Reflection on ONL231 – Topic 4: Design of Online and Blended Learning

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 Practice6(2). [Available Online]

Cleveland-Innes, M., & Wilton, D. (2018). Guide to blended learning. [Available Online]


Charlotta Edlund says:

How interesting that you have developed and taught in different MOOCS. Maybe we can share ideas on this? I still must be convinced that MOOCS is something beneficial – for the learner absolutely – but for the institution?

Thank you for your comment. From my experience of conducting MOOCs, I find that most of the students are professionals from different companies and they attend the course to enhance their expertise in particular topics. I think this creates a connection between the teachers and the students which would further lead to some collaborative projects for research and education.

Hanna Dort says:

Hey Mir,

What do you think are the best ways to get students engaged with online forums during a MOOC? I always feel like requiring X number of responses to peers is like pulling teeth from my students — any tips for how to get interactions a bit more naturally?


Hello Hanna,
I agree with your view but I would say it is very tough to increase the interactions among students without any incentives. To me, it depends on the personality traits of the student. As you are looking for some ways to increase student interaction in MOOCs, I would suggest you can try peer evaluation of some tasks or assignments. For example, the assignment can be summarising an article and other students can evaluate and comment on the summary. Definitely, it will increase your work. However, thank you for reading my thoughts and your comments.


In this topic you find true connection to your own teaching. This makes me curious onto why not in topic 3? For instance, you mention your MOOCs, is not collaborative learning a part also in this environment? And if not, why so? You also state that it is difficult to have a true connection teacher-student in the online environment: Why so? And what about student-student connection. The model Community of Inquiry state that the social presence is as important as the cognitive and teaching presence. You describe a course as boring to the students, and this course does not seem to have been build for true interaction. What differences do you see between that course and the ONL course? Could some true interaction bee build in such courses? Then you describe another course you have taken where you felt true interaction: Why was this? What are the differences? This is also what you state in the end is the most important: To truly connect with your students. And maybe also that the students connect with each other?



Thank you for your elaborative comment. The MOOCs for which I am partly responsible are mainly for professionals. They generally enrol on these courses to finish in their own free time with different goals apart from their working hours. This makes it very hard to find group collaboration and it has risks for low student retention. However, this ONL course is constituted by learners with a common goal of enhancing pedagogical skills.

About the course that I loved, I think this is because of the constructive interaction with the teacher through an interchange of comments on articles, reports, etc. It is kind of similar to this ONL course. I believe a true connection between teacher and students or among students can only be developed if there is some possibility of discussions. It can be in online sessions or forums.


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