With the current situation, I assume that everyone working at universities or institutions have been in an online teaching-learning environment. Have you met the difficulties in engaging the students at these online or blended learning conditions? Have you encountered situations that on ZOOM teaching, the only people turning the camera on are yourself and the teaching assistants, while no students are turning their camera on? And more, when you would like to collect some feedback on your teaching pace by asking “do you understand everything so far”, you received almost nothing, but maybe one or two “yes” in the chat.

We do not need to go with more cases to see the point. The online learning brings many benefits, but it also increases certainly some difficulties. Many of these cases can be avoided or minimized at our conventional face-to-face lectures, where we could have eye contact with the students and identify feedback by facial emotions from the students [1]. This would be quite missing if situations above happen. This brings us the general topic of how to design online or blended courses. The Five Stage Model by Gilly Salmon [2] provides a very effective guiding rule. The five stages include i) access and motivation, ii) online socialization, iii) information exchange, iv) knowledge construction, and v) development. I was leading this topic in our nine-people group and it was really magical what we have achieved there in this very relevant and creative group work.

We all agreed that the key to a successful online or blended experience is to promote the collaborative learning spirit. The most effective way to trigger this spirit is through creating the community of inquiry [3], or in simple words, a group of learners to work together. Eventually, the core of the discussion is on how to engage the learners in such groups and how to intensify the chemistry between the leaners. It is finally concluded that enabling socializing at the beginning of the group building is the key and the facilitators play an important rule at this stage. We went to various cases as described above and tried to come up with many inspiring solutions. One of the most memorable solutions is given in the YouTube video. The camera on-and-off game serves as a great icebreaker to initiate socializing in an online group. It can also be used in various versions to just keep the focus of students and/or collect information from students. All of us the group enjoyed the game and hopefully it can be helpful for any educators/facilitators who encounter this blog.

On my first blog, I was wondering what and where this online group learning course would bring to me. During the participating in this session, I completely witnessed the power of online collaborative learning. The best demonstration is the achievement that we made on this topic. We were discussing so interactively in the group and the ideas are just being iterated continuously from one member to another. Without collaborative learning, we would not be able to achieve any of this. All of this is however based on the successful socializing that we have made at the beginning of the course and intensified during the course. Only with the nice socializing atmosphere, we are learning and developing as a group.

[1] Cleveland-Innes, M. (2019). The Community of Inquiry – What is it really about?
[2] Cleveland-Innes, M. (2019). Emotion and learning –  emotional presence in the Community of Inquiry framework (CoI)?
[3] Salmon, G (2013) The Five Stage Model. [Homepage] http://www.gillysalmon.com/five-stage-model.html

4. Socializing during online learning with a great camera game