Here come my thoughts as part of ONL211 topic 4.

I must confess: Topic 4 was not my favorite topic. Firstly, I was abroad during those two weeks and could neither deal with the contents in depth nor – due to problems with the internet connection – participate in all group meetings. As I write this reflective blog post now I realize how helpful and fruitful collaborative learning can be within the PBL group. You get inputs, you deepen own thoughts, you feel not alone. Secondly, topic 4 is dedicated to the design for online and blended learning, the focus shifts to the perspective of the educator in the design for learning. But as I’m not currently teaching or involved in course design, it is more difficult to draw on experience or to incorporate what I have learned in this topic directly into everyday teaching. As a result, I was less motivated to get involved in this topic.

I started with reading the recommended articles. Boelens et al. (2017) define four key challenges to designing blended learning: incorporating flexibility, stimulating interaction, facilitating students’ learning process, and fostering an affective learning climate. The most interesting (and challenging) key challenge to me is the last. What has long been clear for primary school face to face synchronous classroom teaching is a major challenge in higher education and may now be reinforced by the pandemic situation and the switch to blended learning. The question is: How can teachers or instructors foster an affective learning climate? Boelens et al. quote from two studies. The first study names the following five aspects: “showing empathy, having a sense of humor, providing encouragements, directing attention to task-relevant aspects, and attending to students’ individual differences (Mazer et al., 2007; Plax, Kearney, McCroskey, & Richmond, 1986; Tomlinson & Imbeau, 2013).” The second study – by Vermunt & Verloop (1999) – points to “five categories of affective strategies: motivating, concentrating and exerting effort, attributing and judging oneself, appraising, and dealing with emotions.” When I think about the current teaching situation at universities, this challenge seems great to me.

Dr. Cleveland-Innes identifies in her intro video the following four challenges and five benefits in the context of blended learning:

The first challenge, I experienced myself during topic 4 due to connection problems. Without reliable access to the internet, I missed some of the synchronous meetings. It was a humbling experience.

Cleveland-Innes points out that as teaching in higher education changes, so does the role of the teacher. The range of tasks is becoming wider. For this reason, teachers need support in this change, so she suggests that some parts of the role should be shared “with institutional learning designers, web-analysts and learning technology experts”. This is exactly the path our department has now taken with “Digital Campus”. Let’s hope that the teachers want to follow this path.


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.

Cleveland-Innes, M. (2021). (Video). Blended and online teaching and learning: Identifying pedagogical change in higher education.

Salmon, G. (2013). The Five Stage model (Homepage).

Topic 4: Design for online and blended learning