The Final Dance

Topic 5 realised

Copyright owned by Anya Siddiqi.

Wow, I thought as I began to write, is this really the last blog post I need to write? Is the twelve-week journey actually over? But as the anonymous quotation above reminds us, no, the journey continues on this path of life-long learning, but now the path seems a little firmer, and my surroundings a little clearer, thanks to this ONL course: the materials, the webinars, the work done with and lessons learnt with and from my PBL group the Eleveners, the structure of the FISh model, the Zoom meetings…To lessen my usual ramblings as I have done in every post so far, let’s tackle most of the questions so helpfully given for this final topic, Topic 5: Lessons learnt.

What are the most important things that you have learnt through your engagement in the ONL course? Why?

I’ve learnt like all of us that the best way of learning is still by practical actual experience. ONL is so cunningly and well designed, that at all stages of the courses, I was often aware at a metacognitive level that I was learning or doing whatever the set foci of those weeks were or had been.

During Topic 1, we began to explore our digital identities and discuss digital literacy. And a result, I became more self-aware of how much I already use online tools and spaces, and where I have a choice and where I have none. I also became more conscious that it is a natural and good thing that this literacy continues to be challenged and developed in all stages of life, in the professional and private spheres. Topic 2 on Open Learning challenged us all, and I felt as if the scales had fallen off my eyes as they did for Saul of Tarsus on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:1-19, NIV). I began to ponder this idea of OERs, and figured out how to use Creative Commons licences as well as openly share my material, but not completely lose (at least in theory) authorship; intertwined with this topic was the first mention of PLNs and PLEs (thanks to K. Oddone). Topic 3 on learning in communities (collaborative learning) was a very good expansion of that; I was aware by the end of the course that my PBL group became and is a PLN. And although this is not my first professional PLN, it is the first one that has functioned and worked completely online. The final themed weeks of online and blended learning did not at first feel like it would bring anything new; I was in two minds as to whether I could and would continue–especially as I was physically at my lowest point by then as my last blogpost I can see clearly now…sorta will attest. Nevertheless, due to the excellent way my PBL group worked and supported our collaborative efforts, I ended up again learning much more than I anticipated–thanks again to the practical application of the FISh model (done in a great new platform this time: Mural), and the opportunity to pursue a topic of inquiry I was really curious about.

How will your learning influence your practice?

It already began to influence my practice from the fourth or fifth week onwards. About the same time, I had begun a much taught Masters level blended course (originally 30% online, 60% face-to-face) to which I tried to apply much of what I was learning in this ONL course, and also in some guest lectures.

Concerning the familiar Masters course, I even went so far to suggest to the students after the first few weeks that we shift three weeks of the course into entirely online and independent work to accommodate their very tight schedules, i.e. a change to 50% online, 50% f2f. The materials were more or less already available, but I would need to do so quick tweaking as well as keep my fingers crossed. I tried to apply some of the principles we were learning in ONL. It is crazy now when I think about it that I decided to do and perhaps was not wise, but I am ready to take the occasional risk if I am equally ready to be accountable for any potential backlash (which there was some of :)).

Fortunately, I have a lot of online teaching (almost all approx. 80-90% online) and a couple of courses in ongoing development, so that all that has been learnt during ONL 192, has been and will continue to be tried and tested. This course has given me a much more up-to-date, as well as firmer theoretical and experiential foundation on which to experiment more. My poor students! πŸ™‚

What are your thoughts about using technology to enhance learning/teaching in your own context?

I think I’ve learnt about some cool tools, but most importantly (which is what I wanted), I’ve become a little more confident (though certainly not over-confident) in planning why I should or shouldn’t use a certain approach or tool, i.e. what elements of design might help to support a course’s learning outcomes as well as the students’ learning preferences and strengths. I’ve never shied from using online tools to enhance learning and teaching, but now I feel much more aware of why. It’s less of a muddle, praise the Lord!

What are you going to do as a result of your involvement in ONL? Why?

Hopefully, I can now better design courses that will give my students the best opportunities to develop and exercise the required skills of academic or professional writing and/or presenting, but which will also give them opportunities to subtly employ and improve the 21st century skillset we discussed during one of the weeks.
I am also encouraging all of my colleagues at the university I work at and other university teaching friends interested or unconvinced by online learning to take this course and become as I did, a true believer! Although I grumbled quite a bit at the beginning of this course because I had felt pressured by my Team Leader to take this course (after a few years of him gently nagging me), I am now very very glad that I gave in. I’m still physically and mentally recovering from the overly packed schedule I’ve had for the last 12 weeks, but I’m so pleased that I didn’t throw in the towel when I seriously considered it at two points during this course, thanks to the design of this course and most of all my PBL group’s amazing support.


I am also playing with the idea of serving as a co-facilitator during one of the upcoming iterations (after I check the workload and the possibility of it being acknowledged in my year’s workload) and if they will have me. It was simply not possible to absorb everything I wanted to do during these twelve exhausting, but wonderful weeks, and I suspect that that is also why so many return to the course as facilitators and co-facilitators–to deepen their own knowledge and because they so enjoyed it!

And it bears repeating that among many of the treasures of this course, there was the online chemistry that formed and strengthened during the course (against all expectations) between us participants in the PBL group, affectionately coined as The Eleveners by our wonderfully laidback facilitator Gregor (Rock on, man! :D). As our wise facilitator Gregor said in our last Zoom meeting: “You guys didn’t just become a team, you became friends.”

I can attest again and again to that, during these weeks I was blown away by the real emotional and practical support of those wonderful people in the Eleveners group. I take my hat off (in alphabetical order) to Donna, Joanne, Katarina, Saad, and Stefan; and also to our facilitators and co-facilitators, Gregor and Annika of PBL 11 and Thashmee and Grant (formerly from PBL 6). In the photo to the left, you can see most of us (except for Grant who had to be absent that last time) in the photo taken by Katarina Rolfhamre (top middle column). Eleveners: You are much appreciated and taught me so much consciously and unconsciously. May you all be blessed by the King of Kings whose birthday we soon celebrate!

Published by Anya Siddiqi

Lecturer of English at Aalto University Language Centre, Finland.

6 thoughts on “The Final Dance

  1. Dear Anya
    When I read your final emotional blog, I’m almost tears. Your group must have been very special. I have regularly read blog articles from some of your group members because they were so rewarding. Incidentally, I met you in a zoom break out room :-). Don’t start your courses with a tango, think about your poor students…
    Best regards, Esther

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh Esther, you gave me such a good laugh, which doesn’t always happen on a Monday morning! πŸ™‚ As I can’t dance the tango at all (even the popular Finnish version), no fears of me leading them in a literal dance, but as I continue to experiment with online learning tools and pedagogies, who knows what merry dance I’ll lead them on metaphorically? πŸ˜€

      Thank you for your very kind comments, and may I wish you an excellent and restful Christmas celebration of Christ,
      Anya

      Like

  2. A very thorough post and I’m so glad you decided to persevere and finish the course. I also hope you consider continuing your blog. I’ve been blogging for 11 years now and it has opened up so many new connections and professional opportunities. You would be a welcome addition to our pool of co-facilitators if you feel you can find the time for it.It is not such a demanding role – it’s mostly about being there and offering support.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Alastair, for your encouragement. I have always sporadically enjoyed journalling for inward reflection, but I’m still not convinced I have that much to contribute beyond sharing my own unadorned experiences of online learning and teaching :). Nevertheless, thank you for the encouragement–who knows, I might turn up again!

      Thank you for your excellent work and efforts in this course, and I wish you a very merry Christmas!
      Anya

      Like

  3. Hi Anya! I really enjoy myself reading your final post. Congratulations! I also share your thought about be a co-facilitator in the future to accomplish things that I wasn’t able to do as a participant, since I couldn’t find the amount of time to dedicate myself to everything as I think I should! But ONL was an extraordinary experience. I wish you a wonderful holidays! Cheers!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you, Suzana, for your kind feedback! Yes, I suspect many of us felt overwhelmed at times, but sado-masochistically still enjoyed it :D. At times, I struggled with the fear of becoming a social loafer, but the structure of the PBL group and the true collaboration (especially the ‘fork-join’ method, as coined and visualised by our PBL team-mate Saad Mubeen) helped me struggle on.

      Let’s indeed return as co-facilitators and become even wiser at least in this ONL! πŸ™‚

      All the best as a time of rest and celebration approaches,
      Anya

      Liked by 1 person

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