Sow how do I feel about the past two weeks? It’s easy, and it isn’t. 

Our journey through the learning design topic was strange. I think we made a honorable attempt at structure. We did all our reading on time, were well-prepared for the first PBL group meeting, sat down to follow the rules – only to end up putting something entirely different together spontaneously on the spot in the second meeting. And from there on things just fell into place in what felt like an exemplary case of spontaneity, good team work and initiative from the wonderful, competent individuals in our group. What happened is that Christian introduced us to yet another great resource from his “toolbox”: UCL’s immensely useful Learning Designer, an intuitive and easy to use tool for planning anything from individual seminar sessions to entire study programs. Learning Designer allows for visualizing and organizing course designs in a pleasant-looking, well-structured layout, but what’s really great about it is that it can be used by educators to consciously create and reflect upon just the right blend of different types of learner activities and study modes. And it’s free, and open: Every design can be shared with the community, designs can be adjusted and “remixed” over and over again (making this a great tool to promote open learning and community building). In short: I’m in love. 😀 

So we agreed that it would be cool to present this tool to the other groups, we implemented a quick sketch of our work on topic 4 as an example course design within just a few minutes (a great team experience!), and that was the starting point of where we headed for our last group presentation. Strictly speaking, what we’ve come up with is no take on a teacher’s struggle when developing online and blended learning designs. Instead it’s a documentation of how we ourselves worked in our online learning context during topic 4, and it’s the presentation of a tool that encouraged us (and will hopefully encourage others) to reflect on the way we envision and practice online and blended learning.

Here’s why I think I profited so much from the work on this topic: Personally, I am quite comfortable with trying new things in higher education, I am not afraid of tech, and I have been playing with multiple types of student activities in various studying modes in my work as a university teacher in the past decade. That was very helpful when I had to go completely “online” very quickly with half a dozen previously on-site courses last year. You could say that I had relatively little trouble swimming when thrown into the water. I like water. However, I think that while I am open-minded, flexible, creative and not afraid to learn through failures in my teaching, I often lack the patience for going beyond intuition, for really reflecting on why things work (or don’t work) the way they do, and for cross-checking with scholarly reference works when implementing something new. A tool like Learning Designer makes me think about these kinds of dimensions of my work, and that is a good thing. I might want to aim more persistently not only at creating a “good enough” blend, but actually try to get the mix “just right” over time. 🙂

How to get the mix right (Topic 4: Design for online and blended learning)