Design of online and blended learning was the most relatable topic for me as I actively take part in the development of several Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) offered by Mälardalen University. As an instructor, I always thrive for ways to make the lessons interesting to the students so that they feel the urge to investigate further and explore the delivered topic. However, in online and blended learning while the students are not directly feeling the presence of the teacher, it is very hard to establish a cognitive connection with the students properly. In some cases, I feel that for online and blended learning, the vital challenge is connecting with the students which keeps the students active and interested in the learning environment. Although, different pedagogic research outlines some of the factors responsible for student retention in online and blended learning. For example, Weller et al. (2018) proposed four factors namely, Design, Presentation, Personal and Contextual factors. In fact, I have witnessed the adverse effect of the Presentation factor on one of my friends in an arbitrary MOOC. The course contained several video lectures that were just some voice-overs with slideshow, and it was clearly felt that the reader was just following a script. For discussions, there were different forums, but they remained dead most of the time, i.e., there was no writing from students or teachers to initiate any discussion. My friend described his experience of the course as boring and not inclusive for active students.
On another note, I have been enrolled in one blended course with an option for both synchronous and asynchronous participation. The course was taking place in one of the universities in the USA and I had the opportunity to participate asynchronously sitting here in Sweden. I found everything was very precisely defined in the course, there were clear instructions about the course rules, required tools, a list of reading materials, etc. Moreover, the online lectures were very inclusive and there were discussion forums for each of the topics where students participated with their enquiries and the teacher had an active presence in the forum along with the students.
To summarize, as an instructor and a student, I had the opportunity to witness different online and blended learning with different qualities. From these experiences, I can conclude that while designing online and blended learning, a teacher should prioritize connecting with the students the most. It might be through different ways, such as interactive sessions, prompt answering to enquiries, etc. However, from the suggested reading materials of this ONL course, I found the questionnaire proposed by Cleveland-Innes and Wilton (2018) to assess oneself as a teacher. I plan to conduct a survey on the courses I will be conducting to assess my teaching practice.
Last but not least, “Design of Online and Blended Learning” was the most preferred topic to me, fortunately, the collaborative group work was combinedly moderated by me as one of the two moderators from our group PBL 05. As a group, we highlighted the key aspects of designing an effective community for blended learning in a poster.
Weller, M., van Ameijde, J., & Cross, S. (2018). Learning design for student retention. Journal of Perspectives in Applied Academic Practice, 6(2). [Available Online]
Cleveland-Innes, M., & Wilton, D. (2018). Guide to blended learning. [Available Online]