The start: Expectations, and some chaos

When I signed up for ONL202, I already knew it was going to take some time. But I thought that having thirty something years of teaching experience, and several years in blended or online formats, I would be well prepared. I expected to learn a bit more about some new cool digital tools, and to meet likeminded people from all over the world. But still, most of my own teaching had been quite traditional, despite the use of some digital tools… Would I be able to take in all that new stuff?

Teaching on a PhD-course in Kampala, Uganda, June/Sept 2014. Photo: Linda Wennbom Åström.

Starting the ONL-course, everything seemed somewhat chaotic: a home website with info about the topics we would cover, another site on Google Drive for our work in PBL-groups, webinars and meetings on Zoom, Padlets to fill out, a blog to write… It did take a lot of time to get everything working, and to get used to the way the course works.

The course: from chaos to clarity

But a couple of weeks into the course, I noticed a little shift: it all began to feel more natural. I prepared for each topic by reading the material provided, I checked for more information on the topic, and during our group discussions I could easily switch between different documents, while sharing my screen, keeping an eye on the chat, and trying to write personal notes at the same time. Such fun! The best way to describe the whole process, however overused the analogy might be, is to compare it to a journey. I was definitely on my way!

Group dynamics

One of several interesting observations I made entails group dynamics. I used to teach group dynamics and am well familiar with the different stages, with what works and what doesn’t, and how to turn things around for a better result. But here I found myself right in the middle of it! It was as if teacher-me was observing student-me, and the whole experience was quite meta – we learned about learning as part of the group, but also as a group and from the group. Three words to describe these group dynamics: fun, instructive, rewarding.

Digital tools

One of my expectations, as I mentioned, was learning to use new digital tools for online learning. Those expectations were met. Thoroughly. I never knew it would be so much fun to explore new presentation tools together with people I had only known for a few weeks! We learned a lot from each other and had fun doing so. This made me want to explore more cool tools for online learning! Three words to describe these tryouts: informative, enjoyable, addictive.

Theoretical backgrounds

Another thing I really appreciated during ONL was the excellent mix of being able to refresh my previous knowledge of pedagogical theories, models, and platforms on the one hand, and learning about a lot of new research and concepts from prominent guest speakers on the other hand. The fact that we immediately put it into practice in our PBL group, starting out from a given scenario, and that we were urged to reflect upon what we had learned and what that would mean for our future teaching was a great learning experience in itself. Three words to describe this mix of theory and practice: exciting, curiosity-provoking, productive.

The present: here I am

Here I am, five fun and interesting topics later, at the end of the ONL course. So how do I feel after all I have learned? First, I experience a renewed and deepened interest in keeping up with current developments in digital tools for online learning, even more so than before. As an educational developer that’s part of my work, but I plan to make it a recurring part of my external monitoring two hours per week. Second, a reflection on my own learning process. Personally, I like structure. A lot. So the structured way of this ONL course was really appealing to me: starting with a scenario, using the FISH-document to document our group progress, resulting in a presentation of our own choice, what’s not to love about that? In other words, ONL got under my skin and into my brain. I notice myself viewing a lot of what I do regarding teaching and learning through an ONL lens – a FISH eye objective (pardon the pun). And third, I cannot stress the importance of collaborative learning enough. Learning really is a social constructivist activity, whether it happens on campus or online or in blended forms. Also, I have the feeling that we really got to know each other in our PBL group. I would absolutely like to stay in touch with other ONLers, preferably via LinkedIn. Feel free to contact me there! Or, to use an old MTV-slogan from the early eighties: Keep in touch with the Dutch!

The future: what’s next?

As far as the future is concerned, I plan to integrate what I’ve learned here into my teaching practices. I read somewhere: ”you didn’t come this far to only come this far”, and that seems very appropriate to me now. It would be a waste not to apply the knowledge, the structure, the tools, models, platforms, concepts, and theories. So, with the risk of sounding like a newly-converted sect member, I’m going to keep on going, and keeping up that ONL spirit!

Photo: Austin Ban via Unsplash

I would like to thank the whole ONL team, the facilitators, and of course my fellow PBL01 colleagues.

ONL: Shift Happens!