Category Archives: blended learning

ONL18: Reflections

As with all of these courses, the best part about it was meeting colleagues and having interesting conversations with them. Because of the way the course was organized, virtually all sessions were or involved conversations with colleagues. We do discuss courses a lot at work as well, but these conversations are often more practical than theoretical or pedagogical. It’s nice to meet colleagues from around the world and hear what they have to say about things we all wrestle with.

While figuring out our presentations and coursework, we were introduced to many practical applications, software and other tricks of the trade. Most of them will be useful, and those that will not, well, at least we now know that we do not care for them. In other words, we got to try out different ways of presenting our projects and most of us will use at least some of the software, platforms or websites we saw. I would have not known where to look for these on my own. Had I found them, I probably would have not had the patience to try them out

The more theoretical content of the course will also be useful to most of us, I think. Much of the pedagogical content seemed quite abstract. Other content seemed very practical, e.g. for building a blended course. I much preferred the latter, probably because I am currently in the process of creating materials for a blended course myself. Simply put, I was already looking for ways to structure certain elements on my own course and found stuff I can use. As a card carrying humanist, I should also say that I do recognize that people tend to appreciate utility more when they have an immediate need. Of course, I also recognize that the more abstract content will shape my thinking in the future as I get a chance to think about it a bit more.

Overall, I am hopeful for the future and grateful for the course. What worries me a little is that future teachers have to become content creators. This means not only using the occasional online quiz in class, but creating lecture videos, editing them, mixing the sound, lighting them, scripting them, and making them look professional while taking care of all the other content. It seems these skills go far beyond pedagogical skills and teachers will need training in, for example, using video editing software suites and the like. It’s a daunting thought that you have to become a multimedia wizard in order to teach if you don’t already have one foot in that world. But I think universities and teachers will find ways to adapt. They have overcome much greater obstacles in the past.

Salmon’s Model for Online Learning: Designing a Blended Course

I spent most of Topic 4 suffering from a flu and lacked the energy to study the materials when they were first posted. However, I do have to create an online blended course for the spring semester and thought I would look at what my group came up with and how their thoughts on the topic could assist me. I will be using the Coggle diagram my group made and especially Gilly Salmon’s five-stage model for online learning: (1) access, (2) socialization, (3) information exchange, (4) knowledge construction, (5) development.

At first, the model seemed quite theoretical, but upon further reflection, I noticed that it is actually a practical tool for thinking about how to create online modules from existing classroom activities.

The course I am working on is a writing course where students are provided (1) access to our Moodle-type platform and hence access should not be a problem. The students are already familiar with most of the tools. The one possible exception are the embedded videos on our online forums. However, this is an easy one-click system that should not cause problems. Having said that, it is probably best to instruct students before we have them deposit videos on the course’s online forum.

Part of the course will take place in the classroom and therefore some of the (2) socialization can be performed face-to-face. Getting to know each other in the classroom will hopefully enable everyone to continue working online. Based on our group’s discussions, classroom work will indeed help to get on with online work. If the course was a fully online course, socialization would probably be more difficult. Nevertheless, it is important to keep socialization in mind when we first meet in class. It might be best to group students in class and then let these groups work online on certain exercises.

One other thing that should be kept in mind is that group work must be tailored so that (3) information exchange and (4) knowledge construction are possible during the online activities. When initially flipping various lectures and exercises, I noticed that I had a tendency to think of the course in terms of individual students. This is something I should obviously change. I would like for the online parts of the course enable the students to work with less guidance and supervision. Preparing the exercises should take into account the type of online learning we want the students to engage in.

With (5) development, I would like to frame the course in a way that helps students work on their own writing projects as much as possible. With our exercises, I always try to link them to the students’ current work so that they will stay motivated throughout the course. The existing classroom exercises have been designed with this in mind, but it would be possible to design more exercises that work even better in this context.

In summary, the five-stage model for online learning is a useful tool if you take the time to think it through. It helps you to make a checklist that you can keep in mind when adapting existing materials to an online blended course. I was told that we have quite a few language teachers on our ONL course and any tips or insights from all of you would be more than welcome!