacts
– E.g., E-books and online textbooks
Beautiful Online Learning
Veletsianos, G. (2013). Learner Experiences with MOOCs and Open Online Learning. Hybrid
Pedagogy: Madison, WI. Retrieved from http://learnerexperiences.hybridpedagogy.com
Beautiful Online Learning
Beautiful Online Learning
Beautiful Online Learning
“My oldest [child] will be 4 this June, and I'm
thinking about her education and…what
resources I want to be able to offer her…so I'm
looking at spending my time in [open courses]
acquiring some of this knowledge, so that I can
enable her education”
Female, 38, homemaker
Engages w/ online learning through iPhone
during “downtime” described as “feeding and
nursing and stuff”
Beautiful Online Learning
“My oldest [child] will be 4 this June, and I'm
thinking about her education and…what
resources I want to be able to offer her…so I'm
looking at spending my time in [open courses]
acquiring some of this knowledge, so that I can
enable her education”
Female, 38, homemaker
Engages w/ online learning through iPhone
during “downtime” described as “feeding and
nursing and stuff”
Beautiful Online Learning
“A routine visit, friendly chit chat … and then
suddenly a quiet chill in the room,
professionals looking at each other but not at
me, an emergency biopsy, a result. I’ve had a
thyroid scan, a chest X-ray, a CT scan, and
tomorrow I’m having a bone scan.”
Harrowing Online Learning
disempowering. student as
consumer. detached. replicates f2f.
Harrowing Online Learning
Delivering education
Designing Learning Experiences
Harrowing Online Learning
“My most vivid memory was this huge
argument that broke out at the [open course]
discussion board about an assignment that I
submitted… [I received] this absolute torrent of
rudeness, just vicious personal attacks that I
never experienced on the internet before… I
mean, I know that they happen on YouTube,
but I did not expect that in a class at all!
The professor was totally checked out, he
never visited the discussion board… and it was
just depressing and discouraging”
Harrowing Online Learning
“I posted a comment stating that the grading
was incorrect. [One] of the teaching staff
[scolded me] stating that it was obvious I
hadn’t viewed the lecture. While I didn’t
expect staff to instantly take my word that
there was a mistake, I certainly didn't expect
negative and condescending remarks...[I was]
left with a partial sense of accomplishment
and feelings of hollowness and
incompleteness.”
Inspirational Online Learning
creative. original. innovative.
Inspirational Online Learning
Inspirational Online Learning
Inspirational Online Learning
Inspirational Online Learning
Students	
  collect	
  water	
  data	
  in	
  the	
  
field	
  and	
  upload	
  it	
  to	
  a	
  database.	
  	
  	
  	
  
Students	
  post	
  blog	
  entries	
  
describing	
  what	
  they	
  are	
  learning	
  
and	
  experiencing	
  on	
  their	
  
expedi8on.	
  
Inspirational Online Learning
See http://www.slideshare.net/veletsianos
COHERE 2013 and ELI 2014 & Collier/Ross for more on this.
Messy Online Learning
varied. complex. real.
Messy Online Learning
To understand the messiness of
learning, the reality of what it means
to learn in digital contexts, we need
empirical inquiry that uses a variety
of methodologies.
Digital learning environments, that replicate traditional
classroom approaches often result in “showcase
environments that are often not much more than computer
assisted page turning” (Kirschner et al., 2004, pp. 47-48).
The reality
• Educators, researchers, and designers working together
• Collaboration, not competition (e.g., institutions to
collaborate on offerings)
• Use the affordances of the technology & the affordances
of openness, to change practice
• Understand the history of educational technology
• Learn from the existing research on learning technologies
• Offer solutions, design the future that you want.
Potential approaches to rectify this…
Thank you!
www.veletsianos.com
www.veletsianos.com/publications
@veletsianos on Twitter
veletsianos at gmail.com

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