All posts by christinasolna

Summative reflection

Now the FDOL has come to an end for me. I really would have wanted to continue for three more weeks. However, since I participate in the course on my own private time it is too much. Maybe if I can breathe for a while, and then continue the next semester…

I have learned a lot! It took some time to get going, so to say, even though I had installed and read about several of the platforms in advance. But when it was for real and I had to comment, twitter, participate in hangouts and blog it was very confusing and because of my limited digital experience very time consuming. At one moment I almost gave up…so much trial and error. Still, I think you need to try for yourself to find out how the different platforms work, there is no easy way out. Now I feel quite experienced, at least compared to myself at the beginning of the course.

I have read most of the suggested material but not all. I have also saved lots of useful links for the future. I have tried a couple of new platforms that weren’t part of the course like Trello, Padlet, Skype and MindMeister.

I have met a lot of wonderful people online who have shared their knowledge and experience without hesitating. Fantastic! Me, myself, I certainly need more time to explore open educational resources…

I also think the process of the group has been interesting to follow (and to be part of!), at the beginning a little cautious and shy, but the first synchronous activity really made our PBL group going. It was a pity that we didn’t manage to have more of those synchronous meetings, like hangouts and Skype. I think that would have made it easier to plan our activities and to work towards mutual goals.

It has also been interesting to look at the fdol and understand more and more about how and why it has been designed the way it was.

I have become much more aware of the difficulties with e-learning. Yesterday I discussed the many dropouts in a distance course at KI with one of the teachers involved. I realized that I knew much more about online learning and which strategies to adopt then she did, thanks to the fdol course. I know that support is crucial! I also think that teachers should invest, and be more active in the beginning of a course. Support from peers is also good but I don’t think it can replace the support from the teacher, at least not in a distance course of the kind that we discussed.

Last but not least, I have reached my own goal for participating in the fdol, I have increased my digital literacy. Next step is to engage in new e-learning activities and to have a look at all the links that I have saved. Then, maybe in the future I will design own flexible distance online learning activities. Maybe online case seminars with students from Sweden and Africa can become reality…

Open educational practice

At the moment I am working mainly within clinical education in primary health care, trying to create a good learning environment and to enhance interprofessional activities and collaboration among the students within a certain geographical area. However, the geographical area is quite big and it takes about one hour with public transportation to go from a healthcare center at one side, to a center at the other side of the area. We offer regular interprofessional case seminars, with written patient cases, where we try to gather as many of the students in the area as possible in one healthcare center. The evaluations from students that have participated in a seminar are very good, however, participation is optional. Most students that participate come from healthcare centers that are close by, travelling is to time consuming. I am thinking that maybe my new knowledge from the fdol could be used in creating an interprofessional case seminar for the students using digital tools.

One idea is to use Google+, a patient case would be presented and the students would be invited to interprofessional PBL groups. Adjunct clinical lecturers in the area could function as facilitators or maybe the clinical supervisors could be engaged. My fear is that because the case seminars are optional the students wouldn’t participate. One way to support participation would be to involve the clinical supervisors.

It could also be good to gather the students to one of our regular case seminars and at that time also invite the students to participate at a following case seminar online. Then they would have met face to face once, and they would know what a case seminar is all about. At the same time it would also be possible with a quick introduction to the digital platform to be used.

There are always times when the supervisors need to engage in own activities, without students, or maybe patients that are booked don’t turn up which gives the student some “extra time”. An interprofessional patient case online for the students to work with at times like that would be a good learning activity. Probably there would have to be a time limit for working on the case, maybe one week. One overall challenge with organizing interprofessional activities for the students in primary healthcare is the logistics. Students from different educational programs are often doing their clinical placements at different time periods.

I have been involved in the internationalization at Karolinska Institutet. Another idea is to have case seminars online and invite students from a partner university, maybe in Africa, to participate together with students from KI. I think it would be best to start with professional case seminars and use the contacts that I already have with Physiotherapy educations to get it going. There could be interesting discussions online and that would also enhance the student’s clinical reasoning. It would also broaden their cultural understanding and knowledge which is very important in this new world. I think seminars like this might be interesting also to trained professionals.

The lonely bird on the wire to me symbolizes a teacher working on his/her own. It is important also for teachers to collaborate and to learn in relation with peers. OER offers a way to be creative, to reuse material in different ways and to work with other educators (Tosati and Bodi). As a teacher I have not felt like this lonely bird, however, I am looking forward to explore the links to OER I have collected in the fdol to have new ideas and to develop my teaching.

Collaborative Environments to Foster Creativity, Reuse and Sharing of OER. Tosato P, Bodi G. European Journal of Open, Distance and E-learning. http://www.eurodl.org/?p=special&sp=articles&article=461

Supporting learners

The FDOL is my first really e-learning experience. Of course I have been commenting on others work on the net sometime, and also given feedback in e-mails, but not an entire course with e-learning. I have avoided it on purpose, I didn’t think that I would like it and I thought that it would be far too time consuming. I have watched colleagues participating in courses on line, and I think all of them underestimated the time necessary for participation.

The wrong choice of course leading to students dropping out is an important aspect, something that is the reality in both conventional courses and in e-learning. However, I think it might be more common in online courses that require more self-discipline, very strategic support and creation of communities to avoid the feeling of being abandoned as a student. Furthermore, students that are used to more traditional learning might get frustrated when they don’t receive the feedback they are used to.

In order to keep the students in the course the teacher might privately contact (maybe by phone) students that don’t seem to engage in the course and ask what they need help with. The student then will feel more part of the course, that their engagement matters and individual needs/problems might be solved. I also think it is good if the criteria for engagement and assessment are clear to the students from the beginning. Maybe the teacher should spend some time to discuss these criteria and also the expectations of both the teacher and the students in the beginning of the course. One of my peers in the FDOL also shared with the students how she sees the learning process in the online course. I think that was a very good idea. More active support from teachers/facilitators during the first weeks of a course might help to support learners, maybe in combination with support from peers, and then slowly working towards less support from teachers/facilitators and instead more peer-support. According to Coomey and Stephenson the amount of support from teachers and/or peers depends on whether the intended learning is teacher or learner led and if the learning activities are specified or open ended.

Support is not only about feedback but also includes support services and software tools. What kind of support that is required depends on the digital literacy of the participants, something which might vary according to theme and openness of the course.

I think the article by Simonds about motivation was really interesting! In my opinion feedback very often focus on the weaknesses. The one giving feedback starts with the positive things, strengths, usually very short. Then the focus shifts towards the weaknesses, what the student/learner thinks and experience, and how to proceed and overcome the weaknesses. I have never used the Strength Approach with students, however, I have tried it at home in my family a couple of times. Like cleaning for example, don’t tell the one that has been cleaning that this and this you didn’t do very well, but instead focus on what was done well and the rest will come…

Coomey M and Stephenson J. Online learning: it is all about dialogue, involvement, support and control – according to the research. http://projects.kmi.open.ac.uk/role/moodle/pluginfile.php/949/mod_page/content/1/activity_2_extract.pdf

Simonds O. Motivating learners in open and distance learning: do we need a new theory of learner support? Open Learning: The Journal of Open and Distance Learning. 2008. http://www.ormondsimpson.com/USERIMAGES/OL%20Motiv%20article%20.pdf

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image source http://www.flickr.com/photos/24052953@N05/6735644305/

One could imagine that the person on the top is the one giving support to the learners trying to reach the top (symbolizing intended learning outcomes). The learners have to climb on a very slippery surface and are using different tools on the way to the top. Will the support be enough so that they manage to reach the top?

However, maybe it is the other way around; the learner is the one on the top crying out for help and support. The teachers/facilitators are trying to reach out to the learner. They are climbing to get closer, using different tools on the way, the surface is slippery. Will they reach the learner with their support?

Collaborative learning

Me, myself, I like human beings, interaction and collaboration with others. Even though I prefer collaboration I am also able to work on my own. Flexible online learning should be flexible also about collaboration. Students have different learning styles, different personalities, differing levels of skill and also different life situations. However, collaboration enhances the development of critical thinking, reflection, and co-creation of knowledge and meaning, and transformative learning. Furthermore, it encourages life-long learning in the individual as well as the group. Collaboration prepares students for future work outside school and puts them in a social context. However, collaborating in online activities is different from IRL and other skills and behaviours are needed.

In e-learning, a delay of interactions might cause frustration among the students and conflict with their own objectives, interests and requirements. Capdeferro and Romero found that it was imbalance in commitment, responsibility and effort that was the biggest source of frustration for students participating in online learning.

Hrastinski describes synchronous and asynchronous learning and collaboration. Synchronous learning seems to be a good way to create a community; get to know each other in the group and plan tasks together. In our PBL group we have had difficulties with the synchronous collaboration and I think it might be because of that we have difficulties moving forward. Furthermore, it seems difficult to get an asynchronous discussion going with few participants. That is true also for our PBL group where we are only three participants (and two facilitators). Asynchronous collaboration/learning is a key component in flexible e-learning and a good way to discuss content related issues. It also gives the student time to reflect because an immediate answer isn’t expected.

One way to make students collaborate online is to assess both the product and the process of the group work. Like in the FDOL we are supposed to collaborate in the PBL-groups and then present our work in the other bigger communities. The process of the collaboration is followed by the comments made in the groups.

The higher a learner perceives the level of collaboration the more satisfied they are with e-learning overall. Brindley and Walti described seven strategies of importance to increase motivation to participate in study groups and to improve the quality of the collaboration.

1. Facilitate learner readiness for group work and provide scaffolding to build skills.

2. Establish a healthy balance between structure (clarity of task) and learner autonomy (flexibility of task)

3. Nurture the establishment of learner relationships and sense of community

4. Monitor group activities actively and closely

5. Make the group task relevant for the learner

6. Choose tasks that are best performed by a group

7. Provide sufficient time

I think the meeting IRL of the Karolinska group before starting the FDOL was a good icebreaker that facilitated further collaboration online. It also helped to have the possibility to try the platforms before the course started.

In the FDOL the PBL groups were formed by the teachers, but there are also the bigger community’s where learners may comment and discuss. There are specific clearly stated tasks but also flexibility for the learners to select and investigate own topics, something that facilitates group dynamics and socializing.

I think this is very important to establish a sense of community. As mentioned before the tone changed in our PBL-group after having a hangout. Also with time passing there seem to be more openness and trust, therefore it might be good not to start the online course with a group work. If the group work is started later on it would also allow for learners to acquire skills to actually be able to succeed in the collaboration.

If teachers give constant feedback and information the learners are kept on track and also feel more confident that they are on the right way, so to say. A delay in feedback may cause frustration among the learners.

Having the group chose subject according to mutual interest might help to motivate the collaboration. However, if the group have difficulties reaching a consensus of what subject to choose, motivation might also be lost in the process. Learners engage more if the task is considered relevant and useful also in real life situations.

It is important that the task is appropriate for group work.

There should be enough time to complete the task (including planning, discussions and so forth). I think this might be a challenge for the teachers, to estimate the time, when they plan an online course. Of course there need to be a time limit, and that set limit could also help the learners in their planning.

The text above is based on own reflections and on the following literature:

Brindley JE and Walti C. Creating Effective Collaborative Learning Groups in an Online Environment. 2009. International review of research in open and distance learning. http://www.irrodl.org/index.php/irrodl/article/view/675/1271

Capdeferro N and Romero M. Are Online Learners Frustrated with Collaborative Learning Experiences? 2012. International review of research in open and distance learning. http://www.irrodl.org/index.php/irrodl/article/view/1127/2129

Hrastinski S. A study of synchronous and asynchronous e-learning methods discovered that each support different purposes.2008. Educause Quarterly. http://net.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/eqm0848.pdf

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Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/klugi/3593478944/sizes/o/

I feel the person sitting alone in the shadows isn’t participating in collaborative learning. However, the person is sitting on the stairs and could move higher up. Stairs in art often symbolize transfer to other higher places. Furthermore, the sunshine is not very far away…and when the sun is shining, that must mean collaboration.

Flexible learning in the digital age

I think flexible learning is good, but I also find it very difficult. I think I am a quite organized person, however, the learning opportunities in this case are unlimited, and I still haven’t found out how to set limits and restrictions. Maybe it will get easier when I am more used to it. Probably flexible learning is here to stay. According to the Higher Educational Academy (Ryan and Tilbury) flexible learning is about “enabling choice and responsiveness in pace, place and mode of learning”. When I am thinking about flexible learning I think about the aspects; when (pace), where (place), and how (mode of delivery). The flexibility should be there for the students as well as for the teachers. One should really think twice before deciding which method to use for a course, there are pros and cons for both face to face teaching and flexible online learning (University of Washington). Maybe a mixture of both methods would do the trick? However, in both cases there need to be clearly stated learning outcomes and alignment.

It seems difficult to have get-together sessions and discussions when a course is flexible. People have different schedules and habits; they are online at different times. Also digital literacy can make it hard, people are at different levels. Learners also have different goals with the courses they attend; that might be very obvious when it comes to flexible learning and some collaborative work should be done.

What platforms should be used, and which should be chosen for a certain activity? Since I am new in this, I like to use Google+, learn how it works and how to make the most out of it. There is the possibility to write comments in the groups where I participate and we have tried a hangout. I have also just started to use Padlet in a small group from the PBL.

I followed the twitterchat on Wednesday. There were some interesting comments but I also found that threads got lost because of the media, it goes too fast and the writing is too short. However, it gives an idea of “in which direction the wind is blowing”.

There are many suggestions to different platforms in the FDOL groups. A lot of the participants are far more experienced in this field then I am. I try to save as many links and collect as many names of platforms and suggestions of how to use them as I can, good for the future. Up till now the platforms of the FDOL course and Padlet are quite enough for me to handle.

I think that having some kind of discussion with video and audio would make it easier to collaborate on-line afterwards. At least that was what happened in our PBL-group, after having a, non-very successful, hangout. We noticed that it was easier to write comments and discuss with those that had participated in the hangout, and the tone changed.

According to Ryan and Tilbury learner empowerment is an important pedagogy in flexible learning. It involves co-creation, something that might challenge teachers and change the old dynamics of learning interaction. Three of us in the PBL group are trying to work together on a specific topic. We haven’t agreed on what yet,” challenges with collaborative synchronous learning” has been proposed by one of the facilitators. I think the subject is great and we can use our own experiences from the FDOL course. We haven’t agreed on how we should work either. We now have a private group on Padlet where we can put in comments and suggestions. The challenge is to move further…

Ryan A and Tilbury D. Flexible pedagogies: new pedagogical ideas. http://www.heacademy.ac.uk/assets/documents/flexiblelearning/Flexiblepedagogies/new_ped_ideas/npi_report.pdf

University of Washington. Leading change in public higher education. http://www.washington.edu/provost/files/2012/11/edtrends_Pros-Cons-ClassFormats.pdf

The digital me

My feeling is that I am not digital at all! However, when I start to think about it, that’s not true. I have a smart phone, actually two, one iPhone for work and one Android for my private life. Thru the iPhone I have access to my work e-mail and I use that a lot when I am on the move between meetings. I also have access to my Hotmail in both smartphones. My most used app is the one for public transportation in Stockholm, now I think I would find it hard to survive without it. I have also downloaded apps for pdfs and office and for searching PubMed. When I went abroad I used some apps that also worked off-line, apps with maps, metro system and tourist information are really helpful. Sometimes, but not often, I use the internet on the phones when there is some information that I need. I also have a Facebook account. I read what my friends post on Facebook maybe once a week but I seldom post anything myself. I got in contact with my old class from high school thru Facebook and I was invited to join a private group. Some in the group used Facebook to track more old classmates and a meeting in IRL was arranged. That was really nice and I doubt that it would have happened without Facebook. For research meetings I have used Skype and Adobe connect a couple of times. None of the meetings worked out very well, some people couldn’t get connected, and someone was thrown out, the computer shut down and so on. Maybe some more practice would do the trick…

Now the FDOL-course has been going on for a little more than one week. I am starting to find my way around among Google+ , twitter and so on. Of course, a couple of empty tweets, (I don’t know how that happened?), missed video calls (what to do when the computer starts ringing?), and I am still not certain where my comments will be published (but there is always someone who answers…), I am learning and I am allowed to make mistakes! I feel a little bit stressed that I miss something, that I should be online more often, use the smart phone on-the go more often, make more comments, hope I don’t offend anyone…something in written seem so definite.

Some thoughts about e-learning. How to keep e-learners motivated? It seems more difficult than in traditional learning. E-learners need to be structured and take a lot of responsibility, of course that is true for all kind of learners but maybe more for e-learners? E-learning in itself needs to be structured and there is a need for assistance on the way. When people in a course are on different levels in their digital knowledge, should they help each other? Or should an assistant or teacher help? Should there be a minimum level of digital knowledge to enter the course? In that case, how should that level be established? Maybe there should be a pre-course to get to know the tools? Should there be rules about how many tweets, how many comments or how long comments the participants make, or about how many hangouts they participate in? People hopefully start a course online, or non-online, with intentions to take the whole course, during the way things happen, that’s life. However, it might be easier to fall out of an online course, or maybe not???? Interesting with a course where people from all over the world can participate! What knowledge and experience couldn’t be gained from a course like that! Are we shy and cautious online or more open than IRL? Would it be more activity in the PBL-groups if the course was held in Swedish?

There have been this series of articles about digital stress in one of the big morning papers in Sweden. I have been reading the articles and I feel that this digital world with all the new techniques, always being connected and available, really can cause harm if it is not handled properly. That it can “take over all your life”. However, despite this, I feel I am falling behind. Students, family and friends use these new tools. I need to keep up and I think that the FDOL course will help me do that. Now I am really forced to engage in this new world…but deep down I feel I am still more of a “face to face person”. But maybe that will change…