Always writing!

Welcome back, readers. I hope you had a great holiday break.

Perhaps like you, I’ve been thinking about my plans for 2019. I was determined to retire when I was 75, so I could have time to write my swan song book, ‘Teaching in a Digital Age’, which I did, but it was so successful that it has resulted in more rather than less work. Also the chance came up to do a national survey of online learning in Canada, and that was so interesting and valuable that I could not resist (the public report for 2018 will be out next week).

Well, I will be 80 years old in April, I’m no nearer retiring, and my book is now almost four years old, which is a long time in online learning. It needs at least a little attention.

There are several options open, and I really would like some advice on what to do, especially from those of you that have read or are using the book as part of your teaching or learning.

Option 1: Do Nothing

Hell, it’s an open textbook. Why do I need to change anything? If you want to change it, just do it. Leave out the parts you don’t want, revise the bits that you think are unsatisfactory, and use what you think is useful. Leave me alone to play more golf (but what about those long, wet winters in Vancouver? Could go south, I suppose, but not until there’s a new President).

Option 2: Fiddle with it

Come on, there are bits that really do need revision, there are urls that have died and gone to url heaven or hell, maybe a few more podcasts could be added, but basically, the book has worked for most people so don’t mess with it too much.

Major changes could really throw a wrench in the works for those who have built their teaching around it. Just tidy it up a bit.

But if there are going to be a few changes, a phrase springs to mind: QUALITY CONTROL! Better do it myself – unless I get a better offer.

Option 3: Major revision

Well, a lot really has happened since I wrote the book. Here’s a list of topics that I didn’t cover in the first edition:

  • virtual reality
  • serious games
  • artificial intelligence
  • learning analytics
  • open pedagogy
  • rhizomatic learning
  • heutagogy
  • SAMR (Substitution, Augmentation, Modification, and Redefinition)
  • ethical and security issues in using digital media.

You can probably add to this list of essential topics.

The other thing is that the book is already over 500 pages long! For God’s sake, who’s going to read all that? If I’m going to add anything more, I’d better replace something. That is going to mean serious work on my part. (It is always harder to cut than to add material).

Option 4: Rethink the whole thing

If the ‘open’ movement really does mean something, why not treat the book as just a collection of open educational resources that could be remixed and rematched with contributions from many others in this field? That would mean not treating it as a coherent ‘book’ with a sequence to be followed in terms of topics, but a more random collection of thoughts or resources on different topics.

This might mean inviting other possible contributors such as Stephen Downes, Dave Cormier, David Wiley and many others, to create an online digital learning space or library where people could go to browse on different topics.

But again, I don’t need to do this myself. If it is such a good idea, then others could and should take it up and use my book as needed – or not at all.

Over to you

Especially if you are using or have used the book, what would you suggest I do? I have my preference, but I’ll wait until I hear from you.


  1. I have used the book somewhat differently for 2 courses. I favour option 2: update current book.
    The major subjects I add within the scope of the book are open education, peer evaluation of teaching, and contract teaching, but these are reasonably self contained and are developing so fast that I’d prolly have to supplement a book anyway with more recent developments.

    • Good suggestions, Gavin. One possibility might be to have a fairly short summary of the field for some new fast-developing areas, with frequently updated links to later and more detailed posts on my blog (and other open access sources) which can then keep things up to date for the book readers. Alternatively, could you share links to what you’ve added that I could refer my readers to?

  2. Option 2 or 3 please! I use your book in 2 courses & although option 1 is doable – I would like to continue to use Teaching in a Digital Age for years to come. Thank you for this excellent OER textbook & resource!

  3. Dear Tony:

    Happy NY! You look still strong 🙂

    I suggest you do a major revision towards branching into big topics of our world (expertise areas). I can do THE GLOBAL ECONOMY SEMINAR ONLE; ALSO: CHINA IN THE GLOBAL ECONOMY.

    More areas are up to you; and I can help (have formal edu and decades of online teaching exp at a number of universities in Eurasia and North America, see my abbrev CV:; also profiles on FB, LI, Amazon Books, etc.


    Val Samonis
    Toronto; Skype: val.samonis; Email:

    Val Samonis, PhD, CPC
    The Web Professor of Global Management(SM)

  4. I also vote for Option 2!

    I love the book as it is (with the permanent URLs to key chapters that I link out to) and would hate to see it messed with too awful much. Updating, tweaking, sure. But I really love what’s there now.

    Major changes would disrupt three different classes I have going now.

    That said, I also like Option 4. As much as I love the book (and did I say I really love this book!), I don’t think of it as a coherent whole so much. I think of it–and use it–more as a collection of topics under the broad heading of online teaching and learning.

    Also, when thinking of the resource as a book, to add stuff you have to cut stuff because…well, books can’t be too big. But if it is a collection of resources, then you can use what you have already developed and expand (and perhaps let others expand) on it.

    I would like to see more. Not less.

    Sooo… (I know this is kind of like having my cake and eating it too) could I vote for Option 2 AND Option 4?

    Anyway, thank you for asking us. And thank you again for providing this extraordinary resources to the online teaching and learning community.

  5. I just came across this valuable digital book as a primary resource for an online course I’m facilitating this semester (Spring 2019) – E-Learning Environments. It would be very motivating for graduate students in instructional design programs to submit exemplary work to Tony to keep it updated, such as the topics that aren’t covered in the first edition.

    • This is an excellent suggestion. I am very open to being sent student projects, especially on new learning technologies, to read and possibly comment on, so long as the students agree and I am not expected to give or suggest a grade for their work. I may also change my mind if I am swamped with such projects!

  6. Hi Tony,
    Thanks for the great OER book! 🙂
    I agree with options 2 & 3. I think the book is already modular enough to be useful on a chapter by chapter basis.
    Re: option 4, again I think the modular nature of the book & the fact that it’s OER makes it relatively easy to re-purpose the content for other ways of presenting the information, e.g. sequenced multimedia or in a quiz/workbook format.
    I hope this helps!

  7. Tony, as your current book is a widely used and highly regarded reference around the world by faculty, instructors academic administrators, learning designers, and policy makers I too recommend you update and revise it – falling between your options 2 and 3. The updates you outline in option 2 could be supplemented with addition of new content, but focusing on a few factors from your list, rather than attempting to include all possibilities. Others have mentioned analytics and ethics as key new content and I think these are good choices.

    This is going to require considerable time and effort on your part. It is well worth is in light of the centrality of Teaching in a Digital Age for our sector. You capture in it all that matters about online and blended learning. It is a call to action for instructors, administrators and policy makers. It is a book that champions pedagogy and rightly places technology in service to students and teachers. It shows the need for policy makers to think carefully about the emergence of technology enabled learning, without the “noise” of the claims of vendors. In short, it is a masterful account of the state of play of online and blended learning at the time it was written.

    I look forward to the “new edition” later in 2019!


  8. Hi Tony,

    I read this article a few weeks ago and hoped you would go with option 2. Today I thought I would take the time to comment.

    Just to say, thank you for this extremely useful book and for releasing it under an open license. I am looking forward to the next edition.

    The activity section at the end of each chapter was really useful to encourage reflection. The podcasts and scenarios are brilliant! I really do hope the activities, podcasts and scenarios are preserved and even updated/expanded. The links to the five Interactive Webinars By Contact North will all need updating though, as they are currently unavailable…maybe it’s a temporary issue.

    I previously used this book from the perspective of a teacher. These days I am using the book from the perspective of a ‘mature’ student, having recently decided to pursue graduate studies. I figured it would be a good time to do some research and possibly consider how MOOCS could potentially help tackle some of the challenges such as teacher shortages and limited access to continuing teacher professional development/learning in developing countries where I have worked (Caribbean). Could MOOCS also assist with the rapid and large scale teacher training needed to address the global demand for teachers (as indicated by UNESCO) or are there more appropriate technology-enabled solution? I hope I am not about to bark up the wrong tree as I am sure there are a tonne of things that deserve further research. I guess it depends on context.

    In the next edition of the book, it would be interesting to hear your thoughts on MOOCS, in the context of the post MOOC mania. Please let me know know if this is already covered in a blog post.

    Other thoughts for the new edition…

    I am thinking the extension of chapter 10 would be the inclusion of oer-enabled pedagogy. But it would be interesting to explore how that would work in practice since seemingly much of the teaching material isn’t actually open and more teachers would first need to wrap their heads around the Creative Commons licenses work.

    I am about to go re-read your blog series on ‘Online learning for beginners’ to refresh my memory.

    Best wishes,

    • Many thanks, Jason – really helpful comments.
      Yes, I need to revisit MOOCs. Perhaps more important though might be a section on online learning in/for developing countries: opportunities, developments, and issues. I would need though help from those using online learning in developing countries if I am to write that bit.


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