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Introducing the "PEERS Framework": Quality control for book self-publishing
Sunday, November 27, 2016

Part 1: Updated “PEERS” Framework
Quality Control for Self-Published TEC-VARIETY book
Curt Bonk, Professor, Indiana University,
November 2016

Back in May 2014, I self-published a book related to online motivation and retention (see blog post from two years ago). This particular blog post concerns the peer review process (PEERS) that we put the book through. It only took me 2.5 years to finally finding some time to make this post.

It is important to point out that I originally dreamed of this book back in 2000 with my colleague Vanessa Dennen of Florida State University (Vanessa's blog). It only took 14 years to come to fruition. And my co-author was Dr. Elaine Khoo from the University of Waikato in New Zealand, while Vanessa became one of the book editors.

The book title: is “Adding Some TEC-VARIETY: 100+ Activities for Motivating and Retaining Learners Online.” This book offered a new framework for online motivation called TEC-VARIETY.  Each letter of TEC-VARIETY stands for a set of overlapping motivational principles. There are 100 activities in the book (10 for each principle of motivation). Online instructors can learn how to foster curiosity, design a safe climate for learning, give feedback, foster interaction and collaboration, nurture student autonomy and creation of products, and much more. The intent is for higher online learning retention and the development of more self-directed online learners. 

With the 100+ activities, it follows the same format as my Empowering Online Learning book published by Jossey-Bass back in 2008 with a model called Read, Reflect, Display, and Do (R2D2) (Amazon). This new TEC-VARIETY book has a brand new set of 100+ activities and a focus on learner motivation and retention.

Elaine Khoo and I made this book free as an e-book. We used Amazon CreateSpace as our publisher along with OpenWorldBooks (which I own). AmazonCreateSpace were some of the most wonderful people in the world to work with. They were highly polite and customer service oriented.

To date, over 80,000 people have downloaded the entire book in English and tens of thousands more have downloaded individual chapters. Scholars at Beijing Normal University in China have recently translated it to Chinese (also free as an e-book) and the Open University of China has published it in print. Anyone can now download, share, and, with permission, translate it in English or Chinese. By the way, my son Alex produced the book cover.

TEC-VARIETY Book Homepage: (full book download: English and Chinese)
Individual Chapters and Entire Book, see "Free Stuff":
Amazon (paperback and Kindle and hardcover by request)

A common question of self-published books relates to quality. See below for the "Peers framework which I designed and used for this book so as to address quality. Others might find it a handy guide when self-publishing their own books.

Reference:  Bonk, C. J., & Khoo, E. (2014). Adding Some TEC-VARIETY: 100+ Activities for Motivating and Retaining Learners Online. and Amazon CreateSpace.  Note: Free eBook available at:

PEERS Framework (for review of a self-published book):
1.       Peer Review: Three e-learning and educational technology experts were hired to review the entire book during the summer of 2013 (admittedly, however, this was not a blind review). The authors made their changes and sent the revised manuscript to the copyeditor. In addition, the copyeditor also took on a role of editor throughout the process and made some solid suggestions on deletions, modifications, combinations, additions, etc.
2.       Extensive Planning and Pilot Testing: The book 14 years to plan, 7 years to collect articles, and 3 years to write. In addition, the framework in the book was discussed to large as well as a small audiences at conferences, workshops, institutes, summits, webinars, university classes, etc., for more than a decade. Tens of thousands of people attended those talks. Feedback was received from hundreds, if not thousands, of such people during that time.
3.       Expert Team Approach: As with all book publishers, we contracted with many experts to produce a book of the highest quality. We hired editors, copyeditors, research assistants, website developers, proofreaders, graphic artists, illustrators, indexers, formatters, converters to other formats (e.g., Kindle, hardcover, etc.), computer programmers, book publishers, consultants, etc. Each were paid a fee (not cheap). We also talked about the process with several others who had self-published a book in the past.
4.       Relied on Format of Proven Book: Most importantly, the “Adding Some TEC-VARIETY” book followed the exact same format as the “Empowering Online Learning: 100+ Activities for Reading, Reflecting, Displaying, and Doing” book which was published in 2008 by Jossey-Bass. In effect, the format works and was deemed to be high quality by a major publisher. And unlike many activities book, this is a theory to practice with not just 100+ activities but with extensive references and theoretical backing. In addition, this book had the exact same first author as that book who went through the same process in writing this book. As with the earlier book, he partnered with an expert to co-author it.
5.       Sharing Samples: Sample chapters were sent to other experts in the field and other interested scholars, educators, and researchers for the past three years as were the chapter resources, tools references, and citations. Everything was shared as much as possible. The feedback that was received helped us fine tune each chapter.

Part 2: The Pros and Cons of Self-Publishing
Curt Bonk, Professor, Indiana University
November 2016

Here is a list 10 advantages and 10 disadvantages of a free self-published book. See what you think of these items. Please enjoy some TEC-VARIETY.

Advantages of Self-Publishing:
  1. Impact: Life impact. The ideas in the book related to teaching and learning can impact others around the world. And perhaps there will be some life impact or personal change from a few of them. There is also the potential for curriculum impact, resource impact, innovation impact, etc.
  2. Longevity: Longevity of ideas. Someone could find or use or modify this book long after the authors are gone. Digital archivists and educators might stumble upon this book centuries from now.
  3. Rural and Disadvantaged: A free book helps people in the developing world learn new content. In addition, teachers and course designers can ramp up online and blended course development.
  4. Control: This IS the big one. The authors can design and change things how they want. Use the book titles and subtitles that they want and the examples that they want. And, yes, 2-3 experts peer reviewed the book just like another publisher (e.g., Jossey-Bass/Wiley) would have done.
  5. Experiment: It is an experiment. The authors can learn what works. We can practice marketing skills. We can share with others about self-publishing. We can start And we can continue the experiment with the next book.
  6. Less to Pack: Less guilt when someone has a request or when you visit a country with no gifts. I can always give people this book (or at least the link to download it).
  7. Fun and Novel Invitations: The authors can trade book royalties for interviews, discussions, invited panels, consultations, and speaking invites.
  8. Parting or Meeting Gift: It is something the authors can give to students, guests, and visiting scholars. I can send to anyone who visits or calls to interview me on the phone.
  9. Growing Network: The network of contacts around the world expands.
  10. Reputation: It brings attention to author reputation or brand and everything else that one does.
Disadvantages of Self-Publishing:
  1. Personal Time and Effort: This project has been my baby for a long time. And I made it free? This was not just 3 years in the making. I had an IST master’s student collect articles 7 years before completion. And Vanessa Dennen and I discussed a possible book on online motivation 14 years prior.
  2. Cost: The authors spent much out of pocket money designing and developing this book. Proofreaders, researcher assistant, Web designer and programmer, copy editor, editors, indexer, formatter, graphic designer, publisher, and website costs. It was not insignificant (I’m happy to share the costs via email).
  3. Potential for Failure and Looking Foolish: It could backfire and no one could find out about the book. If that happens, one could look foolish.
  4. Perceptions of Self-Published Book: People might think that it is low quality since it is being given away for free. The author reputation could take a hit. Some scholars/academics might look down on someone who self-publishes.
  5. Piracy and Plagiarism Battles and Legal Fees: People could more easily plagiarize this book. They could copy it, sell it, and post it online. There could be many moles to whack via attorney letters.
  6. Fairness to Self (i.e., potential for psychological and physical problems): My body could tell me that I am an idiot after expanding so much energy to get this far and not get much in return.
  7. Fairness to Co-Author: My book writing colleague, Dr. Elaine Khoo, deserves some remuneration.
  8. Translation Negotiations: The authors have to negotiate book translations rights and contracts, instead of the publisher. Tough decisions have to be made about selling the book in another language or offering only free versions. It takes time to produce a new version of the book.
  9. Marketing and Dissemination Requirements: The authors have many ways to market the book with organizations that have hundreds of thousands of connections; however, they will lack the connections and networks of a major publisher (e.g., conference exhibits, newsletters, Website promotions, etc.).
  10. Future Expectations: In the future, how can the authors justify charging a fee for any book that takes less than 14 years to produce?

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30 Writing Tips Revisited and Expanded a Decade Later: Ten Years After and Before
Tuesday, November 08, 2016
Writing anyone? How about publishing? I was at a conference last Friday at the University of Houston. It was titled "Education 20/20: Innovative Teaching and Learning at a Distance." My talk slides are posted. I did the opening keynote as well as a breakout session right after it and a discussion session.

Prior to the conference, my colleague, Dr. Mimi Lee, asked me to speak about writing and publishing to doctoral students in curriculum and instruction at the University of Houston last week. So I did. I also spoke on forming solid research questions. I crafted a two-page handout of these tips and suggestions which was handed out to the budding scholars in the audience. It is recapped below.

Question: Why did I label this part "Ten Years Before." Well, now, you will just need to read to the end, won't you? Aha.

Part 1: Ten Years Before
Tips on Writing and Publishing for Doctoral Students

You can find these 30 writing tips about a decade ago at my blog. I add explanations of each one and some pictures. Curt Bonk (2007, January 27). A Quick 30 Writing Tips for the Start of an Academic Career. TravelinEdMan (Blog), Note: This blog post was later re-published in: Curt Bonk (2010, April 2), 30 Writing Tips: Curtis J. Bonk offers advice for thestart of an academic career. Inside Higher Ed.

A Quick 30 Writing Tips for the Start of an Academic Career

  1. Edit your papers a lot (but, in truth, better to be a Combiner than a Mozartian or Beethovenian).
  2. Get feedback.
  3. Stay current.
  4. Be part explorer.
  5. Be part bumblebee in gathering ideas from different places (and later part butterfly, moth, or bird).
  6. Be a voracious reader (and ponderer).
  7. Persist like an ant.
  8. Be creative in your figures, models, frameworks, charts, and graphs!
  9. Try to publish the paper or as a chapter before presenting at a conference (but after your conference proposal is sent in and accepted--i.e., do not scramble to write your conference paper at the last minute).
  10. Maintain a list and network of potential research and writing collaborators.
  11. Share your publication efforts.
  12. Find emerging areas to research that you are passionate about or at least interested in.
  13. Think ahead about the publishing potential of each project.
  14. Treat graduate students as colleagues.
  15. Find international and national colleagues to work with.
  16. Schedule time for writing.
  17. Have a plan or direction for the next few years and beyond--Goals are critical.
  18. Read a paper on how to create a writing plan.
  19. Organization.
  20. Use presentations as starter material.
  21. Get paid to write and research.
  22. Find professional balance.
  23. Find personal balance.
  24. Do not design too many new courses.
  25. Find a niche or direction for your research and drill down.
  26. Write all the time.
  27. Avoid high quality journal fixations.
  28. Quantity matters as well as quality (sometimes more so).
  29. Prioritize.
  30. You are just a grasshopper, so get a mentor and use him/her.
Again, read my original blog post from January 2007 for more details on the above.

I then brainstormed 20 more writing and publishing tips since I first wrote that blog post (and article) about a decade ago. See below and let me know what you think. I labeled this part "Ten Years After" since the original list came "Ten Years Before."

Part 2: Ten Years After (do you remember the rock band from the 1960s and 70s? And their song, "I'd love to change the world?" (longer live version).
More Tips on Writing and Publishing for Doctoral Students
Professor Curtis J. Bonk, Indiana University, IST Dept, Thursday November 3, 2016

Another Quick 20 Writing and Publishing Tips
  1. Find good people to work with: life is short - avoid egomaniacs and people who lie.
  2. Form research questions: Record gaps in research, find creative opening, keep tweaking,
  3. Mark days in your planner when you will be writing. Find or create chunks of time.
  4. Find, save, and use starter text where possible. Helps to overcome writer's block.
  5. Save research articles for a rainy day (i.e., create file folders of articles on different topics).
  6. Make both short term and long-term plans and goals. Review and revise those goals often.
  7. Perhaps draft a timeline or multiple timelines for your publications with flexible goals.
  8. Make a list of prominent journals (e.g., SSCI journals) and go after them one by one.
  9. Look for special journal issues that you might contribute to.
  10. Organize conference symposia which could lead to special journal issues and books.
  11. Get to know the journal editor(s). Write to the journal editors with questions.
  12. Look at the available journals and decide on the best 3 or 4 for your article.
  13. Always look at the reference section to see where people are publishing similar articles.
  14. Sponsor visiting scholars who want to work with you; they often have writing plans.
  15. Become second or third author sometime in order to spread your limited time.
  16. Listen to your colleagues and team and shoot for the journals to which they aspire.
  17. Recap the reviewer points and how you have attempted to address them.
  18. Be polite and thankful to the journal or book chapter editor(s).
  19. Review your CV/resume: check in process, in review, in press, and published articles and chapters. Remind yourself of your annual accomplishments. Remind yourself of your shortcomings.
  20. Celebrate your writing accomplishments with friends. These do not happen often enough.
Ok, that is 50 total writing tips. What do you think about them? Which are the best 2-3 tips? Which are the worst ones?

Do you want more? If so, my splendid friend and colleague from graduate school days at the University of Wisconsin in the late 1980s, Dr. Cecil Smith, detailed a bunch of writing tips back in 2004 in a paper for the AERA conference in San Diego. I helped him out for some of them...see below. People interested in this paper can contact Cecil via email for a copy. Cecil is now the Associate Dean for Research and Graduate Education and Professor of Learning Sciences and Human Development in the College of Education and Human Services at West Virginia University (where I worked a quarter of a century ago).
See also: Cecil Smith (2004, April 12). Advice for new faculty members: Getting your writing program started. Paper presented at the American Educational Research Association Conference (AERA), San Diego, CA.

1.     Assistance, Or Getting by with a Little Help from My Friends.
  1. Find a writing mentor-someone who is honest, direct, and quick with feedback.
  2. If you form a research team, commit to a time and place for weekly or monthly meetings.
  3. Identify good writing models in your field.
  4. Be careful being lured onto the research projects of others and senior faculty.
2.     Organization is the Key.
  1. Do your research and writing prior to your teaching and class preparation.
  2. Use bulletin board with push pins and index cards of writing projects to indicate progress.
  3. Set small writing goals for each week.
  4. If you must teach in the summer for the $$$, teach short or intensive courses.
  5. Try to familiarize yourself with the journal and the manuscript style and format.
  6. Find a direction for your writing. Rework dissertation to the gleast publishable unit.h
  7. Do not be afraid to call a senior person in your field for advice.
  8. Think about multiple papers from one project; e.g., publish both the research AND the model.
  9. If you find a niche area, keep publishing in it; go deep! Applied and theoretical articles is fine.
3.     Persistence + Priorities = Productivity.
  1. Try not to ever give up on a piece of writing. Persistence and grit wins the day.
  2. But still be willing to cut your losses and move on when needed.
  3. Avoid doing too many conference presentations. Finish your papers first.
  4. Get an effective laptop, tablet, or writing device for writing on planes and in airports and cafes.
  5. Try not to feel guilty declining a committee or other service or requests.
4.     Money, It's a Hit.
  1. Get grants and inquire about other sources of funding to give you time off to write.
  2. Attend workshops on grant writing.
  3. Find small pots of money from university for small projects and start-up research.
Ok, that is enough writing tips for one day...especially on election day. Ug! I hope that they help and perhaps provide a little ray of hope in this sea of mad madness.

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Seoul Man speaks: The Fourth Industrial Revolution Meets the Fourth E-Learning Revolution
Wednesday, September 21, 2016
TravelinEdMan is in Seoul at the moment. It is a short trip. I got here Monday night. I head home tomorrow. Yesterday, I gave the keynote speech at E-learning Week at Coex. I was asked to speak about the Fourth Industrial Age (more info on it; see the Davos Reader). At the start of the talk, I spoke on self-driving cars and planes, robotics, 3-D printing, augmented intelligence, artificial intelligence, and much more. Below is the abstract that I came up with. My slides are posted.

I met many high ranking education ministers and officials yesterday before the ribbon cutting ceremony (e.g., the Vice Minister of Education, the President of the Korea Council for Online Universities, the Vice Minister of Ministry of Trade, Industry, and Energy, etc.). Today there are many presentations on virtual reality and gaming. I was fortunate to be part of the ribbon cutting ceremony.

Based on feedback from others, I think my talk went well despite the internet connection on their laptop lapsing just when I went up to speak (after testing it for 2 hours). I had many videos loaded. I ended up showing a few of them after the Internet connection came back. I also had to deal with 50 minutes for my keynote instead of 60 minutes as we did not start right away (that happens, but this was a new talk with much in it so it was tough to adjust this time). Another problem was that the 60 TEC-VARIETY books that I sent to the conference did not arrive. I wanted to give them away to people at the end of my talk. Darn.

Here is the abstract of my talk.

The Fourth Industrial Revolution Meets the Fourth E-Learning Revolution
Abstract: Over the past few centuries, humankind has entered and exited a series of industrial ages from the age of steam and water power to the immense benefits of electricity and efficient assembly line workers to the tremendous life enhancements from computers and pervasive automation. Now we are on the cusp of the fourth industrial age related to cyber physical systems with extensive physical, biological, digital, and educational implications. It is in this age that we now are witnessing hyper-accelerating advancements in robotics, mobile supercomputing, artificial intelligence, drone technology, autonomous vehicles, and much more. Similarly, in education, after just two decades of Web-based learning, we have entered the fourth phase or wave of e-learning. Interesting, each of the four waves of e-learning have come exactly seven years apart. First was the establishment of Web browsers and learning portals, brought about by Web search companies like Netscape which was founded on April 4, 1994. Seven years to the day later, MIT announced the OpenCourseWare (OCW) movement on April 4, 2001 and the age of open education was spawned. Another seven year span resulted in the first massive open online courses (MOOCs) in 2008. Now we enter the fourth phase of e-learning involving the personalization of e-learning. This is the age where mentors, tutors, experts, colleagues, and instructors can appear instantaneously on a mobile device. As with the fourth wave of the industrial revolution, there is immense change around the world today related to new forms of learning typically involving technology in the fourth phase of e-learning. In fact, there are three megatrends related to learning technology today: (1) technologies for engagement; (2) technologies for pervasive access; and (3) technologies for the personalization and customization of learning. To better understand these new forms of learning delivery, Professor Bonk will discuss these three megatrends as well as his recent research on the personalization of e-learning. Along the way, insights will be offered into where the fourth industrial revolution bumps into and fuels the fourth e-learning revolution.
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 I will try to post some pictures from my involvement in e-Learning Week here in Korea later.

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The Annual Pilgrimage to Milwaukee and Madison for the Annual DTL Conference
Friday, August 05, 2016
What happens ever summer? Answer: A trip or two to my roots in Wisconsin. And one such trip is coming up next week. Hooray!

I cannot wait to go to Milwaukee (where I was born) and the University of Wisconsin Madison (where I went to graduate school). I am heading up Monday morning for the 32nd Annual Distance Teaching and Learning Conference in Madison August 9-11. There is no better place than Madison and Milwaukee in the summer. So many festivals in Milwaukee. And such a delightful ambience in Madison in the summer. I miss that place every day.

My car (a 2004 blue Honda Pilot) will eventually be quite full. Full of MOOCs books to give away at the conference and many suitcases and dishes for my brother Richard. And full of people. First, I will pick up my former student Dr. Minkyoung Kim in Bloomington. We will drive through Chicago (the mess that it is) and pick up Dr. Tom Reeves from the University of Georgia in the Milwaukee airport Monday afternoon. We will stay a night in Milwaukee so I can show them around places like the Milwaukee Art Museum. I will also show them the house in West Allis (2468 S. 94th Street) that I grew up in on the west side of Milwaukee. Unfortunately, it is presently for sale (check out my old house; see also pictures below). My mom passed away back in December and my sisters and brothers are now selling it. This will likely be the final time that I see my old house and neighborhood. Sadness. I will come back to Milwaukee on Friday to drop off Tom Reeves at the airport and then go to the State Fair with one of my brothers (Richard) and best friend Stan Lowe. It is an annual pilgrimage.

There is much to do at the conference in Madison. I have been prepping for weeks. I have a spotlight session on the personalization of MOOCs. And I have another spotlight session on how to use Web and videoconferencing to bring in experts, former students, and others to one's classes and events. Third, I have been asked to introduce the recipient of the Charles and Mildred Wedemeyer Award for Distance Learning Practitioner. I was fortunate to receive the award two years ago and so I have been asked to be involved this year. And fourth, I am on a closing panel. These events are detailed below.

Let's start with the ending panel. There are tons of brilliant people coming this year as keynote, spotlight, and invited speakers. I am truly impress with the work that my friends Les Howles and Kimary Peterson have put into this year's event. Many of these people will join me on the conferencing closing panel, Stumble, Fall Rise Again: From Failure to Transformation Change. During that panel, we will all relate stories where things did not work out as planned. It should be fun. Many of my friends and colleagues are also on the panel; they include, Ellen Wagner, Simone Conceicao, Michael G. Moore, Tom Reeves, Darcy Hardy, Ray Schroeder, and Michelle D. Miller. Les Howles will moderate it. Many of these people will join me for dinner on Tuesday night at the Great Dane Pub and Brewery restaurant in Madison near the Capital.

In one Spotlight session on Wednesday afternoon, Personalizing the MOOC: Insights from Experts Around Planet Earth, Tom Reeves and I will not only update you on the present state of MOOCs, but we will discuss what contributors to our book, MOOCs and Open Education Around the World published a year ago, have since recommended to us about how to personalize and be culturally sensitive when designing and delivery a MOOC. We will also present some brand new data collected by my research team and I during the past month on how 150 MOOCs instructors from varied disciplines around the world have personalized their MOOCs.

A book discussion and signing session will follow immediately after the spotlight session where people can receive a signed copy of our MOOCs and Open Education Around the World book for free (I should mention that Mimi Lee at the University of Houston and Tom Reynolds at National University are co-editors but they unfortunately cannot make it to the conference in Madison). Book signings and discussions are always fun. I will also do a "Book Nook" discussion on Thursday morning at 9 am. I am really looking forward to presenting at this conference with my super-splendid colleague Dr. Tom Reeves. He and I make for a fun team despite a bit of wear in the tires.

As indicated, in another spotlight session, Through the Words of Experts: Lessons Learned from Over Two Decades of Synchronous Conferencing, my former graduate student, Dr. Minkyoung Kim, and I will detail many ways that Web and videoconferencing can be used to bring in guest experts. Here is the abstract: "The tools for connecting students with experts around the world have enabled a new type of learning apprenticeship. No longer must your instructors and peers come from your own institution or organization. This talk will detail a series of pedagogical innovations and lesson learned from Web and video conferencing experimentations meant to extend the classroom to the world community. Tools such as Adobe Connect, Google Hangouts, Skype, and Zoom will be highlighted. Extensive examples and advice will be provided."

I have dozens of such examples that I can share. Most of the time it is a eye-popping and head-knocking sort of experience. People see new perspectives and ideas. They learn about different cultures and the importance of course content in various regions of the world and disciplines. And they better appreciate the content being taught in the course. These are exciting times for work in this area of global education with technology.

I should point out that this will be Minkyoung Kim's first presentation since passing her dissertation defense in June. She heads to a position at Texas Tech shortly after the conference. Congrads to her!

So, that is it for my brief recap for next week. Madison is so much fun in the summer. I will give Tom and Minkyoung and Rich Culatta a tour of the UW Campus on Tuesday afternoon. We will try to meet up with my former student Kurt Squire for ice cream at the main union overlooking Lake Mendota as part of the tour. It will be great to see my Kurt for the last time in Madison. He and his wife Constance Steinkuehler recently accepted jobs at UC Irvine.

You can find my slides in my archived talks in In the meantime, below are pictures of the front and back of the house that I grew up in there in West Allis, Wisconsin (along with 2 brothers and 2 sisters). I will miss the old place when it is sold. Pictures of the inside can be found in the link above. One bathroom and three bedrooms for 7 people was not easy. Eventually, my father built a 4th bedroom and 2nd bathroom in the basement. Enjoy the home tour! Perhaps you might want to buy it? Let me know.

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"There's no learning in e-learning": Such was the "State of E-Learning" back in April, 2002
Thursday, July 28, 2016
Note: The snippet below "And the State of E-Learning is..." comes from the introductory section of a journal article that just went to press. Part of it had to be cut due to length (I tend to write too much!). Oh well. The article that I wrote is based on a keynote talk (Education 3.0: The Learning World of Middle Earth is Fast Changing!--see slides) that I gave in April 2016 at the DEANZ conference (now called FLANZ or the Flexible Learning Association of New Zealand). By the way, can join FLANZ.

Bonk, C. J. (2016). What is the state of e-learning?: Reflections on 30 ways learning is changing. Journal of Open, Flexible and Distance Learning, 20(2), 6-20. Available: and

There is a second piece of that article that was also cut entitled "From Men on Stilts to Bill Clinton." I blogged on it this morning (in part since Bill Clinton just spoke at the Democratic Convention). I recommend that you click the link above and read through that blog post after you read the information below. I should point out that my most excellent colleagues, Dr. Noeline Wright and Dr. Elaine Khoo, ran the conference and are now editing the special journal issue. You will find their pictures below.

Thanks so much Elaine and Noeline. By the way, you may recognize Elaine's name as co-author with me of the "Adding Some TEC-VARIETY" book with me (free copy of e-book). And you might recognize Noeline's name as a chapter contributor to my 2006 book, The Handbook of Blended Learning: Global Perspectives, Local Designs.

See below for the main part of my second blog post of the day...

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And the State of E-Learning is…

As I write this article, it is Monday June 20, 2016. Looking at my calendar, it is the summer solstice and the end of spring. During this time of extended daylight, I am staring out into the forest behind my house here in Bloomington, Indiana.

I am reflecting on the speech that I gave at the University of Waikato in Hamilton, New Zealand during the annual DEANZ conference two months earlier. In it, I discussed how the learning world in which I had grown up was in rapid motion. Some thirty different learning related trends had somehow, though not totally unexpectedly, started to coalesce. Learning had increasingly become more informal, video-based, ubiquitous, collaborative, self-directed, global, mobile, open, massive, and so much more.

Each trend on its own would have sparked a learning revolution. The fact that they were occurring simultaneously should force every human being walking this planet to pause and stare into the distance just as I was engaged in. In fact, you might try it right now. Turn off your computer. Close this journal article. Then reflect on the differences between your learning journeys today and those you took one, two, or three decades ago.

What I was pondering was the fact that exactly fourteen years earlier I had trekked through those same campus grounds at the University of Waikato. Back then, I attended a pivotal and exciting e-learning summit wherein I gave a series of talks about the pervasive myths, pedagogical possibilities, and problems of e-learning. At the time, e-learning quality, incentives, completion rates, instructor training and support, and challenges and obstacles were among the many topics of interest. Interestingly, they remain so today. The other invited keynote presenters at the summit, Gilly Salmon of the Open University in the UK and John Hedberg (see his research) of Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia, offered much insight into these issues and other instructional options and opportunities in this growing field.

The one item that struck me repeatedly back in April 2002 was how often I was asked to explain the present state of e-learning. This question was first posed of me during a live national TV program in New Zealand (Channel One morning news); to which I had no answer. To my utter embarrassment, all I could offer was a series of mumbling sounds. Later that same day, I was asked that exact same question on Radio New Zealand. By that time, I had an answer, “It depends.” Amazingly, at the end of the E-learning Summit, the conference organizer, Dr. Mark Topping, had all the keynote speakers line up and tell the audience their perspectives on “the current state of e-learning.” Apparently, after the epic success with the Lord of Rings movie trilogy, people in New Zealand were hoping for another success in conquering the field of e-learning. Unfortunately for New Zealanders, so was every educator and politician in every other country that I visited at that time.

In retrospect, my talk at the 2016 DEANZ conference was perhaps unintentionally designed to attempt to answer that question about the state of e-learning (or perhaps just learning); I was just 14 years too late. However, as someone who has given more than 1,000 talks in dozens of countries since that unique summit in 2002, I can attest to the fact that it is extremely difficult to keep up on the fast changing forms of learning technology and distance education. Interesting and ground breaking new technology reports seem to arise every hour of the day.

Back in 2002, a segment within one of my talks in Hamilton was titled “There’s no learning in e-learning.” In it, I showcased pictures from various conferences that I had attended the previous couple of years. The rationale for that talk should have been part of my answer on television, radio, and the E-Learning Summit about the “state of e-learning” back in 2002. As you will see in the section below, there really was no learning within e-learning. No. No. No. No. No!

(Remember to read Part 2 of this article which I wrote early this morning, "From Men on Stilts to Bill Clinton."  Reading them together is important in order to make sense of some of my key points.)
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Some pictures from the conference are below. They are in chronological order from the start of the DEANZ 2016 conference to the reflective drink at the end. I have already posted many more pictures from my trip to New Zealand in my blog. If you like hobbits, elves, and wizards, you might check them out: Been there (New Zealand), Done That (Korea...but going again)...


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Online Learning 2001 in LA: From Men on Stilts to Bill Clinton

Note #1: The following story was cut from my 2009 book (as were dozens of other stories), "The World is Open: How Web Technology is Revolutionizing Education." Last month I wrote an article for a journal from New Zealand based on my talk there in April. It was cut once again. So I thought I would finally publish it in my blog given that former President Bill Clinton spoke at the Democratic Convention in Philadelphia last night. I have seen Bill Clinton speak live twice...once in 2008 here in Bloomington, Indiana when he was stumping for his wife Hillary Clinton and once in 2001 as a keynote speaker at an online learning conference in Los Angeles (see below for that story). Smile.

Note #2: This is the first of a two -part story that originates from a recent talk in Hamilton, New Zealand. I will post Part 2 later today (or so I hope). Hang on...

From Men on Stilts to Bill Clinton
When I was a new faculty member at West Virginia University in the late 1980s and early 1990s, one of my graduate students, Padma Medury, and I conducted a national survey of collaboration and groupware tools. We found five different levels of tools from simple email exchanges to what we labeled as cooperative hypermedia (Bonk, Medury, & Reynolds, 1994). Little did Padma and I realize at the time the extent to which Web-based collaborative tools would help shape and elevate various newly emerging fields, including online learning, computer-supported collaborative learning (CSCL), and computer-supported collaborative work (CSCW).

In pilot testing one of the more powerful collaborative tools at the time, Aspects, we were excited to see that people in different cities could work on the same document at the same time. And Aspects did not just foster for text collaboration; it also allowed for the online sharing of pictures and other visual illustrations in multimedia documents. It was one of dozens of such tools.

When I arrived at Indiana University in the late summer of 1992, there was a cadre of doctoral students interested in research on such collaborative tools. We compared asynchronous and synchronous discussions (e.g., Bonk, Hansen, Grabner, Lazar, & Mirabelli, 1998). We coordinated case collaborations among students in Finland, Peru, the UK, Korea, and various universities in the U.S. (Kim & Bonk, 2002). We observed explorers in the Arctic interacting with kids in schools around the world (Bonk & Sugar, 1998). If there was a collaborative project or idea someone came up with, we researched it. Much of these efforts found their way into a book called Electronic Collaborators: Learner-Centered Technology for Literacy, Apprenticeship, and Discourse (Bonk & King, 1998).

Shortly after the Electronic Collaborators book was published, online learning survey data began pouring in from two of my follow-up national research projects. In September of 2000, I presented some of the results at the Online Learning 2000 Conference held in Denver (Bonk 2002a, 2002b). I soon found myself in a convention that was anything but ordinary. I should mention that it was a full year before 9/11 and in the heyday of the dot-com bubble. Still there were warning signs of a pending crash which no one wanted to talk about, let alone believe.

What were the signs? Well for one, many vendors were talking about potential products, not actual ones. They were quick to pass out the t-shirts, coffee mugs, and tote bags, but had minimal product information to share. I remember walking through the massive exhibit hall at the start of the conference with Bob Cole, Vice President of Corporate Sales from JonesKnowledge (which was connected to Jones International University; among the first fully online universities in the world). Bob looked at me and then spoke honestly about the vendors, “Curt, it is just a lot of trinkets, toys, and trash that they are handing out. My wife tells me to quit bringing the stuff home.”

And so it was. I watched vendors in booth after booth trying to bring people in to see what they had. There were magicians doing card tricks, flame eaters, jugglers, men on stilts, and, of course, a cadre of pretty women in the booths. Not content with the potential business such trickery would draw, there were laptop giveaways every hour or so at one or more of the booths. I vividly remember a guy on stilts coming into the men’s bathroom. I wondered how in the world he would complete his mission.

As an education professor and former accountant, I was not used to all this hype or the amount of money being tossed around so freely. What I soon realized is that the phrase of the day was “burn rate,” and they were all attempting to “outburn” the competition. It was burn, baby burn! That was the time when companies were flush with money or venture capital from someone else. Employers also created their own jobs and job titles. Many of these companies were showcasing quite exciting ideas, but unfortunately were short on viable products. Something had to cover up that fact. It was a giant shell game. In addition to magicians and attractive booth attendants, there was expensive signage and colorful handouts, none of which fostered the learning of the people of this planet.

The names of the companies at the time added to the charade. If you did not have one of the following words in your company name: “intelligent,” “mind,” “brain,” “collaborative,” “knowledge,” “learning,” or “smart,” and, better still, placed the letter “e” somewhere near the front or back of one of the above words (e.g., “Smart-E,” “e-Brain,” “e-Telligent,” “e-Know,” and so on), you were not cool and would likely not survive. But if you could combine two or more of these words or symbols together as in “SmartKnowledge” or “LearningSmart” or “E-MindCollaboration” or “e-LearningBrain,” your product was deemed superior to everyone else despite not yet having a product to sell.

I wanted to shout “E-nough”! And so I did. After the Online Learning 2000 conference in Denver, I created a PowerPoint presentation to be embedded in my upcoming keynotes, including the E-learning Summit in Hamilton in April 2002. I titled it, “There’s no learning in e-learning,” while mocking the situation with the lyrics and a sound clip from Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody song playing in the background as each slide automatically played; “Easy come easy go, will you let me go? Bismillah! No, we will not let you go. (Let him go!) Bismillah! We will not let you go. (Let me go!) Will not let you go. (Let me go!) Will not let you go let me go.” The examples in PowerPoint went on from there, but, suffice to say, what I was attempting to convey is that one could not get out of the booths once you entered. You were stuck there for at least 15 or 30 minutes and they had nothing to you could actually buy. And I had proof with dozens of pictures I had taken from wondering through e-learning conference exhibits at the time (see below for pics from Online Learning two years later in 2002 in Los Angeles).

It was clear from a few hours walking the hallways of such conferences that there was no learning in e-learning. In fact, it was highly doubtful that many of the people placed in the booths even understood what the words “learning” or “collaboration” meant. And they definitely had no clue as to the true learning impact of the tools that they had for sale, or, at least, hoped to sell one day. There was no discussion of the range or types of collaborative interaction that was now possible as in the five-level online technology collaboration scheme that my colleagues and I had developed about a decade earlier. Still, the conference was bulging with attendees, and only the people walking around on stilts could really get an accurate head count.

About a year later, that same conference was held at the Los Angeles Convention Center. As a sign of the venture funds backing up companies in this space, Bill Clinton (who, at the time, he was charging about $120,000 per speech) was the keynote. Unfortunately, because the 9/11 disaster had occurred some three weeks prior, the conference had nearly as many vendors as attendees. This was the first event in the LA Convention Center after the tragedy in New York. Clinton spoke at 6:00 p.m. on October 1, 2001. I arrived late and was carrying two tote bags, two laptop computers, an LCD projector, and other props from a talk that I had given earlier that afternoon. I expected to be in an overflow room, but I got right into the main room for Clinton’s talk without anyone inspecting my belongings. It was just three short weeks after 9/11, the former president of the United States was speaking, and no one opened my bags to check what I had.

Almost everyone attending Online Learning 2001 was in the room, yet many seats remained open. Unfortunately, for the conference organizers, the annual Online Learning conference had drastically shrunk in size from the year before in Denver. It was downsizing in a major way. Suffice to say, I no longer heard people bragging about their burn rates. The causes for this shrinkage included the 9/11 crisis, worries about travel, slashed travel budgets, and the implosion of most dot-com companies; especially those lacking viable products. Along with all this turmoil, it seemed to be the end of an era where magicians and men on stilts could distract people from a lack of quality e-learning products. I sure miss those men on stilts and ladies in the booths attempting to define the words “learning” and “collaboration” for me, let alone “E-MindCollaboration” or “e-LearningBrain.”

Despite such flaws, the e-learning boom did accomplish much. It raised the consciousness of the planet about collaborative technology and the flexibility of learning online. Now millions of people were aware of the importance of online collaboration and knowledge-sharing. It was a new era for education, training, and society at large. Collaborative tools changed the way in which we worked, learned, and socialized. Such was the state of e-learning back when I visited New Zealand the first time back in 2002 (see next blog post...later today). I was caught off guard, however, when asked about it on national television and radio. While jugglers, flame-eaters, and magicians are no longer needed to draw attention to this field, it would likely have made for interesting press releases and news stories had I remembered to tell the above anecdote.


Bonk, C. J. (July 2009). The world is open: How Web technology is revolutionizing education. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, a Wiley imprint. (see book homepage for freebies:

Bonk, C. J., Hansen, E. J., Grabner, M. M., Lazar, S., & Mirabelli, C. (1998). Time to "Connect": Synchronous and asynchronous case-based dialogue among preservice teachers. In C. J. Bonk, & K. S. King (Eds.), Electronic collaborators: Learner-centered technologies for literacy, apprenticeship, and discourse (pp. 289-314). Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.

Bonk, C. J., & Khoo, E. (2014). Adding some TEC-VARIETY: 100+ activities for motivating and retaining learners online. and Amazon CreateSpace. Retrieved (FREE) from

Bonk, C. J., & King, K. S. (Eds.). (1998). Electronic collaborators: Learner-centered technologies for literacy, apprenticeship, and discourse. Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.

Bonk, C. J., & Sugar, W. A. (1998). Student role play in the World Forum: Analyses of an Arctic learning apprenticeship. Interactive Learning Environments, 6(1-2), 1-29.

Kim, K. J., & Bonk, C. J. (2002). Cross-cultural comparisons of online collaboration among pre-service teachers in Finland, Korea, and the United States. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 8(1). Retrieved from

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About Me

Name: Curt Bonk
Home: Bloomington, Indiana, United States
About Me: I am a former accountant and CPA and a former educational psychologist. I am now Professor of IST at Indiana University and also adjunct in the School of Informatics. I founded and later sold SurveyShare. As president of CourseShare, LLC, I run around the world training instructors to teach online and give motivational talks about emerging learning technologies. I also write and edit books related to e-learning and blended learning. See bio and vita.

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