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.

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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.