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Background Information.
Primarily I am, by profession, an electronic engineer and am not an educationist but yet I am intricately involved in education. That is, I have not specifically studied a bachelors degree in education but have been educating electrical engineering students over the past three decades (1988 to date). What I have studied is an engineering science degree to masters level in digital communication systems. Specifically, I have specialised in the design of radio frequency (RF) and microwave circuits that make all wireless digital communication possible. The only course geared towards formal education I have studied was a tertiary teachers diploma course which I was obliged to attend at the beginning of my tenure as a university lecturer. I have also attended an Effective Teaching Workshop by Richard M Felder (PhD) and Rebecca Brent (EdD) (North Carolina State University) which I found extremely helpful in guiding my subject presentations and which I have put into practice.
So here I am, after 31 years of presenting highly abstract and very mathematical courses, finding that all of what I know and practice in delivering my course material, is due to what I have read, gleaned and learned as the years went by. What I do know is that many of my students have blossomed into very capable engineers and this single response from a former student, after I congratulated him on his outstanding achievement in industry, made me realise that, by the grace of God, I must be doing something right. His response was, and I quote: The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires. (William A Ward). I am privileged to have had a great teacher like you! unquote.
So what follows below are my reflections, from an electronic engineer, on the design for online and blended learning as I have implemented it in my current practice.

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What Have I learned from Topic 4?
Summarising: the videos by Cleveland-Innes, the literature by Salmon (2013) and Vaughan et al (2013) introduced the concept of a community of inquiry (CoI) framework, the social, cognitive and teacher presences which make up this framework and which facilitates online and blended learning. This framework is shown in Figure 1.

Figure 1: Community of Inquiry Framework. Vaughan, N.
D., Cleveland-Innes, M., & Garrison, D. R. (2013)

A fourth presence, that is, emotional presence is suggested by Cleveland-Innes to also be present in an online environment. This emotional presence is a complex entity which encompasses all three of the other presences. A fellow participant from this course, Jorge Moreno, suggested a fifth presence called technology presence – the digital literacy of a participant, which I feel also plays a very important roll in this CoI framework.
The seven principles presented for online and blended learning detailed the crucial pedagogical components that a course designer must incorporate and which will facilitate for optimum online and blended learning to take place, that is, the provision of a quality educational experience. A triad assessment approach, which incorporates self reflection, peer feedback and teacher/expert feedback, would allow for meaningful evaluation of the learning that was expected to have taken place during the course.
Salmon, G (2013) presented a five stage scaffold model for online learning to be successful and happy. In this model Salmon details a structural and placed program of e-activities which offers essential support and development to participants at each stage as expertise in their online learning is built.
I took part in a CoI educator survey which evaluated the social, cognitive, teaching and emotional presence in my own current practice. I was happy to have achieved average scores of 4.11, 4.41, 4.84 and 4.67 for social, cognitive, teaching and emotional presences respectfully.

My current practise and how I provide support, facilitation and the scaffolding for students.

Current situation.
The university where I am employed predominantly uses face-to-face lectures in a class room environment to present the material in virtually all of the courses that are offered at our institution. In my first decade of lecturing (1988 to 1998) I copied my learned colleagues and prescribed a suitable text book for each subject that I taught. To present my lectures I made up hand-written overhead slides (transparencies) using coloured pens to try and make good the transfer of information and knowledge. My teacher presence was imposed by having very organised and clear instructions in a document called a subject guide, which was given to each participant and which motivated the attendance of the subject, detailed the course outcomes, specified the rules, regulations, the pedagogical approach and the assessment methods which would be used for the duration of the course. The students knew exactly what was required and expected of them to gain a credit for the subject.

Moving into the digital age.
In 1999 I obtained a university donation from Hewlett Packard (now Keysight Technologies) of very powerful electronic circuit simulation software called Advanced Design System (ADS) which revolutionised the way I taught and allowed me to totally transform how I presented my lectures. I started to use power point for presenting the material I had to cover in my study units (subjects). Due to the nature of my courses it implicitly required the use of computers to simulate the electronic circuits which students had to design and build. Much use is made of online YouTube videos made by Keysight Technologies to facilitate the learning experience of using this software. Students work in groups on carefully structured problem based learning tasks which promotes active learning (learning by actually doing something), collaborative learning and co-operative learning under the following conditions/criteria: positive inter-dependence; individual accountability; face-to-face interaction; appropriate use of inter-personal skills and regular self assessment of group functioning. That is, a platform is created for students to interact, re-mix facts/knowledge and come up with the generation of knowledge and new ideas or ways of designing circuits.
As time has gone by I have tried to incorporate voice and videos over my power point presentations but this is extremely time consuming and I have shelved the voice over and video part of that exercise. As it is, the making of power point presentations takes a tremendous amount of time, especially in the field of high frequency RF and microwave electronics which is very mathematical. There are many equations which have to be typed out and I also try to use animations within power point to enhance the presentations.
I provide the very important scaffolding framework by furnishing students with individual licenses for their laptops and online lessons to help them master the simulation software they have to use. This enables them to work off campus and in their own time. Whatsapp groups are formed where guidance, critique, “likes” and applause is administered. Two group meetings per week are implemented, sometimes using Skype, where I facilitate and control learning activities, sort out any issues which may arise, and generally guide the progress of the task at hand. I have found this process to work pretty well and students take very quickly to the digital manner in which my courses are presented.
At the end of the course students have to write and pass an open book final integrated summative assessment (FISA) to gain a credit for the course. The FISA includes the use of ADS simulation software on a computer to design and simulate an actual real world challenge.

Possibilities for future development.
In future I will continue to use power point to present my course material. I will also definitely use Zoom and no longer Skype for synchronous/collaborative meetings with my students. I have learned to use Padlet as a presentation tool and will try this method for the group work since it is very simple to use and is very effective. I will also try and swing more to problem based learning, especially at my entry level subjects, even though many of my learning tasks are problem based. Lastly, I am going to use a principle shared with me my by a member of my PBL group (bless you Wasif!). It is called the KISS principle and stands for KEEP IT SIMPLE STUPID! Trying to be too fancy/complex sometimes is detrimental to the effectiveness of your work!

In this topic I have learned about the educational and pedagogical principles of online and blended learning. I intend to keep going with the power point presentations, the problem based learning using real world problems and to be much more aware of the social, cognitive, teacher and emotional presences which prevail. The real challenge is now to directly incorporate all of this new educational information into my field of electronics with all of its abstractness and mathematics to create great study units optimised for online and blended learning. Into this I go boots and all!


  1. Cleveland-Innes, M. (2019). Emotion and learning – emotional presence in the Community of Inquiry framework (CoI)? Introductory video on the Padlet.
  2. Cleveland-Innes, M. (2018) Community of Inquiry and Teaching Presence: Facilitation in online and blended learning. Presentation slides from ONL181 webinar.
  3. Salmon, G (2013) The Five Stage Model. [Homepage] http://www.gillysalmon.com/five-stage-model.html
  4. Vaughan, N. D., Cleveland-Innes, M., & Garrison, D. R. (2013). Teaching in blended learning environments: Creating and sustaining communities of inquiry. Edmonton: AU Press. Chapter 1 “The Community of Inquiry Conceptual framework”.
Reflections on Topic 4: Design for Online and Blended Learning