Lessons learnt and future directions

This course was not at all what I expected, or maybe I didn’t know what to expect. I signed up for the course because it was about online learning, which I knew very little about, and because it promised interaction with other teachers from other subject areas and even countries. And I did get to learn about online courses and interact with several other teachers from completely different backgrounds.

But that’s far from everything I will take with me from this course. Since I didn’t know much about online learning before I took the course, the most important thing I learned was how big and diverse the online learning world is. Since my course is not suitable to move online, I will not be making any large changes in the layout of the course, but I got many good new ideas about ways to improve the learning environment for my students. For example, how useful a good facilitator can be. In my teaching, I could use olders students as facilitators and to motivate the students to appreciate the material and understand its importance in future studies and their career. Another example is the use of open access videos to start the students to think about a topic and get interested in it. To me, learning is about reading a book or article, but I realize that students today get information from many other resources. As educators, we can pretend that students do not change and thereby placing ourselves in another world than that of the students. Or we can adapt to the changes and help the students to become digitally literate, and to use the web in a manner that we find acceptable and that will foster deep and meaningful learning. I didn’t expect to learn about open resources during this course, but that was very helpful to me. I had no idea about the rules and regulations regarding this. Now I feel much more confident with what I can and cannot use, and I realize that sharing my own material isn’t as bad as I thought previously.

As I have read in many other blogs from other students taking this course, the major limit to using what we learned in the course is time. It takes time to search through open access material to see what I can use for my course; it takes time to implement changes in courses; it takes time to share material in open access. However, I think that it will be worth it. Reading other blogs and interacting with the other students of ONL162, especially those in my PBL group, has made me think about several ways that I can improve my course with the use of online tools.


Reflections on topic 4 – how can I use what I learned?

When I reflect on how I have designed the course that I teach, I realize that we have, to a large part, used constructive alignment (Biggs 1996) without even thinking about it. Constructive alignment is, to me, the core in designing courses for deep learning. That there should be an alignment between planning, designing learning outcomes, deciding learning and teaching activities, and determining which assessment to use seems quite obvious, but unfortunately this is not always, or even seldom, the case in higher learning. Other frameworks, such as that of Gilly Salmon or the ADDIE model, use the same theory. To me, there is really no difference between designing a traditional or online course in this regard – the course should be designed to match the previous knowledge and purpose of the students, and teaching activities and assessments should match the learning objectives.

I can see several advantages of adding an online component to my own course:

  • the students can join teaching activities from home,
  • future work places will require online meetings,
  • students learn to collaborate with others without meeting face-to-face,
  • students today are brought up in an online environment and feel “at home” with technology.

The idea of blended learning appeals to me as it allows students to practice face-to-face meetings but also allows for time to reflection in text-based communication (Vaughan 2013). My course is for medical students that in addition to learning anatomy, histology and physiology also need to practice face-to-face interaction with other human beings since this will be a large part of their future career. With that said, this group of students cannot go to an online learning environment alone.

After the ONL course, I have two concrete examples that I will use in my own teaching:

  1. The use of chats or videos to initiate a topic (stage 1 Gilly Salmon). I believe that this could help my students to become interested in a topic and to start reading the texts that we want them to read.
  2. We have a lot of group work that sometimes doesn’t work as well as it should. I found that throughout this course, the use of a facilitator for each group can help to motivate all group members to contribute and to catch issues before they become big problems.





Biggs, J. Enhancing teaching through constructive alignment. High Educ (1996) 32: 347.

jclarkgardner (2011, June 11) ADDIE Model Instructional Strategies [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL20E84CD77B301A20

Salmon, G (2013) The Five Stage Model. Retrieved 2016 November 8 fromhttp://www.gillysalmon.com/five-stage-model.html

Vaughan, N. D., Cleveland-Innes, M., & Garrison, D. R. (2013). Teaching in blended learning environments: Creating and sustaining communities of inquiry. Edmonton: AU Press. Chapter 1 “Conceptual framework”. PDF available here


Networked collaborated learning – a good, but hard, way to learn.

This course is my first and only time where I have used online collaborative learning, and it has made me think about several aspects of networked problem based learning (PBL).

First of all; learning in a group is a challenge for all students for several reasons:

  • Getting to know the other individuals in the group, noth on a personal and professional level, to know each others strengths and weaknesses.
  • Coming from different backgrounds and thereby bringing different levels of knowledge to solve the task.
  • Differences in motivation and contribution to the task at hand.

Figure 1 . Students’ sources of frustration in online CSCL. 

As presented by Capdeferro Planes (2012), we see that committment imbalance is a large problem. This is the same both for IRL and online PBL and as a teacher, it is hard to solve this problem. I think that the use of facilitators, as we have in ONL162, is a possible solution to the problem. The facilitator can assist the group in talking to the person that isn’t committed and thereby reduce some of the tension in the group.

When taking group learning to the online world, this can become harder due to time differences, different languages spoken and differences in tech savviness. On the other hand, it’s easier to get together (people don’t have to leave their homes), meeting times can be more flexible (as long as there is good internet connection), and getting along can be easier when not having to meet people face to face.

Despite its drawbacks, learning to work in a group is very important since most jobs require that a person can work in a team and often not with collaborators that the person choses him or herself. Therefore, we as teachers need to allow our students to practice this. Especially using online tools since this is something that most workplaces use or will start to use. In addition, PBL promotes deep learning (Biggs, 1999), since the student not only reads, but also discusses, tests new ideas, solves problems etc. This was shown by Garrison and Cleveland-Innes in 2005, where collaboration between group members led to deep learning.

Designing an online course is not that different from designing a traditional course. It requires planning before and during the course, understanding the needs of the students, their prior knowledge and abilities, defining learning outcomes and ability to motivate the students to want to learn. I like Gilly Salmon’s five stage model when thinking about designing an online course as it takes into account both how the steps can be moderated and the technical support that is needed:


Additionally, it is important to consider the cognitive, social and teaching presence when designing the course (Garrison 2000). As educators, we need to identify how we can optimize each of these aspects to make any course, independent of where it takes place, the best it can be. If we can do this, we will motivate our students to commit and work hard and thereby learn more!


Garrison, Anderson and Archer. Critical Inquiry in a Text-Based Environment: Computer Conferencing in Higher Education. The Internet and Higher Education 2(2-3): 87-105, 2000. 

Salmon  G. The five stage model.

Biggs J. What the student does: teaching for enhanced learning. Higher Education Research & Development. 1999, 18 (1): 57-75.

Garrison DR, Cleveland-Innes M. Facilitating Cognitive Presence in Online Learning: Interaction Is Not Enough . The American Journal of Distance Education. 2000: 19(3), 133–148

Capdeferro Planes N, Romero M. Are online learners frustrated with collaborative learning experiences? International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning. 2012, 13(2):26-44

Reflections on topic 2

6554315179_69fbac133f_zThis topic was really an eye opener for me, and I learned a lot that I can use in my future teaching. Before this I had no idea that:

  • I can search for open material on Google, just by changing the advanced settings. I had no idea about this, and it’s such a great tool. This advanced search function is something that I will share with my students in every way that I can!
  • There are lots of open textbooks online. I had no idea that there were so many! And that they were good.
  • I can take online courses, for free, in lots of different subjects. I even found my own subject, physiology, in several courses.

I will definitely start using open educational resources in my teaching, but I think that it will take some time to fully incorporate all the new tools into my teaching. I feel hesitant to share my work with others because I am afraid that others think that my work is not good. And it is scarey to open myself up to critique from others when I’m supposed to be the teacher who “knows best”. I realize that this is not a good reason and getting critique about my teaching, even if from people that I don’t even know, can only improve my material thus making the learning process better for my students. As researchers, we get this type of input all the time when we submit manuscripts and get, sometimes very harsh, comments back from reviewers.

Online open textbooks is a great tool that I wish that I could tell my students to use. I notice that students do not to buy books to the same extent as before for several reasons; they are expensive, heavy and rigid (once you buy one book you have to stick with it because you can’t afford to buy another one) and they spend a lot of time searching for information online instead. If they could spend the time reading instead of searching, they would learn much more. Unfortunately I could not find an open textbook that is detailed enough for my medical students, but I’m sure that this might come and I will keep my eyes open. One idea would be to have the students start writing an online textbook that each new class could edit with their own knowledge.

As a researcher, I feel ambivalent about open access publishing. On one hand, open access publishing allows for many individuals around the world (especially in developing countries) to read your publication. On the other hand, how can the developing countries publish if publishing costs are almost too high for researchers in industrialized countries? Also, how can we know that the journals are serious? I get emails every week from journals that want me to submit manuscripts and it could be for a field in which I have not performed any research. There is a grave danger of open access publishing failing because of commercial interests generating unserious journals that publish any manuscript that the authors pay to publish. This will destroy the peer-review process.

An alternative to the peer-review process is peer-review after something is published. This is not a secure method because what if only an author’s collaborators comment on the manuscript and therefore not pointing out incorrect conclusions or methodological flaws? Or, on the other hand, what if only competitors comment and modify an open access article?

There are many great open access tools both for teaching and research, but we have to use our digital literacy to determine which are good and which are not. Additionally, we need to teach our students about the tools that are good.


Creative Commons guide. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8YkbeycRa2A

Hilton, J. (2016). “Open educational resources and college textbook choices: a review of research on efficacy and perceptions.” Educational Technology Research and Development 64(4): 573-590.

Robinson, T. J., et al. (2014). “The Impact of Open Textbooks on Secondary Science Learning Outcomes.” Educational Researcher 43(7): 341-351.

Find free to use images on google https://support.google.com/websearch/answer/29508?hl=en

Reflections on topic 1

I learned a lot about my own digital identity (or lack thereof) during the work with this topic. Before I started this course I thought that I was pretty “good at the internet”, but I realize now that I have a lot to learn about what and how to share my work. In my private life, I am more of a resident (facebook and instagram, but I only share my profile with people that I know), but for work I am very much a visitor (David White, Visitors and Residents). At work I use the internet a lot (pubmed, wikipedia, google scholar, google images for preparing lectures), but I make sure that I do not leave a mark by posting my thoughts about work. I guess I am afraid that sharing will hurt my professional identity (Sophia Mavridi, Managing teacher digital identity).

As a teacher I have strongly discouraged my students from using online tools (such as wikipedia and youtube) to learn since they not peer-reviewed or even fact-checked for that matter. However, of course I know that the students use these tools and the black market that is created is something that really bothers me (David White, Visitors and residents – credibility). I need to learn about what’s out there and what the students are using. There are probably many good tools out there and if we, as teachers, would have the time to find and test them we could more easily guide our students to find good tools. But how do we find the time and does every teacher have to reinvent the wheel and look for themselves? Also, is it wrong to want the students to read books?

One way to assist our students without having to check the entire web ourselves, is by teaching them to be critical of what they read (Howard Rheingold, Crap detection). The quality control is no longer with the publisher, it is with the consumer and hopefully we can teach our students to be critical of what they read online. The search engine “whois” is a great way to start to see who is behind a website. To me, it’s not completely obvious that academia should “hand over” its control of knowledge to the Resident Web (Lanclos and White). I believe that universities should play a large role in assuring credibility of what is taught and learned. On the other hand, academia would very much benefit from leaving it’s bubble and try to connect with the rest of the world and I think that we will see this happening more and more over the next 10 years.


First synchronous meeting

We had the first synchronous meeting today and things are definitely more clear. I was happy to hear that we will soon get our first task because I want to start working. I never realized that the course would be so international, and it’s a very positive surprise!

Reflections after day 1

The ONL course started today and I realize that I have much to learn about digital learning, writing blogs and different online communities. I have worked as a university teacher in various settings for over 15 years, but I have not used e-learning yet. The course that I am responsible for, is a full semester course which includes lectures, labs, dissections, seminars, workshops and clinical placements and it is not possible to make it an online course. However, I understand that us teachers have to make use of the digital tools that are avaliable to come closer to the reality for our students. I teach physiology and meeting students IRL for labs for example is crucial to assess and enhance their understanding of complex theory. With that said though, we also need to find ways to connect with students on a wider front and that’s where e-learning comes in handy. I look forward to learning more about digital tools that I can use for my course, but I have to admit that I (as some of the other participants of this course if I understand the other blogs correctly) feel quite overwhelmed and confused at the moment. I guess it’s good to remember how the students feel at the beginning of the semester sometimes!confusion-confusion