Something that I struggle with, in the context of online learning, is the enthusiasm of people. It seems to me that both teachers and learners tend to be very peppy about the topics of online learning, bleanded learning, flipped classrooms: it is difficult for me to detect the difference between a useful new concept and a cool new buzzword, and I find it important to tell apart the people who are enthusiastic by nature, and those who will make blended learning the pedagogical equivalent of cross-fit.

Therefore, I’d like to discuss the role of critical thinking in online blended learning. Critical sense is one of the most important resource that we have. Is it innate? Is it bestowed from the educational system? I can certainly find precise moments in my personal school history, when this sense was awakened and shaped by teachers or by certain topics, and every time the moment would hit me right in the head, making me wonder if until then, I was sheepishly accepting everything I heard.

It is important to build it in online learning, because the neverending slew of information can be very risky, if not appropriately. But also, I believe that one has to be critical of the method itself, as it is delivered usually online, from various sources, and sometimes “people swear by it”, which might give it a cult-like flavor.

Some learning models do not feature the exercise of critical sense as a part of online learning (for example,; others, like Vaughan et al. (, place it right at the beginning, as a cornerstone of the “Community of Inquiry” framework. The framework is articulated in three elements (social presence, teaching presence and eognitive presence) which form the educational experience, and the cognitive part is focused on critical thinking and rational inquisition.

Another aspect of blended learning that gave me food for thought, is the fact that, presently, it seems that all learning is blended learning: even independently, most of the students integrate their learnin materials with tutorials, wikis, blogs, online communities (reddit, github, youtube), the list is endless. Many professors participate in these instruments, in order to both round up their teaching, and keep their topic interesting and fresh for the students. The concept of learning has evolved from “books only” to the entirety of the internet, and, incidentally, I feel very lucky that I got to witness such a paradigm shift: from the glorification of books and the diffidence of the net, to the obsolescence of one-source materials and the exploration of virtual experiments, lectures held on other continents, answers by a complete stranger on r/askPhysics.

The important question is: has starting my learning on proven, trusted books, and then slowly move it to a blended world, given me a strong critical sense? Is it possible that it cannot be provided by using only one mean of education, or is it a delusion of my generation? In doubt, better shape a new way of instilling critical sense, that definitely works on new students. And forget about a generational divide that I’m probably too young to build, anyway.



Topic 4 and the cult of online blended learning