Anthony Picciano

Anthony G. Picciano holds faculty appointments in the Ph.D. Program in Urban Education at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York (CUNY), the graduate program in Education Leadership at Hunter College, and the doctoral certificate program in Interactive Pedagogy and Technology at the CUNY Graduate Center. In 1998, Dr. Picciano co-founded CUNY Online, a multi-million dollar initiative funded by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation that provided support services to faculty using the Internet for course development. He was a founding member and continues to serve on the Board of Directors of the Online Learning Consortium (formerly the Sloan Consortium).

Dr. Picciano’s research interests are leadership, education policy, online teaching and learning, and multimedia instructional models. Dr. Picciano has conducted major national studies with Jeff Seaman on the extent and nature of online and blended learning in American K-12 school districts. Dr. Picciano has written over sixty articles, book chapters, and monographs. He has edited nine special editions for the Online Learning Journal, Education Sciences and the Journal of Asynchronous Learning Networks. His articles have been published in the Online Learning Journal, Teachers College Record, Education Sciences, the Journal of Asynchronous Learning Networks, The Internet and Higher Education, and The Journal of Educational Multimedia and Hypermedia.  He has authored fifteen books including:

  • Online Education: Foundations, Planning, and Pedagogy (1st Ed)
  • Online Education Policy and Practice: The Past, Present, and Future of the Digital University 
  • CUNY’s First Fifty Years: Triumphs and Ordeals of a People’s University
  • Distance Learning: Making Connections across Virtual Space and Time 
  • Blended Learning: Research Perspectives, Volume 1 and Volume 2
  • Conducting Research in Online and Blended Learning Environments: New Pedagogical Frontiers 
  • Educational Leadership and Planning for Technology, 5th Edition
  • Data-Driven Decision Making for Effective School Leadership
  • Educational Research Primer (2004, Continuum)
  • The Great Education-Industrial Complex: Ideology, Technology, and Profit

Dr. Picciano was elected to the Inaugural Class of the Sloan Consortium’s Fellows in 2010, in recognition of “outstanding publications that have advanced the field of online learning” and was also the 2010 recipient of the Sloan Consortium’s National Award for Outstanding Achievement in Online Education by an Individual.

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Congratulations on publishing your recent book, “Online Education: Foundations, Planning and Pedagogy”.

  1.  What you would like readers to take away from this book?
  2.  Online education foundations was my attempt to bring together a lot of my previous work.  So, the last 20-25 years. I’ve written dozens of articles 14 books usually looking at some aspect of technology or online learning.  So, this book allowed me to bring all that work together in one place.  So, you’ll see a lot of history.  You’ll see theoretical frameworks.  You’ll see pedagogical models.  You’ll see planning.  You’ll see case studies of colleges that I think have done some good work.  And so, it was very important for me to try and bring everything together in one place and I think it worked out very well.
    1. What is the greatest impact that the use of technology has had on your students?


    For my students, while I pay a lot of attention to the pedagogy and their outcomes, I think for them, all of whom are adults who have full-time jobs, many of them have families and they’ve combined in very busy days getting a graduate degree working full-time.  So, when I started teaching online and particularly in the blended model, many times they only have to come one night a week.  Sometimes don’t have to come at all and we do all the work online and they’re

    very appreciative of that it fits into their very busy lives, to be able to have the convenience of taking courses when they can at their homes in their places of business etc.


    1. What are some examples of the best use of technology-enhanced teaching and positive learning outcomes?


    If you’re going to look at best examples, look at institutions that have invested significantly and wisely into the whole package they’re providing the students.  And I would say, you can start looking at your own institution here, Drexel University.   They’ve invested significant money in terms of the student counseling, the student advisement.  And those kind of back-office pieces that make for a very successful program.


    1. When speaking to fellow faculty, what case studies and research do you recommend they study to be effective instructors in the online classroom?


    I will look at the work, for instance, that comes out.  There’s a group at the University of Central Florida.  It’s a center for research on effective practices in teaching and learning.  They’ve done a lot of wonderful work particularly in the use of technology and particularly use of online technology.  They invested heavily in terms of collecting data on students so they can develop a study and have an in of 150,000 students.  But they’re also using very good techniques to analyze that.  So, that would be one place I would look.


    If you’re looking at or considering let’s say large-scale opinions about how higher education is doing in online learning, there’s a group called the Babson College Survey Research Group.  They did like 12 or 13 national surveys of chief academic officers to get a sense of how was online learning evolving and being deployed in their institutions.  It’s a wonderful wonderful depository of how online learning has evolved over the last 15 or so years.


    There was a study funded by the United States Department of Education published in 2010, but it was on the first major meta-analyses of online and face-to-face learning and that’s studies a little bit dated too, came out 2010.  I think is very important pivotal study in terms of what’s happened with online technology and teaching and learning in this country.


    1. How do you build a community among classmates in an online classroom?



    You try and tap into what they already know.  You ask them to bring their experiences into whatever the activity is.  I think that’s a very powerful way to get the students engaged. They’re not just talking about the teachers’ material, they’re talking about their own material and they think about it and then I can develop follow-up questions based upon what they’re interested in and what they can relate to.  And I think, again, this ties into what I said earlier.  This kind of theory of having them own the course of it and I found that very successful.


    1. Describe the difference between Passive Media and Interactive Media.


    Passive media.  Basically, is it’s kind of a listening, and I mean the main focus of that is half the students listen.  And I mean, there’s a lot of very good lectures that people can lecture well.  But, I don’t think that you should build a course around lecture.  That’s a very passive environment and unless you’re very good about it and you’re you can bring in some humor and you know do some tapping into a student’s interest somehow or another it could be boring.  And I’ve always advised people who ask me this kind of question, well, you could take that lecture in an online environment but chunk it.  Like break it up into some logical six, seven, eight-minute segments and then introduce some activity that forces the students to do something.  Answer a question, discuss what you just heard respond to it, and that’s more of an interactive environment and it’s not difficult to do.


    1. What are the best examples of gaming that have led to successful learning?


    The most recent thing I saw was it’s called At Play in the Cosmos, which is kind of astronomy and what-have-you.  What I like about it, besides being well done and I think pedagogically sound, it has a wonderful textbook associated with it so that it isn’t just watching it.  And as interesting as it might be, there’s other things built into it and still you have the textbook that provides a kind of foundation.  And, it depends upon what age you’re talking about.


    Chris Dede, he’s been working on something called The River City.  He basically directs it mostly to high school students.  But, it’s a full gamut of everything that goes on in a city and, you know, making decisions about what you have to do because of whatever occurs and what have you.


    MIT is coming up with something called Elude (e l u d e).  And I’ve only seen parts of it, but it’s talking about how to deal with depression.  How do young people as well as adults deal with depression?  I think we need a lot of that in our society and it’s in a game format.


    If you want to look at the younger kids look at Fortnight.  I think half the population under sixteen is playing Fortnight. and I had a wonderful experience this past Christmas when my grandson was visiting me.  He taught me how to play Fortnight and we played Fortnight for hours and he’s completely committed to it


    1. Describe your concept of a brilliantly designed technology-enhanced course.


    Well this may sound easy but to me there’s elegance in simplicity.  You know, I’m not talking about a course that’s, you know, some companies spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on. But, something me as a faculty member could do with maybe the assistance of an instructional designer.  That I like to have a very clean format to my online courses.  Students have no difficulty understanding where things are.  I don’t have, like you know, 30 buttons that they could choose.  I generally have a rule of no more than six or seven or eight buttons, all of which are very clearly labeled as to what you can do with that particular facility.  And, I think that the students appreciate, particularly those in the fully online environment.  They appreciate looking at the format and saying okay, I understand what I have to do here.  And if I may be so bold to quote from someone, but Albert Einstein was one once was quoted as saying, if I can read this, “Any intelligent fool can make things bigger more complex and more violent it takes a touch of genius and a lot of courage to move in the opposite direction.”  So, my advice is to make it simple.  Don’t make it complex and don’t jump at every new technological list and whatever and feel you have to use it.  If it makes good pedagogical sense, fine.


    1. What does the future hold for technology and the online classroom?


    In the next 10 or so years, we’ll see evolutionary changes that, based upon what we’re doing now, we’ll see more adaptive technology.  We’ll probably see more learning analytics used.  We’ll see cloud computing start to mature a bit more than it has already.  Very, very beginnings of some kind of AI applications, maybe, we will see nanotechnology which everyone is really, you know, impressed in to some degree pleased with on how much it has enhanced all of our digital technology.  That will start giving way to quantum computing.


    Quantum computing is a whole of the level of digital circuitry design.  That will allow much more power, much more speed, the likes of which we have not seen in digital technology.  When that comes, that opens up lots of other possibilities in applications like artificial intelligence, like robotics, like cloud computing.  All of these will be significantly enhanced as we move to a quantum computing type environment.  When that happens, we will see a whole other level of digital activity not just in teaching and learning but everything we do.