This time of the year

During the fourth topic of ONL192 we focused on how to support and design for learning in online and blended learning. We got acquainted with the Community of Inquiry (CoI, http://thecommunityofinquiry.org/), a theoretical framework that identifies critical elements required for a successful learning experience: social, cognitive and teaching presence and they are highly inter-related (Garrison 2009). Thus, all of them are needed for the for efficacious learning.

In a recent study (Kucuk & Richardson 2019) the CoI was explored as the structural relationships among online learners’ teaching, social, and cognitive presence, engagement, and satisfaction were investigated. It was found that, teaching presence, cognitive presence, emotional engagement, behavioral engagement, and cognitive engagement were significant predictors of satisfaction, explaining 88% of the variance in satisfaction. The results indicated that the dominant determinant of the satisfaction was teaching presence, which had direct and indirect effects on satisfaction. This study found that increasing learners’ perceptions of levels of teaching and cognitive presence enhanced their satisfaction with emotional engagement in online courses. Therefore, online instructors and instructional designers should apply teaching and cognitive presence strategies as suggested by the CoI framework.

Accordingly, as a teacher I have an opportunity for a positive outcome of a course, with positive meaning satisfied students, by building the course with high teaching presence and in a way that encourages cognitive and social presence as well as generating engagement. This is indeed an opportunity, but also a challenge! After learning about the five-stage model suggested by Gilly Salmon, I feel this a model easy to understand and giving me as teacher a good idea how to build up a course to achieve the aim of success! I like this particularly since there are concrete ideas how and what to do.

Further very useful guidance on blended learning is given on the extensive website created by City University London: https://sleguidance.atlassian.net/wiki/spaces/BL/overview. I also found the ICEBERG model (van Ameijde 2018), which has the intention to retain student in online courses, very stimulating and with realized ideas and tools.

In our PBL group we tried to formulate a convincing argument what a good online or blended learning design could look like; we focused on the impact of emotions and design (since these were the areas we were interested in J). I was interested in how to set up a course and therefore formulated a letter to my Head of department including also a brief (nb) overview o the design:

“To the Head of the Department for Pharmaceutical Biosciences

We have for a time now discussed to change the course in “Pharmacometrics in drug development” to an updated blended learning course, i.e. a course that mixes and integrates online learning elements and traditional face-to-face learning activities. The motives for this change are plentiful as will be detailed in the following. However, first a brief overview of the course.

The students will learn (by doing) how we employ pharmacometrics during the development of a drug through a series of workshops, each reflecting various steps in the drug development process.

  • Workshops: to seek information to answer on specific question and deliver a response/a plan in the end of each workshop. Directions where to seek (open resources, published literature, regulatory guidance documents and persons to interview) as well as some recommended reading will be given.
  • Final delivery: a pharmacometric plan for drug A.
  • Difficulty level will increase over time, i.e. the first workshop will be an easy question to answer.
  • The workshops will be setup so the tasks need to be solved by different tools/activities, to allow students to learn more and to be more engaged.
  • One workshop designed by the students themselves, i.e. agree upon a question to answer and then do it!
  • After each workshop and the final delivery: feedback from others (students and facilitators) and room from own reflections.
  • The learning will be performed in groups (with facilitators), most activities will be online, but with 3 F2F occasions (start, middle keynote interactive lecture, and final delivery).
  • To increase potential for success: support throughout the course and the course will have a structured developmental process, similar to the recommendations of the 5-stage model (Salmon, G, 2013).

The following are considered benefits from given a blended course:

Student perspective:

  • opportunity to join course from any part of Sweden
  • motivating to work together to produce the final delivery
  • allows for synchronous as well as asynchronous communication and preparations
  • learn to learn collaboratively
  • learn to communicate with various media
  • learn to reflect and give feedback considerately
  • learning and teaching will go hand in hand
  • apart from subject matter student learn the social aspects, skills which is a good basis for future team works in their professional life
  • obtain network(s) for the future

From the teacher perspective:

  • less preparation of traditional lectures and exams
  • easier to engage teachers from other institutions with specific expertise (no travels needed)
  •  will be a learner and develop/mature as a teacher

From department perspective:

  • less lecture rooms required at campus
  • same teaching effort/resources but more students
  • publicity outside our own university

In summary, less teaching resources will be required in the long run, despite a potentially higher number of students participating and passing the course. Students will learn subject matter, but in addition, social and communication skills. They will be better prepared for their professional life given the way how they obtained their knowledge.

Best regards, Siv Jönsson”

When I read this now, I realize that I need to put in much more effort concerning, and actually detail, how I will provide support, facilitation and scaffolding for the students. Apart from good introduction and organization, clear information and setting up WoW1-rules together, I have the following thoughts. For students to be able to reach out any time, I would create chat rooms/areas for dealing with e.g. course administrative issues, general technical problems, workshop 1, workshop 2 etc; where students and teachers can communicate; and where the information will be stored. Once a week or every other week I would have an invited Q&A meeting, where students would need to send Qs in advance – can deal with anything (practicalities and/or learning) – and we can discuss and solve things together. Facilitate the group meetings will be essential and I will need to study the Online facilitation techniques thouroughly as well as practice! I think, going through the Community of Inquiry Survey Instrument with respect to Teaching presence will be useful to figure out where improvements are needed. I am very new to these types of courses and therefore these ideas may be naïve.

Well, those of you who have read this far can maybe understand that I am a doer more than a theoretician – I need to turn theories into practical tools and examples to understand the ideas, so to say.

All for now!

1WoW = Way-of-Working


  1. Garrison, D. R., Anderson, T., & Archer, W. (2000). Critical inquiry in a text-based environment: Computer conferencing in higher educationmodel. The Internet and Higher Education, 2(2-3), 87-105.
  2. Kucuk, S., & Richardson, J. C. (2019). A structural equation model of predictors of online learners’ engagement and satisfaction. Online Learning, 23(2), 196-216.
  3. Salmon, G (2013) The Five Stage Model. [Homepage] http://www.gillysalmon.com/five-stage-model.html
  4. van Ameijde, J., Weller, M. and Cross, S. (2018). Learning Design for Student Retention. Journal of Perspectives in Applied Academic Practice, Vol 6 | Issue 2 | pp.41-50.
ONL192 Topic 4: Design for online and blended learning