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I can see clearly now the rain is gone…sorta

Have you ever heard or perhaps even remember that song ‘I Can See Clearly Now’ originally sung and written by Johnny Nash (in 1973)? You can listen above if you’d like to hear it, but to save you some time, I repeat the main lyrics below:

I can see clearly now the rain is gone
I can see all obstacles in my way
Gone are the dark clouds that had me blind
It’s gonna be a bright (bright)
Bright (bright) sunshiny day
It’s gonna be a bright (bright)
Bright (bright) sunshiny day

Oh, yes I can make it now the pain is gone
All of the bad feelings have disappeared
Here is that rainbow I’ve been praying for
It’s gonna be a bright (bright)
Bright (bright) sunshiny day

Look all around, there’s nothing but blue skies
Look straight ahead, there’s nothing but blue skies…

The Topic 4 weeks began and continued under a few dark clouds as I became incredibly overwhelmed with work during this already black-as-night Nordic November. I had lots of student papers to read through and meticulously comment on in prep for face-to-face feedback meetings during the same period, as well other meetings to prepare for. I again found myself facing the question as to whether it would be best to cut my losses and regretfully bow out of the course, and say my premature goodbyes to the PBL Eleveners (PBL group 11).

But a couple of things kept me chugging on: the first thing was the topic itself, the second was to not let down my peers–the absolutely smashing Eleveners. Personal eurekas concerning Vaughan, Cleveland-Innes, Garrison and Anderson’s Community of Inquiry research abounded!

I already knew something about online and blended learning, but I had last read and researched the theoretical foundation for it a little over 10 years ago. Therefore, I was curious to revisit some theories and learn some new. During this course, I have been well impressed and engaged by the recommended materials, so was satisfied that that curiosity would be satisfied. In addition, based on an incident that was raised in another group, I had a particular question or inquiry to which I wanted to find an answer. I was quite certain that it was a natural outcome to some elements possibly missing, or being unconsciously neglected in the design and implementation phase of a completely online course. The Community of Inquiry Framework (Vaughan, Cleveland-Innes & Garrison, 2013) to which we were introduced at the beginning of the Topic 4 weeks seemed to reflect perfectly what was going on personally and within many PBL groups.

Talking of which, the second motivator was my own PBL group, aka The Eleveners with whom I had enjoyed working with in a truly collaborative sense during the weeks. From the first topic onwards, I had experienced a synergy, andcollaboration as well as a stimulation of skills and ideas which I didn’t think was possible online! Week after week, we worked patiently through the FISh model, repeatedly challenging, but also supporting each other to go beyond our comfort zones as we tackled new topics.

So, where were the dark clouds I mentioned at the beginning? Well, in addition to the incredible burden of work to be done during the same period (student expectations, ONL expectations, personal expectations,…), my still unpredictable (to me) autoimmune disease made it savagely known that my body did not like this situation in the least.

In the beginning of the second and last week of Topic 4, when we were to start adding our bits to our joint presentation space (a Mural page), overnight, my right hand and wrist became so swollen, and hence painful, that for 1 and a half days, I couldn’t type much if at all, except for slowly with one hand, and had lost one night’s sleep due to the severity of the pain. It was simply too difficult to write with both hands, and I didn’t know how long before the strong medication I was forced to take would act (as I’d never had to resort to it before). I was wondering how on earth was I going to contribute in any way to our group presentation? Moreover, although I had read and watched all the recommended materials during the first week, I had been too busy with work to begin reading more on my chosen focus and inquiry: disruptive confrontation or conflict in online learning groups. So, two obstacles still to face. Game over?

Naah…!Thanks to the stable teaching presence in the group, e.g. the planning of our facilitators and each other in the group; the stable and constant social presence we maintained online, and even offline in our WhatsApp group; and the cognitive presence of the materials and our own contributions; we were already a surprisingly solid and cohesive community of inquiry, maintaining a very generous splash of emotional presence throughout all our interactions. We had already successfully negotiated three times the first four stages of Tuckman’s (1965) five-stage model for group dynamics: forming, storming, norming and performing. This solid collaborative community really did work in practice through Gilly Salmon’s five-stage model (2013) time and time again. And when I was stumped and disappointed by my body’s rebellion, and resignedly shared the situation during the first meeting of the second week, my group members immediately stepped in and offered to help in any possible way for us to get to that fifth stage of ‘performing’. This incredible generosity occurred not only online, but was also repeated afterwards through private WhatsApp messages.

When the going gets tough, the tough get going

As Garrison (2017: 80) reminds us referring to the concepts of Tuckman’s (1965) model: “In the middle, or productive stage, there will inevitably be conflicts (storming) and the need for resolution (norming). It is difficult to predict when, and to what degree, the storming and norming process will manifest itself. One should be aware of this difficulty because the process might not surface in an overt and obvious way, but may still have a detrimental effect on open communication and critical discourse.”

I found that in this ‘crucible of fire’ when potential conflict could have arisen due to the tension between our mutual desire to complete the group presentation on a slighty tricky (but interesting) platform in good time, and my unexpected handicap, the team reacted immediately and rallied around. We got our presentation done and out before the week was even up, and although I had to seriously lower my expectations due to time restrictions, the strengths of this personal and professional learning network held up.

Indeed, we were all the more aware of how emotional presence had had a highly significant part to play in us successfully concluding that week’s project. Without the well-planned cognitive presence and teaching presence of the ONL organisers and facilitators, such as their insistence on us using the FISh model (basically an echo of Gilly Salmon’s five-stage model), not to mention the well-selected materials; a social presence carefully constructed by our facilitators to ensure a trusting and strong group cohesion, and encourage a communicative and collaborative style; and finally, an atmosphere that encouraged a frequent discussion of expectations, feelings, and also an atmosphere in which both mutual respect and occasional silliness were constantly displayed (even when all were tired, grumpy (me) and stressed (often me!)); I’m not quite sure I would have learnt so much and remained in this course as long as I have.

I’d like to start to wind down this tome by still mentioning one last feature that has manifested itself often during our group’s interactions and sustained it: a readiness to quickly express gratitude and applaud each other’s strengths, which is why I also chose to read Howells’ (2014) paper referenced below as an antidote to conflict escalating and ruining group interaction and cohesion. There was nothing new, but it nicely confimed what I already knew to be true: displaying thankfulness for and recognition of others’ contributions to a learning situation sets a good foundation for future interactions.

So, now my choice of song becomes clear. It evokes how I now feel: “I can see clearly now the rain is gone, I can see all obstacles in my way. Gone are the dark clouds that had me blind, it’s gonna be a bright (bright), bright, bright sunshiney day!”. But my final word is that I had to add the ‘sorta’ to my title as I have still have to survive this last week and my hand has not yet totally recovered..! Still grateful though for what I have learnt and still have to learn :).

Over and out!

References
  • Garrison, D. R. (2017). E-learning in the 2st Century: A Community of Inquiry Framework for Research and Practice, Third Edition. New York and London: Taylor & Francis, Routledge. 121, 125-127
  • Howells, K. (2014). An exploration of the role of gratitude in enhancing teacher-student relationships. Teaching and Teacher Education 42, 58-67
  • Majeski, R. A., Stover, M. & Valais, T. (2018). The Community of Inquiry and Emotional Presence. Adult Learning Vol 29(2), 53-61
  • Salmon, G (2013). The Five Stage Model. [Homepage] http://www.gillysalmon.com/five-stage-model.html
  • Tuckman, Bruce W. (1965) ‘Developmental sequence in small groups’, Psychological Bulletin, 63, 384-399.
  • 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 “The Community of Inquiry Conceptual framework”.
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“A cord of three strands is not quickly broken”

Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

One of my favourite books is the Holy Bible, I kid you not. You want to find immutable and eternal guidelines on how to live your life, make important decisions, and find out why you are alive? You’ll definitely find them there. And believe it or not, there are guidelines there that directly tie into the weeks’ topic of PLNs and (networked) collaborative learning! As Solomon despairs in the same book from which part of the title is taken, ” What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.” (Ecclesiastes 1:9, NIV). But looking at the entire quotation about the three cords:

” Though one may be overpowered,

    two can defend themselves.

A cord of three strands is not quickly broken. “

Ecclesiastes 4:12, New International Version (NIV)

This very biblical principle is something we already know and perhaps take for granted (although we might struggle occasionally against it): that we are stronger when we work together, each contributing something, and towards the same goals, than just on our own; and that we learn more when we learn with and from each other whether it happens face-to-face or online. Yet we know that interacting and collaborating online is not exactly the same,but has brought with it new challenges. Indeed, Brindley et al. (2009) citing Kearsley (nd) mentions a salient point: “…most people have little formal training in how to successfully interact or work with others and that the social milieu of online activities is quite different from in-person interactions, thus requiring new skills and behaviors.” (Own bolding, but taken from Brindley et al. 2009, p. 2).

But let’s back up, and begin with the wider angle of the perspectives we’ve been focusing on during these weeks, and more specifically on just a handful of a-ha moments which I’ve experienced through the richness of material we were again offered. And please note that I write these thoughts as a way to solidify my own learning and not to entertain any possible reader. Therefore, the path might seem haphazard, but all new learning is a sort of cacophony of half-understood ideas and applications, until it settles in our mind as a half-understood melody which we begin to recognise parts of in many other things.

During the webinar, I greatly appreciated Miriam Fischer’s webinar which introduced the hitherto unknown to me acronym, originally coined by the US military, of VUCA (=Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity, Ambiguity) as a way of describing the world in general or a possible perception of it. I shall not go into the details here, but it was satisfying to understand hear Ms Fischer expound on a way to combat these potentially unsettling tensions by thinking in terms of sustainability, creativity, collaboration and innovation. These terms were further developed by linking these to the work pioneered by the Batelle for Kids non-profit organisation with their support of 21st century skills and their creation of the ‘4 Cs’: Critical thinking, Collaboration, Communication, and Creativity. This of course linked nicely with one of the key topics of networked collaborative learning, but was an excellent start to underscoring why creating and ensuring collaborative and connective learning is not just a fad, but a vital element of the learning environment for university students and for us.

One aspect of this course that many of us already greatly appreciate is that we are not just learning content, but we are putting into practice its themes and principles in a welcoming sandbox with some more experienced and some less experienced peers. The more experienced are not there to steal our sand buckets or spades, but to encourage us to build our little sandcastles with the digital tools available and not be too dismayed if and when they seem likely to totter over in a stiff breeze or after a gentle prodding.

Sandcastles. By Neil Turner CC BY-SA 2.0

And as I don’t want to write all afternoon on my day of rest, I shall come to my last point: what a difference it makes to see how collaboration can work splendidly when it works well! After reading Capderferro & Romero’s (2012) findings on the issues which can cause frustration on an online course, I recognised many of them as also potentially happening in any team/ group-based task. For example, I have also noticed when setting my students a joint task, if I have not thought out beforehand how the students might carry out the task (as well as their underlying motivation and commitment for taking the course), then one student within any group of more than one (!) can either decide they know best/ have more know-how/ have more time on their hands/ have that type of driven personality, etc. and basically drive the whole project without understanding that the learning experience for the rest of the group will be that much poorer if they are not given an equal but different part to play. And some students in that group, due to an overly packed schedule, or a lack of moral conscience, or low self-esteem might accept this happening.

Returning to my two themes as exemplified in the quotation from Ecclesiastes 4:12 and my analogy of building sandcastles: if more than one person works on a joint project using the knowledge and skills they already have or have acquired during the course, the final outcome (basically the 4Cs) will be better, more sustainable, stronger and longer-lasting, because it was a collaborative effort. I am grateful for seeing this so well modelled in our own PBL group 11 since the first joint task. And for that I must thank not only my group members, but also the gentle, and non-intrusive intervention of our facilitators of whom we are blessed enough to have four! 🙂

Here endeth the sermon!

References

Battelle for Kids. http://www.battelleforkids.org/networks/p21 (Accessed 17.11.2019)

Brindley, J., Blaschke, L. M., & Walti, C. (2009). Creating effective collaborative learning groups in an online environment. The International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning, 10(3). https://doi.org/10.19173/irrodl.v10i3.675

Capdeferro, N. & Romero, M. (2012). Are online learners frustrated with collaborative learning experiences?. The International review of research in open and distance learning, 13(2), 26-44.

Ecclesiastes 4:12, Holy Bible: New International Version.

Volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Volatility,_uncertainty,_complexity_and_ambiguity (Accessed 11.11.2019)

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BY ANYA S. NON-COMMERCIAL SHAREALIKE!

And so the revolution begins!

What a few weeks: my boundaries and borders have been stretched, and thanks to all the fantastic material we’ve listened to, watched, discussed, pondered, and prepared, I know that my digital identity and understanding of hitherto so many vaguely understood new directions has shifted!

This has also been a tough couple of weeks workwise, but through one of the pedagogical approaches of this course (collaborative sharing) and the gentle challenge of the topic (open learning, openness and sharing), I think there has been a subtle but clear shift in my understanding as well as my own pedagogical and academic openness. Hurrah!

This understanding encompasses

  • the benefits of being open with your materials–thanks, among other influences, to Alastair’s comment on my own comment left on the Padlet for the webinar Friday 18 October, as well as discussions with my own colleagues;
  • the practical steps you can take if you are willing to become part of this brave new open and collaborative learning community–thanks to much input from the materials these weeks, but most especially to my own PBL 11 group, the Eleveners, and their great work done and shared during the FiSH scenario work for Topic 2.

One of those brave new worlds: the story of open education resources (OERs), why share, and all good things under the sun

“…for older students, university students in particular, and all of the life-long learners out there who can’t access/afford/ etc formal learning, open learning makes far more sense.”

Kay Odone (2016) in ‘PLE or PLN or LMS or OLN?’

I’ll be honest and say that there was a lot of material I wanted to read through and watch, but this ONL course is on top of a very busy semester of new projects in my own online teaching development, and in tandem with new digital skills being learnt; nevertheless, I couldn’t have decded to join at a more oportune moment. The line from Kay Odone’s 2016 blog post resonated with me because I have been spoilt in my access to education since I was a child. My education has either been paid for at private schools or it has been free as all higher education is in Finland–at least for Finnish, EU, and ETA citizens. Many of the int’l Masters students I teach come from non-EU, non-ETA countries, such as Pakistan, India, China, Vietnam, and I can see that their families have to spend a lot to let their children have a ‘better education’ in a European university. However, this also implies that only the elite and those who families can afford it are given access to a higher education. But open learning as Odone, Weller, Wiley and many others proclaim can give all with an internet connection a fighting chance.

“…really the only role for new media and technology in education is to increase our capacity to be generous…”

David Wiley, 2010, TEDxNYED, 14:07-14:12

My last word on this particular branch of thought is the beauty of what Wiley said in the last moments of his 2010 TEDx talk and how well it ties into the openness movement: to increase our capacity to be generous [with one another].

When the pieces fall into place. Photo credit: Business photo created by rawpixel.com – www.freepik.com

Moving on, amongst the material that I delved into the most (or had time to), I greatly enjoyed Weller’s (2014) ‘The Battle for Open’ and the couple of recommended chapters. Weller’s (2014) chapters on Open Educational Resources and MOOCs (Chapters 4 and 5, respectively) tied into the topic I chose to investigate with my PBL group: choosing to share, how much to share, and to communicate that desire to share, basically the nitty-gritty of Creative Commons licenses, how to use them, and how to decide which one you want to use. However, due to time restraints, I carried out my investigation before I had time to read the aforementioned chapters by Weller, but reading those chapters helped so much fall into place during this last week.

After reading through the history of the open movement as laid out by Weller (Ch 4, 2014), I began to understand many of the choices made by colleagues and also by our institution to begin more openly and consistently not only share teaching materials stamped with a CC license, but to also encourage and ensure that colleagues respect the creative rights of others. Thanks to the ease with which one can plagiarise as never before, gone are the days of just presuming you’ll be cited correctly or your copyright acknowledged by others. It is a grand and glorious thing that not only are we ‘attempting to wrestle control back from third-party publishers’ (Weller, 2014, p.67), but many of us feel that we finally have a few more ground rules for how and where to share, and how to make use of the millions of open educational resources (OERs) out there. As I came repeatedly across the Hewlett Foundation’s five motivations (for example as cited in Weller, 2014, p. 73-74), I found myself constantly hurrahing the fifth motivation to ‘offer equal access to knowledge for all’ (Weller, 2014, p.74). What a Nordic concept I thought!

And yet depending on the position held and promoted by our country and institution in the ‘openness movement’, there might be great tensions and mixed messages on how open we can be with our own materials and with teaching through such platforms as MOOCs. In a recent edition of a professional magazine for faculty in Finnish higher education, the Chair of the Finnish Union of University Professors, Jouni Kivistö-Rahnasto, shared a slighly enigmatic thought in his editorial stating that ‘…the idea that teaching materials would just be distributed to larger audiences for free is equally impossible. Creators have their rights and materials are generally the property of their creators.’ (Acatiimi, 6/2019, p.49) Of course, behind this seemingly anti-OER statement lay the argument that there needs to be funding behind lifelong education, but that the present government does not seem to realise that must be planned now. So, there is hope that even if not all Finnish universities are yet in on the openness movement and many are still in complete ignorance of what it means, at least here’s one new convert who has finally seen or at least understood the light. You can call me BY (Anya)-NC-SA from now on ;).

References

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Semi-digiliterate? Internal monologue on online participation and digital literacies

The internet is like a box of chocolates?

Like many of my fellow travellers in this ONL course (circa 192), there has been a lot to marvel at and digest during these first few weeks alone. There has been exposure to new paradigms that I’m still chewing on and digesting, such as David White’s (2014) introduction to his brave new continuum; many videos watched and papers read on ways to involve and support students in an online environment; not to mention, the application of new, well known or barely used online tools to communicate, describe, present and brainstorm individually and collaboratively…phew! Everything new has been appealing though and I’m still eager to try out new flavours and sample almost everything in the box of chocolates aka the ‘box of tools’ found in the internet (D. White 2014). I joined this course despite an already heavy workload this autumn, to become the best online instructor I can be for students of my online courses and co-instructor with my colleagues tackling the same questions and applications.

Like others, during the webinar with D. White, I was also intrigued to map out my digital literacies and ponder my private and public digital identities, so much so that I did it again later at home and was intrigued by the results.

Digital identities

Just like the way we dress, style our hair, and scent ourselves (or not), as narcissitic beings (in a healthy sense), we will take what we need and want for practical reasons, but there is also the underlying need to project an image that will be acceptable or possibly even consciously counter-culture.

Digital identities are no less contrived. At work and for other spheres in which I have a clearly defined and practical role, I am eager (almost greedy) to try out new apps or platforms if they will serve as a means to an end, but the personal preference is also strongly present. If I don’t like an app after trying it, I will not use it again, but actively seek something else: One of those colourful chocolates will be tasted again, another eagerly tasted and then spat out when the flavour or texture disappoint–why waste time continuing to taste what does not please or serve its purpose? We have become almost spoilt for choice, but that does not prevent us from diving in deeper and asking ourselves: why do I or why do my students prefer to learn this way or that on an online course or navigate to certain sites or tools.

Let’s switch from my chocolate-laden analogy to the real nuts and bolts of our choices in being a digital resident, because as I see from my chart above, I’m heavily loaded at the institutional end of the continuum, even leaving some out after running out of space. What I like about this realisation is that it does indeed disprove Prensky’s earlier notion (2001a and 2001b) that those of us who became part of the digital revolution later (when DOS still roamed the earth) are not in any way handicapped. I believe that we can in fact even make wiser choices in our consumption, use and manipulation of those online tools, as well as choose more aptly which spheres we’d like to move in and communicate privately and publicly.

As I teach mainly engineers, it is not often that I encounter students who struggle with mastering some software or app; however, I will occasionally encounter students who are frustrated by a new app or programme and have noticed that they often go through a similar learning curve as mine for that particular new tool, and might even need a helping hand from me! Wonders of wonders! 😀 This also is mentioned by White and Le Cornu (2011, p.3)

It is increasingly clear that, just as is the case for almost every subject discipline and expertise, some learners will acquire the requisite skills quickly, while others will struggle, regardless of age.

White & Le Cornu 2011, p.3

This need to support our students in the online learning environment is therefore just as important as we do or have done in face-to-face teaching. In doing some mini research for our Topic 1 FISh (how to support our students online), I found a few articles that confirmed my intuition and experience as a seaoned teacher and again underline what we’ve been listening to, watching and reading during these last two weeks. For example, Lee et al. (2011, p. 162) referring to Heift (2006) summarised that

…that beginner learners sought more additional help than intermediate students in a computer-assisted language learning environment. Therefore, instructional demands, students’ prior knowledge and skills, and self-directed and self-regulated learning experiences, and course contexts will affect students’ needs for support in a learning environment

Lee et al. 2011,p.162, referencing Heift 2006

Although I would like to still studiously pepper this Topic 1 blog post with references to all the material I did consume and reflect on during these weeks, as I do with digital and chocolate consumption in real life, I shall accept that less is sometimes more, and look forward to selectively tasting more delectable new bites in the weeks to come.

References

Lee, S.J. et al. (2011). Examining the relationship among studnt perception of support, course satisfaction, and learning outcomes in online learning. Internet and Higher Education 14, 158-163.
Heift, T. (2006). Context-sensitive Help in CALL. Computer Assisted Language Learning, 19(2),243-259.
Prensky, M. (2001a). Digital natives, digital immigrants. On the Horizon, 9(5).
Prensky, M. (2001b). Do they really think differently? On the Horizon, 9(5).
White, D. S. & Pareigis, J. (2019). Digital literacies, online webinar, 1 October 2019, viewed 1 October 2019, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cmK87fv5etc
White, D.S. (2014). Vistors and Residents, online video, 10 March 2014, viewed 1 October 2019, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sPOG3iThmRI&feature=youtu.be
White, D. S. & Le Cornu, A. (2011). Visitors and Residents: A new typology for online engagement. First Monday, 16(9)

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Introducing…

Oh, how timid I feel moving in this brave new world of WordPress! Like a timid virtual mouse, I’d like to stay among the online objects which are familiar to me and which I can easily navigate and play around with–however, nothing ventured, nothing gained!

Who am I?

I’m a university English teacher who still loves working with students and her colleagues, i.e. her job, after almost 25 years of it. The challenges continue and that’s one of the many things that keep this work interesting, and also why I’m here along with other adventurers in this ONL92 circa 2019.

Where do I live, breathe and have my being?

I currently live and work in Espoo, southern Finland, which is one of the cities of the capital metropolitan area. My primary and secondary education however were enjoyed elsewhere, actually in the Arabian Gulf, in the Middle East. My own cultural background is a seemly hodge-podge of influences and perspectives which have served me well when negotiating multicultural environments, including online ones.

My tertiary education was in Central Finland (University of Jyväskylä) which is also where I eventually began my English teaching career in earnest. I have remained in tertiary education for all this time and, fortunately, it is an atmosphere I have thrived in.

But time for this mouse to focus on the zillion other tasks that await her…

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! 🙂

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!

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