My experiences and reflections from ONL151

During this course we have had the opportunity to read literature, take part in webinars, reflect on digital learning in a blog format and collaborate in PBL groups. Most inspiring has the collaboration within the PBL group been. I think we very fast established a functioning collaboration where we managed to work together and exchange ideas despite (thanks to?) different educational backgrounds, native languages and personalities.

It has also been a valuable experience to find how confusing it can be as an online student with limited possibilities to directly ask questions as they pop up. I now realize how much work is needed to run an online course (at least a successful one with high participation throughout the whole course). The continuous need for interaction, feedback and guidance to get everyone involved and remain enthusiastic for the subject is actually quite a workload. I guess I have to revise my presumption that online teaching is a time saver.

One thing that I have missed is the purpose of the different forms of evaluation and tools. Why a blog? Why discussions on Twitter? Is it just because it is fun to try or is there actually some pedagogical advantages by writing a blog and discuss on Twitter?

I have tried out a number of different digital tools, for example Google+, Hangouts, Padlet and how to use Youtube in teaching. Although, I cannot say that I master them in anyway, at least I got familiar with them and know which one I like and would like to use. I got very interested in the flipped classroom method and I hope that I will get the opportunity to test it. I had never heard of the flipped classroom before Jonas Månsson’s webinar, but now I realize that this is an established pedagogical strategy with a lot more material to dig in to if you want. In the future, I will also consider using online tools to make learning more flexible and, especially, to interact and give feedback.


Open Educational Practises

Reflections on Topic 5:

What I have learned so far on Topic 5 (that somewhat surprises me):

There is a difference between a webcast and a webinar, and that this apparently matters.

There are several definitions of Open Educational Resources (OER) and Open Educational Practices (OEP). These are written by influential academics and organizations and that these definitions are important, debated and discussed.

Before the opening of this topic I had never heard of OER and OEP. Anyway, it sounded to me like a great source of inspiration to share other teachers’ material and presentations. To start with I googled “OER and HISTOLOGY” and retrieved a long list of material. I guess the real challenge is to go through the list and evaluate the hits. What is of good quality? What can I use? What is relevant for my teaching? Again, the trick is to be able to filter and judge an informational overload.

I also read the Innovating Pedagogy Report (Sharples et al, 2014). In this report ten new pedagogical innovations that will have great impact on education in the future and with the potential to trigger paradigm shift in educational practices are listed. Of these ten innovations I found four subjects more interesting than the others (one of these, The flipped classroom, I have already discussed in my previous blog on Topic 4).

1. Learning design informed by analytics:

This is the use of learning data and statistics of learner’s online activities to evaluate and improve the design of teaching. The important thing here is of course to be sure to measure relevant data, not just the data that is easy to measure. Last week we saw some good examples of how this can be used in the webinar by Jonas Månsson.

2. Dynamic assessment:

Dynamic assessment means that the evaluator interacts with learners during the assessment and during this process identifies means to overcome each learner’s difficulties. In this method assessment and intervention are inseparable. Drawbacks are that it is labor intensive and of course that assessment itself become relative. Thus more difficult to grade and compare between learners and between different course occasions. However, it is certainly interesting as one method of assessment with great opportunities to really support and increase the learning for each student.

3. Threshold concepts:

A threshold concept is something that is central to the subject. It is usually difficult to grasp but once you get it, it will change how you think about the subject, it will open up a new way of thinking. Threshold subjects can be used to design teaching. If you identify a threshold concept you can organize your teaching around it to increase teaching efficiency and to increase deep understanding of the subject. I found the idea of collecting standard sets of threshold concepts for different subjects and include them in OER and OEP really appealing. Now I’m pondering if there is a threshold concept for histology?


1. Innovating Pedagogy 2014 – Open University Innovation report 3



4. Jonas Månsson:

Flexible and mobile learning

These are my very scattered reflections on this week’s topic Flexible and mobile learning. My first thought was that the ONL course is not as flexible as it first appears. There are actually many scheduled events: e-meetings, deadlines for blogs and blog comments and deadlines for individual contributions to collaborative work and another deadline for the comments on others work. On top of that I have my not-ONL related deadlines: grant applications, exams to grade, meetings and so on. So far it has been difficult to find the time needed for ONL-work – there is actually not much room to do things in your own pace. Luckily the webinars are recorded! I have taken the opportunity to watch them whenever I have found a gap.

One of the most positive aspects of flexible learning is the democratization and emancipation aspect. Transforming students into peers that co-create the course, making contributions to curriculum, course design and assessments is appealing. It may be a way to increase student engagement. But as Alistair Creelman suggested there is a trade-off between flexibility and chaos. Increased flexibility for the students may lead to decreased flexibility and heavy workload for educators and administrators. The level of flexibility may also be content dependent, with some subjects being more suitable to large amount of flexibility in all aspects of the course, whereas other subjects are more fixed in terms of curriculum but may be flexible in terms of assessment and course design.

There is also another positive aspect of flexible learning: flexible e-courses make it possible to spread and share knowledge and education to learners that do not have the opportunities to study at a regular university campus. It has the possibility to attract learners of all ages, social and cultural backgrounds as well as geographical locations. However, there are obviously technical constrains, for example bandwidth capabilities and costs of hardware. Another question is of course how to reach all these groups? As many of the educators come from similar backgrounds and are educated and trained in traditional academic environment it will be a challenge to develop courses that attracts very diverse groups of learners.

Personally, I find the flipped classroom model attractive. The flipped classroom model rearranges class time so that learners take part of the content prior to class time. The content can be presented in advance by pre-recorded video lectures or e-books with the possibility to comment and put questions online. Then classroom time is spent on especially challenging parts of the content or on group discussions with learners that are prepared and know the content. This model requires a lot of autonomous work and thus may not be suited for everyone, but when it works I think that it may be really engaging for the learners (and educators). At present, there is little research to support the effectiveness off this model, but intuitively I find it appealing and I hope to find means to use this model in my teaching.


Alistair Creelman:

Jonas Månsson:

Ryan, A., & Tilbury, D. (2013). Flexible Pedagogies: new pedagogical ideas

Report: 2012 Higher Education Edition.

Collaborative learning and communities

Based on some of the suggested literature for this week’s topic “Collaborative learning and communities” (Brindley et al, 2009; Perez-Mateo et al, 2011 and Wenger, 2010) I’ve extracted some of the key points for successful online collaboration and summarized them below:

  1. Facilitate for the learners to perform collaboration within the group by giving guidelines on how to collaborate (for example: planning and negotiation skills, recommendations for behavior and how and what technology that could be used).
  1. Design the course to allow both structure and flexibility. Structure can be provided as clear and explicit learning goals and flexibility can be provided as choice of group members and roles within the group, as well as choice of topic specifics. Learners with control over content, process and outcomes become engaged and feel that the task is relevant.
  1. Important for true collaboration is the feeling of familiarity between group members. It is positive if instructors can help building relationships early in the course.
  1. The instructor needs to give continuous feedback to provide support and focus.
  1. Allowing learners to choose tasks that they are interested in and that is relevant to them motivates learning and aid true collaboration.
  1. Choose tasks that are suitable for group work and that benefit from group work, for example were the learners could work as a team of consultants.
  1. Enough time should be provided. Don’t forget time for discussions and idea exchange, as these are important for deep learning.

When reading this list of advices I believe that they are important and relevant for any kind of collaborative learning, not just online collaboration. Of course, guidelines on how to collaborate online will have to be clearer and also somewhat different from traditional face-to-face collaboration, and it is a challenge to create a sense of familiarity between group members without actually meeting in person. But we have been given good examples of how this can be achieved by the ONL course team (i.e. digital introductions made by everyone and the first more personal blog topic). I think that the Goggle hangouts have been the most effective way to create familiarity – the possibility to listen, talk and see everyone is unbeatable.

There are also difficulties that are specifically common in online studies, such as low participation because of other duties (as online learners usually have other roles), which often creates frustration among group members. Another problem is the accessibility and knowledge of digital techniques – it is vital to be able to support students with technological difficulties (which, I have to admit, I’m not really up to).

Another thing that strikes me is the need to constantly monitor, facilitate and provide feedback. How can this provided by the teacher without taking all of her/his time?


  1. 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 Distance Learning, 10(3).
  2. Pérez-Mateo, M., Maina, M. F., Guitert, M., & Romero, M. (2011). Learner generated content: Quality criteria in online collaborative learning. European Journal of Open, Distance and E-Learning.
  3. Wenger, E. (2010). Communities of practice and social learning systems: the career of a concept. In Social learning systems and communities of practice (pp. 179-198). Springer London.

Digital me

I’m not sure if there is a digital me….yes I’m on Facebook, LinkedIn, Skype, have a work home page and am apparently now on Twitter. This means that there are several different online versions of me, but they seem quite disparate from each other and not always connected to the actual analog me. So, there seems to be many “digital me” and I believe them not to be myself but something separate with specific pieces of information that I choose to share depending on the context.

I’m usually enthusiastic about new digital tools, I download and apply, however, I quickly abandon any application if they are too complicated and not self-explanatory. I want it to work instantly! If not, there are often several other options and if I am forced to use one specific tool I rapidly turn to the support desk, which probably makes me very disliked and despised by proper web people (but I collect some very usable advice that I get from them, my favorite so far is “try another computer – case closed”).

I believe that the online world has made it more difficult for us to stay focused. Constant flooding of e-mail notifications and the invincible urge to just quickly check if there is anything new on numerous sites, and of course the notorious time thief Facebook, have made us divided and with less capability to deeply stay concentrated. And certainly this Open Network Learning course has not made things better…

When I informed my teenage daughter that I participate in a course where one the requirements are that you blog, it made her giggle and smile wryly. I also feel hesitant towards blogging, and I do not really understand why blogging is the best assessment for an educational course. I’m having difficulties to see why my reflections on different learning aspects should interest anyone outside the course environment. Usually, I like to keep the private and professional me separate and here they seem to mix. However, I’m looking forward to explore if I can use digital tools and networked learning in a purposeful way in my teaching, and I would like to investigate if online learning offers advantages to teaching and learning processes.

Hej världen!

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