Monthly Archives: November 2017

Reflection #5

Design for online and blended learning

Design – what an inspiring and thoughtful term. For me design means structures, frames, forms, colors, shapes, moves, sounds – everything that helps to put things in their places and to communicate about useful meanings, and offer functionalities that are on demand. Now looking back our discussions and work within the group on design for online and blended learning it is clear that we were exactly looking for research-based guides, and thinking how with an audiovisual story to communicate the essentials of design.

We were asked not to design a new course but merely to discuss what a teacher can face in a course, and how to reply to challenges of different kinds. Our approach was again to create a story – this time a short movie with a beginning, twist and resolution parts.

While doing collaboratively the movie I got the biggest insight so far during the course. Some hints of this already came in the previous topic, but now it was evident. A group of people that have never physically met, but only online–and that have diverse backgrounds–can create a movie to communicate about the essence of online teacher’s tactics in just few days. Our group members added different kinds of elements – ranging from figures to video clips, and from spoken text (produced with a text-to-speech system) to music.

We all then iteratively improved the transitions between clips, edited and added texts, improved formatting and compositions, and essentially improved the story. Thus by doing online collaboration our group of teachers got insight of the essences of online course design, and essentially both figured out and communicated what one can expect when running an online course – especially in the crucial twist part of the story. Out of those I raise here two for me  important  points that I also added to our group’s movie:

  • How to address social challenges in a course? Answer: create a community of learners Interact and encourage to interact
  • How to address administrational and management challenges? Answer: provide mile stones and  check points & use well-tested structures and platforms

The community aspect I have discussed previously in my reflective feed, so here I will concentrate on the second point. I like metaphors, and a mile stone is a pretty good metaphor. Learning is here seen as a road with changing sceneries, and mile stones help to see how far has the learner got in her journey to final destination. Teacher provides the check points to let learners  voice out their possible concerns, thus allowing to help when it is crucially needed to continue the journey.

Let us all continue our journeys together, enjoying the changing sceneries, communicative mile stones and revealing check points.

Thanks for reading! Happy to hear your comments 🙂



Reflection #4

Learning in communities

It is fascinating how a community can truly support learning way beyond what one can achieve alone. There have certainly been key moments in my life where I have evidenced this. Out of all these very different learning settings I pick here racket games, and squash in particular.

I have practiced different racket games since I was very little, and continued with them  throughout until today. As I was in Germany as a postdoc some years ago, my idea from the first days was to find a group to train with. A few emails and phone calls later I started to train every Monday, from 19:30 to 21:00 – and often beyond, even until 22:00 –  in a fully German speaking group of highly talented squash players. In the trainings we had typically around 10 to 15 players. The trainings were self-organised in a fantastic way, something I had never evidenced in my previous trainings occasions. The setting was ideal for collaborative learning. Let me explain this via an example:

We started by all of us going to one single court, or divided to two courts if we had a big group to join training. As the rest of the group were in the right back corner (or in the left back corner when we played on the right side), two players played on the left side. As the first person served, the other had to try either playing line (a long of short shot), or to make a cross shot to the front corner. The one who had served then made her or his decision on the shots and so the play continued until one made a mistake. The player who made a mistake gathered one mistake point, and went to the queue to wait her turn. The player who won continued against the next one in the queue. The play continued – and when one person got 10 mistake points, she or he had to leave the court and move to the benches to watch others continuing the training.


Players 3, 4 and 5 waiting for their turn while players 1 and 2 train. Here player 1 has hit the ball via the front wall to the back corner, and player 2 is trying to get there in time to hit the ball. The winner will stay and get a new player to challenge her/him.

Learning happened here not only while playing, but also while watching others play when waiting one’s own turn. There was time to decide on tactics, even to share with others quickly some thoughts-especially when at the bench outside of the court. Now looking at open networked learning I realise that the setting can be and is in many ways similar. We can play (lead a topic, contribute to it, discuss scenarios, share articles, tweet chat and insight) or watch others (check webinars or records of tweet chat, or what others have contributed). Here tech for online learning naturally plays a crucial role (like a racket, ball or court for squash)–since it allows us to watch others contribute to discussions (think of tweet chat or webinars), it allows us to co-create (think of our shared folders) and it allows us to communicate (think of our video calls) and thus bridge space and time differences.

Personal learning networks are essential for me. For learning I communicate via social media (especially via my twitter handle @LinkedScience), emails, different online doc systems, chat messages, talks over coffee, brown bag meetings or dinners, in a colleagues room or in a classroom. In all of these the networks are the core basis for learning: interaction with my peers carries the messages in a form to facilitate and enable learning.

In open networked learning these few weeks we have had topic leaders. I realised especially with our topic on learning in communities how strong links emerged first between the two topic leaders, and how this got weaved with stronger and stronger links with the other members of each topic via co-creation of presentations. I foresee that this could be brought even to another level if topic leaders would reflect their learning together – e.g. as a form of a blog post. This could be also a simple comment – like in the following that I posted as a reply to a nice feedback about our storytelling-driven presentation:

This was an interesting process from the early idea of “I would go here for a scenario, a story, where we have a representative teacher…For that scenario it is easier to start providing solutions?” all the way through all insight what research has said and what our experiences brought, and finishing with this shared story.

For those interested here is our storytelling-result for the learning in communities.

Thanks for reading! Happy to hear your comments 🙂