New E-Learning Fellow looks to the future

Vivek Venkatesh is an experienced educational researcher who brings enthusiasm for online learning and classroom technology to the new role
July 11, 2012
By Tom Peacock

Vivek Venkatesh, director of Graduate Programs in Educational Technology in the Department of Education, has just been named Concordia’s first E-Learning Fellow with the Centre for Teaching and Learning Services (CTLS).

Vivek Venkatesh | Photo by Concordia University
Vivek Venkatesh | Photo by Concordia University

The mandate of the new position includes promoting e-learning, or electronically supported learning, across all Faculties at Concordia. “Vivek’s role is really to help professors who are interested in doing so to make the transition between in-class learning and online learning,” says Concordia’s Vice-Provost, Teaching and Learning, Ollivier Dyens. “Beyond that it’s also to explore with these people all the possibilities that online learning provides.”

Dyens says the university created the position to keep an eye on and stay abreast of rapidly developing trends in e-learning. “It’s an area we can’t ignore,” he says. “We need to be able to know what’s going on and to react quickly.”

For his part, Venkatesh says he’s ready to help adapt Concordia faculty members’ teaching practices to the online learning environment. “Convincing professors across the university, across the faculties, and across individual departments that online learning is a possible option for them to consider in delivering their courses is a challenge that I’m totally up to.”

Although he will have a lot of autonomy in the new position, Venkatesh will also be working closely with the staff at the CTLS to coordinate the mobilization of e-learning knowledge among all faculty and staff. “I have a great working relationship with the folks at the centre,” he says. “I hope to be able to create blogs, video blogs, and generate workshops for faculty members or even graduate students.”

Ensuring the alignment of e-learning policies with the new Academic Plan is another important aspect of the new position. Venkatesh says that the increasing implementation of technology in classrooms and use of online learning environments will play a key role in ensuring that the goals of the plan are met.

“I’m a big fan of the plan. It’s very well articulated,” he says. “There’s a drive to ensure that the quality of instruction at Concordia is better evaluated, and that we’re held more responsible for what we produce as teachers.”

Since joining the faculty at Concordia in 2008, Venkatesh has secured more than $1 million in federal, provincial and international research funding as principal investigator, co-principal investigator, or co-investigator on multi-institutional research teams. He has published research in the areas of learning science, the impact of social media on the design of online learning, and the integration of information and communication technologies in higher education.

“What I hope to bring to the position is a very strong theoretical background in information and communication technology (ICT) integration in university settings, in perceptions of ICT use,” he says. “Large bodies of research that we’ve been responsible for at the Centre for the Study of Learning and Performance have demonstrated that using computers in classrooms is beneficial to learning, and in a lot of cases it outperforms traditional face-to-face discussions.”

Improving online learning environments is key to improving students' learning experience at Concordia, Venkatesh insists. “I definitely want to see Concordia known for its prowess in being brave and designing courses that break away from the traditional mode of online learning.”

He says that learning from students’ experiences taking online classes or engaging with educational technologies in the classroom, will be an important aspect his new role. “Finding out what elements of online courses are in fact working for them, what elements are improving their learning experiences, and what aspects of learning or course design we need to improve will be a big part of my mandate.”

Venkatesh plans to design his own online course to be offered through eConcordia. Not surprisingly, it will be directly related to his new role. “What I’m proposing is an online course that addresses philosophical, theoretical and practical issues of integrating digital technologies and social media into learning environments.”

He hopes the process of designing and overseeing the course will provide him with an inside perspective of what’s happening “on the ground” in online learning at Concordia.

Related Links
•  Centre for Teaching and Learning Services
•  Centre for the Study of Learning and Performance
•  “Heavy Metal Meets Academia” — NOW, May 23, 2012 (Vivek Venkatesh’s research on online interactions)
•  Vivek Venkatesh


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