This is my final entry addressing the ONL course – it’s on topic 5 “lessons learned – future practices”
This course was quite an experience! It kept me breathless throughout – from being overwhelmed in the beginning by being confronted with a completely new experience of course design and learning activities, to further taking part in all these activities while also having to teach and the rest of the every day of an academic life, all the way to A LOT of new knowledge and ways of thinking and approaching the online classroom.
The structure of this course was very didactic and a wonderful template for how a well-functioning online course could be designed and taught, e.g. structured by weekly, bi-weekly topics/themes, a blog entry per topic, one webinar with discussion part, a bi-weekly Twitter chat, and twice a week a PBL group meeting with new tools of presenting the discussion results after each theme. We had great facilitators in the PBL group, two people who had taken this course earlier and mentored our discussions and kept the group on track with the tasks and the content.
Throughout this course, I essentially learned that the online classroom is not the same as the IRL classroom. It’s a dimension of teaching that takes engagement, guidance, and emotional presence not so different from the face-to-face classroom yet maybe even more intensified in order to bridge the gap left by the absence of a shared physical space and academic geography with a library, teacher offices, learning spaces, fellow students on a daily level and actual classrooms. To consequently, an increased emotional resonance is important to keep the students engaged, to keep them involved in the course work despite the often parallel running activities outside of any academic environment, and also to create the best possible learning – “transformative learning” (Vaughan et al. 2013).
For me, this component of emotional presence apart from a range of structural elements, theories, and concepts of how learning works (e.g. the Community of Inquiry framework, PBL groups) were extremely valuable. Structural elements and concepts I enjoyed learning about were the digital tools we started to engage with in order to accommodate the general course structure but also to present our discussion outcomes. I started to blog in this course, and I twittered for the first time – I became even more aware of the dangers of social media and am cautious of using this as a teaching requirement – yet, chat rooms as a written discussion form of engagement with students is something I will immediately implement in my next online course starting in a few weeks. Blog writing is great but requires too much technical knowledge to integrate into my online courses – It’s a question of teaching hours which are accounted for face-to-face classrooms and are not adequate for the complex forms of online teaching. However, a chat room on Slack (instead of Twitter) will be a standard tool for my next course. Also online webinars, pre-recorded lectures and a slightly altered form of PBL – weekly seminars that try to get as close to the PBL frame as possible. To provide PBL groups, regularly meeting small groups with a mentor/tutor is not accounted for in my hourly budget and unfortunately impossible until the online classroom is recognized institutionally as a different teaching and learning space (which might require more resources). I really enjoyed beginning to work with presentations using tools such as prezzi, moovly, mindmeister, and coogle; all really nice tools to suggest for students as platforms for their future assignments.
Overall, this course is an extremely really valuable resource, an inspiration in itself to teach online, and do it well – and see how this can be done in a way that is fun, engaging, and connecting.
Vaughan, N.D., Cleveland-Innes, M. and Garrison, D. R. (2013) Teaching in blended learning environemnts: Creating and sustaining communiteis of inquiry. Edmonton: AU Press.