Photo by Luca Bravo on Unsplash

Since this is my last ONL blog, I would first like to thank the organizers for the useful research papers and other materials on the different topic areas on this course! These have definitely pushed my own thinking forward the most together with experiencing the course design and its facilitation first hand as well as the collaboration with the other PBL group members. Why? Because a good theory easily remains only such unless you actually act it out or, inversely, experience it not being put into practice.

As already discussed in my previous ONL blogs, my involvement in this course will undoubtedly have multiple effects on using technology to enhance learning and teaching in my own context at Aalto University. One such example is an interdisciplinary, problem-based English course called Communicating Sustainable Solutions that I will be working on next spring with two other colleagues who have also taken this ONL course. It seems almost ideal that we can collaboratively design (and later on scaffold and facilitate) the course (partly) on the basis of our learning/ materials on this ONL course. Only time will tell of all the other implications and the direction of my PLNs in the future!

On the other hand, I entered this course not only as a learner but also as someone with some experience in course design/ scaffolding and facilitation. One major aspect that I have wondered during this ONL course is the extent to which constructive alignment (Biggs, 2003; Biggs, 2011), the foundation of any good course design (be it f2f, blended or online), was considered in this ONL iteration. Simply put, constructive alignment starts with the outcomes students are meant to learn and then aligns teaching and assessment to those outcomes. Similarly, assessment means how well students achieve the intended outcomes. Bloom’s verbs (Wikipedia, 2019) built into the intended learning outcomes indicate the level of understanding and lay the foundations for the assessment criteria. For students to achieve the ILOs, enough time is obviously required.

At Aalto University Language Center it is expected that in all of our English courses both the student and teacher workload will be calculated in conjunction with designing the courses (and obviously also adjusted according to our own experience of running the courses as well as according to the student feedback). Personally, I explicitly show the workload calculations to my students and walk them through how their workload has been calculated (i.e. hours spent on different course assignments) at the beginning of my courses. In addition, I revisit this calculation with students during the course to check whether we are on target. In online courses, I make the calculation available to the students online and revisit it based on their feedback. These measures are important to prevent burnout among students, to increase their experience of being able to control their studies, to provide clarity and transparency with LOs (together with schedules, assignments, DLs and grading) as well as  to promote the feeling of ‘we/ community’, students’ study ability, motivation and well-being.

In light of the above, it is only natural that I kept a tally of the hours I put into this ONL course. When I reached the estimated 81 hours (3 ECTS) by the end of Topic 3, I asked the facilitators of this course what their estimate was based on. To my astonishment, I did not receive an answer till a few weeks later only to find out that apparently the workload had not been calculated and that “80 hours is maybe enough to keep afloat in the course but if you want to really investigate the topics I agree it is not enough”. In your mind, does this approach promote surface or deep learning? If the hours given to this course are maybe enough to keep afloat in this course, one can hardly expect students to properly achieve the intended learning outcomes.

Keeping the above in mind, it may seem a bit unwise to add any more material for the students to cover. Yet, one day before the Topic 4 webinar Community of Inquiry and Emotion in learning, a message appeared saying that: “an additional short video from Marti as introduction to Community of Inquiry has now also been uploaded…”. In light of all the wonderful material on good facilitation practices, adding a last minute video to watch to prepare for the webinar does feel contradictory.

The ONL home page states the following about the ONL Pedagogical Design:

The key learning principles behind PBL that we try to put into play is to view learning as a constructive, collaborative, self-directed and contextual process (Dolmans et.al., 2005)…the following pedagogical areas must be addressed when designing networked learning courses:

  •         Openness in the educational process
  •         Self-determined learning
  •         A real purpose in the cooperative process
  •         A supportive learning environment
  •         Collaborative assessment of learning
  •         Assessment and evaluation of the ongoing learning process

In addition, the roles of the facilitator and co-facilitator were respectively defined to include the following tasks: “to give prompt feedback and support and comment on the group work and the participants’ blog posts”.

It remained a bit unclear, however, what is meant with the last two items of the list above. We received feedback on the collaborative work, but hardly any feedback and ‘assessment’ on the blogs was provided by the (co-)facilitator(s) (2/4 at the time of writing this last blog). We mostly relied on participants’ comments on each other’s blogs. This seems to contradict the good design & facilitation practices suggested by Cleveland-Innes (2018): “Ensure assessment is congruent with ILOs: use a triad approach: self-, peer and teacher/expert assessment.” In addition, according to Salmon (2013), the clear benefits of using her 5-stage model for scaffolding include active learning, wider contribution from students, increased student satisfaction, and more time for feedback. If indeed this model was used in ONL, why was there so little time for timely feedback on blogs? As we know, good scaffolding, facilitation and support not only improve retention, progression, completion rates and overall student satisfaction but are also found to be directly linked with teachers’/ facilitators’ own un/satisfaction with teaching (Badia, Garcia and Meneses, 2019).

In conclusion, ONL has provided much food for thought and what I have learned has influenced my own thinking both by consolidating some of my current practices that differ from what I saw practiced here as well as by changing my ways to better align with the principles suggested in the research literature. So, thank you again for this learning opportunity and all the best with the following iteration! 🙂


Badia, A., Garcia, C. and Meneses, J. 2019. Emotions in response to teaching online: Exploring the factors influencing teachers in a fully online university, Innovations in Education and Teaching International, 56:4, 446-457. [online] Available at: https://doi.org/10.1080/14703297.2018.1546608 [Accessed 9 December 2019].

Biggs, J. 2003. Aligning Teaching and Assessment to Curriculum Objectives, Imaginative Curriculum Project, LTSN Generic Centre.

Biggs, J. and Tang, C. 2011. Teaching for quality learning at university: what the student does. 4th ed. Maidenhead : McGraw-Hill Education.

Cleveland-Innes, M. 2018. Community of Inquiry and Teaching Presence: Facilitation in online and blended learning. Presentation slides from ONL181 webinar. [online]. Available at: https://padlet.com/laruhs/onl192topic4. [Accessed 8 December 2019].

ONL 192. Open Networked Learning, 2019. [online homepage] Available at: https://www.opennetworkedlearning.se/about-onl/onl-design/. [Accessed 8 December 2019].

Salmon, G. 2013. The Five Stage Model. [online] Available at: http://www.gillysalmon.com/five-stage-model.html. [Accessed 8 December 2019].

Wikipedia, 2019. [online] Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bloom%27s_taxonomy [Accessed 8 December 2019].

The journey continues: lessons learned & future practice