Since the six of us have already been the moderators for Topics 1, 2 and 3, for this Topic 4 it was decided that four different people would moderate it, having the remaining two people as backup. I was assigned to facilitate the first meeting, trying to gather the first impressions of the group about the proposed scenario: what we/our institutions have learned from the COVID-19 pandemic in terms of emergency remote teaching and how (or if) it is or will be incorporated in a blended or online teaching practice.

Some of the initial thoughts by the group members were that not every subject/course is suitable to be delivered online. Although we have seen many adaptations like simulations, we have to question how ‘real’ these virtual practices of emulation are. In music education, for instance, I tried to carry on an ensemble virtual musical practice (https://padlet.com/praticamusicalvirtual/calicePAS3). The result is nice to be heard and seen (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VS5xGvBYBH0); however, learning from peers and in an ensemble has not happened!

Another point raised in the group was that online practices have not worked equally for everybody. As discussed in topic 2, about ‘Openness’ from a social justice perspective, access to good internet connection to enable online (or blended) learning is not available (or affordable) to everyone.

Marwa, Ann-Marie and Selen continued moderating the sessions, having Johanna and Fares also helping the discussions. Based on Hodges et al (2020) article, we discussed online learning design options and our facilitators Erik and David gave us some input about teaching, cognitive, social and emotional presence and suggested we created different personas to think about an ‘ideal’ course design for each persona.

On a canva template organised by Marwa, each one of us created a different persona and discussed their profiles in our meetings. Then, we shared the personas on a padlet created by Ann-Marie. We decided to record ourselves introducing our created persona as a means to explore other tools on padlet (audio and screen recording) and to express ourselves through a different media other than writing. Selen shared the padlet on the ONL community space.

Creating the persona named Spiridula has made me think about my own learning experiences and of some of my students’. Spiridula and many of my students would not fit in a 100% online course. She would profit more from a blended-learning course in which she could have a certain degree of flexibility in her asynchronous tasks and, mainly, could enjoy face-to-face interactions with her peers, her teachers and could explore the facilities on campus.

Spiridula: one of the personas created by PBL11
Audio presented on padlet by PBL11

It was interesting to read on Boelens, de Wever and Voet (2017: 2) that the four key challenges when designing a blended learning course include “(1) incorporating flexibility, (2) stimulating interaction, (3) facilitating students’ learning processes, and (4) fostering an affective learning climate”. I will try to have these in mind not only when designing a blended learning course, but in most educational encounters. For Spiridula and many of my students, perhaps stimulating interaction would be the most important aspect mainly after four terms of remote teaching due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Fostering an affective learning climate would perhaps be the second most important aspect when returning to some face-to-face on campus activities after so many losses during the pandemic. This would probably help both online and f2f interactions and also students’ learning processes. The development of self-regulation skills such as organisation and time management is also relevant for an autonomous learning practice. Finally, incorporating flexibility in Spiridula’s case may relate to the asynchronous tasks but not on her choices of modes of learning practices. Perhaps this aspect is currently the most difficult to implement and to balance. I still need to find the right balance to set deadlines and to assign to my students the control over certain tasks.

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, 1-18.

Hodges, C. et.al (2020)The Difference Between Emergency Remote Teaching and Online Learning. EDUCAUSE review.

Topic 4: Design for online and blended learning (2nd – 15th May)