Paul Stacey

In For Questioning

cc licensed (BY NC SA) flickr photo shared by Pyriet

Do you think online learning is isolating, impersonal and devoid of social contact? Have you ever used Skype, WebEx, Blackboard Collaborate, or Facebook? Do you know what an Internet discussion forum is? Have you ever been moved to tears or laughed out loud by something on the Internet? Have you ever taken online learning?

Is Abject Learning really abject? Which of the following three Canadians do you think has contributed the most to e-learning – Murray Goldberg, Tony Bates, Stephen Downes? If you could spend time with one of these three which would you choose? Do you think OLDaily is a platform for Stephen Downes’ personal views or a research program of the National Research Council’s Institute for Information Technology? If health and education together represent approximately 60-70% of all provincial budget expenditures (Ontario, BC, …) why is there so much research funding available for health and virtually none for education?

Isn’t there a tremendous potential for Canada to develop and roll-out online learning for the trades at a national level? Wouldn’t it be fantastic if that development led to Open Educational Resources for the trades? In Canada, where education is a provincial mandate not a federal one, is it possible the provinces could collaborate on such an endeavour? At what point will we switch to thinking about education globally not regionally?

Is it OK with you that faculty are not required to know anything about teaching? Do you think the government and institutions are meeting their responsibilities to the public by not requiring faculty to know how to teach? Do you think that the teaching practices associated with online learning are the same as the teaching practices used in the classroom? Are you fearful that online learning will eliminate the need for faculty? If I said to you that a faculty member can be replaced by a pre-recorded lecture streaming from a server, would you believe me? Or would you find such an idea laughable? Is a lecture an effective means of providing education? Do you think of lecture capture as an innovation? Or is that laughable too? Do students like having lectures available online? How would you teach online?

Do you know the difference between synchronous and asynchronous? Do you get all atwitter over Tweets? If you had to choose between using a blog or a wiki for online learning which would you choose, and why? If I said to you the first online course I ever took was on Enjoying Wine would you believe me? Can you imagine how such an online course would structure activities to engage students’ sense of smell and taste? Have you ever enjoyed champagne with popcorn on a hot summers day?

cc licensed (BY SA) flickr photo shared by Stéfan

Do you think online learning is an effective alternative to campus based learning? If not, why not? Are you aware of quality assurance practices for online learning? Isn’t it odd that online learning is subject to quality assurance but on campus learning is not?

Should online learning cost the same as campus based learning? Should tuition for an online course be the same as for an on campus course? If you had to choose between investing public funds in creating more on campus buildings or supporting the build out and provision of online learning infrastructure which would you choose? Are you interested in online learning for cost savings reasons? Cost savings for whom? With more and more campus based courses putting technology in the classroom and using Learning Management Systems to house course content is that saving money or adding more cost? Does anyone really know what the ROI of online learning is? Or even how to find out? Do you think it’s OK that Canada’s students are carrying so much debt on graduation?

When we’re transitioning campus based courses online should the learning outcomes be the same? Should we be considering the possibility of having special learning outcomes related to the online learning experience – say outcomes related to technology literacy and digital communications? Is it possible to do things through online learning that just aren’t possible on campus?

Do you believe that the best way to learn something is to teach it to someone? How important is peer-to-peer based online learning? Are the experiences, knowledge, and skills students bring equally important as that of the teacher? Should students teach each other? Can online learning be personalized to provide multiple paths and options so students only have to study stuff they don’t know? Would you take a course from P2PU?

cc licensed (BY NC SA) flickr photo “David Lynch Interrogation Chair” shared by Homies in Heaven

Do you think traditional campus-based universities and colleges are doomed? What do you want universities and colleges of the future to look like? Should contemporary education focus on serving traditional geographic catchment areas or go global? How will institutional collaborations and partnerships shape and create a connected world? Would you like to participate in virtual classrooms that include students from around the world sharing perspectives from their country and culture? Do you agree with Lawrence Lessig that the education academy has an “ethical obligation at the core of its mission which is universal access to knowledge in every part of the globe“? Are you in favour of DIYU? What about OERu?

Can science be taught online? What about the labs? Would you hire someone to work as a scientist in a lab if their only exposure to the laboratory environment was through virtual means? Is most professional science work mediated by technology making use of computer-based instrumentation mainstream? Do you consider unmanned deep sea submarine experiments or Mars rover experiments “real science”? Are you comfortable with doctors using robots to do surgery from thousands of miles away?

Can art be taught online? What about the studio portion? Do you think visual artists must learn how to use a physical brush or are you OK with them learning to use the digital brushes available in Photoshop and Illustrator?

If collaborations and partnerships are the future of education why does government funding for education reward autonomy and competition? Is education a commodity? Or is education a public service? Should education be about economic development and acquiring skills for the work place or development of socially aware and responsible citizens? Can online learning support societal goals such as access to education, cultural diversity, and social inclusion?

How do education and learning theories like behaviourism, cognitivism, and constructivism work in an online learning context? Is connectivism the first new education theory for the digital age? Should online learning instructional designers foliow the ADDIE model or do we need to invent a new model that involves a more iterative, on-the-fly approach? Do we need new pedagogical models for online learning that differentiate the way different fields of study are taught online? Would pedagogical approaches for teaching business online be equally as effective for teaching nursing?

Are you aware that in the US states providing online learning to students not resident in that state require authorization from the state where the student resides? Can you imagine applying that principle more globally? Do you think thats bizarre in today’s borderless digital world? Can’t a student choose for themselves where they get their education from?

Are you in favour of a monolithic fully integrated online learning technology platform as is being assembled by Blackboard through acquisition of WebCT, Angel, Elluminate and Wimba? Or do you prefer a more flexible loosely coupled systems approach? Does Providence Equity Partner’s purchase of Blackboard for $1.64 billion make sense to you? On the Student Information Services (SIS) side is SunGard Higher Education Systems purchase by Hellman and Friedman LLC, a private equity company that already owns Datatel Inc good news for online learners? Will Hellman and Friedman (SIS) and Providence Equity (LMS) play together to create a unified edtech campus?

Is it possible for people to be addicted to their digital devices? Or is that as ridiculous as saying people who are overweight are addicted to knives, forks, and spoons?

If online learning is growing so fast and becoming increasingly core to both on campus and online education offerings why do so few institutions have an educational technology and online learning strategic plan?

Do you want to ask me a question? Do you think these questions make a profile of me? Are you curious how I’ll use your answers?

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This post is inspired by Padgett Powell’s novel “The Interrogative Mood” in which every sentence is a question.

Professional Development Events and the E-learning Amoeba

I’ve been busy lately helping plan, organize, fund, and facilitate a number of events. I was thinking this morning about how they collectively convey an array of current e-learning trends. Here are the events so you can see what I mean:

I sometimes imagine e-learning as an amoeba. The entire outer membrane of an amoeba is expandable. At any given moment in time one or more areas of the membrane push out into pseudopods moving the amoeba forward and engulfing food for sustenance.


Like an amoeba, e-learning has an expandable outer membrane. At any given moment trends push out moving e-learning forward, bumping in to barriers, acquiring sustenance in the form of knowledge on what works and what doesn’t, determining where to go next. I think of e-learning users (students, teachers, tutors, faculty, etc.) as the ectoplasm particles inside e-learning’s membrane. As a critical mass of users builds and presses outward e-learning’s membrane expands and moves, its’ future defined by all those within. The events I’ve been participating in each represent a current trend pushing out e-learning’s flexible membrane.

So, here’s a bit more on these e-learning events. All of them are happening over a two month period from April 4, 2011 through June 4, 2011. The school year has a certain rhythm and these months are one of the phases in the year when professional development can happen. The number of people participating in these events ranges from 30 to over 400. The cumulative number participating in them all is well over a thousand. Events like these require extensive planning, design and production. Its a bit like putting on a theatrical production. It’s impossible for me to give a complete synopsis of each event but within each event I’ll describe some of the areas of motion and action that are pushing e-learning’s membrane and a few of the ways I’ve contributed.


Privacy and Cloud-based Educational Technology

My colleague Tori Klassen did a fantastic job with this event and I enjoyed helping facilitate the day.
Major themes:

  • cloud-based computing offers substantial benefits including cost effectiveness, ease of access, scaleability and reliability
  • educational access and use of cloud-based computing services based in the US requires personal data from users which due to the US Patriot Act infringes privacy laws of BC
  • cloud-based computing can still be utilized if students give permission and/or if identities are anonymized

Tori, wrote a great background paper on this topic which is available here.
A full conference report and summary of recommendations is available here.

Another related topic is the data mining of your personal interests by technology companies who then embed or present advertising to you that is customized to fit your interests. The amoeba video I use in this post is an interesting case in point. There is an embedded ad at the 10 second mark that generates an ad YouTube has determined fits your interests, Facebook does this by default too. I tried my darnedest to turn this ad off or find another clip I liked as much but to no avail. Nor is it easy to stop technology companies from tracking your interests without your approval. Reminds me of unsolicited marketing calls I get on my home phone number. Annoying and intrusive. On the other hand we’ve learned to tolerate a certain amount of this activity as we accept the fact that people have to earn a living.


Personalized Learning for the 21st Century

This event is organized to support discussions, networking and professional development around digital learning in BC’s K-12 education sector. The two major themes of 21st century digital literacy learning skills and personalized learning are current areas of focus. Close to one hundred sessions at this three day event explored all aspects of those themes. All sessions are listed on the conference web site.

I facilitated the closing panel of keynote speakers for this event. A closing plenary should encourage reflection, summarize overall experience, and suggest next steps. To draw these elements out of the panel and audience I asked them to consider:

  • what surprised you?
  • what inspired you?
  • what technologies, pedagogies, and resources did you hear about that you plan to further explore?
  • what did you learn that will help you personally in your work?


Canada Moodle Moot 2011

The Canada Moodle Moot happens every two years and this year I served on the program planning committee. The theme for the event was “Open Learning and Open Collaboration in Canada”.

I enjoyed organizing and participating in the opening keynote panel Talking About All Things Open and hearing Terry Anderson, Gavin Hendrick, and Stephen Downes elaborate on and explore some of the ideas I put forward with the University of Open.

The program planning committee for the Moodle Moot event had extensive discussions around the format and topic for the closing plenary. The original topic was to compare and contrast future development plans and product road maps for different learning management systems.

This got morphed to a broader topic – the future of eLearning. I’m a huge advocate of making events like this as active and inclusive as possible. I pushed for crowdsourcing ideas through multiple channels – via Twitter, via the Elluminate rooms where virtual delegates were, via discussion forum on the conference web site. Get ideas from the attendees and participants at the event. However, not all of the planning committee agreed with the idea of crowdsourcing the future of eLearning. Some were adamant that crowdsourcing the future of anything just doesn’t work. That got me to thinking …

  • Canada just had a federal election. Isn’t voting in a democracy a way of crowdsourcing parliamentary representatives for the future, or at least for the next four years?
  • What if we could crowdsource ideas on the future of eLearning at the Moodle Moot. Would those ideas be any less interesting or insightful than calling on a single keynote speaker to present their views on this topic?
  • In any adult education scenario isn’t it true that every participant brings with them expertise, and that the cumulative pooling and sharing of that expertise creates a powerful learning environment where the sum of the whole far exceeds what the teacher could provide on their own?

In the end the planning committee decided to proceed with crowdsourcing the future of eLearning which we did by asking delegates to write down their idea(s) on a piece of paper and tick off which of the following areas of eLearning their ideas pertained to:

  • tools and technologies
  • learning theories and pedagogies
  • content authoring and sourcing
  • instructional design
  • teaching and learning methods
  • evaluation, assessment, and credentialing

All ideas were then collected in a box.

The night before the closing plenary I mapped all the future of eLearning ideas submitted onto a giant poster (click on poster below to open .pdf version). The ideas submitted seem to loosely fall in to categories of Global, Students, Pedagogy, Teachers, Technology and Credentials. The Global category was particularly fascinating as there really wasn’t a tick box for this category but ideas relating to eLearning’s future being global came out anyway. Some ideas could have been placed in multiple categories. Some ideas are similar and can be grouped together creating a source of critical mass. I was totally impressed with the cumulative range of ideas delegates came up with. In my view, yes, you can crowdsource the future of eLearning.

Most events like this provide keynote presenters with thank you gifts. This year the Moodle Moot went with Oxfam Unwrapped gifts where the thank-you gift helps women and men in developing countries reach greater levels of self-sufficiency and control over their lives. I received two thank you gifts – Plant 50 Trees and Give a Flock. Very interesting approach.


Online Community Enthusiasts

The SCoPE online community brings together individuals who share an interest in educational research and practice. Sylvia Currie, the awesome steward of SCoPE, once a year organizes an Online Community Enthusiasts Day. This event is for all community coordinators, hosts, moderators, and everybody else interested in learning more about cultivating and sustaining online communities. It provides a gathering place to share resources, experiences, and opportunities. The theme for this years Online Community Enthusasts day was “Planning Excellent Community Events”. Since this event is all about excellent community events, a big part of the day involved experimenting with ways to enhance participation, share artefacts, and harvest what we learn.
Activities during the day included:

  • Fish Bowl
  • Open Space
  • Planning an online symposium to launch a community
  • Increasing participation by diversifying tools
  • Commitment Wall/Time Capsule

I really enjoyed meeting and working with fellow online community enthusiasts. Fantastic to see the energy and enthusiasm of all the up and coming online community leaders. It’s always interesting to hear the diverse range of uses online communities are being used for – climate action, mental health, education, religion, … A community of practice can form around almost any shared interest.

This is the first event I’ve ever participated in that came with a disclaimer:
Disclaimer: Since this excellent community event is about exploring possibilities and experimenting wildly, we make no promises that the day will run smoothly! 🙂


Just Instructional Design Networking Event

The JustID group brings together individuals who are working as instructional designers within a variety of fields/educational sector groups (e.g., K-12, public sector, private, post-secondary). Instructional design has become increasingly important and its great to see this group getting together to share ideas, challenges, and best practices in instructional design. The themes for this years event were:

  • Emerging trends/changes in the field of Instructional Design
  • Impact of the recent changes/trends in Instructional Design (both in definition and in practice)

Five different topics were discussed in round table discussions that rotated every 20 minutes so everyone could discuss every topic.
The five topics were:

  • Innovation/creativity and instructional design
  • Social media, Web 2.0 and instructional design
  • Mobile learning and instructional design
  • Future of instructional design including instructional design for open learning and place-based learning instructional design
  • Designing for learning environments that aren’t courses (communities of practice, personal learning environments)

Dr. Tony Bates, a renowned expert in the field of educational technology and e-learning, did a fantastic job of capturing key ideas and providing a wrap-summary with a good dose of analysis and personal take away’s. Tony’s got a new book just coming out and I can’t wait to read it:


Open 4 Learning

It’s my distinct pleasure to work with BC’s Educational Technology Users Group in designing and hosting two workshop/conferences every year. Workshops are held at different BC public post secondary institution campuses every year. The Open4Learning workshop is being held beginning of June at Selkirk College in the Kootenays.

The theme for the workshop revolves around “Open”. Open and free tools, resources, and learning opportunities abound, but how are we integrating them into our work? What new skills are needed? What challenges are we facing? What value does open provide? What are the costs and risks?
The event invites exploration of questions in the following 4 streams.

1. Open, Free, & Alternative Teaching & Learning

  • Open Professional & Faculty Development: How do you choose which events to participate in? What formal and informal learning opportunities exist and are the best? How/have you and your colleagues given back to the educational community?
  • MOOCs (Massive Open Online Course): Tales from the field – what’s your experience in MOOCs?
  • Teaching & Learning in the Cloud: Has cloud computing improved the way we share and collaborate? How are you using the cloud to learn or to teach?
  • Open/Free/Alternative Assignments: What are students doing besides traditional academic essays? Are students doing work “in the open”? What about assessment?
  • Alternative Formats for Presentation/Facilitation/Teaching Formats: Let’s talk about blends, baby! (synchronous/asynchronous)
  • Designing 4 Open? How/is this same/different? What are instructional/course designers doing to design
  • Impact of Open/ness

2. Open, Free, & Alternative Technologies

  • Tool-specific: Moodle, WordPress, cloud tools…? Specific sessions on specific free/open and open source tools.

3. Open Educational Resources (OERs)

  • What is your experience with OERs? Are you sharing? Are you using others’ stuff?
  • What’s really going on with your OER project? Tell us more!

4. Open or Not?: Privacy and other issues

  • How are we dealing with issues around privacy in a world moving increasingly towards openness, sharing and transparency?
  • What is the impact of the recent announcements to privacy legislation for learning? What are you doing/not doing at your institution because of privacy concerns?
  • What are the barriers of open, free, alternatives approaches to teaching and learning? Solutions/options?
  • Is our increased use of open technologies changing our attitudes towards privacy? How?

The resulting program and schedule is posted here.
I’m looking forward to doing a design session around the University of Open and co-presenting the North American Network of Science Labs Online.

In the spirit of openness everyone has been invited to participate in a crowd-sourced video keynote.
The vision is to create a keynote video that highlights the collective voice on the value of openness.

Here’s what we asked everyone to do:

Create a short video/interview/montage answering one or two of the following questions:

1. What is the value of openness?

2. What examples of openness stand out to you as being valuable/worthwhile?

3. WHY do you believe in the value of open education?

I put together the following short video around the first question addressing the value of open.

Given these events are about educational technology and online learning they increasingly involve multi-modal delivery where some of the face-to-face activities and presentations taking place on site are webcast or web streamed over the Internet allowing those unable to travel to still actively participate and benefit. I’m a big fan of using technology like this to expand participation and have been very active in facilitating the online activities. I increasingly believe these multi-modal delivery activities need way more intentional design – it doesn’t work so well just tacked on to the existing face-to-face event as an add on.

I recommend Terry and Lynn Anderson’s book “Online Conferences – Professional Development for a Networked Era” as a good overview of how this is done and the various factors that should be considered.

Finally these events take a lot of people to produce. I’m tempted to name names and personally thank them all but the list would be like rolling credits at the end of a movie. So let me just say I sure enjoy working collaboratively on these events and deeply appreciate the creative effort of all involved. It’s great fun working with you all pushing e-learning’s flexible membrane forward like an amoeba.