PIONEER AND INVENTOR OF ONLINE EDUCATION:
Here is a brief story of my work as a pioneer and world expert in online education, online collaborative learning and e-learning. I am fortunate in the rich opportunities to learn and to teach in my field.
In the very early 1980s, I was completing my doctorate in Learning Theory at OISE, when having spent a year collecting data in Africa, I returned to Toronto to hear about “computer communications” and “electronic mail”. I was writing my thesis using word processing, but the notion of communicating “on line” with peers in other places definitely ignited a fuse, a fascination, and my future path.
While at the time, for many academics the term “computer networking” meant linking one’s computer to the printer, I envisioned networks of learners and teachers around the world connected by electronic mail and forums. Access to education, to sharing of information and to meetings of minds, seemed to me to be suddenly possible. And an exhalerating vision. Despite this vision, when I interviewed early computer communication users, they told told me that these technologies had absolutely no place in education. This was not only a bad idea but impossible. But I endured and encountered a few wonderful souls who encouraged me.
As a result, online education has become my professional fate and fulfillment. I have pioneered many pedagogical, theoretical and technological advances to online education such as designing and implementing the first-ever totally online course accredited by a university (OISE, University of Toronto) in 1986. This was also the first online course based on groups of learners collaborating, a pedagogy which I designed. In 1985, I designed the first online professional development course, working with the Federation of Women Teachers’ Associations of Ontario, linking teachers in rural and urban settings across Ontario. I was also an early pioneer of blended education, introducing the use of online group projects within traditional classroom activity at OISE, in 1985. Beginning in 1990, I introduced blended pedagogies into my courses when I moved to the School of Communication, Simon Fraser University, Vancouver, Canada.
And I continue to design, use and research online collaborative learning pedagogies and technologies. Most recently I have expanded my research focus to consider the role of advanced technologies such as Artificial Intelligence, Augmented Human Intelligence, VR, and Augmented Reality for Online Collaborative Learning, and this new phase of work is both exhilarating as well as very challenging in the opportunities being invented.
WORLD EXPERT IN ONLINE EDUCATION:
Dr. Harasim has served as senior consultant for many large-scale online education programs that emphasized online collaborative learning; designing the University of Phoenix Online, designing the first online training system for the Bank of Montreal, consulting to the United Nation International Labour Organization (ILO) online training programs, and providing consultancy and training workshops to universities and organizations worldwide. In the mid-1990s, she was the lead developer of the Virtual-U, one of the first virtual learning environments designed. She is considered a luminary in the field of online education and e-learning, having published 6 books on the subject, 15 book chapters, 25 refereed articles, and delivered 30 keynotes as well as over 50 conference presentations around the world. Her works have been translated into Spanish, Portuguese, Arabic and Chinese.
Drawing on her extensive learning research and practice, she developed the Collaborativist Theory of Learning, and based on this theory of learning Dr. Harasim developed a unique approach and set of learning analytics to visualize learning as a process, and not just a product. The approach is called discourse analytics, and can making online collaborative learning visible to both teachers and learners, as well as to researchers. Over the past 32 years, she has researched and refined these collaborative learning pedagogies to share with the online education community through her many presentations, workshops, publications and most recently with the development of the comprehensive SOS (Student-led Seminars) pedagogy.
In 1995, Dr. Harasim founded and became Network Leader and CEO of Canada’s TeleLearning Network of Centers of Excellence (TL*NCE), a seven-year, $50 million program to study, develop, and commercialize online learning technologies, pedagogies and knowledge. As Network Leader and CEO, Dr. Harasim funded approximately 160 university researchers and graduate students to undertake interdisciplinary research related to new technologies and pedagogies for 21st Century education.
Following from that research program, she is currently focusing on collaborativist learning pedagogies and technologies that can focus the design of educational AI to augment, rather than replace, human intelligence in education and work. She is examining AI, Augmented Reality, VR as vehicles to augment human discourse, collaboration, and knowledge building.