When Covid arrived in 2020, and we had to close the university and move online, I wish I knew about all the opportunities that online would bring to my teaching practice.

At the beginning, it felt impossible to be able to teach online 200+ students a topic that usually is taught on a classroom, specially with high interaction with the students. The time frame to prepare for the change was minimal and my knowledge on online teaching was almost null.

However, little by little I learned that there is an immense quantity of tools that would help me in the process. The tools were not only in software but also in hardware, that made my teaching easier or even better than on face to face teaching (we presented a list of these tools in our submission for this week https://drive.google.com/file/d/18rxWhWN0uvXXqmEDugkyMLDd5woFv_Gs/view?usp=sharing ).

My experience on using these tools for online teaching was so good, that in my current practice, I am learning to use a blended approach. However, in reality, I am not sure if what I am doing is actually helping the students the achieve learning outcomes of the course, and by being online/blended, the feedback from the student might arrive too late…

Therefore, this topic was really useful for me. First, I was able to use the suggested “Community of Inquiry Educator Survey” (You can view the survey here) to self-evaluate my course and teaching approach. And second, by asking the correct questions, I was able to identify the weakness of my practice and more important, to do something about it.

On my evaluation, I identified that my courses are lacking the ’emotion’ that can only be achieved in a face-to-face interactions. The spontaneity and sense of community is usually lost on an online environment. This in turn, hinders the engagement of the students to the course and they even stop attending as there is nothing that they could not learn ‘off-line’ or ‘watching the recordings’.

So, how can I bring back this emotion and spontaneity to my blended classes? Would that be enough to engage the students into the class? How can I support my students so they feel the sense of community and camaraderie that is achieved when they are sit down next to each other in a classroom?

For one side, the answer to these questions seems to be to not have any online class at all, but that would only limit my teaching practice. On the other hand, I have myself experienced some kind of spontaneity and camaraderie when I work in small groups where everyone has their cameras open (similar to the ONL course). Can I reduce my groups to small cohorts? Can I divide them and encourage them to work in teams? When you have over 200 students, that seems like an impossible task.

Furthermore, as explained by Marion Blumenstein (https://doi.org/10.18608/jla.2020.73.3), I should also consider the different types of learners. Can collaborative learners can benefit from an online course as the independent learners? How can I provide a tailored teaching to the different learning styles?

So, even there are so many options, approaches, and tools for online/blended teaching, there are also so many questions still about this practice… how can we study and evaluate this new teaching style when we are still learning the traditional approach?

Topic 4: Design for online and blended learning