During this fourth topic we have discussed both blended learning and online courses from the perspective of the Community of Inquiry Conceptual Framework (Vaughan, Cleveland-Innes, Garrison, 2013). Briefly this framework is about the social, cognitive and teaching presence needed to promote learning. Salmon (2013) conducted an inspiring webinar in which she also advocated the importance of emotional presence, that emotions play a fundamental part in learning, both as barriers and facilitators for learning.  Incorporating flexibility, stimulating interaction, facilitating students’ learning process, and fostering an affective learning climate are concluded as key challenges in blended learning (Boelens, De Wever and Voet, 2017), but I think these are challenges also in online courses.

Photo by Tran Mau Tri Tam on Unsplash

I conduct both online courses and blended courses. In these courses I consider the scaffolding of courses as important so that the design of the course is robust and the demands on students are clearly stated. Scaffolding roughly means how you design a course so that students learning is promoted, and in particular collaborative learning. Even though I strongly believe in collaborative learning I have probably focused too much on the individual student’s learning and not so much on the collaborative learning. This could, in part, be due to the fact that students are to get individual grades and these grades are based on their individual results.  In this topic on collaborative learning it has become clear to me that I could put more emphasis on promoting collaborative learning. This is in line with my perspective on learning, that knowledge is constructed in interaction with others.  In order to support collaborative learning in both blended and online courses Boelens et al. (2017) propose that a motivating and affective learning climate should be fostered. This includes making the learners feel safe, accepted and valued. I would like to add that a clear structure of the course, transparent criteria for assessments and time frames are important for the feeling of safety in all sorts of courses, not just in blended learning or online courses. In the latter, also feeling welcome and secure with online tools and safe and secure with the teachers and other students are even more important than in traditional courses. You never meet IRL in online courses, and not so often in blended courses. So extra emphasis should be on feeling comfortable in the digital world and to feel safe and welcome in the course. Unfortunately there is not much research regarding how to foster an affective learning climate.  Some tips can be found in Boelens et al. (2017) but I think this could be further investigated. For excellent advice on how to facilitate online courses see Online Facilitation Techniques, a checklist produced by the City University of London.

Photo by Nathan Glynn on Unsplash

So where do I go from here? I think I need to better consider
how to support an affective learning climate and how to facilitate collaborative
learning in future online and blended learning courses!


Boelens, R., De Wever, B., & Voet, M. (2017). Four
key challenges to the design of blended learning: A systematic literature
review. Educational Research Review, 22, 1-18.

City University London (2016) Online Facilitation

Salmon, G. (2013) The Five Stage Model (Homepage)

Vaughan, N.D., Cleveland-Innes, M., & Garrison,
D.R. (2013). Teaching in blended learning environments: Creating and sustaining
communities of inquiry. Edmonton: AU Press.

Online and blended learning – how to design and support learning