President’s Lecture Series – Dr. George Siemens

George Siemens looks to the future in his President’s Leadership Lecture Series event

By Darren McDonald. UFV honorary degree recipient George Siemens is known as an extremely intelligent, affable forecaster of education’s evolution throughout the world.

It turns out his timing is impeccable, too.

Siemens will deliver his UFV President’s Leadership Lecture on Monday, Feb 2, less than two weeks after UFV Provost and Vice-President, Academic Eric Davis launched the UFV 2025 visioning process.

Tasked with delving into challenges and opportunities lying 10 years ahead, the UFV 2025 visioning committee will consider the changing nature of students, curriculum, classrooms, and learning itself.

As it just so turns out, that’s right up Siemens’ alley.

Siemens plans to combine wisdom gleaned from his various experiences on the new frontiers of education into an informative lecture that gives the audience tools that help them understand the changing pattern of what universities are becoming “outside of hype and random predictions.”

Along with University of Manitoba colleague Stephen Downes, Siemens launched what is widely recognized as the first Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) in 2008. That course on learning theory attracted enough students to fill a small town — about 2,300 in total.

Seen as a landmark in open teaching, MOOCs are an extension of distance learning that build communities for professors, teaching assistants, and students through online forums. They’re designed around the basic idea that if students are passionate for knowledge, and allowed to pursue that passion, they’ll be more motivated, engaged, and successful.

Still, Siemens is quick to point out the value in traditional educational models.

“The future of education is not exclusively online,” he says.

“There’s still extraordinary value in brick and mortar. It’s a matter of looking at the mindset of what learning is: it’s a social experience and there’s value in that face-to-face interaction.”

Siemens is with the University of Texas at Arlington as executive director of the Learning Innovation and Networked Knowledge Research Lab. He also teaches at the primarily online Athabasca University. He’s currently involved in two major research opportunities: a $4.5 million engagement with Smart Sparrow, a pioneering adaptive and personalized learning technology; and a $1.6 million grant dedicated to researching under-represented students in digital learning environments.

Additionally, he has consulted for organizations including Google, General Electric, the European Union, and Australia’s federal government.

He admits there’s some risk in forecasting the future of education, or anything else.

“You can look like an idiot in pretty short order,” he says with a laugh.

Whatever the future holds, it probably won’t include Siemens being thought of as anything less than an inspiring pioneer.

George Siemens’ President Leadership Lecture Series presentation begins at 4 pm Monday, Feb 2 inside UFV’s Abbotsford Lecture Theatre (Room B101). Admission is free and the public is welcome. For more information, visit

Image courtesy UFV

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