In this reflection I will mainly focus on the theme of how I as a teacher could provide support and facilitation in online and blended learning environments. Based on my experience, I would say that a purely online course is easier to arrange than a blended learning course, in which the students can choose whether they participate online or onsite. However, quite often we tend to treat them the same as long as there is the online factor in play. In my experience getting people to talk in an online group is not difficult and the break-out rooms et cetera work just fine. Especially now when people are used to having cameras on. The more difficult task is to facilitate and engage people in a hybrid environment, where the discussions should happen synchronously online and onsite. Often, I feel that the discussion flows well for example in the classroom but people taking part online cannot naturally recognize the flow of the discussion when to join. One trick that has been pretty convenient is that the online participants write either comments in the chat or use the hand signal and I as the teacher actively facilitates the discussion and gives turns. Otherwise people online may be excluded of the discussions. The downside of this practice is that the discussions in a way loose their natural flow (i.e. they may have a continuation point to a certain aspect but their turn doesn’t come until after a few other people when the discussion has already moved on. When thinking of community of inquiry defined as “students listen to one another with respect, build on one another’s ideas, challenge one another to supply reasons for otherwise unsupported opinions, assist each other in drawing inferences from what has been said, and seek to identify one another’s assumptions” (Lipman, 2003, p. 20; see also Vaughan et al., 2013), this natural flow of discussion seems essential. Of course, the discussions could be done for instance by writing in wikis, forums and such but in a way that is a different kind of approach into learning. So here’s my thoughts for theme number 4. Have you found out any nice ways to synchronously activate and include onsite and online learners into same discussions?
Lipman, M. (2003). Thinking in Education (2nd ed.). New York: Cambridge University Press.
Vaughan, N. D., Cleveland-Innes, M., & Garrison, D. R. (2013). Teaching in blended learning environments: Creating and sustaining communities of inquiry. Edmonton: AU Press.