Design for online and blended learning

PBL group 10

In the best of worlds, blended learning offers the best of two worlds. Mixing face-to-face with online elements could really be ideal, and there is a wealth of literature pointing at its benefits, from the students’ and the educators’ points of view (see e.g. Cleveland-Innes and Wilton (2018), Lopéz-Peréz et al. (2011) and references therein). The student feedback in the blended courses I have taught has been positive of the format, particularly with regard to the flexibility it offers. Students appreciate that they can study when and where they want to, and they can do so at their own pace. And these students have most likely not thought about benefits like the facilitation of teaching large student groups and related cost effectiveness, that also come with online and blended learning.

In the forced re-direction to e-teaching we are currently experiencing due to the pandemic, some of the challenges that come with online teaching have however become evident. Indeed, one of our PBL group meetings for this topic started with a rather unanimous sigh, and communal “I really don’t like online teaching…” This is of course somewhat ironic, given the course we are currently engaged in. But I think that what we all feel a bit of frustration with, is the difficulty to foster an affective learning environment and keeping spontaneity, as recognized by Boelens et al. 2017, or to create “emotional presence” (e.g. Cleveland-Innes and Campbell 2012). This fourth factor, adding to the social, cognitive and teaching presences that are essential to the community of inquiry model (Garrison et al. 2000) was discussed in the padlet video lecture by Martha Cleveland-Innes, associated with Topic 4. Raising a sense of engagement, for instance, is not trivial in an online environment, and this is an experience that we shared in our PBL group. Although there are strategies to alleviate this difficulty, like being empathic, showing a sense of humour, and providing encouragement and positive feedback (Boelens et al. 2017) I think we all feel that we have practiced this in a face-to-face teaching environment for many years, and now need to find ways to transfer those skills to the online setting, and practice using them there. 

So, the discussion and literature on this topic helped put our experiences into words. This is true also for the “five-stage model” (Salmon 2013), that we discussed as a model structure for online learning design. It became clear to me during this topic, that the current course, ONL201, is designed with this type of model in mind, and this helps putting into words what makes the course structure work well. The five-stage model can definitely serve as a facilitating check-list in design of my future blended and/or online course planning, especially in helping me not to forget the important initial steps of access and motivation, and online socialization.I would still argue that the higher levels of the five-stage model don’t apply equally to all disciplines, and all topics. In pedagogics, that we are currently engaged in, we bring our experiences, we share, we analyze and discuss, and knowledge construction can follow information exchange with the aid of a facilitator, and lead to development. For science that I teach, there is less compromising – pretty heavy guidance will remain necessary, I think, in order to achieve the learning outcomes. Still, there are many instances of interpreting and applying and explaining to each other that could be made use of more, and I think blended learning does open up for this in a very useful way, that I can now better put into words.


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,

Cleveland-Innes, M., & Campbell, P. (2012). Emotional presence, learning, and the online learning environment. The International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning,
(4), 269–292. 

Cleveland-Innes, M. & Wilton, D. (2018). Guide to Blended Learning. The Commonwealth of Learning.

Lopéz-Peréz, M. V., Pérez-Lopéz, M. C. and Rodríguez-Ariza, L. (2011) Blended learning in higher education: Students’ perceptions and their relation to outcomes, Computers and Education 56, 818-826

Salmon, G (2013) The Five Stage Model.

Topic 4