Topic 5: Over and out

So final week in the ONL-course! We have been asked to reflect on a few questions in our blogs. So this is what I will do in this blog post. Enjoy!

  • What are the most important things that you have learnt through your engagement in the ONL course? Why?

My spontaneous respons is that I hate PBL. I’m sorry, but I do. I’ve never taken a PBL course before and I’ve never teached within a PBL setting either. Maybe I hate group work more than PBL, but it’s hard to say. I think it has been really hard to understand – or rather to reach a consensus within the group – what the group should do (i.e. what the task is) and the form for how to accomplish this task. There is very little room in my work calendar or in my “spare time” to add things when deadlines are not kept for example. Trying to find empty slots in eight different calendars on a short notice for online meetings has been a struggle during the whole course. And when people miss out from meetings, you lose the “flow” in the group work.

Besides my dissatisfaction with PBL, there are of course a lot of content in the ONL course that I find really interesting and useful. In my last blog post I wrote about Bates (2016) and his very useful recommendations for online and blended teaching. I have also been inspired by both the ADDIE-model and Salmon’s five stages model. The need for teacher presence, communication, access to and functional technical tools and scaffolding are aspects I will take with me from the ONL course.

  • How will your learning influence your practice?

It already has! During my course in social law this semester, I used Padlet to let students post questions about the course at two occasions. This was a direct result of what I learned in the ONL course. The importance of scaffolding, communication and useful digital tools available free online. I tried to encourage my students to choose digital tools and be creative instead of just writing reflection reports to me. For next time, I will use more time to encourage them and suggest different tools. Now I only had three groups that used something else than the normal 1-2 pages written group reflections. One group made a presentation in Power Point. One group recorded a discussion and presented it as a pod and a third group recorded a made up argument. These were all excellent examples of how students can work different and make something more creative. I also decided not to force them to do group meetings in the old fashioned way, i.e. meeting up at a specific time. I told them that they were free to decide on their own and for example work completely online. I think most choose to use a blended form. They sent e-mails, wrote in common Google+ documents, and met up in real life and discussed the different topics they worked with. Since some of them live quite far from campus, I think this was useful.

  • What are your thoughts about using technology to enhance learning/teaching in your own context?

I think it’s interesting, but also challenging. For example, we don’t have Adobe Connect at my campus and where I normally do lectures or seminars, I don’t have a working internet connection. This is really frustrating. I also think it is important to use technology when it is suitable, and not just because it is fun for you as a teacher to show that you’ve found something “new” (and most of the time it’s not very new for a lot of your students. The twitter seminars in the ONL-course were a good example of this, I think).

So, that’s it folks. No more ONL course, but there will definitely be more online and open aspects in my own work and my own teaching.


Topic 4: Designing from theory

The last two weeks in the ONL-course  focused on design and how we as teachers can design better when we are designing courses for online teaching or so called blended teaching. I think this was an interesting topic and also very useful in my own teachning, even though I never work completely online. Some parts of my courses take place online – mostly in the LMS (It’s learning) we’re using at my campus, but most of my teaching is done face to face – in lectures and seminars. I thought I should write more about my own teaching in relation to what I’ve learned during the ONL-course in a later blogpost.

For me, the ADDIE-model and the Five stage model have been both interesting and useful. But I‘ve chosen to write this blog post about some of the advice from Bates (2016) that I find really interesting. For example Bates gives an interesting overview of in what contexts online or blended teaching is suitable depending on which students you are working with:

  • Fully online learning best suits more mature, adult, lifelong learners who already have good independent learning skills and for work and family reasons don’t want to come on campus
  • Blended learning, or a mix of classroom and fully online courses, best suits full-time
  • undergraduate students who are also working part-time to keep their debt down, and need the flexibility to do part of their studies online
  • ‘Dependent’ learners who lack self-discipline or who don’t know how to manage their own learning probably do better with face-to-face teaching; however, independent learning is a skill that can be taught, so blended learning is a safe way to gradually introduce such students to more independent study methods.

Bates  also writes about how online teaching can be used for changing existing courses:

Re-design of very large lecture classes, so lectures are recorded and students come to class for discussion and questions, making the classes more interactive and hence improving learning outcomes.

This is really interesting and important. But Bates also recommend that you only start this transition to online teaching if you have access to proper technical tools at your institution. Better not to do it than to do it badly, according to Bates. But he also writes that it’s important to be open to do things differently. This I find inspiring!

The last thing I would like to point out is Bates very clear instruction to communicate with your students online.

There is substantial research evidence to suggest ongoing, continuing communication between teacher/instructor and students is essential in all online learning. At the same time, it needs to be carefully managed in order to control the teacher/instructor’s workload. Students need to know the instructor is following the online activities of students and the instructor is actively participating during the delivery of the course.

Bates recommends that you as a teacher are aware of that most students need:

  • Well-defined learning goals
  • A clear timetable of work, based on a well-structured organization of the curriculum
  • Manageable study workloads appropriate for their conditions of learning
  • Regular instructor communication and presence
  • A social environment that draws on, and contributes to, the knowledge and experience of other students
  • A skilled teacher or instructor
  • Other motivated learners to provide mutual support and encouragement.

Topic 3: Collaboration online

The last two weeks in the ONL-course have been about collaboration in online groups. The topic made my PBL-group think about how our own collaboration worked and we had an interesting discussion in the beginning of the topic. What are the goal(s) for our PBL-group and how does this correspond with our own individual goals for taking the course? I have been frustrated because the PBL-group focus on the presentation aspect to quickly. I have missed a stage of discussion and reflection on the topic and literature before discussion presentation tools and presentation content. I had not defined the goal for our PBL group as the presentation. For me it was about sharing experiences, ideas and reflections – in my mind that is collaborative Learning.

One problem though, that I think is very evident after this course so far, is that it is really hard to have a discussion and share reflections when you are collaboration online. I have identified three aspects of difficulties:

  1. Technical malfunctions when using for example Adobe connect to have meetings. One of my PBL-group members shared this video that illustrates the difficulties. It is hilarious:-)
  2. Different – and unspoken – ideas about written discussion. Discussion and reflection could be done in writing, but I think this is really hard and an area where you really need to develop your skills over time. Otherwise, it will only be a lot of statements and sentences – and no collaborative learning. There is no discussion before anyone answers a statement that has been put on a paper.
  3. On and off-participation. This is of course also a problem in IRL group work, but I think the online aspect makes it more difficult.

My previous experiences of online collaboration have most often been collaboration with people I know and where we have had earlier experiences from collaborating IRL. This has made it easier, because you know what is expected from you.

In my PBL group we decided to focus on useful tips for designing group work, so that our student can reach “higher levels” and not only divide tasks between them. Online groups tend to stay in superficial communication and collaboration. To push the group development forward the teacher must make sure that the individual see that he or she can fulfill their own goal – therefor design activity so that individual task benefit from group task (Brindley, Walti & Blaschke, 2009). I will add the link later when the presentation is available. These are my favorite tips:

  1. Create small groups
  2. Goal and purpose should be clear
  3. Be proactive in monitoring and intervention

This quote from Anna Bratt in my PBL-group will end this blogpost on topic 3. I think it summarizes the positive aspect of collaboration in a very poetical way:

Learning activity is planned in place and time since collaborative learning means coming together. The participants create a unique activity, all individuals create together a unique result based on the subject’s own histories, which in turn affects the activity played out.



Different aspects of openess

It has been hard for me to fully embrace the openess-gospel that is preached within the ONL-course. After a morning Adobe-session with my PBL-Group this morning, I tink some important pieces of the puzzle to why came to place.

If I deconstruct the Openess into the following parts it makes better sence:

  1. Open in terms of me as a teacher using OER (Open Educational Resources), Pictures (CC-licences e.g.) and other stuff to improve my teaching and create more time to interact with my students, instead of one-way communication in form of lectures for 140 students in a room where only one person (me) can speak because of the need of a microphone.
  2. Open in terms of me as a teacher sharing my work with others. I think I’m quite good at this as a researcher (using open access publishing, posting pre-accepted versions of my work on different sites, etc), but I don’t do anything at all when it comes to the teaching aspects of my work. Here I have to transform the literature and “gospel-preaching” in the ONL-course (with e.g. MOOCs and t MIT as examples of how to do it) to my much smaller Swedish context (teaching mainly social law for future social workers) and the sad context of working at a University College with very restricted financial resources. And also, I have to add, students who are very reluctant to even read books or articles in English.
  3. PBL – new perspectives on and in teaching. The third aspect is really not about digital Tools or Openess at all, but about how I can incorporate at least some of the perspectives from PBL in my own teaching – without actually transforming my whole department in to PBL? There is to me an openess aspect here to. Both in terms of being open to do something new or different, and being open in terms of open to change content and form according to my students desires and needs.



Short reflections

Now we’ve moved on to topic 2 in the ONL-course. I think my group produced a nice presentation, but I’m still not sure about what we’re acutally doing and if we’re experiencing some sort of collective learning here. Maybe we’re not even supposed to…but I think that should be one important aspect of PBL, no?

My main concern is that I don’t think we’re working with the scenarios enough. First I have to say that I think the scenarios are not very interesting. I find it difficult to explain exactly why…maybe it’s because they are a bit predictable. For me, they don’t stimulate any brainstorm or discussion. We can of course produce some sort of presentation accordning to the FISh-model, but….well I don’t know…I thought we would work more collaborative in the acutal learning, not only in producing a presentation. For me, there is an important difference. Maybe it’s the digital filter that prevents us from having real discussions. Adobe connect doesn’s work that well. Poor internet-connection, bad sound and your own voice echoing in your headphones…it makes it difficult.

But, if I would try to be a bit more constructive and leave the PBL-aspects aside, this short summary of “pros and cons” on LVS/VLE versus open social media was really useful I think.

Drowning among all fish

The main reason I started this blog was because of the requirements in an on-line course about open network learning that I am attending. The course is divided in several “topics”. Each topic has a specific time. This week is for example the end of topic 1 and topic 2 starts next week.

Each participant is placed in something called a PBL-group. My PBL group has eight members and two facilitators. So far we have had two on-line meetings (in adobe connect). The third meeting is tomorrow and there will probably be a last meeting on topic 1 on Friday.

I don’t feel completely comfortable in the PBL-pedagogy yet. I find it quite difficult to understand what we are supposed to accomplish or do. We have been asked to contribute to common guidelines and other documents in Google docs. I like collaborating on text in Google docs. It feels really efficient, but in this PBL-work we probably need some sort of method to decide what to keep in a document and when it is finished.

We are working in something called the FISh-model. This is something I don’t know if I fully understand yet or maybe it doesn’t work for me. First we should “focus” on a presented scenario. This “focusing” should be documented and so far a couple of members in the PBL-groups have done this. Not me, because I find it….well, I think my brain stops working because I don’t understand the task and I get performance anxiety (prestationsångest in Swedish, don’t know if it’s called that in English). I’ve watched the webinar and read all the texts we are supposed to read…but I still don’t get it. And when two or three persons have written in the document,  it doesn’t feel necessary to suggest more “focus”-stuff. Or maybe….I don’t know.Tomorrow we will have another Adobe Connect-meeting and continue to work with the “investigation” and “solution”-phases of the FISh-model. Maybe some things will be clearer after that.

Feeling grateful today

I feel I have to write a short post just to express my gratitude towards all my friends and collegues who gratulated me yesterday on my forthcoming thesis and, what is the most important part, help by sharing my thesis online. This is of course an amazing opportunity. Sharing my thesis online means that it reaches a lot more people than I could have imagined. And when you see that people also tag it for special persons, like social workers they know, friends and politicians…that is just wonderful.

And all the nice words my friends and collegues write about me online…I’m truly, truly grateful today.