The picture I’ve used explains how I feel at Topic 4 – finally climbing over this hurdle called ONL162 🙂  By the end of topic 3 my mind is still questioning what am I doing here and why would I put myself through something that it not interesting me in the least.  An emphatic “No, you cannot drop out at this point, you are nearly at the end” is what I needed and I am so grateful as Topic 4 is where it all came together.  I realised why I was here.

Although not directly involved myself, I could relate the discussions we’ve had with online learning to what we do at in my own work space.  As we have discovered all the way through and perhaps as we have seen through our journey with ONL162 online learning is not as simple as it seems for the learner and the facilitator and house rules almost need to be established upfront, understanding and expectations of individuals need to be negotiated for this to be successful.  Investigating who you audience is of utmost importance as you can then structure your design according to the desired appeal. Understanding shortcomings of your audience and the desired outcomes you want to achieve from activities is important.  According to Conole (2015), this is also helpful in ‘understanding their perceptions, competencies and aspirations which will support the design process.”  Using a blended approach by an initial face to face session goes a long way in setting the scene, tone and objectives of an activity.  Vaughn, Cleveland & Garrison shared their benefits of blended learning.

What then is the strategy – strategy and activities must promote critical thinking, encourage collaboration, feedback and engagement.  As we have seen in earlier units, some members are very happy to sit back and allow others to take the lead.  Clear structure and design of activities which engage all involved will eliminate these challenges in an uncontrolled digital space. Activities can take the form of open discussion, structured debate, brainstorming many of which we used for discussion of this topic.

Allowing group collaboration is essential and allowing this collaboration on a platform that appeals to the student is much more rewarding for students as it creates a learning community.

Lastly you evaluate – group and individual reflection is important for learning to take place.  Our group did this in this topic and reflected on others where we did  not collaborate as well as we could.  This step adds value to the process and pave the the way for future collaboration on an online platform if one understand what could have been done better.

Online collaboration needs to take into different learners.  Some learner thrive in this space and others may shy away, it is the responsibility of the facilitator to draw in all students by designing activities which will accommodate for all learner types.  Tracking of online activity is important.  An on line tracker helps ground a student and reminds them of what is required.  Structured prescribed material must exist to support online activities so there is a balance between academic theory and practical.  Sharing of ideas is critical to allow for change in ones thinking and approach. Just placing content onto and online forum will not bring success.  Making material available to a student or even discussing it, doesn’t necessarily mean learning has taken place.

This learning technology is yet to be explored.  A wealth of information and many ways of accomplishing the desired outcome.  An area where students and facilitators are still exploring and learning themselves.  A mindful waiting to unleash where maximum opportunity exists.

Vaughan, N. D., Cleveland-Innes, M., & Garrison, D. R. (2013). Teaching in blended learning environments: Creating and sustaining communities of inquiry. Edmonton: AU Press. Chapter 1 “Conceptual framework”

Conole, G. (2015). The 7Cs of Learning Design. Manuscript.