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Athabasca University

Dr. Martha Cleveland-Innes

Dr. Cleveland-InnesProfessor & Chair
Centre for Distance Education
Athabasca University

B.A. (Sociology)
M.A. (Sociology of Adult Education)
Ph.D. (Social Factors in Education)

Tel: (780) 675-6426 or (800) 788-9041 ext. 6426


My work in the field of adult, distance and higher education spans twenty-nine years and includes program development, curriculum design and extensive research. My first two degrees are in Sociology, including a Master's degree in 'the sociology of adult education'. My Ph.D. is from the University of Calgary with a concentration in the Sociology of Adult and Higher Education. My background in human social behavior science means I have a particular interest in social forces that impose themselves on learning and education.

In the sojourn between completing my Masters degree and commencing my Ph.D. program, my work designing learning environments for non-traditional learners began. I developed and implemented programs to serve non-traditional students in a university setting. In keeping with my sociological focus, these programs were designed to enhance social and academic integration for learners with special needs. These groups of learners included returning learners, students who had spent time away from a formal education setting before coming to university, and students with disabilities. Managing a team of staff and student volunteers, we designed programs for special needs students such as specialized orientations, transition workshops, and term-paper writing series. A particularly satisfying part of this work involved creating adapted learning environments for students with disabilities, such that they could appropriately access the learning environment without compromising academic standards.

My commitment to research developed during this time, integrating research projects, and publishing reports and articles, into my work with non-traditional students. I served in community education at times, designing and delivering programs when a strong need surfaced. The call to continue my studies was strong. I applied and was accepted to a doctoral program in adult and higher education. I continued my program development and learning environment design work, at a reduced rate. While completing my Ph.D., I added graduate students to my list of constituents, acting as the Dean's Advisor on Graduate Student Issues for four terms.

Shortly after I completed my Ph.D., I was asked to join a task-team of academics, students and curriculum designers to create a new curriculum template for undergraduate programs. I spent two years engaged in conceptual development, while distilling information from the campus, expertise from team members and other campus members, and the literature in higher education and curriculum development, to create a new vision, framework and delivery method for undergraduate programs. While the level of complexity is much greater, the work responds to the same call: by what means do we ensure the most salient and enduring learning outcomes?

In 2001 I began my work as a faculty member in the CDE.  My commitment to the continual improvement of learning environments to improve access, reduce barriers, and enhance learning outcomes, remains. Acting on this commitment compels me to employ rigor in my research and practice in the field of distance education and training. Integrating research and teaching, I teach courses in research methods to students in graduate programs in education and workplace learning. I also teach Leadership in the EdD.

I am a co-researcher on a Social Science and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) grant and on an AU Mission Critical Research grant.  Below is my recent history of active research projects and grants held:

Co- researcher with Dr. Anna McLeod and Olga Kits
"Becoming a Professional Through Distributed Learning: A Sociomaterial Ethnography"
2016 Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada ($314,474).

Co-researcher with Drs. Parker and Ostashewski
"Understanding the experience of learning to learn online: A MOOC designed for novices."
2015 Athabasca University Mission Critical Research Fund ($6,000).

Co-researcher with Drs. Briton, Gismondi and Ives
“MOOC instructional design principles: Ensuring quality across scale and diversity.”
2013 Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation ($13,846).

Research Principal
“Community of Inquiry research integration and practice alliance."
2013 Athabasca University Mission Critical Research Fund ($5,985).

Research Principal
Faculty perspectives on teaching with new technology: Uncovering a possible case of unrealistic expectations”
2011 Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada   ($39,015).

Co-researcher with Dr. Mohamed Ally
“Using mobile communication devices to support online learning communities”
2010 Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada   ($62, 687).

Research Principal
“Leadership in open and distance higher education.”
2010 Athabasca University Mission Critical Research Fund ($6,000).

Research Principal
“The teaching role in online communities of inquiry:  Verifying teaching presence across subject areas in higher education.”
2007 Athabasca University Mission Critical Research Fund ($7,000).

“Testing E-learning training methods to foster online soft skills in the workplace”
2006 Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada   ($60,516)
Approved but unfunded.

Research Principal
“Bridging the campus: Disciplinary differences in online design and delivery”
2005 Athabasca University Mission Critical Research Fund ($7,578)

Research Principal
“Defining a learner-centered curriculum: A comparison of faculty perspectives”
2004 Athabasca University Mission Critical Research Fund ($7,429)

Research Principal
“Higher order learning in online communities of inquiry:  Identifying required student adjustment to cognitive, social and teaching presence”
2004 Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada ($60,045).

Research Principal
“Testing the generative nature of learning objects:  Independent learner use of learning objects in the affective domain”
2003 EduSource ($24,000).


Finalist – Best Paper Award 2014
Cleveland-Innes, M. & Gauvreau, S. (October, 2014).  Faculty role change: Adjustment to the influence of online teaching and learning.  Paper presented at the European Distance Education Network Research Workshop, Oxford, England.

Cleveland-Innes, M., Stenbom, S., & Hrastinski, S. (October, 2014).  The influence of emotion on cognitive presence in a case of online math coaching. Paper presented at the European Distance Education Network Research Workshop, Oxford, England.

2012-2016 Invited Guest Professor and Researcher
Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm, Sweden
Part-time support to further develop research and education on technology-enhanced learning; develop funding applications; give research seminars; collaborate with and give feedback to faculty and PhD students; act as advisor in online learning projects.

Craig Cunningham Memorial Award for Teaching Excellence - 2011 Athabasca University

Finalist – Best Paper Award 2012
Cleveland-Innes, M., Ally, M., Wark, N., & Fung, T. (October, 2012). Emotional presence and mobile learning:   Learner-driven responses in a wireless world. Paper presented at the European Distance Education Network Research Workshop, Leuven, Belgium.

Finalist – Best Paper Award 2010
Cleveland-Innes, M. & Gauvreau, S. (October, 2010).  Online support for online graduate students.  6th European Distance Education Network Research Workshop, Budapest, Hungary.

President’s Award for Research and Scholarly Excellence 2009
Athabasca University

Finalist – Best Paper Award 2008
Cleveland-Innes, M., Sangra-Morer, A. & Garrison, D. R. (October, 2008). The art of teaching in an online community of inquiry: The online teacher as bricoleur. 5th European Distance Education Network Research Workshop, Paris, France, 2008.

Finalist – Best Paper Award 2006
Cleveland-Innes, M., & Garrison, D. R. (October, 2006). Learner independence and interdependence in online communities of inquiry: The case for teaching presence. 4th European Distance Education Network Research Workshop. Barcelona, Spain, 2006.

Best Conference Paper 2005
Ally, M., Cleveland-Innes, M., Boskic, N., Larwill, S. (May, 2005).  Learner use of learning objects.  Canadian Association for Distance Education Conference, Vancouver, B.C.

Excellence in Research Award 2005 
Cleveland-Innes, M. & Garrison, R. (May, 2005). Student role adjustment in online communities of inquiry. Canadian Association for Distance Education.


I balance my academic life with singing in a mixed choir and study of voice development and musicology. In the center of my life is a family of one husband, three children, one son-in-law, two grandchildren, three dogs, two horses, two parrots and varying numbers of fish.


Daughter June-Marie is a chemistry major turned accountant. 


Daughter Ashley is studying Psychology at Athabasca University.


 Son Aaric is a Performing Arts major at the Alberta High School of Fine Arts. 

Husband of 25 years, Stuart, is a super-Dad who also serves as a telecommunications consultant for Shell Canada.  


Granddaughters Anya-Rae, 2 yrs. old and Evia, 4 yrs. old.

True scholarship consists in knowing not only what things exist, but what they mean; it is not just memory but judgment. ~

Adapted from James Russell Lowell (1819 – 1891)



Last updated by CY November 25, 2016

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