ONL221 is an online course on open networked learning. These reflections are part of the course assignment. This one is on topic four – Design for online and blended learning.

Suggestions for reflection

– Reflect on how you can provide support, facilitation and scaffolding for students in online and blended learning environments.

Working at the Center for Teaching and Learning at Karlstad University (Kau) we do not directly support students but teachers who have to support, facilitate and scaffold for students. We have a rather long tradition of online and blended learning study programs and courses at our university but that does not mean that everybody is experienced in designing for online learning . For those who are, asynchronous online modes have pre-pandemic also been more prevalent than synchronous ones. So the reflection here is rather about how we tried to assist teachers in providing support, facilitation and scaffolding when the pandemic forced everyone into online settings. Amongst other things like setting up a specific website and staffing a drop in support zoom room we offered a series of workshops, one directed to study program and course leaders who in particular had to welcome new students online.

The workshop was divided into two sessions and co-designed by an experienced online and blended teacher and me as learning designer. Luckily, we could also use a recent investigation into needs of online students at Kau conducted by our colleagues at reThink Kau . They have formed an own method of user centered investigation based on service research methods.

Our intent for workshops participants was

  • to experience a highly interactive and engaging synchronous online format during the workshop
  • to get a very short theoretical and empirical motivation for our design recommendations
  • to get very concrete and practical tips to start preparing and building courses


Since our participants were all experienced teachers we invited their questions prior to the session. In the beginning of the workshop we asked them to restate their questions to each other in a 1-2-4-all /impromptu networking small group variant. This was a low threshhold type of activity encouraging everyone to talk and getting to know each other thus aiming at psychological safety. An activity clearly in need of scaffolding by teachers when students cannot meet onsite. After each activity we asked for reflections and how the activities were experienced or if any obstacles to using them in their own context existed.


The theoretical background was based on my colleague’s own reseach grounded in motivational theory and long standing practical experience as an online and blended teacher. The empirical investigation of the experiences of our own online students, gave us a number of valuable statements that pointed to areas that needed improvement. Most prominent maybe, students feeling of being seen as second class members in hybrid settings, very diverse structure of content in learning management systems and the lack of presence in both social and teacher dimension.

Hands on

As hands on activity we were looking behind the zoom/padlet/menti scene to demonstrate how the different experienced activities could be achieved. These demonstrations were accompanied by invitations to more in depth workshops on how to handle each software.

The design storyboard (swedish only) itself we also offered as a resource. It is, for us, the foundation for co-hosting synchronous sessions and building a shared understanding of how different activities link to the intended outcomes.

A commented template design storyboard was distributed at the end of session one for participants to start designing their first online meeting with new students. Workshop two was then conducted as trio coaching activity to tap into collective collegial experience in an appreciative inquiry way.

Are there opportunities for further development in this area that you have identified as a result of your own experience as a learner in the ONL course and of your engagement in this topic?

Maybe just a reflection on the ONL webinar with Dr. Robin Kay and his guide for busy online educators. I think it was really a great summary and resource for online educators. There is, though, the challenge in offering a 330 pages book to busy educators. So definitely the combination of a one hour webinar linked to the online resource is helpful. Then of course, if the webinar is more or less a presentation than it might just add as a sort of interactive table of contents. Recording the webinar sessions on top of that is inviting me to freely prioritize other urgent things, adding the ‘ have to watch the webinar later on’ task to my ever tighter time schedule, leaving me busier than ever 🙂

So the challenge may lie in getting teachers to come to the webinar or workshop in the first place. With an increasing supply of resources this might get more and more difficult even within a course. Our way of addressing that was to specifically ask for questions aforehand that are perceived problematic and then narrow the subject down to what is needed specifically and be very concrete. Could this be an idea for the ONL webinars?

Welcoming your online students’ workshopONL