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Introduction

In this blog, I reflect on my experiences and learning in ONL so far. I categorise my writing into experiences and learning related to

  • PBL and small group moderation
  • blog writing
  • collaborating in the PBL group
  • assessment of the quality of my learning in this space using the open learning approach.

Moderating in the PBL Group

My PBL group comprises about 50% members who seem to be more active and 50% less active. At discussions it seems that a few develop ideas while the rest observe passively or perhaps agree passively. As such for me, I don’t think the members have really gelled as a group with a common purpose. This could explain why the group has not really crossed Tuckman’s (1965) storming and norming stage to develop into the performing stage. More details of group development can be found in What Is Tuckman’s Model of Group Development? Tuckman’s Model of Group Development In A Nutshell – FourWeekMBA Figure 1 shows common characteristics within each stage.

Fig 1 Characteristics within stages of group development

For Topic 1, it felt like there was a lack of direction and clear purpose in the moderation process. This I guess is understandable since it seemed people were new to the notion of moderation and so were just going with the flow 😊 Sometimes it felt frustrating when this happened because there was nobody to steer the discussion back on course. Perhaps, facilitators could step in to help the moderators guide/ steer the group if this happens. It would be good if the direction and purpose for each meeting is set by the moderator so that the group knows what to expect and have something to measure progress against.

It also seemed the more enthusiastic members just kept building on each other’s ideas in order to be collaborative but at the expense of critically thinking about what was said in relation to the learning objectives of the week’s topic. I guess the question we need to ask ourselves here is how to balance collaboration with the need to be critical. Using Tuckman’s model, criticality would naturally develop when everyone feels safe and accepted to really be themselves. This in turn would result in much richer discussions. There is also a need to create strategies to gently draw the more passive members to take more ownership of the Topic and the group. This is of course is critical as we all know the group is a s strong as its weakest link.

For topic 2, I felt the moderation seemed somewhat more focused in the sense that before each session there was some indication of what everybody was expected to think about and work on. But still, I feel the weakness of the group is a lack of criticality. We do need to learn how to balance wanting to be corporative/collaborative and needing to be critical, without uncritically following the crowd 😊

Blogging and the Genre of Blog Writing

I have enjoyed the experience of writing blogs. As an academic who writes academic materials and teaches critical thinking and academic/professional communication, I found this genre less taxing as I could relax the stringent rules of academic writing and still maintain academic rigour to the degree I wanted. I thought the writeup How to write an academic blog post – Author Services (taylorandfrancis.com) provides useful information of how to write academic blogs.

I will continue blogging after ONL to disseminate my contributions to the field and to consider how I could use it to cultivate a following, a community with similar interests and potential clients.

Blogging for me too has been a powerful way to consolidate my thinking over a two-week period and to synthesize what I had read and listened to, into a very tangible form (product).

I still have a long way to go to develop the craft and to maximize the blog functionality for greater effectiveness and impact. I hope to get better and more professional at it 😊

Collaborating in the PBL Group

My work in academia has involved collaborating with many people on many projects. The experience of collaboration in ONL has been somewhat different and I’m not sure how effective it has been or even how effectiveness in this context is measured. I guess because of the extreme differences in backgrounds and background knowledge, coupled with a lack of experience in moderating groups, I was sometimes left wondering how much of our time was actually productive and if we could have achieved more. My discussion in the earlier section of this blog on moderation and group development could provide some insight on we can collaborate better.

As such, I found that I gained most during my own reading or listening to input on the reading lists. I wonder if having a few more experienced people in a group could help. I wonder if studies have been done on how best to set groups up i.e., if intentional rather than random grouping produces better group performance?

The quality of my learning so far

I must say that the course content is excellent and the management have done a great job in creating this course. I am humbled by their generosity in sharing knowledge and making it accessible to their global learners. They certainly follow the principles of “open” and “networked” learning.

I have hence gained a lot of information and have had time to synthesize a lot of what I ‘ve read and heard. This is very satisfying. However, being someone who likes to go deep, I found that I need to take offline many of the things I would be interested in learning further.

Unfortunately, I’m not exactly thrilled by the learning experience within the PBL group. This could be because I’ve been in other groups in other contexts and lead groups myself and was comparing the current experience to what I’ve had. I can’t quite put a figure on it but what my gut tells me is for a learner to feel satisfied in a PBL group, there must be some criteria they could measure success against. I’ve also alluded to Tuckman’s model and included some pointers in the earlier sections to enhance group dynamics and outcomes.

Perhaps, the management could develop criteria from the literature and help each group benchmark their development / performance against the criteria? It will also be really good to understand what good practices are and document them for us to emulate or adapt.

 Conclusion

I have experienced disruption during the first half of ONL due to the transitions between countries and the various moves I’ve had to make over a two- to- three-week period. However, I have tried my best to stay abreast of things through careful planning and open communication of my moves to the group.

I am glad I was able to raise my concerns re scheduling with Filip and had great input from Lars on how this was a classic example of what happens in the storming stage in group development and what we could do to get past it into the norming and performing stages.

Reflections (Mid-Course)