This is our final reflection post for the blogcilitator blog, compiled by Alexandra Wirth and Kiruthika Ragupathi. In this post, we scan through the posts to pick out interesting ideas and themes specifically focusing on the topics of open learning both as individuals and in communities, and the design for online learning. We hope to provide you with a quick snapshot by weaving in your (ONL participants) thoughts and reflections for each of the topics and linking it to the course content.
For the topic on open learning, many of the PBL groups focused your discussions on the benefits of open educational resources (OER) and open educational practices (OEP), the Creative Commons, the challenges that openness brings, and what openness mean to students and their learning. Many of you shared about the confusion and uneasiness that the whole idea of opening and sharing your resources, but you were also convinced that the benefits of open education resources outweigh the challenges and issues. Saad provided a great overview on the concept of creative commons licensing, but also raised several important questions making ponder over what does openness mean. To illustrate this, Lena Stangvik considered academic blogging as an example, which acts both as an open educational resource (OER) as well as an open educational practice (OEP), and explains how it is a new social practice that offers new possibilities to challenge our own views both as an author and a reader compared to the opportunities provided by traditional publishing. Most of all, I should start sharing and practice my four C’s. While developing and sharing open resources are important, it is equally, if not more important to develop the skills for open learning says Lina Rahm, as a way to prepare citizens for the future; while Rafi Rashid emphasises it is not only the technology that matters when we start thinking about sharing content openly and effectively, it is also the right pedagogy that matters. As Pinar Dinc points out these repositories can be useful for the purposes of integration, virtual mobility and lifelong learning, but at the same time was skeptical about graduating with fully online degree. As an open networked learning community, we need to recognise the fact that there are many degree programmes that are offered fully online and at a distance, especially at the graduate level. These courses are rigorous, and brings about key benefits such as online collaboration, opening of borders through internationalisation and network building, while still allowing for reflective dialogues and conversations. As Stefan Schuppisser summarises, openness is a key ingredient to learning, but he also argues that guidelines need to be in place to reap the best out of openness and be wary of being dominated by only a few select players in the market. As Christien proposes, as open learners we need to connect, form learning communities, communicate, and collaborate while respecting copyright laws. To end this topic with a positive note, Per Sandén writes, “I have a dream”—open access to literature, open educational resources, no tuition fees, open educational practice, open pedagogics and completely inclusive to all learners irrespective of their functional diversity or socio-economic status—let us hope that this dream is not too far away.
Shifting our focus now to the right pedagogy for open learning, the third topic focused on learning in communities. Connectivism (Siemens, 2005) as a pedagogy where connected learning occurs through building connections, fostering communities, collaborative learning and meaning-making was discussed in your blogs. In exploring this topic, many of you, both in your PBL groups and in your blog posts, grappled with the two terms: cooperative learning and collaborative learning (to name a few: Dirk Möller, Lotta Eronen, Sam McClearance, Siv Jonss, Rafi Rashid, Liv Lofthus). Similar to the thoughts of Liv Lofthus, we are sure many of you would have also wondered if your acts of collaboration has been been cooperative rather than collaborative? She highlights, “it really is very easy to fall into the trap of dividing the workload so that everyone in the group has their own part to work on, rather than really collaborate. Then things get done, maybe without the frustration that often comes with collaborative learning, but also without all of the benefits that comes with collaborative learning.” Cooperative learning refers to learning that happens when people do things together for a common task but with the purpose of achieving their own individual goals within that task. However in collaborative learning, people work together on a collaborative project where they share, discover, understand and create new knowledge together, achieving the same common goal. Hanski did a good job of summarising the various strategies that a teacher can employ to create a high quality group collaboration activity (Brindley et al. 2009), which include: (a) facilitating learner readiness through appropriate scaffolding, (b) maintaining a delicate balance between task structure and learner autonomy (clarity vs. flexibility), (c) nurturing learner relationships and sense of community, (d) monitoring group activities actively and closely, (e) identifying authentic tasks, relevant to the learner(s), (f) providing sufficient time on tasks. As Nina reflects, moving “from cooperation to collaboration” takes time— to build relationships, gain trust from the group members, benefit from each others’ knowledge, skills and work. So what kind of skills does it take to make collaboration work? Digging deep into collaborative experiences of her own PBL group, Cecilie Aurvoll has provided a neat summary of a list of skills (hard/soft skills) needed for good collaboration.
Finally moving on to the last topic on designing for online and blended learning, as many of you would have realised, putting what you have learnt in the courses into practice, as you start planning and designing your own online courses in the future. The core concept of the Community of Inquiry (CoI) framework, that many of you explored as part of your design approach, is in its collaborative constructivist approach to teaching and learning that facilitates deep and meaningful learning, and constitutes three interdependent structural elements—social presence, cognitive presence and teaching presence—for successful learning to occur (Garrison, Anderson and Archer, 2000). The fourth element of emotional presence was recently proposed as a valuable addition to CoI framework which takes into account how learner emotions can impact learning in online and blended environments, specifically motivation, self-regulation and academic achievement (Rienties & Rivers, 2014). Many of you have blogged about how the role of emotions in teaching and learning, and why it is important for you to focus on emotional presence. Another model that was explored was Gilly Salmon’s (2000) five stage model and some of you also made comparisons between these models to identify what suited you the best to your own context.
It was rather fascinating to see how one PBL group decided to work on Maria Niemi’s course plan and content as part of their PBL work to provide her with useful feedback, particularly on aspects of community building and socialization. Finally, to create a high quality learning experience for students in blended learning courses Anna-Karin Welmer emphasises the need for “optimizing the balance between online and in-class teaching”, and Bolldén adds on about the need to reveal and clarify the rhythm of a course. For Bolldén, the ONL course had a certain rhythm—pace and relationship between topic launch, webinars, tweet chats, PBL group meetings, course readings, asynchronous collaborative working, blog posts and group presentations—that helped in planning so as to benefit the most from each activity.
With benefits outweighing the challenges of open learning, it does seem that the natural step to take is becoming active producers of open resources and active open education practitioners. However, given the complicated nature of openness, we will also need to carefully decide on how open we can be depending on the context. Openness is indeed an important digital literacy skill that needs to be learnt. It may be good to begin with some amount of limited openness, and gradually climb up the ladder to full openness. An easy first step to practising such openness is indeed blogging. We hope that the ONL blogging exercise has helped you in taking that first step into openness. More importantly, we hope you have also benefited from sharing your thoughts/ideas while also learning from others’ within this community of open learners! However, taking a first step is just the beginning, and as Bolldén argues that open learners will need to find the rhythm, and work alongside that rhythm for a meaningful learning experience.
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).
Garrison, D. R., Anderson, T., & Archer, W. (2000). Critical inquiry in a text-based environment: Computer conferencing in higher education model. The Internet and Higher Education, 2(2-3), 87-105.
Rienties, B., & Rivers, B. A. (2014). Measuring and understanding learner emotions: Evidence and prospects. Learning Analytics Community Exchange.
Siemens, G. (2005) Connectivism: A learning theory for the digital age. International Journal of Instructional Technology and Distance Learning, 2(1), 3-10.
Alexandra Wirth & Kiruthika Ragupathi