(Blended learning – Image by Harish Sharma from Pixabay)

I will share my experience in blended learning in a course I am involved in at the University of Linköping. I have been teacher since 2017 and course coordinator since 2018 in the course of Social Epidemiology in the Master Program in Medical Sciences. To teach to students the relevance of social determinants of health can be challenging (Vyaz 2017). Up to the end of 2018 the course was teached in a traditional way (lectures, problem-based learning groups & seminariums). The use of the technology in learning has opened new possibilities for teaching public health that are not possible in face-to-face. The idea to improve the course has been to redesign the course to transform it from face-to-face to blended learning setting (Vyaz 2017).

One reason to do this was first because the new generation of learners are “digital natives” and there is an online component that offers the flexibility and technological that the millennials appreciate and also will give to learners some online collaboration skills (Gillespie 2016). Another challenge in my course is to make a good learning process with few students with heterogeneous background and limited resources. There is a need to maximize the face-to-face time with students. I therefore decided to redesign the course using a blended design that seems to me to be the best way to improve the course.  

As implementing change takes time, I initially started the course redesign last year (fall 2019) by integrating online videos in the course. Students had to look at several Youtube videos (one on social determinants of health and the other in study design in epidemiology) before the face-to-face meetings. The videos were relevant to the course and I got positive feedback from the students and they really liked the fact to be able to look several times at the videos in order to understand them well. Students emphasized that they really liked the online component and would like more videos and digital tools to help their learning. This confirmed to me that online learning was not a deficit model but could improve learning if it is well designed as relevant.

After this experience I reflected on what this experience has taught me. Videos are appreciated, but does it mean that students are active in learning? It made me reflect that leaving the students alone at home in front of the videos is not enough and students need incentives. The solution of improvement is to design online quiz (self-corrected) and have a flipped/inverted classroom design with further face-to-face interaction and collaborative learning. In online learning the constructive alignment of activities and assessments with learning objectives is important as well as giving very clear instructions to students.

I have another reflection on online learning after the necessary shift to distance learning at Linköping University due to covid-19 on March 18, 2020. What was “new” and very attractive the first month (“all digital”) revealed itself that online learning might be effective in teaching, but it stills need to be well designed in order not to be boring. Another problem is the difficulty of assessing higher level learning skills in Bloom Taxonomy in the digital mode. In the distance digital learning, the social capital of the Campus and in the meeting with peer students is missing, and some students might feel frustrated and isolated. Digitalizing might have an effect like introducing the “Trojan horse” in higher education if it leads to social isolation which could lead to depression. I learned simultaneously at the ONL201 course that in the concept of Community of Inquiry (CoI) framework the cognitive/social/pedagogical components are important elements in a well designed online mode, and that emotional presence which is the fourth presence in the CoI framework is necessary to increase motivation for our learners (Cleveland-Innes 2020). Positive emotions increase cognitive process and motivation in the online environment (Marchand 2012). Possible way to enhance positive emotions can be done bygiving positive feedback to students.Having an interactive environment with students is increasing motivation.

A conclusion of my reflection is that online learning can improve the learning if it is well designed and relevant, but the “Magic of the Campus” (Bates 2019) is still invaluable. It might be that a blended learning with a mix of online and face-to-face activities like in the flipped classroom might be a good idea. I am myself working right now on digitalising my lectures in video format and designing collaborative activities during the class time to achieve this objective of a flipped classroom in Social Epidemiology.


Bates T (2019) “Teaching in a digital age: Guidelines for teaching and learning.” (2nd edition).

Cleveland-Innes, M. (2020). Emotional presence in teaching and learning. Community of Inquiry What is it really about?

Gillispie V. Using the Flipped Classroom to Bridge the Gap to Generation Y. The Ochsner journal. 2016;16(1):32-6.

Marchand G.C. and Gutierrez A.P., The role of emotion in the learning process: Comparisons between online and face-to-face learning settings. Internet and Higher Education 15 (2012) p. 150-160.

Vyas A, Rodrigues VC, Ayres R, Myles PR, Hothersall EJ, Thomas H. Public health matters: Innovative approaches for engaging medical students. Medical teacher. 2017;39(4):402-8.

ONL Topic 4: Design for online and blended learning