Going into “Week 2 – Connecting” I was curious and interested to get to know my course mates and the course organisers. Once starting to get connected in our meetings and PBL groups and getting to know my fellow colleagues I found that, like myself, there were several other participants with many years of teaching experience that had also just begun their journey into using different online tools in their pedagogical endeavours. Commonly using the basic tools provided by the employer or academic institutions but so far not exploring further. However, there were also some participants with significantly longer and more wide ranging experiences of using online tools in their teaching, which was interesting to hear about.
It was very enriching to start building online relationships with the other course participants and share our experiences and backgrounds not only in terms of professional work but also by means of personal interests and hobbies. This connecting and getting to know each other indeed facilitated the feeling of being part of a team and having peer support and joint interest with the others, both of which are key elements of the online network learning context (Oddone).
Starting our activities in PBL groups, one of our first assignments was to come up with a name for our group replacing the generic group name of “ONL232 PBL group 05”. After some discussion online in a Zoom meeting we agreed upon naming our PBL group “the Fishtank”, in part reflecting on the directed FISH (Focus, Investigate, SHare) strategy as the basis for our joint PBL work (Nerantzi & Uhlin 2012).
Initially, our meeting structure was not that organised, and several of us were a bit confused by all the different platforms and various spaces for finding stuff, communicating and sharing. But that may be somewhat expected, merging a bunch of people from different countries, with different backgrounds and experiences into working together in a course that was new to us participants. Good thing we got valuable steering support from our course facilitators David and Gizeh and managed to put together information for a joint presentation of our Fishtank group, which David and Gizeh coordinated into a Prezi presentation.
During the connecting week we were introduced to each other and also further to the ONL course and the principles of problem-based and team-based learning. Here I found both our meetings and the provided resources provided useful information. It was particularly interesting that the ONL course had adopted a multi level structure, i.e. using a mix of publicly open online spaces and closed online spaces reserved for registered participants, to facilitate both micro, meso and macro level interaction among participants (Creelman 2022). I think that facilitating such broader opportunities of interactions among participants may indeed stimulate the exploration of new ways of connecting and communicating with each other, discovering both opportunities and challenges for online learning and teaching that may otherwise have been neglected in favour of already established ways of interacting. For example, several of our FISHTANK members had not used Padlet.com or Prezi.com for sharing and working online, but once we got acquainted with these tools we agreed that they were quite suitable platforms for us working together and sharing joint course work presentations.
Additionally, working with PBL in a small group setting online also seemed to facilitate our communication and sharing of ideas and that everyone was able to get their voice heard learning together in our group. This is in agreement with report of small-group learning, i.e. cooperative, problem-based and team-based learning, having positive impact as “evidence-based institutional practices” in higher education (Davidson et al 2014).
During the second week I began to feel more at home navigating through the course community spaces and communicating with my new colleagues. Part of the course work is to provide individual reflections of each topic and post to our group. Here I started using WordPress for my reflections but found the WordPress online platform user interface not so user friendly, therefore I also tried to use Blogger for my reflections, in my opinion a much simpler user interface. Apparently, other participants in my group felt the same way about the technicalities of using some online tools and once we discussed this openly in our PBL meetings a third option, again the Padlet.com, was suggested as an easier interface for sharing and commenting our reflections with each other.
After this second week I feel that I, and my group, have a better sense of direction and structure for the upcoming course work, and albeit not totally clear in every aspect, a continued spark of excitement for the upcoming topics.
Creelman, A., Kvarnström, M., Paregis, J., Uhlin, L. & Åbjörnsson, L. (2022). Problem-Based Learning in International Online Groups. In: Hrastinski, S. (ed.) Designing Courses with Digital Technologies. Insights and examples from Higher Edication. Chapter 6. New York: Routledge.
Davidson, N., Major, C. H., & Michaelsen, L. K. (2014). Small-group learning in higher education—cooperative, collaborative, problem-based, and team-based learning: An introduction by the guest editors. Journal on Excellence in College Teaching, 25(3&4), 1-6.
Nerantzi, C. & Uhlin, L (2012) FDOL131 Design, available at http://fdol.wordpress. com/fdol131/design/
Oddone. Open Networked Learning: Challenges and Opportunities. Available at https://www.linkinglearning.com.au/open-networked-learning-challenges-and-opportunities/