Say NO to the proposal for abolishing CEGEPs

Dear Québec Liberal youth members:

I do not normally find myself using the blog portion of my site much however, I felt it was important for me to address your proposal that would aim to abolish our unique CEGEP system across the province in favour of adding a sixth year to high school and a fourth year to University.

Now we all know that this proposal is nothing new. Several politicians and political organizations have taken their turn in expressing the need to either drastically change the CEGEP system or remove it all together. Out of these, several arguments have arisen ranging from the mention that our province would save millions of dollars (theoretically at best as the endowments saved from funding CEGEPs would be re-allocated to other educational institutions which would be required to grow to accommodate the change) to the need to change our system to uniformly match that of the rest of Canada. Now, do not get me wrong, the province of Québec has a history of deviating from the rest of the country in how it operates on some levels and admittedly, some of that needs changing. The CEGEP system however, is not one of those things.

CEGEPs no longer meet the needs of 21st century employers. This is something I have read on several news sources which I cannot agree on. In addition to offering pre-university programs, CEGEPs across the province offer students a chance to enroll in career and technology programs that prepare them to enter the workforce directly after their 3 years of study. These career programs are prime choices for a lot of students and in most cases are designed to be competitive in today’s global economy. As someone who graduated from a career program in Computer Science, I can tell you that the skills I acquired not only assisted me greatly in securing my first job in the field; it also gave me an edge when I decided to pursue university. A year into my Bachelor’s degree in Computer Science, I already felt a mile a head of my pre-university DEC classmates. Of course, this is my experience and although it was a positive one, I know that we need to do a lot more to ensure that our career programs continue to remain competitive. For CEGEPs, this means that program evaluations should be conducted more often with frameworks that allow these programs to change more easily from year-to-year so that they do not lose their edge.

As for employers, let us get them involved in these discussions and instead of focusing on how we should abolish the CEGEP system, let us talk about how we can improve on what we already have. Let us look at the human element even and talk to students who have graduated from CEGEP. Let us see what they think, what their experiences have been and let us talk about more pressing issues in education of which there are no shortage of.

This is but an open letter to you from someone who benefited as a CEGEP student, changed for the better as a result and very much appreciates a system that should continue to thrive so that future students can learn, and benefit from it as so many others before them have.


Haritos Kavallos

Posted in Politics | Tagged , | Leave a comment

What I learnt from my first start-up

In 2011, three partners and I set out to create our own start-up company. Some two years later, we closed the doors to that same company because of internal disagreements that could not be resolved in ways that we would have liked. Regardless of what transpired, a lot of valuable learning came out of the entire experience and so, in this post, I will bring up four takeaways.

1. Do not leave out the partnership agreement

As soon as you get your start-up incorporated, it is worthwhile to draft up a partnership agreement and get it signed by you and your partners. This way, you and your partners have a written agreement with what each persons expectations are, share holdings and share types, and how those shares are transfered when needed. Partnership agreements produced by a lawyer can be costly but money invested early on can avoid a ton of headaches later.

2. Full time vs. Part time

You might be wondering… Should you make the big decision to quit your day job and take on working for your start up full-time? My opinion is yes. It’s true that leaving the stability and income of your day job is scary but in my experience working on a start-up part-time creates a time constraint and adds to an already heavy workload (unless of course you enjoy the idea of working 60+ hours weekly).

3. Investments vs. Bootstrapping

Should you seek out investors early or should you fund your own venture? Well, it really depends on the type of start-up and the initial funding required to get the development going. If for instance your new business needs to acquire expensive machinery from the get go, then you probably have no choice but to consider investor funds (even though this normally means that you will have to be prepared to offer a fair portion of shares). If the initial costs are low, bootstrap what you can. A little bit of love money helps too! Also, in case you didn’t already know, marketing campaigns can be extremely costly so don’t be surprised by the numbers when it comes time to start educating your target market about your product/service.

4. Wear many hats

Since your start-up will have access to limited funding (if any at all), hiring an array of employees to fill in the various expected roles becomes impossible. Instead, you have to be willing to become a jack of all trades of sorts, someone who can take on multiple roles. Granted, some roles require specialized expertize that you might find impossible to fill. In such cases, it might be helpful to seek out partners that can complement your skillset and become that needed asset for your team.

Finally, I will end this by bringing up a quote… “Failure is just a step on the road to success” because where there is failure, there is also learning.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

My Guiding Principles

This past summer, I took a course on Consulting in Educational Technology as part of my graduate degree. At the beginning of the course, we spoke about our expectations, what we wanted to take away by the end of the semester. During that discussion the topic of guiding principles came up and from that point on, I started to ponder about what principles guided my own actions. Needless to say, after much thought, I came up with a list – a list of principles that I would like to finally share with all of you.

  • Do not let an opportunity slip by because sometimes, that opportunity only comes around once.
  • If you do not feel comfortable doing something, do not do it.
  • Live in the now. Your past has made you who you are but it is up to you to write the future.
  • Do not limit your ideas to conversation, get up, take action and make them a reality.
  • Never seek personal gain at someone else’s expense.
  • If you have something to say, say it – but be mindful of your audience.
  • The universe is far too interesting for you to stop learning.
  • There are two sides of a coin, two sides to every story. Listen carefully before judging or acting.
  • Be thankful for what you have and take nothing for granted.
  • Most importantly, question everything.
Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Tutor With Me Launches Beta!

After being in development for over a year, it is with great pleasure that I announce that my start-up company: Tutor With Me, has officially opened to the public!

Some background

Tutor With Me TeamIn 2011, Tutor With Me was founded by four Concordia students with the intended mission of offering a powerful community medium for online tutoring and learning which primarily targets higher education. The company’s approach is to tackle online tutoring by building off the idea that everyone has knowledge to share and that tutoring and getting tutored should be an easy and meaningful process. To this effect, Tutor With Me has created an open community model of tutoring where any member has the option to join online sessions and learn or take on a tutor role and offer sessions at their own rates. All tutoring sessions take place in a lightweight virtual classroom platform that is developed to include tools for videoconferencing, file sharing and presentation.

What we do

Tutor With Me’s mission:

Build a great way for students, educators and tutors to meet, while striving to bring the most creative and flexible learning experience on the web.

More specifically however, at the time of this posting, we offer the following:

  • Online Tutoring: Learners can seek out tutors and learn online through a virtual classroom environment.
  • Free Peer Sessions: Peer Sessions can be created freely by anyone. The goal of such sessions is to encourage peer collaboration through the virtual classroom environment in the form of: study groups, and project collaboration.

The future

Now that we’ve launched, it would be nice to take a long deserving vacation however, many challenges are still to come. As of last weekend, we’ve began putting into action the first phase of our marketing campaign which includes: leveraging social media outlets, and cold calling known tutors across Canada and the US. Marketing aside, we have some big plans for the future (though, time frames have yet to be determined). Such plans include but are not limited to:

  • Resource Centre: This component will look to complement our tutoring services by offering a repository of useful resources for tutors and students to use. These resources will include approved test banks, assignments, and study guides for a wide range of topics ranging from academia to self-improvement. Tutors and students will have the capability of rating any resource and adding new ones in an effort to build a community of open resources that will be freely accessible by anyone.
  • Enhanced Virtual Classroom: We take a lot of pride in the virtual classroom environment we built from the ground up, however, what we have put together is far from a finished product. In the near future, the environment will be upgraded to include: file sharing, presentation modes, better component management, more presenter/tutor controls, support for Math functions and text rendering integrated within the whiteboard, multiple whiteboard tabs, and much more.
  • Live Questions: Are you working on an assignment and stuck on a problem you just cannot seem to figure out? The idea behind ‘Live Questions’ is to give learners the opportunity to ask a question and welcome online tutors to help them derive a solution (essentially supporting the idea of Just-In-Time Learning). Learners will have the ability to set a price for how much they would be willing to pay a tutor for quick help. If willing, a tutor will have the option to assist free of charge.

Read the official Beta Launch statement from Tutor With Me’s CEO, Andrew Pitsiladis.

If you are interested in checking Tutor With Me out, visit: Your feedback is appreciated.


Posted in Distance Education | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Evaluating Khan Academy as a platform for learning

As we continue our move towards a progressively more technological world, education has seen a shift from traditional learning paradigms to new models such as internet-based distance education, computer-assisted learning, and many more. A plethora of educational websites and software has emerged and each aims to accomplish a specific mission. Are they successful however? Do they fulfill their stated missions and are they practical for learning? What follows will examine Khan Academy ( – an educational organization founded on the principles that anyone can come and learn something regardless of geographical location, social class or level of education. In examining the website, its components related to learning will be critically assessed from a practical standpoint where usability, ease of access and learning outcomes will be discussed.

Khan Academy: A summary

Before delving into the assessment, it is important to have a basic understanding on what Khan Academy is and what it’s striving to achieve. Founded in 2006 by Salman Khan, Khan Academy has the simple mission of “providing a high quality education to anyone, anywhere” (Khan, 2006). What first started off as a YouTube channel eventually snowballed into something greater, however, Salman’s approach to delivering content was not necessarily revolutionary. Khan’s videos were (and still are) created in such a way that the viewer sees a canvas on which Salman Khan himself uses a pen tablet to draw in any explanations while his voice can be heard explaining the concepts as he goes along. Whereas the YouTube channel is limited to one-way transmission of information, the website includes several other components that introduce interactivity and self-paced assessment. What do users visiting the website have to gain? Khan Academy covers various topics ranging from mathematics and sciences to humanities and even offers preparation for certain types of exams. Visitors can search through the library of videos, find what they are looking for and watch it at their own pace. As a registered user, a visitor is open to ask questions about topics discussed in the respective videos. Other users are then able to not only provide answers to the questions being asked but also rate other answers. Furthermore, it is possible for users to take the knowledge they have acquired through the videos and apply it by solving related problems. Khan Academy adds a fun, almost game-like twist to the mentioned. Users are encouraged to become proficient in a topic by correctly solving several topic-related problems in a row. As users reach different proficiencies, achievements are unlocked and points are earned. Not only can users practice problem solving but they have tools available that allows them to monitor their progress and even set self-defined goals for learning. Progress monitoring is provided by Khan Academy in the form of several different graphs that measure different facets of the learner. Best of all, Khan Academy is a not-for-profit organization which means that everything offered through its website is free of any sort of fees. Finally, where is Khan Academy today? At the time of this post, Khan Academy hosts over 2,800 videos, all created by Salman Khan, and approximately 300 problem solving exercises (Khan, 2006). In 2010, Microsoft Co-Founder Bill Gates endorsed Khan Academy (Kaplan, 2010) and today, it is looking to go beyond the confines of its website and usher in a new learning paradigm in classrooms (Khan, 2011).

An Instructional Approach

Qian (2001) proposed criterions for categorizing educational websites into several possible categories. With Qian’s (2001) framework in mind, Khan Academy can be assessed to determine the category in which the website would come under and thus help educators and learners to better understand if the services that it (Khan Academy) offers are in-line with learning goals and objectives. Of the categories Qian (2001) mentions, the one that is of particular interest is: Instructional.

An Instructional website is characterized as including: an “intended learning outcome, instructional strategies, [and] learning materials and activities” (Qian, 2001). Does Khan Academy fit the profile however? Khan Academy’s intended learning outcome is to facilitate real-world learning of various topics and has its users acquire new knowledge or expand on existing knowledge through the instruction provided via videos and problem solving exercises. In evaluation the learning strategies, Qian’s (2001) definition of a learning strategy is considered. That is, a learning strategy is a pedagogy technique enacted in order to make learning easier by mixing in teacher and learner activity (Qian, 2001). Khan Academy’s strategy is straight forward: transmit content to the learner in a unidirectional way and have the learner reinforce and apply what they retained through problem solving. Of course, one could argue that the teacher element is lacking but in fact, the teacher is embedded into the content through the voiced over videos. By Qian’s (2001) framework, this is an acceptable inclusion.

Khan Academy also meets the final mandatory condition in that it does provide learning materials and activities to promote meaningful learning of the various topics. The main limitation at the moment is that the learning activities (in the form of problem solving exercises) do not stretch to cover all the different topics explained through the videos. Instead, most problem solving questions are related to Mathematics thus leaving very little learning activities for Sciences, Humanities and other. Qian (2001) also mentions a forth, optional criterion for Instructional websites: assessment.

A form of self-assessment is offered through each problem solved. Not only are learners given access to relevant problems but they can see how they have fared on each question. A higher level assessment view is available to learners that helps to show them (and their coaches), where they stand in terms of proficiencies for topics of interest.

Consider the Limitations

Many have argued that our education system is out of date and needs to be revisited and changed to accommodate a new generation of learners. Among the supporters for change is Sir Ken Robinson (2010) who believes that among other things, we need to change our teaching paradigm to go beyond the teacher using the chalkboard approach that we are all so well familiar with. Interestingly enough, Khan (2011) also brings up the teaching paradigm and states how we will re-invent education. Khan Academy might certainly be on its way through its pilot classroom projects but the website itself is perhaps far from changing a paradigm. Arguably, the biggest criticism behind Khan Academy’s approach for delivering content is that the videos are not necessarily any more engaging than a classroom lecture where a teacher is at the front of the class writing on a board and explaining material. The only true difference between watching one of Khan’s videos as opposed to being in a classroom is that you can learn from home instead of displacing yourself.

Unlike a classroom, the possibility to raise your hand and ask a question mid video also is not possible, though this is an expected limitation of any asynchronous medium. To compensate, learner-to-learner communication is encouraged through each user’s ability to ask questions under each video. Teacher-to-learner communication on the other hand is virtually non-existent. The closest interaction that a learner can have to a possible content expert is their coach(s). According to Greenwald (2003), the human interaction between the teacher and the learner is essential and a lot of that is lost when computers are used as the medium. Realistically however, the model of distance education makes it difficult for direct human interaction to exist, especially between a learner and a teacher. That said, perhaps Khan Academy would benefit from building a teacher-to-learner component as an added layer of support for users that are having difficulty grasping a concept but seek an answer that goes beyond what the community of learners can offer.

After taking the time to watch several videos on a familiar subject, another evident limitation to Khan Academy’s re-invented approach becomes obvious. The videos themselves do not seem to go very deep into concepts; instead, they skim over the surface of most topics and usually explain through examples. Examples do help to contextualize content but it risks inspiring rote learning if the learner is not taught the underlying foundations of the content being presented. For this reason, Khan’s videos are better suitable for learners who are already familiar with the topics they are interested in and are instead looking to review what they already know (Muller, 2011). Muller (2011) is in agreement that Khan Academy’s videos – particularly those that teach science – do not promote meaningful learning because learners often think they know the material and as a result, do not always pay complete attention and end up believing their own misconceptions to be correct.

Several learning theories have come to exist and among them, constructivism and connectivism are the newest trends, even if our education systems are slow to adapt to them. If educators are increasingly changing their ways of teaching to encourage constructive learning among students then why is Khan Academy promoted as a revolutionary change when there is little constructivism occurring? Noschene (2011) describes Khan Academy as “sit-and-get” and in fact, he is right. Constructivist teaching involves more than simple one-way delivery of content where learners are a little more than passive receptacles as knowledge. Khan’s videos are not designed to address misconceptions and furthermore, they aren’t tailored to address different audiences as their promotions claim. The material presented is either too advanced for a high school level or is too simple and falls short of achieving course objectives (Noschene, 2011). Furthermore, the problem solving exercises are not designed and contextualized to emulate real world problems; however, learners are encouraged to build off of previously acquired knowledge to solve the next set of questions. In fact, in order to advance to more difficult exercises, learners are expected to have attained a level of mastery of the previous level.

Concluding Thoughts

Khan Academy’s free learning environment does have a lot of positive societal effects. Any individuals – regardless of socio and demographic factors – who have an interest in learning and have access to the internet can benefit from Khan’s videos and reach a certain level of mastery of different topics through on screen problem solving exercises. From a critical standpoint, perhaps the videos may not be as engaging as they could be due to the traditional “classroom like” method that they are delivered in, however, concepts are generally explained in a clear and concise manner (although, often limited in scope). The amount of meaningful learning that actually takes place is questionable since concepts are explained primarily through examples and as such, does not address misconceptions viewers might have nor does the platform as a whole promote constructivism. To conclude, Khan Academy is a great place if you are looking to review concepts that you are already somewhat familiar with or are looking to expand your personal knowledge, however, it is far from being a tool that is revolutionizing education – at least in its current state.


Greenwald, Stephen R. (2003). Are We Distance Learning Educating Our Students to Death? Some Reflections on the Educational Assumptions of. Retrieved February 9, 2012, from

Kaplan, David (2010). Sal Khan: Bill Gates’ favorite teacher. Retrieved February 7, 2012, from

Khan, Salman. (2006). Khan Academy. Khan Academy. Retrieved February 7, 2012, from

Khan, Salman: Let’s use video to reinvent education | Video on (2011). Retrieved February 7, 2012, from

Muller, Derek. (2011). Khan Academy and the Effectiveness of Science Videos | Action-Reaction. Action-Reaction. Blog, . Retrieved February 11, 2012, from

Noschese, Frank. (2011). Khan Academy: My Final Remarks | Action-Reaction. Blog, . Retrieved February 12, 2012, from

Qian, Yufeng. (2001). Categorizing Exemplary Educational Websites. Retrieved February 8, 2012, from

Robinson, Ken. (2010). RSA Animate – Changing Education Paradigms « Sir Ken Robinson. Sir Ken Retrieved February 10, 2012, from

Posted in Educational Technology | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

Brand New!

When I started off as a T.A. a few years ago, it quickly became apparent to me that I should probably start up some sort of website which I could use to deliver resources to my students. When I found out that I had free web hosting space through the University, I jumped on that and took the time to create what became a pretty functional and useful website. It served me nicely for a while but I was limited with where I could take it in terms of bringing further interaction. The main issue? I increasingly wanted to integrate a blog element and did not want to be bothered with creating my own blog mini-platform (though, the thought did cross my mind!). At the same time, I lacked the motivation to switch my website over to a more inviting platform… At least up until a friend of mine mentioned that she was moving her website to WordPress – I was then quickly sold to do the same and here we are!

Future Plans for this website?

  • Continue to use it as a tool for disseminating information to the students I tutor
  • Continue to use it as a way of building my professional identity online
  • Build interactive learning material focused on web-development
  • Blog regularly about topics of interest related to Computer Science and Education

That said, I would like to welcome you! Whether you are a student, educator, professional, or just someone with similar interests. Feel free to engage with me on the various blog posts that will eventually follow, share your thoughts, your ideas, and ask me questions.

Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments