Topic 4 dealt with design for online and blended learning and as our PBL group (12) understood this week’s scenario it was about designing a fictional course based on promoting student engagement, community, collaborative learning and use of the principles of good facilitation. We designed a course on “Online collaborative writing” (here you can see our result of a fictional course syllabus), which we felt was a skill relevant for a broad range of academic disciplines and therefore a promising topic even for interdisciplinary collaboration. For the presentation of our result (the fictional course syllabus), we decided to use thinklink, which appears to be a very promising tool for the presentation of collaborative work. For our purpose, it was very useful since it is possible to hide underlying content in small icons on a background document. Hence, we used the icons to give an understanding about the underlying pedagogical idea or framework to the different parts of our course syllabus (background document). In this way, we could present the pedagogical context that normally is not part of a course syllabus in this document to share these ideas with other interested teachers.

As theoretical framework, we worked with the “Five stage model” by Gilly Salomon, which can be seen as a more practical interpretation of the Community of Inquiry (CoI) model that I reflected on during the last blog. As highlights of our discussion and production, it is worth to mention two key components of successful collaborative online learning: building a learning community (social presence) and the TRIAD approach for assessment (in Teaching in Blended Learning Environments: Creating and Sustaining Communities of Inquiry by Vaughn et al. 2013). We identified social presence and the learning community as a major challenge in online learning and suggested that clear instructions (syllabus, requirements, technical support) and teachers’ presence (kick-off, virtual office hours, guided webinars (synchronous communication), discussion boards (asynchronous communication), to name a few) can encourage students to participate and take responsibility for their own studies, but also their group members in collaborative working environments. For me personally, this still remains a challenge for future courses. Though I have learned about more tools and ways for engagement and encouragement, the integration with cognitive and teaching presence in a meaningful and suitable way will take most likely several years of practice in order to obtain a logical balance between the presences as described in the CoI model.

Besides the PBL group work, the whole community learned by Marti Cleveland-Innes about emotional presence, which is currently under evaluation as a fourth presence. If emotion is the 4th presence or not, might be less relevant than the fact that emotion cannot be separated from learning environments and therefore have to be acknowledged. I have myself not too actively considered emotions during teaching activities, but as one course participant mentioned during the webinar can “negative” emotions have a strong impact on learning and maybe this can be actively used in teaching? I don’t have any concrete idea of using “negative” emotions, but I can feel that some clouds of ideas start to form, especially if I think about the context of emotions in the climate change discussion…

Is emotion the 4th presence? (by Marti Cleveland-Innes)

Design for online and blended learning