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Prof. Dr. Kinshuk: Professor, School of Computing and Information Systems, Athabasca University; Associate Dean, Faculty of Science and Technology, Athabasca University; NSERC Industrial Research Chair (Adaptivity and Personalization), School of Computing and Information Systems, Athabasca University (Part Two)


Author(s): Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Publication (Outlet/Website): In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal

Publication Date (yyyy/mm/dd): 2016/05/15


Interview with Dr. Kinshuk. Professor in the School of Computing and Information Systems at Athabasca University, Associate Dean in the Faculty of Science and Technology at Athabasca University, and NSERC Industrial Research Chair (Adaptivity and Personalization) in the School of Computing and Information Systems at Athabasca University. He discusses: Smart learning – a new approach or simply a new name (2015) and the proper approach to the improvement of the methodology undergirding teaching; Canada remaining competitive on the global educational index; Canada becoming number one; the problem of mismatch between skills and training, and positions from education and the economy; the future of the educational world in the middle of the 21st century; technological impacts on education inn the 22nd century; Technology Enhanced Knowledge Research Institute: Research Profile: Dr. Kinshuk (2009) and other aspects of educational technology to improve education for students; negatives from educational technology in terms of resource expenditure for students; and assistance to those with lost educational time and progress via technology.

Keywords: Athabasca University, Canada Research Chair, Educational Technology, Informatics, Professor Kinshuk.

Prof. Dr. Kinshuk: Professor, School of Computing and Information Systems, Athabasca University; Associate Dean, Faculty of Science and Technology, Athabasca University; NSERC Industrial Research Chair (Adaptivity and Personalization), School of Computing and Information Systems, Athabasca University[1],[2],[3],[4]

*Please see the footnotes, bibliography, and citation style listing after the interview.*

12. In Smart learning – a new approach or simply a new name (2015), you discuss the nature of smart systems with the emphasis on teaching in contrast to intelligent systems. What seems like the proper approach to improvement of the methodology undergirding teaching – in possible conjunction with intelligent systems or adaptive systems?

Our current education system has a number of challenges. While there are many efforts to improve education, majority of the system is geared towards average education opportunities instead of focus on individual students. Increasing class sizes do not help either. What we need is a revolution, instead of evolution of educational system. Old pedagogies are very restrictive in terms of taking advantage of the advancements in technologies and the analytics capabilities that allow far more comprehensive analysis of the individual student’s learning environment and situation that was ever possible before. Focus on individual student and longitudinal analysis and support in order to develop the individual strengths at their full capacity while recognizing, as early as possible, need for intervention to remedy any weaknesses, requires a paradigm shift in terms of pedagogical interventions. Technology can provide excellent support but education has to be in driving seat for the process to be successful. I have recently penned some idea on this jointly with some of my collaborators:

Kinshuk; Chen, N.-S.; Cheng, I.-L.; Chew, S. W. (2016). Evolution Is Not Enough: Revolutionizing Current Learning Environments to Smart Learning Environments. International Journal of Artificial Intelligence in Education, retrieved from

13. In reference to, and extrapolation from, the brief article mentioned in the previous question, how might Canadian universities improve the core aspects of pedagogy?

Providing authentic opportunities to the students, where students not only learn the knowledge and skills but also how to actualize what they have learnt, is the key in my opinion. It would be very wrong to say that it is not happening already. There are some excellent efforts out there but they are rather isolated. What we need is a systemic approach, where the focus shifts from “majority benefit” to “benefit for every student” approach. Technology can very much help by providing analytics to identify at-risk students, opportunistic learning instances and other affordances that can take the learning process to next level.

14. The World Economic Forum calculated the competitiveness of countries throughout the globe.[5] Canada ranked 15th.[6] A decent rank.[7] How might Canada remain competitive in the global educational market?[8]

There is an increasing trend of comparing education to commercial sector, which is worrying. While education needs effectiveness, its efficiency needs to be analyzed by making sure we have graduates that are prepared for the next generation jobs that perhaps do not even exist yet. The only way we can do that is to prepare them for meta-learning skills, such as critical thinking, innovation, collaboration and other so called 21st century skills. Current focus is on how to make good employees who are ready to undertake generic jobs the day they graduate, does not prepare them for becoming entrepreneur and employers, which is what Canada has historically been known for. That has to change if we are to remain competitive.

15. A more extravagant question than remaining in the upper echelons of the global competitiveness index.[9] How might Canada become number one?[10]

Preparing our next generation to become successful innovators, creators, entrepreneur and critical thinkers will bring Canada to number one in the global competitiveness index. There have been some efforts in this area, but improved support for fundamental research, embracing out-of-the-box ideas, and true support for multidisciplinary research are some avenues where much more effort is required.

16. We have an issue with respect to poor proportion between the credentials acquired from accredited programs, colleges, universities, and higher-learning research institutions, and the jobs/careers in the world. Graduates and students remain in a partial bind.

In addition to this issue, we have the problem of predatory for-profit institutions with questionable credentialing. A link exists between these two; false promises to students and students’ uncritical gaze.

On the one hand, students contain the capability to discern the negative aspects of the educational world in mis-matched institutional programs and false advertising in profit-driven institutions such as the for-profit ones.

On the other hand, accredited programs, colleges, universities, and higher-learning research institutions, create programs with the proposition of their accreditation having connection to the economic world, and non-accredited institutions aimed at profit rather than education.

Together, these create a toxic mix, but students take the brunt of it, economically – which extends into long-term wellbeing, immediate mental health, and SES precariousness. What might solve these problems from the various referents in question – no single individual/collective to harbor complete blame?

There is indeed no one entity to blame. This is an outcome of mismatched agendas, and economic benefits driving educational programs. This relates to what I mentioned earlier – if the desire is to get high salary jobs, then this rat race will continue. If the focus shifts to becoming something that creates jobs for others, then not only institutions will find it important to offer the programs that are not directly linked with economic sector but students will also find it necessary to focus on different skill set. This does not mean that we do not prepare students for the available jobs. Rather, the students will be better prepared for the jobs as they will have the skill sets that help them take their organization to success, instead of simply focusing on nine to five jobs.

17. Our modern technological world continues to shirk responsibility from human beings to machines, to robots. A possibility to leave individual citizens of countries with sufficient gifts and talents to take on more fulfilling work. A good thing. 

It leaves those without the gifts and talents without decent-paying jobs in accordance with the value to the market. An actuality to leave these individual citizens of countries without the ability to take on more fulfilling work. A bad thing.

We observe this in assembly lines, for instance. This changes in consonance with the supply and demand of the market, then changes social and cultural life, and then alters the demands on the educational system from the political and governmental recommendations through direct means such as funding.

This change will increase in pace, apparently. We seem to be in an occasion of upheaval, a modern shift, akin to the Industrial Revolution. In light of this, what seems like the future of the educational world for the middle of the 21st century – 25-50 years from now?

I do not agree that there are people who are without gifts or talents. The problem is that their individual gifts and talents are not recognized properly and they are involved in activities where their individual strengths are not used. That is where we need to start focusing on understanding our students better, identifying their strengths and providing infrastructure and support to make them shine. This is exactly what smart learning intends to do. The change is certainly coming, whether we like it or not, and if we are to make sure that our graduates, all of them, are ready, we need revolution in education!

18. Your expertise seems relevant here. However, it might seem a bit too far into the future, granted. Regardless, how will technology impact education in the 22nd century?

Technology is making it easier to learn at will, at places where the knowledge and skills are actually needed, and at times when learning makes the most sense. Technology also makes it possible to learn from virtually anyone, in any circumstances, and to make sense of all nuggets of learning, how small or big they may be, to build overall picture. Combine this with empowering our graduates to exercise their creativity and innovation, and we are preparing our path towards 22nd century education.

19. In Technology Enhanced Knowledge Research Institute: Research Profile: Dr. Kinshuk (2009), it states:

  • remove some of the barriers to education, especially for people who live in areas with little or no local access to higher education
  • give students an authentic and rich experienceby adding context to their learning, making it more likely that they’ll complete their programs
  • encourage and make it possible for more people to take part in the economyand to advance their careers because they can acquire the knowledge they need to do so
  • capitalize on what people already know and the learning potential that existswhere they live and work
  • reduce family and community disruption by letting students stay in their home communities and maintain their current employment[11]

What other aspects of educational technology improves the education of students?

There are many areas where educational technologies can help. For example, emerging technologies such as virtual reality and augmented reality provide excellent opportunities for merging work experiences to enhance contextual orientation of learning. Learning can be fully immersive within the work environment, so that the transfer of knowledge from learning immediately benefits work and skills acquired in work leverage the next learning experience.

Educational technology also has potential to bring world-class expertise to the students without much expense. Students can get the best that is available without the geographical restrictions.

Of course, none of this would work if appropriate pedagogies to make this happen are not in place. So, pedagogical shift goes hand-in-hand with exploiting advancements in educational technology.

20. What negatives come from educational technology to students’ lives and in terms of resource expenditure?

There are two major issues that need to be considered. First one is that application of educational technology for the sake of adopting new technology is a recipe for disaster. Technology must be governed by the educational needs and the learning should be at the forefront. Second, appropriate pedagogies need to be developed to cater for the new affordances educational technology provides. Changing situations need changing considerations. What used to work with previous generation is not guaranteed to work with the generation that has grown surrounded by technologies and gadgets. Vigorous pedagogical research is needed and the outcomes of those research, once validated, need to be applied to benefit larger student community. This is an area that is critically lagging behind.

So, the problem is not educational technology, but its appropriate use through suitable pedagogy.

21. To close, let’s take, for instance, concrete cases of educational disruption. Syria represents a singular tragedy in the early 21st century. Others exist, but for this conversation represent something unique in a narrow consideration. Namely, the loss of talent and skills through lost time in education. How might technology assist those with lost educational time and progress relative to their international cohort/peers?

This is a very important question, and an opportunity where technology has great potential to help. Technology can break the barriers of geographical restrictions, bring expertise to those who cannot go to the experts themselves, and provide just-in-time learning and training opportunities to provide skills and knowledge that are needed at a particular time and place.

We experienced this first hand during Tsunami of 2004 that affected a large part of Maldives. One of my then PhD students Dr. Ali Fawaz Shareef, who is now the Vice Chancellor of the Maldives National University was able to apply his research in educational technology to facilitate learning for large number of students when teachers could not reach to those students due to the aftermath of Tsunami. Details of his educational technology solution are available in his doctoral thesis:

Furthermore, educational technology is now making it possible to access knowledge in terms of massive open online courses that are accessible anywhere and anytime, which enable people to pick those key nuggets that could help them fill the gaps in their competence that were created due to certain situations, be those be the lost time or simple unavailability of appropriate educational opportunity in their vicinity.

Overall, world is changing rapidly and opportunistic learning scenarios are becoming available more than ever before. All we need is to channel our efforts in right direction, and make sure pedagogy drives the technological applications in education. In the absence of that, technological advancements will have no option than to take over, and that may not bode well for the success in moving education in right direction. We are at the juncture where we need revolution in education to even keep up with the speed of technological evolution!

Thank you for your time, Professor Kinshuk.


  1. Adaptivity and Personalization in Informatics. (2015). Adaptivity and Personalization in Informatics. Retrieved from
  2. Alberta (2015). In Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved from
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Appendix I: Footnotes

[1] Professor, School of Computing and Information Systems, Athabasca University; Associate Dean, Faculty of Science and Technology, Athabasca University; NSERC Industrial Research Chair (Adaptvity and Personalization), School of Computing and Information Systems, Athabasca University; Research Fellow (10/96 – 06/99), GMD – German National Research Center for Information Technology, Human Computer Interactions Institute, St. Augustin, Germany (Performance Award: August 1998); Senior Lecturer (06/99-07/01), Information System Department, Massey University, New Zealand; Associate Professor (08/01 – 08/06), Information System Department, Massey University, New Zealand; Director (07/03 – 08/06), Advanced Learning Technologies Research Centre, Massey University, New Zealand (Founding Director); Director (08/06 – 10/10), School of Computing and Information Systems, Athabasca University, Canada; Professor (Since 08/06), School of Computing and Information Systems, Athabasca University, Canada; NSERC Industrial Research Chair (Adaptivity & Personalization, Since 04/10), Athabasca University, Canada; Associate Dean (Research and Graduate Programs, Since 11/10), Faculty of Science and Technology, Athabasca University, Canada.

[2] Individual Publication Date: May 15, 2016 at; Full Issue Publication Date: September 1, 2016 at

[3] Bachelor of Engineering (Mechanical) (Honors) (1987-1992), Rajasthan University; Master of Science Mechanical Computer Aided Eng. (1992-1993), Strathclyde University; Doctor of Philosophy (1993-1996), De Montfort University, (Thesis: Computer Aided Learning for Entry Level Accountancy Students).

[4] Images/photographs/portraits/sketches courtesy of Dr. Kinshuk.

[5] World Economic Forum. (2015). Competitiveness Rankings. Retrieved from

[6] Ibid.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Ibid.

[10] Ibid.

[11] Athabasca University. (2015). Technology Enhanced Knowledge Research Institute: Research Profile: Dr. Kinshuk. Retrieved from


In-Sight Publishing by Scott Douglas Jacobsen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. Based on a work at


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