Lifelong learning in glowing colors: Reality or delusion?

Having faced a lot of personal challenges myself, I have always been a strong proponent of increased access to higher education. Thanks to my graduate diploma in multimedia instructional design and master’s degree in distance education and having spent the last four years working on my Ph.D. in educational technology (hoping to defend in June-July), access has always been a core value in my work and the force behind my creativity. I have worked hard to provide value, service and increased opportunities to online students and will continue to do so in any capacity after I graduate.

Having said that, higher education institutions want online students’ business and I feel they tend to paint lifelong learning in glowing colors: you can study from home, in your pyjamas, with a good cup of coffee and the dog on your lap. Well, you know what? Life happens. There are work deadlines, sick kids, aging parents, dentist appointments, tax income reports to be filled, and garbage to be taken out. I am not talking about me personally as I have been extremely privileged in terms of emotional support from my loved ones and financial assistance from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council. But prospective students need to know that in spite of all its charm, their online graduate program will be very demanding both effort- and time-wise.

I do not believe that online graduate studies should be marketed for their convenience and “user-friendliness”. They are, after all, graduate studies and one needs to be prepared to be challenged, challenge other people’s thoughts and materials, explore their own values, create new content and determine how this new content can best be adapted to their own circumstances, with the goal of making a significant contribution to society.

I have worked with instructors and students from about 15 North American universities over the last few years. I have seen the best and the worst. When students remain at the exploration stage throughout their master’s degree, I am sorry but I do not think that this serves the goals of higher education. Their lifelong learning efforts would be better spent on learning a new language or learning to code, not attending a graduate program. When good reputation universities start offering under-par online programs aimed at a clientele that is not knowledgeable, motivated, autonomous nor technology-savvy, it spells trouble and this leveling down has nothing to do with increased access.

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Great references on synchronous online learning (webconferencing)

I am just taking a moment to share these good readings on synchronous online learning (webconferencing) as a way of engaging students and fostering communities of inquiry.

Chen, N.-S., Ko, H.-C., Kinshuk, Lin, T. (2005). A model for synchronous learning using the Internet, Innovations in Education and Teaching International, 42(2), 181-194.

Schullo, S. J. (2005). An analysis of pedagogical strategies: Using synchronous Web-based course systems in the online classroom. Unpublished dissertation, University of Florida.

Stewart, S. (2008). A study of instructional strategies that promote learning centered synchronous dialogue online. Unpublished dissertation, University of South Florida.

Tolu, A. T. (2010). An exploration of synchronous communication in an online preservice ESOL course: Community of inquiry perspective. Unpublished dissertation, University of South Florida.

Wang, S. K., Hsu, H. (2008). Use of the webinar tool (Elluminate) to support training: The effects of webinar-learning implementation from student-trainers’ perspective. Journal of Interactive Online Learning, 7(3), 175-194.

Yamada, M., Akahori, K. (2007). Social presence in synchronous CMC-based language learning: How does it affect the productive performance and consciousness of learning objectives? Computer Assisted Language Learning, 20(1), 37- 65.


Posted in Blended online learning design, Community of Inquiry, E-learning, Higher education, Online learning, Socioconstructivism, Synchronous | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Ensuring quality online learning

In this report shared by Tony Bates, Bill Gates offers his views on ensuring quality online learning:

One step that would help is having course standards that break down all of the various things to be learned into a clear framework and connecting the online material to this framework. Over time I think a large community of contributors and reviewers will develop and allow online material to be easy to access and a crucial resource for all types of education. There will need a number of pilot to see how to take this resource and blend it into the classroom experience. I plan to spend a lot of time on this to see what would help get it to critical mass.

To me, this seems like a rather complicated and inefficient way to consider learning, not to mention the huge costs associated to such an undertaking. While I cannot see concrete and positive application in the classroom in general, I am convinced that it could not possibly apply to higher education. Sustaining a learning community is a recommended online educational practice (Larramendy-Joerns & Leinhardt, 2006). Objectivist approaches to curriculum design and delivery tend to be quite cumbersome as opposed to “lighter” constructivist approaches, especially in this day and age where the emphasis is on collective knowledge building through resource sharing among learners.

One of my doctoral research questions is “How to define quality in a virtual graduate seminar?” While I am still refining my thoughts on this, my results indicate that objectivist practices do not contribute to the quality of online learning. These results support Bangert (2010): constructivist teaching practices are more appropriate for guiding the design and delivery of online courses in higher education.

Posted in Blended online learning design, Community of Inquiry, Doctoral research, E-learning, Education, Graduate studies, Higher education, Interaction, Online learning, Socioconstructivism, Sustainability, Virtual graduate seminar | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Presenting at the Association for Educational Communications and Technology

I am pleased to report that my conference proposal They Are Asking for More: Engaging Graduate Students in a Virtual Seminar has been accepted. I will present at the AECT Convention in Jacksonville, Florida in November.

This year’s convention theme is Celebrate 3.0: Design.Learn.Community. I am going to present the preliminary findings of my doctoral research conducted at the graduate level in five North American universities. Data were collected through post facto observations of synchronous online graduate seminars, interviews with faculty members, students and instructional designers, as well as mid-term and after-the-term online student questionnaires.

I will help participants collectively determine which successful practices they would consider adopting in their daily practice to foster a community of inquiry where interaction plays a key role toward higher-order learning. I believe this session will be of special interest to faculty members and instructional designers.

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Don’t miss BOLD discussions!

The BOLD (blended online learning design) research group has a new Facebook page. You’re very welcome to join us and engage in the discussion. It will allow for more fluid discussion and you can still access all the resources on the BOLD official website.

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Blended online learning design

Accessibility, quality, social learning, engagement… Some of BOLD’s main concepts.


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The academic publishing game

Thanks to Dr Inger Mewburn, who is a Research Fellow at RMIT University in Australia, for sharing great information in PhD2Published.

Publish or perish… But where you choose to publish has to be a thoughtful decision and apparently, graduate students have a rather passive attitude in this matter. In collaboration with Australian universities, the Government of Australia has run a “Excellence in Research Australia” (ERA) exercise twice for policy setting purposes. It resulted in a ranking list of academic journals worldwide. While I still have to find Canadian or American equivalents (any suggestions?) I was very curious about the ranking of journals in my field (educational technology and online learning).

It turns out that if I were to apply for a grant from the Australian government, a publication in the American Journal of Distance Education or the Journal of Distance Education would get me a C score. Actually, I wasn’t able to find any A journal in my field and just a handful of Bs:


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