Dr. Valerie Irvine is an Assistant Professor of Educational Technology in the Faculty of Education at the University of Victoria.  Dr. Irvine is also the co-founder and co-director of the Technology Integration and Evaluation (TIE) Research Lab, which conducts extensive research into numerous e-learning innovations.

Dr. Valerie Irvine
Dr. Valerie Irvine

When did you first become interested in educational technology?

I’ve been interested in connectedness and social justice for as long as I can remember. My brother has special needs and what we experienced years ago was a very dated school system that wasn’t equipped to meet his educational requirements – at that time things like keyboards and computers in the classroom would have been helpful for him. Later, as a teenager, I carried a pager at a time when it was difficult to stay connected with my friends, and then through the university years, I set up email for my fellow classmates when that form of communication was still very new. My journey into this field has come about very naturally.

Why are you passionate about your research at the TIE Lab?

Educational technology is transformative in that it’s changing how learners and educators interact with one another on so many levels. Being given the opportunity to enable connections between learners, institutional teams and the global community is extremely powerful. The TIE lab is a hub, a place of synergistic intersection between post secondary institutions, government, industry and others, and being given the opportunity to create a dialogue between all of these various entities is an unusual privilege.

Which aspect of the educational technology movement is of most interest to you right now?

I’m really excited about a framework that I’ve developed for multi-access learning, which respects a learner’s individual needs and preferences. We all know about face to face and online learning – and many institutions are now offering blended learning, which is a mix of online and face to face interactions controlled at the institution’s discretion. However, my research shows that the future is a multi-access model, where learners are given the freedom to access courses and programs in a way that is best suited to the individual learner. That means when a course is offered, learners can choose exactly how they want to access it – onsite, offsite, online, face to face, or a blend of options. The control lies with the learner rather than the institution.

Through my work at the TIE Lab, I tend make many interactions with regard to piloting new and unique innovations, particularly as they pertain to improving post secondary course registration systems and how we perceive online education. I make numerous presentations, often talking about the multi-access model, however as I present to places like BCNET or B.C. post-secondary institutions, I realize that there are an awful lot of people I still need to meet. As such, I think the future of educational technology also lies in the strength of relationships and with that, I’d like to see the formation of more TIE Labs across B.C. post-secondary institutions and the synergistic interaction of these groups– essentially networked centres of excellence where we can collectively share our ideas and resources.

Has any of your research been implemented in the British Columbia post-secondary system?

The TIE Lab is often the guinea pig, so to speak, for new or experimental technologies and much of what we do ends up being implemented at UVic in some form. Our multi-access pilot has been put into practice; we have my colleague Dr. Jill Code’s WordPress/Buddypress installation which has taken off at the campus level at UVic; and ages ago we were among the first to test Sharepoint, install smartboards, and implement video conferencing.

Is there anyone involved in the educational technology movement that you particularly admire and respect?

There are so many people that I admire. I’d have to give hats off to the educational technology faculty members at the University of Alberta, people I learned so much from in the late 1990’s. Now, there is so much open-education MOOC hype with any number of people trying to take credit, whereas I believe that open-ed was taking place in the ‘90’s and the UofA faculty and other institutions around the world from that time are, in my opinion, open-ed pioneers and deserve respect and acknowledgment for their contributions. In addition, I give a lot of credit to UVic –especially our forward and progressive thinking systems staff, students and administration – for being so supportive with regard to the creation of the TIE Lab. I also really respect Clint Lalonde and David Porter of BCcampus for their amazing work in the open textbook arena.

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Notable Quotes:

Educational technology is transformative in that it’s changing how learners and educators interact with one another on so many levels.”- Dr. Valerie Irvine

My research shows that the future is a multi-access model, where learners are given the freedom to access courses and programs in a way that is best suited to the individual learner.” – Dr. Valerie Irvine

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