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ONL211 course finished almost a month ago, and it is time to reflect what I have learned and how has ONL211 changed my thoughts of online learning and teaching.  

I have to say that it is really difficult to write a clear and cohesive text about all the things I have learned about online learning and teaching in past three months. I will pick a few ideas that are on the top of my mind right now.  

I enrolled to ONL211 course because I wanted to explore online teaching and learning more. Like most educators all around the world, I had been teaching online a year before ONL211 course started and even prior this. I had also some experience in blended learning. I wanted to learn more about 1) how to guide, support and motivate learners in online courses, 2) how to help students to take more active role in their own learning, and 3) how students could learn together and collaboratively. I was also very interested in exploring different digital tools and seeing which tools could be useful in my courses.    

ONL is a clever way to explore online learning and teaching, because you are a student in a well-designed online course. The course itself is the course, or how do you say it? 😊While studying in ONL211 I could see the mistakes I had made in my own courses, and I noticed that during ONL211 I did make subtle changes in my online teaching. I also became aware of those parts of my teaching and course design that worked well, and I encouraged my students to take more active role on the course and in their own learning. 

Next academic year I will focus even more on my course designs. When I looked closer to my courses, I realized that I need to focus on scaffolding more. I feel that I have to figure out, how I can support learners better and how to design the course so that the learners have deeper understanding of learning goals. It is also important to offer the students tools and strategies that can help them to achieve these goals and complete their course assignments. I do provide some scaffolding already, but now I see, that I really have to be more thorough and precise.  It has been interesting to study ONL211 course overview pages now, after the course, and make observations how it provided support and scaffolding for us learners. I think this will help me in my course designs in the future.   

I’ve been also thinking about my role as a teacher. To be honest, my courses are still very much teacher-led courses. I have great difficulties to let go of the control and trust my students. But I want my students have more active role, and I have tried to create in courses opportunities and assignments that would increase collaborative work and learning with and from peers. This means also more group work and often students are reluctant to participate group work as, in their opinion, it is slower and not so effective way of learning. In our PBL group we had a great discussions about group work and building a learning community. Based on our discussions, we made a Flipgrid video (https://flipgrid.com/57cdeb35 username ONL211) to convince our students of the value of group work, and a Sutori presentation (https://www.sutori.com/story/pbl-4-design-for-online-hybrid-learning—TMuFWTfjFUUiopdSZJmvbsgj) on community building. These are useful tools, but again, I did learn a lot of group work and importance of facilitation just from working together as a group and observing the success in our group work.  

I have never been part of better working group as our PBL group was! On our final reflections in ONL211 course our PBL group discussed about the group dynamics and how well we worked together. We could find main ingredients for successful group work: clear tasks and timelines; great facilitators who helped us to set the guidelines for working together and who were present and encouraging and stepped in when we needed help; and group members who were always supportive, understanding, positive and ready to help others. And finally, we were all motivated and eager to learn. Would I be able to achieve this in my own courses, too?   

On the week 4 we focused on designing online and blended learning, and on this topic, we discussed Community of Inquiry framework (CoI). This framework can be solution for the problems I have described earlier. In CoI framework, in order to achieve deep, meaningful learning experience, you need to focus on three different, overlapping presences: Cognitive presence = Academic content in the course, social presence = Building a community, and a teaching presence i.e. teacher’s role and work.  Focus on these three presences helps to create more engaging and motivating online course.  While investigating CoI framework, I did find useful this Dr. Kristin Palmer’s overview and especially the way they had broken down the three presences. It was interesting to read Palmer’s tips to create online cognitive, social and teaching presence. It was also encouraging to notice that actually, many of these tips were already part of my online courses. But I still feel that I really need to study CoI framework more. I will try to use this framework as a base of my courses when designing my next courses. 

Well, here are some of my thoughts of what I learned from ONL211. As I said earlier, it is still impossible to write about all things I did learn in past 3 months. Prior and in the beginning of ONL211, I thought that one of most important part of this course is to learn new digital tools. We did explore a wide range of different types of digital tools like Storyboard, Slack, Sutori, Miro, Mural and Flipgrid, but actually, these tools weren’t so significant part of my learning. It was easier to try these tools out with our PBL group, but in the end, they are just tools – what you do with them, is more important.  

What happens after ONL211? I don’t know yet, but I know that I will start gradually design my online courses differently. I think I can let the learners have more autonomy and control of their own learning, and I try to (slowly) move from teacher’s role more towards facilitator’s role. The changes will be small first, but seed has been planted and I’m sure, it will grow. As in our PBL group’s meme says, I can’t go back where I used to be.  

And finally, I want to thank the whole ONL211 community but especially our great PBL group: Delene, Eric, Jeanne, Sheena, Sofia, Ville and our fantastic facilitators Alan and Lena. You made this ONL211 a great experience. I learned so much with and from you.  Thank you. Kiitos.  

Center for Teaching Excellence. “Applying the Community of Inquiry framework.” https://cte.virginia.edu/resources/applying-community-inquiry-framework (Accessed 8.6.2021) 

Community of Inquiry. “CoI Framework.” https://coi.athabascau.ca/coi-model/ (Accessed 8.6.2021) 

What did I learn?