Pioneer, Visionary, Author: Dr. Starr Roxanne Hiltz


Dr. Starr Roxanne Hiltz is an award-winning author and pioneer in the field of virtual learning. Just one of her many significant contributions was co-authoring the acclaimed book The Network Nation in 1978 with her husband Dr. Murray Turoff. The book was considered groundbreaking and visionary for the time in the field of Computer-Mediated Communication (CMC) and the study of the social impacts of computer technology.

I chose to spotlight Dr. Hiltz because the early work she did in the field of virtual learning communities helped shape the Virtual Learning Communities and Learning Management Systems (LMS) of today. Dr. Hiltz was one of few women early in the field of education and technology and through her many career accomplishments provides inspiration to all the women coming after her. A detailed snapshot of her achievements and contributions can be seen here. Dr. Hiltz, a Sociologist, focused on the social impacts of virtual communities and presented a vision of inclusivity and accessibility for those outside of the privileged mainstream student of the times. In an endorsement for The Network Nation, author Teresa Carpenter captures Dr. Hiltz’s vision stating, “Minorities and women compete on equal terms with white males, and the elderly and handicapped are released from the confines of their infirmities to skim the electronic terrain as swiftly as anyone else” (Carpenter, n.d., para.1). As a society still facing many of these issues today, much can be learned from Dr.Hiltz’s early work.

While writing The Network Nation, she invented the idea of a virtual classroom within a CMC system. After several years of work to obtain the necessary support and funding she designed, implemented, and studied the first version of this in 1985 (Hiltz,1986). I find her forward-thinking vision fascinating and inspiring from a time when computers and the internet were largely out of reach for most. (check out her 1986 report)

Dr. Starr Roxanne Hiltz contributed greatly to the field of learning technology and her extensive works surrounding the social impacts of virtual communities and virtual learning can provide valuable lessons for what we are trying to accomplish today.


Carpenter, T. (n.d), [Book Endorsement]. MIT Press.

Hiltz, S. R. (1986). The “virtual classroom”: Using computer-mediated communication for university teaching. Journal of communication36(2), 95-104.


Application of Ed Tech in Corporate Training

Through the lens of my corporate training development role, I have found significant relevance and some conflict between my experiences and the developing educational technologies discussed in Weller’s book. In this blog post, I will discuss the relevance and application of video technologies in corporate training and some conflict I found in the discussion surrounding e-learning and cost savings. For context, I am the Training Development Manager for a transportation corporation that operates four separate lines of business, each with its own in-house training department. I provide support for the development of online learning specifically.

The use of video in corporate training goes back many years, as you can see in this 1960’s era training video or this video produced by my company well over a decade ago. Videos have been an effective way to present information to learners in corporate training programs however prior to the evolution of personal recording devices and streaming services such as YouTube, their use was limited due to the expense and intensive work effort required to produce. These developments have mitigated the high cost of producing videos and made them a viable solution for training departments to use more often. Professional video productions took a long time to develop and quickly became outdated making them difficult to keep current and effective. Now, with the availability of publicly shared videos on YouTube, a video produced by a Manufacturer demonstrating a task such as using a certain wheelchair securement system can be embedded in e-learning or presented in a facilitated training course. When a company-specific training need is identified, trainers can use their smartphones to record videos. For example, our student transportation business line recently changed their school bus backing procedure and was able to promptly record a video of the new procedure to easily share with drivers. Using a smartphone, video quality may not be as impressive as what is produced by professional videographers however if presented appropriately, it can effectively support meeting the desired learning outcomes.

Weller (2020) states, “The arrival of e-learning, then, did not present a drastic reduction in the costs of higher education…” (p.47) In my experience, e-learning has provided drastic cost reduction in certain corporate training contexts. I will not claim that it always will, or always has but when used appropriately, it can. There are several reasons for corporate training needs including skills development, policy awareness, and compliance training. Some industries have heavily regulated training requirements, such as my previous experience in the oil and gas industry, and this creates high training costs. Employees are compensated for attending training, travel, meals, hotels, and then there are course material, venue, and instructor costs as well. In my experience, travel cost for employees and instructors has been a significant cost factor that is directly mitigated by e-learning. Also, those training costs are amplified by the high employee turnover rates in my previous and current industries.

With the arrival of e-learning, and even more impactful a few years later, the arrival of user-friendly e-learning development software, it has been my experience that in-house e-learning development has proven to have positive Return on Investment (ROI). If this was not the case I do not think I would have been gainfully employed for the past 8 years providing this service. However, a company has many factors to consider such as number of employees, specific training needs, and learner demographics to determine when e-learning is the best solution. I will not claim that e-learning should be considered the ‘end all be all’ for corporate training but it does have its benefits and cost is one of them. It is important that responsible assessment and analysis is carried out to ensure that e-learning is being used only when the content is suitable to an e-learning format. The potential cost savings of e-learning can be lost if courses are being created that are not effectively meeting the intended outcomes or training departments are not being conservative or realistic with production work effort and budgets.



Weller, M. (2020). 25 Years of Ed Tech. Athabasca University Press.

25 Years of Ed Tech by Martin Weller

In his book, Weller presents an informative history and timeline of significant developments in educational technology. Weller concedes that his choice to present the timeline by introducing one technology per year may result in some limitations and perhaps some personal bias based on his own experiences (2020). Focusing on the year that the technology provided significant contribution rather than the creation date of the technology provides a strong overview of how each technology shaped the field and further explains the impact of the technology for that period of time.

Weller chose to go back to 1994 to provide insight into the evolution of educational technology. I appreciate Weller’s suggestion that “Indeed, an alternative title for this book might be Educational Technology: The Internet Years” (Weller, 2020, p.5) as the focus of the book is the past 25 years which marks the beginnings of the mainstream adoption of the web in the field of education; not the beginnings of educational technology. If Weller was discussing the broader field of educational technology for all time, he would have had to have gone much further back in history to capture the earliest forms of educational technology. An interesting example of an earlier educational technology can be found looking back at this 1960’s era corporate training video.

After reading the first chapters in Weller’s book, I feel differently about the pressure to act on every technology trend in my role developing corporate training. Weller acknowledges the persistent narrative in educational technology that pushes a sense of urgency on us that if we do not hurry up and keep up with the technology of the day that we will be left behind (2020). Weller responds to criticism that universities will not keep up with modern students as the technology advances by stating that, “Such accounts both underestimate the degree to which universities have changed and are capable of change while also overestimating the digital natives-type account that all students want a university to be the equivalent of Instagram” (p.3). The same notions can be applied in corporate training where we should not assume that the learners (employees) need, expect, or want the latest technology trends driving their training experience.

Weller’s perspective serves as a reminder to stay grounded in sound educational theory and practices and use the technologies available to support the needs of students. In doing so, not allowing the technologies to command or hasten choices when designing educational experiences.


Weller, M. (2020). 25 Years of Ed Tech. Athabasca University Press.

George Veletsianos Audiocast

In his 2021 audiocast addressing questions from the MALAT program cohort, George Veletsianos offered some valuable advice on conducting literature reviews. The tips offered in the audiocast break up a seemingly daunting task into a manageable process.

Veletsianos addresses the first step of the process, starting narrowly with the research question and slowly broadening the scope of research from there. I found this especially useful as it gives a starting point to the literature review, allowing it to build organically. This point also confirms what we studied earlier in this course (LRNT 522) the importance of developing a ‘good’ research question.

The second piece of advice I found helpful was Veletsianos suggestion to reframe the term ‘literature review’ to ‘a review of the relevant literature’. For me, this takes away the overwhelming feeling that the researcher must include any and all literature about the topic. Given this advice, I feel more confident and even a little excited about taking on a literature review as part of my research journey.


Veletsianos, G. (2021, August 11). Personal interview.  [Personal interview]

What makes a good research question?


What makes a good research question?

  • A good research question does not allow for a simple yes or no answer, nor can it be answered by a single resource or piece of data (Dean, 2011).

For example: What is the grade twelve completion rate for students in Alberta? Or, does Alberta have higher high school dropout rates than British Columbia? These questions are not good research questions as they can simply be answered by a single piece of data or a yes or no answer based on existing data.

  • A good research question is specific, not too broad or too narrow (Dean, 2011).

For example: “How does social media affect teens?” This question is too broad and would prove difficult to focus research, also it is too ambiguous to present clear findings. In contrast, “How does Snapchat use affect the females in ABC School’s grade six class?”, is a question that may be too specific to gather significant results and too specific to generate outside interest in the study findings.

The research question can heavily influence a research study. A poorly written research question poses several risks to a research study (Thabane et al., 2009). Therefore, it is vital to the success of the study that adequate time and effort is spent developing a good research question that is clear, relevant, and informed.


Dean, G. (2011, January 18). Problem Statements and Research Questions. [Video]. Youtube.

Thabane, L., Thomas, T., Ye, C. et al. Posing the research question: not so simple. Can J Anesth/J Can Anesth 56, 71 (2009).

Unit 3 Reflection

Reflecting on the Unit 3 readings, I have found clarity in identifying the types of organizational structures that make up the digital spaces I occupy. Each one providing its own value and benefits.

I look at my networks as a digital land of opportunity. My perspective has shifted surrounding the purpose of the networks I am a part of. The purpose is less about personally connecting with all the individuals within my networks but can instead be used as a launchpad for connecting with individuals and organizations that might lead to a friendship, a job opportunity, group affiliation, or interest group to follow. Before this, I was inadvertently careful about who I was adding to my networks, operating on an assumption that my digital network connections should be those who I ‘know’. I no longer believe this to be true. If I continue with that approach I will miss out on what might be the most beneficial characteristic of networks, opportunity (Dron & Anderson 2014). My new approach is to make connections with those that share similar values, interests and goals and those beyond that; capitalizing on the benefits offered by diversity within networks (Dron & Anderson 2014).

Participating in groups is a way to learn through developing connections with individuals working towards a common goal. Through the MALAT program, I have started to experience a social learning structure within a group. I have a new understanding of my role as a co-designer in this collaborative learning environment (vanOostveen et al., 2016). It has prompted me to consider what is needed to get the most out of this type of learning environment. In the past, my learning groups have been structured with a high level of control. In this program I will need to approach learning with a more collaborative mindset to how I learn and contribute. 

My goal is to cultivate a positive and impactful digital presence and identity. I will do this through active participation in my networks, groups, and sets. I will critically reflect on the purpose I have for participating and if it is not serving its purpose; I will let it go. My contributions will be for the betterment of myself and others through pro-social, positive, inclusive, and meaningful participation. This will be an iterative process where I continually evaluate and improve to grow into the digital spaces I occupy and the ones that will come after them. 


Dron, J., & Anderson, T. (2104). Teaching Crowds. Athabasca University Press. 

vanOostveen, R., DiGiuseppe, M., Barber, W., Blayone, T., & Childs, E. (2016). New conceptions for digital technology sandboxes: Developing a Fully Online Learning Communities (FOLC) model. In Proceedings of EdMedia: World Conference on Educational Media and Technology 2016 (pp. 665-673). Association for the Advancement of Computing in Education (AACE). 


Visual Network Map

My visual network map displays a snapshot of my Facebook and LinkedIn connections. My map identifies personal versus professional connections. These platforms both use very similar profile tools, sharing tools, notification tools, and referral tools however, they were designed to serve two different purposes. Even with a loosely structured format, characteristic of networks (Dron & Anderson, 2014), they have maintained respective purposes. LinkedIn is primarily used to connect professionally and Facebook to connect personally.

On the map, I situated my node closer to the personal connections where I have a more resident versus visitor presence (White 2013). My LinkedIn profile is more visitor versus residence presence however, that could change if I were looking for career opportunities or promoting my professional presence.

My professional and personal networks can be valuable resources and are worth investing in. Participating in networks with an array of individuals who possess diverse skills and interests will help me learn and grow personally and professionally (Dron & Anderson, 2014). This activity has inspired me to circle back to my digital identity and digital presence plan and get to work on cultivating my presence in these networks.


Anderson, T., & Dron, J. (2014). Teaching Crowds: Learning and Social MediaTeaching Crowds: Learning and Social Media. Athabasca University Press.

White, D. (2013, September 13). Just the Mapping [Video]. YouTube.


Digital Identity and Digital Presence Plan (DIDP)

I found the tension pairs exercise reflected upon in my previous blog incredibly valuable for identifying my starting point and creating this plan. David White explains the exercise in this video.

Goals and Purpose

My overall goal for cultivating my digital presence and identity is to become a positive and impactful member of the virtual spaces I occupy. I look forward to enhancing my digital presence and connecting with individuals and communities that I will learn from and grow with. This will happen if I set up my spaces and activities intentionally to find and follow the topics and people that I am interested in. Making digital engagement an integral part of my daily life will allow me to benefit from new learning opportunities (Hargittai & Walejko, 2008). It is important that I do this in a way that is inclusive and authentically represents my thoughts, research, and personality in alignment with my core values. My expectation is that developing a strong digital presence and identity will foster meaningful connections and learning, leading to professional and personal growth.


I have chosen a select number of platforms to be a part of and each one serves a specific purpose. I want to keep those instances limited to ensure I have the time to use these spaces to the full potential. My plan details my approach to using each platform.

Skills/Knowledge Gaps

I acknowledge my skills/knowledge gaps including:

  • WordPress technical skills
  • Twitter social skills
  • Expressing myself through academic writing

WordPress I am learning as I go, I have resources available through RRU to fill the gaps. Twitter is a platform I will familiarize myself with and do not anticipate much of a learning curve, however, I will need to find the motivation to contribute as well as consume from this platform. I plan to find inspiration from my research and discussions with my cohort throughout the MALAT program. I will use the resources available through RRU and feedback from instructors to improve my academic writing skills.

Measures of Success

In six months, I will consider my plan a success if; I have increased my number of connections, am actively engaging in conversations, and learning through current online influencers and research in my field of study/work. In two years, I will consider my plan a success if; I am sharing resources, creating impactful content, and posting my work openly.

I have created a plan based on specific platforms I will be using. The platforms I use may change, however, the goals and purpose will stay the same. See my plan here.


Hargittai, E., & Walejko, G. (2008). The Participation Divide: Content creation and sharing in the digital ageInformation, Community and Society11(2), 239-256

White, D. (2013, September 13). Just the Mapping (video).Youtube.


Visitor – Resident Typology Map

Thinking about how I engage with the digital tools and platforms I currently use has helped me evaluate my current digital identity. The Visitor – Resident typology not only acknowledges the tools we use but also how we engage with them (White, 2013). This is a great starting point for planning how to shape my digital identity going forward.

I find it interesting that everyone’s map is so different even though we use many of the same programs and platforms. Our modes of engagement with the programs can be very different and will evolve. For example, Linked In is a platform I currently have very limited interactions in. However, if I was looking for a job I would be connecting with others, making posts, updating my profile, and responding to posts. Then, I would have to place it much further along the continuum towards resident. I found it interesting that Moodle (as a student) and Moodle (as an administrator) placed in the same spot. Moodle also straddles the line between visitor and resident. I can use it as a place to submit an assignment or assign an elearning course. It can also be a place where I share a resource or take part in a discussion forum.

As a regular consumer of information and someone who uses several digital tools for work, I had not considered, what am I contributing? My natural tendency is not to put myself out there or go out of my way to contribute. Now, I see that the people who do this are the ones keeping these spaces alive and interesting. Through this program, I look forward to cultivating an intentional and authentic digital identity. I think the biggest change will be taking up residency in some new spaces.

David Cormier presents an alternative tension pair, “I was looking for something that looked at the whole of someone’s practice rather than just the digital stuff” (Cormier, 2018, para. 8). I feel both tension pairs can be useful depending on the goal for the mapping activity. I find David Cormier’s approach to mapping would answer the question, how do you incorporate digital tools into the things you need to do? and Dave White’s approach would answer the question, what digital tools do you use and how do you engage with them?


Cormier, D. (2018, March 31). Digital Practices Mapping – Intro activity for digital literacies course.

White, D. (2013, September 13). Just the Mapping (video).Youtube.


MALAT Virtual Symposium 2021 Reflection



The 2021 MALAT Virtual Symposium delivered an insightful and inspirational experience to kick off my MALAT journey. A significant reason why I enrolled in the MALAT program was the chance to gain exposure to learning outside of my sector. My choice was validated in the first presentation I joined when Cindy Harris (2021), spoke about the significant benefits of cross-discipline exposure in environments like the MALAT program. Throughout the week I made meaningful connections in all the presentations I took part in. The most impactful connections to my current work came from the presentations and discussions surrounding relationship building.

In my role, I serve as Project Lead and Instructional Designer for learning initiatives across four separate lines of business; relationship building is at the core of what I do. Cindy Harris (2021), asserted the importance of facilitating strong relationships as an Instructional Designer. Melanie Meyers (2020) echoed this, referring to ‘Relationship Builder’ as part of the job description of an Instructional Designer. I have experienced the most successful project rollouts with teams and stakeholders that communicate well, and where all parties feel safe to express themselves. Communication and trust will contribute to team success (Boies et al., 2015). I will take the advice offered by Cindy Harris and show up as my authentic self and use my skills and abilities to best serve the team (Harris, 2021). I can further define my role as a Facilitator and Guide by intentionally incorporating relationship building into my role. The Institute for Performance and Learning in Canada also recognizes the importance of these relationships. In 2016, the Institute’s revision of the competency framework for learning professionals included the introduction of a new key competency, Partnering with Clients. This competency framework highlights the need for relationship building to ensure the project meets the needs of the learner and the organization. (Institute for Performance and Learning, 2016).

I found significant value in attending the 2021 MALAT Virtual Symposium. The diverse perspectives across the presentations have been a welcome glimpse into what is to come. My curiosity has been sparked and I am excited to dive into the topics discussed on a deeper level.


Boies, K., Fiset, J., & Gill, H. (2015). Communication and trust are key: Unlocking the relationship between leadership and team performance and creativity. Leadership Quarterly, 26(6), 1080–1094.

Harris, C. (2021). The person in the middle of the road: one educators journey supporting training and education [Webinar]. Virtual Symposium.

Institute for Performance and Learning. (2016). Competencies for performance and learning professionals

Meyers, M. (2020). Many Hats: Why Flexibility and an Open Mind Matter [Video]. Virtual Symposium.