Paul Stacey

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.

Video EDU

To keep track of the constantly evolving educational technology space I monitor trends such as those put forward by – New Media Horizons Reports and Tony Bates e-learning outlook for 2011.

I also go with my own gut instinct on what’s happening. One of the biggest general digital trends I’m seeing is around video. Cisco predicts 90% of Internet traffic will come from video by 2013 and in my view digital video is a high impact innovation.

At certain points in time technology innovations make it possible for everyone to do something that was previously only done by a few. Video has gone from a high cost, big production, network and distributor controlled media to a mass market phenomenon that any one can do. Video is now being shot by everyone from children to grandparents. Video is being captured on cell phones, through web cams, downloaded, edited, streamed and uploaded directly to places like YouTube and Video has become ubiquitous.

I have kids, OK well they are grown up adults now living out on their own, but one thing I’ve noticed is that neither of them have TV. Sure they watch movies but YouTube has become the TV replacement. And yet it’s different than TV. YouTube video content is produced as much by amateurs with video cameras and Internet connections as it is by corporate commercial industries. YouTube is a social space where comments, likes, and views are expressed on a global stage. A place where debates over politics, gender and religion take place. YouTube participants affect social change and address global strife in a democratized way not dominated by mainstream media. YouTube is not just a video distribution platform, it’s a form of participatory culture.

So I’ve been wondering:

  • How is video being used for education?
  • What is educationally possible now that simply wasn’t possible before video became so ubiquitous?
  • Are learning activities being designed that have students generating video assignments?
  • How does contemporary video’s active and participatory nature manifest itself in education?

Lots of questions but these provide a good starting point for investigating video’s role in education.

In parallel with these questions I’ve been helping determine the feasibility of BCcampus providing a YouTube-like video shared service for BC’s public post-secondary system. Thought I’d share my discoveries on both fronts through this post.

It will be fascinating to see if contemporary video practices, such as those embodied by YouTube, transition into and make an impact on education. There certainly is lots of interest. At a recent BCcampus hosted gathering to explore interest in a video shared service for BC’s public post secondary system there was a standing room only packed room and at least 10 of BC’s 25 universities and colleges are interested in seeing such a service put in place.

One option for providing video capabilities to BC’s post secondary institutions is to simply acquire access from vendors like YouTube through Software as a service (Saas) cloud computing. However, these services are hosted in the US and the US Patriot Act contravenes BC’s Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act. (For more on this topic see As a result BCcampus has been exploring establishing a video shared service hosted in BC. In this context Kaltura, the open source video platform has emerged as the product of primary interest.

In defining a video shared service its important to determine the use cases BC universities and colleges are considering. I’ve created a diagram to identify some of the possibilities related to a YouTube like service (click on diagram to make it bigger).

As you can see, the use cases are diverse. Faculty and students can create and embed videos as part of courses in Learning Management Systems, blogs, or wikis. Students could be creating videos associated with clubs, associations, athletics. Researchers could be using video to disseminate results. Information Technology departments could produce short how-to videos that demonstrate how to do various computing activities. Libraries could create and distribute video collections. Marketing departments might be interested in creating video to promote the school or show convocation or recruit students. It may be tempting to simply circle all these and say they are all of interest. On the one hand this is great as it indicates widespread possible use. On the other hand we’ll be asking people to indicate priority. Which of these are the most important, or perhaps even more to the point, which of these uses cases is ready to roll. Where might a pilot start?

Congruent with considering use cases I’ve been looking far and wide at existing examples of video use in education.

Education has for decades used film and videos as media elements for students to view in learning a particular topic. In the digital context these have been characterized as “rich media” elements. The combination of images, moving pictures, animations, music, and audio dialogue or narration create rich multisensory content that engages a range of personal learning styles.

The Internet Archive has lots of old videos available for all of us to not only view, but also cut, copy and remix as footage with video we are creating. It’s fun to see faculty using video in new ways. Here’s the course trailer for EC&I 831: Social Media & Open Education, an open graduate course offered at the University of Regina by Alec Couros who seems particularly adept at remixing old to create new.

Moving into more contemporary times I’m seeing a lot of education video produced as “lecture capture”. If you have an interest in the History of Art and from Roman times why not take in Yale Professor Diana E. E. Kleiner’s Roman Architecture lectures.

Yale uploaded the example above to YouTube but if you access the lectures from Yale’s site you’ll see the course is divided up into 22 separate class lecture sessions.These course lectures provide an introduction to the great buildings and engineering marvels of Rome and its empire, with an emphasis on urban planning and individual monuments and their decoration, including mural painting. The lectures are illustrated with over 1,500 images, many from Professor Kleiner’s personal collection. For each class lecture there is an html transcript, an audio mp3 file, and a choice of Flash or Quicktime based videos.

There are literally thousands of these lecture recordings available from some of the foremost scholars in the world. How fantastic that they share their knowledge in this way! Many big name prestigious institutions use faculty lecture videos as a marketing and promotion activity. Video lecture recordings are also popular here in BC especially with students who missed a lecture on campus or are reviewing material in preparation for tests.

However, lest you think I’m a lecture capture advocate let me fully disclose I’m only a moderate fan of lecture capture educational video. Lectures are an outdated, passive learning experience. In the 21st century we know that education and learning are social and active processes and we have a rich range of pedagogies available to use in learning this way. Despite this, lectures are still a primary mode of education provision as they enable massive throughput of students and require no organizational or cultural change. In the current education system efficiency and status quo trump effectiveness. Lecture capture can be absolutely awful if the scholar is not a dynamic or engaging presenter and if the recording is a full length traditional lecture. Some institutions are installing lecture capture systems and then proclaiming themselves to be meeting the learning needs of a 21st century student. This is utter nonsense.

But still, having access to stellar scholars lecturing is a significant step in making education accessible to all. So how do you find the very best lectures? Who are the dynamic and engaging lecturers people like to watch? Some institutions such as the Yale example I gave above are publishing their videos on their own web site and on YouTube. With more than 13 million hours of video uploaded to YouTube during 2010 and 35 hours of video being uploaded every minute it can be hard to find what you are looking for there so let me provide a little help.

YouTube categorizes video. From the main YouTube site you can search for videos in categories like Entertainment, News & Politics, Sports, and yes Education. Once you are in the Education category area you can choose YouTube EDU to access a further categorization. Within YouTube EDU videos have been categorized by academic domain.

So for example you can choose to look at videos related to Business, Engineering, Fine Arts, Health, History, and Science among others. Once you pick an academic domain of interest videos in that category appear and you can further refine your search by specifying Most Viewed This Month or Most Viewed All Time. Most viewed all time brings the cream to the top. You also have an option to simply type what you are looking for into a Search YouTube EDU bar.

YouTube EDU also has “channels”. Many universities, especially in the United States, have created their own YouTube channel. For example check out the UCBerkeley YouTube channel.

Berkeley uses this channel to promote and market the university. You can make a donation to Berkeley, see their video lectures, and even watch videos of convocation. On the right side of the screen you can search UCBerkeley videos by Date Added, Most Viewed, or Top Rated. Clicking Most Viewed for example brings a video on Integrative Biology to the top which has had over 500,000 views. Clearly this video is popular. (By contrast the Yale Roman Architecture video I used above has had 23,515 views on YouTube). One of the benefits of having your own channel is that it is free of advertising.

One more critique comment about lecture capture video before moving on. Effective use of video in education requires intentionality. With lecture capture video the video part is being treated as an afterthought add on. The primary focus is lecturing the classroom of students in attendance in front of the lecturer. The fact that other viewers will be watching the lecture after the fact has no affect on the lecturer.

So lets turn to an example of educational video use that is very intentional. The most cited (and most viewed) exemplar of educational video these days is the Khan Academy.

Originally started by Sal Khan a s a means of remotely tutoring cousins and family friends on math the Khan Academy now has over 2100 videos. The library of videos covers K-12 math, science topics such as biology, chemistry, and physics, and even areas like finance and history. Each video is a digestible chunk, approximately 10 minutes long, and especially purposed for viewing on the computer.

Khan Academy videos are distinctive in a number of ways. The 10-20 minute chunks are especially purposed for viewing on the computer as opposed to being a longer video of a classroom lecture. The videos are not images of Sal Khan talking but rather Sal Khan using a pen-tablet mouse working out math formula or other concepts on a screen while talking to you. Sal Khan uses a conversational style rather than lecture style. He speaks directly to you as if sitting at your side and the concepts he presents are conveyed as they are understood by him not as written in a textbook or specified by a lesson plan. He obviously has a passion for it and it comes through.

Complementing the videos are:

  • a knowledge map that shows all of the concepts being taught and their inter-relationships
  • adaptive assessment exercises that let you practice as your own pace
  • your vital statistics representing at-a-glance information about everything you’ve been learning. There’s even classroom profile data for teachers if they choose to use Khan videos with their class.
  • badges and points representing your learning accomplishments

All-in-all a very impressive site and set of resources. I’ve had people tell me that they struggled with math when they were a child but are now teaching themselves math using the Khan Academy videos as an adult. I highly recommend you watch the Khan Academy Exercise Software video.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention How-to videos too. Want to learn how to tile a floor? Install a door? Build a chicken coop? You can find how-to videos on all of these and virtually anything you can think of at YouTube simply by typing in your search.

There are many who would assert that they’ve learned a lot watching TED: Ideas worth spreading videos.

All this sounds great right? Yes, it is, but thinking about YouTube and video as simply a media distribution platform kind of like television falls way short of the potential. As Jean Burgess and Joshua Green note in their book “YouTube”.

“Consumer co-creation is fundamental to YouTube’s value proposition as well as to its disruptive influence on established media business models.” YouTube is not just a content distribution platform it’s a social network, a community where participants are audiences, producers, editors, distributors, and critics. All YouTube participants have a voice partly expressed through Most Viewed, Most Favourited, Most Responded, and Most Discussed. Its active!

Where are the video use case examples that complement the top-down use of video by institutions and teachers with bottom-up video from students as co-creators not just passive recipients? Well one great example comes from University of Ottawa professor Michael Strangelove who is author of the book “Watching YouTube – extraordinary videos by ordinary people” (a book I highly recommend you all read).

Strangelove teaches a course on Popular Culture and Communication. As part of that course students create video based assignments. Here’s a page of student videos exploring how women are portrayed on TV and in film.

Interestingly these student created works are now required viewing for subsequent students in that course. This is a great example of students as co-creators in education. Alec Couros is doing similar work as shown here with Student Work – Fall 2010.

So what would it take to implement a YouTube-like video service for BC’s public post secondary system? Well as I mentioned at the beginning of this post we’re exploring the potential use of Kaltura. Here is another diagram I produced to support the planning around this (click on it to make it bigger).

This diagram is intended to act as a decision making aid around which core software functions and the many options are important to BC’s public post secondary institutions. A diagram like this helps reveal the full range of functionality and the possibilities. It can aid requirements gathering simply by having people circle the elements that are important to them. You can see from this diagram that implementing your own YouTube hosted service has considerable complexity. At the core platform level depicted at the bottom of the diagram we can see that a YouTube like system involves hosting, storing, a content distribution network, streaming, transcoding, editing, branding/styling, advertising, syndication and analytics. Even at these core level there are options. Moving up to the top there are all kinds of options around integrating it with other applications such as Learning Management Systems, blogging platforms and social media applications.

Video use in education goes beyond YouTube-like video too. Video capabilities of applications like Skype eliminate the clunky, equipment and room-based expensive aspects of traditional video conferencing allowing you to have direct one-on-one voice and video interactions to a mobile device or a computer.

Applicatons like Elluminate provide a means of bringing real time video images of people, places and activities to teaching and learning environments whether they be class-based or online. With an application like Elluminate you can actually record the audio, video, app sharing, chat and all other activities and interactions that take place within it and have it available as a video recording for playback after the fact.

Video streaming of presenters at conferences or other educational events is also becoming increasingly common through services like UStream.

Most of these examples point to a diversification of the means by which we can produce, edit and broadcast video. However, these initial use cases still treat video primarily as a media distribution method. The next big transition around use of video in education will be around the participatory, social networking and active cultural aspects of it. When these begin to emerge the real potency of video as a disruptive innovation in education will begin to be felt.

I know that this is now a long post and if you’re a typical blog reader you’re ready to move on. But for those of you deeply interested in this topic, wanting to know more, I suggest you get yourself comfortable, turn off the TV, and instead watch this Michael Wesch video The Machine is (Changing) Us.

I’m looking for examples of how video is a disruptive innovation in education.
If you have an example let me know by replying to this post.

To our BC public post secondary partners, we look forward to taking the next steps toward a video shared service at the BCcampus video shared service meeting scheduled for April 29, 2011 in Vancouver.