The fourth topic in the ONL 181 course was about design for online and blended learning. This is something that I think all teachers should thinking about.
When I’m in a physical classroom together with a group of students, we can hear and see each other.
But in online and blended learning, often written communication has been the basis for educational design. For online learning, asynchronously written communication has dominated.
Writing is an important part of communication and the school tradition of written communication is so deeply rooted that I sometimes get the feeling that it is more associated with learning than other forms of communicating, making us ”blind” for the importance of body language, sighs, tone of voice and other communication modes. 
A research study on asynchronous and synchronous communication with students and teachers (Hrastinski, et al, 2010) shows that communication becomes more extensive if the education is designed for both asynchronous and synchronous communication. What is particularly emphasized is that synchronous communication enables students in online workgroups to get to know each other, build social relationships with, for example, small talk. This in turn may mean that more experience is exchanged, more collaboration is obtained and the students feel more committed to making agreed commitments.
Another aspect highlighted in the study is that synchronous communication reduces delay in, for example, feedback and negotiation of when, who and how tasks are to be done.
In the ONL course, we have regularly used video conferencing in our PBL groups. Several of the participants in my group pointed out how important it was for the group’s creativity, collaboration and learning that we got to know each other by means of real-time meeting even though we were in different parts of the world.

The cake

As I see, there are three design levels for activities and communication in online and blended learning:

  • Reproduce
  • Respond
  • Reorganize

When students listen and write what the teacher said or wrote, we are on the cake topping, the ”Reproduce layer”. When students comment on each other’s posts or contribution in writing or speech, we have entered the tasteful ”Respond layer”, and when students reflect, analyze and revalue their knowledge, we have gone into the depths of the cake and achieved brain reorganization, and real learning.
Similarly, if I look at my role as teacher in the layers, I taste the topping when I lecture or write subject texts to the students. When I work with Formative Assessment (Formative Communication) I enter the respond layer and when I listen to students to try to understand their context and feedback and eventually re-evaluate my teaching I have found the deepest layer.

The participation in the ONL course has led me to see the need to have the whole cake if we are going to design for online and blended learning. We need to design content and activities that help students use all three layers and as teachers, I need to learn the depths. And for that i beleave meeting in video conferences have a vital part to play.


Hrastinski, S., Keller, C., & Carlsson, S. (2010). Design Exemplars for Synchronous e-Learning: A Design Theory Approach. Computers & Education, 55(2), 652–662.

Photo by Thomas AE on Unsplash

Three level design