Week 9 – Designing online and blended courses

This topic was one of the most interesting and most relevant to me since I always need to organize blended courses in practice (because of the extremely low number of contact teaching hours at our university). In this blog, I reflect on the teaching materials and forms of learning used in this unit.

I’m glad I had the chance to look into the book Teaching in blended learning environments. Well, it was much more than ‘looking into’, actually: I read some of the chapters and collected good hints from the book. In teaching, there are so many situations which recur all the time, e.g. presenting yourself to the group, organizing group discussions, reading circles, facilitating project work, etc. – so it’s good to get new ideas and practical solutions to maintain diversity in teaching. Especially if some students come to three of my courses in parallel (which is not rare), it’s good if they don’t get bored and say ‘ya, we keep doing the same stuff with this guy’.

I also think that the idea of emotions was a perfect choice. My emotions and students’ emotions are very important factors, and it’s also relevant what kind of atmosphere there is in the teacher team which develops the course.

I found the intro video on the Padlet page informative but pretty static and monotonous. However, it was interesting to answer the questions in Padlet; the task made me think about practicalities, for example the relevance of organizing virtual office hours for students to ask or share ideas.

For the first time ever, I participated in the Tweetchat even though first I was pretty critical and wanted to omit that. I think it was a good idea to join, the questions were thought-provoking and practical enough to generate useful dialogue. I think it is a good sign that people dared to be critical and shared counter-arguments quite freely. And how fun that the conversation is now available so one can search for ideas from it!

The CoI questionnaire was OK, but I find it ironic that we needed to calculate our scores with pen and pencil, with the help of a (pdf) print version of our answers and a static table. I know from practice (from our Erasmus+ in-service teacher training Everyday Creativity) that making an online questionnaire where scores are calculated and feedback is given automatically is not rocket science… Watching the recording of the webinar, it turned out that others also found the task of calculating scores quite difficult.

Arriving to the webinar, I must say I was slightly disappointed. The content was OK, I especially found interesting the ideas about the role of language and embodiment in interaction. Further, the idea that there are no negative emotions was quite strong and made me think about being fair and open even when not everything is as ideal as we’d wish. In brief, I learnt that ‘everything is good form something’, even moments when things go downhill. My critique mainly concerns interaction during the webinar. First, the pace was quite slow. I would also avoid asking random people (using teacher power) if there’s no volunteer to answer a question. If nobody answers a question, there can be several reasons in the background: the question is not clear, is not motivating or relevant to the students, is not asked in the correct moment (students are not yet prepared to answer it), etc. It doesn’t help if one forces answers randomly because answers might easily be irrelevant. In the case of this very webinar, I wouldn’t say that the answer was irrelevant, though, but rather it pointed to challenges with the tasks and the content of the webinar.

 

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