Summative reflection

After six weeks of this interesting FDOL course I have received new computer skills and new knowledge in FDOL pedagogy.

I have enhanced my digital literacy by learning how to manage contact in different ways via google + in discussions and hangouts with my PBL group. I have also learnt a new interesting presentation tool, Prezi that I surely will use much in the future. Actually, just to start this this blog and learn how to handle comments is a step forward for me out of digital illiteracy.

The concept of flexibility has grown for me. I have understood that flexibility is not only in time and place. As a course planner it is also wise to consider flexibility in teacher vs. learner controlled, specified tasks vs. open-ended tasks and type of exchange (content-related, planning of tasks and social support). For instance in a course with young students on a university I think that the social support should be strong, which in on-line courses could be stimulated by synchronous activities. However, when planning an on-line course for working individuals, busy with family life, one should rather organize asynchronous activities so that the time spent on the course would mainly be content-related.

Social support is important though, even for individuals that are busy and therefore needs to concentrate on the content. I have experienced the social support in my PBL group in this course as very important. A reason for this is that the tasks have been quite open-ended and mainly learner controlled. The social support has been necessary to plan the task, but also for deeper understanding when discussing the topic of the week.

I want to use my new skills in FDOL in the area of family medicine, an area where the need of continuous learning is important but also where the work is quite lonely. There is need of tools to learn more in an organized and flexible way.

I plan to organize an experimental group of 5-8 family doctors that are interested in on-line PBL learning. We will plan what areas we want to learn more about in the next six months. We will also plan how to learn this, which digital tools that should be used and how. For instance, we could agree on questions on a topic that should be answered by studying literature and then present it on a blog post. We could also present a case that should be reflected on in a blog post. I do think that mandatory comments on the blog posts are necessary. To deepen the learning, I also think that after every topic (that might last for one month ) we should meet on Hangout and discuss what we have learnt.


Open educational practices

My aim with this course is to learn how to use FDOL in learning for Family medicine, not specified yet if it is for medical students, doctors in vocational training or specialists in family medicine. During the last Hangout with my PBL group I asked how they would design a FDOL course for doctors. I received a great idea, that I have been thinking on since then: “Why don´t start by meeting at hangout with some doctors that are interested?”

I am now planning to find an experimental group of 5-8 family doctors that are interested in on-line PBL learning. I think that I could quite easily find the group among colleagues/friends, but the diversity of persons would not be large. We would all be quite similar with the same age and same interests. An alternative is to ask for participation in an experimental on-line PBL group in the association for Family doctors in Sweden (SFAM), or even in the international association for Family doctors (WONCA). The benefits of having a group with colleagues/friends are that the group is stronger from the start, as we know each other. We will then have a good base when experimenting on how to organize the PBL learning on-line. That would be one of the tasks in the experimental group, to find a suitable structure for learning; to find out what are interesting areas to study, what suitable learning activities are and how we should interact synchronously and asynchronously on-line.  In a group with colleagues/friends I think that drop-out would not be too high. We could also meet face to face at work and discuss problems that arise.

Exploring on-line PBL learning in Family medicine in a Swedish context might also be useful for planning similar learning activities for doctors at vocational training for Family medicine in Sweden. In vocational training in Family medicine Stockholm, as it is organized now, you have time (½ day or 1 day per week I think) for own studies. You join a group with other doctors on vocational training in Family medicine in your geographic area twice a month. At these meetings learning activities are often a lecture. But why not have an on-line PBL group for doctors on vocational training in Family medicine as an alternative to the meetings? My planned experimental group would be useful in planning such groups for doctors at vocational training.

However, my dream for the future would be to join an international on-line PBL group in Family medicine. It would be fantastic to discuss how organization for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is set up Shanghai or to learn more about strategies for when to treat respiratory tract infections with antibiotics in Madrid. If I aim to create international on-line PBL groups, why not do the experimental on-line PBL group international from the start? We will meet other barriers in organizing the learning activities than in a Swedish group. Why not learn what those barriers are from the start?

What do you think of my ideas?

How to support learners

The theme of this week is how to support learners. From the literature I have read and from discussions in the PBL group I have found two important areas for supporting learners; (1) enabling social activities and (2) learning motivation.

Enabling social activities
The structure of the course should enable social activities (synchronous or asynchronous). I strongly believe in social learning. According to Wenger “meaningful learning in social contexts requires both participation and reification to be in interplay.” Reification is the shared experience of an object. How we, as a group, understand and see the object. This week I prepared a presentation for the PBL group. To read and try to understand the theme of the week was an important preparation. However, after discussion of the theme in the group I have got a deeper understanding of it as we participated and reificated what I presented.
In on-lines courses social activities are sometimes difficult to organize in a good way. It is important that facilitators or group leaders reminds and help participants to engage in the group activities, especially in the start of the course. I think that in most on-line courses some social activities should be mandatory, such as weekly reflections on each other´s presentations.

Learning motivation
Another way to support learners is motivation. One theory on motivation is to identify learners´ strength. Boniwell suggests nine points to practical strength approach in initial contact with a new learner:
1. Emphasise the positive during initial contact
2. Focus on existing assets and competencies
3. Draw out passed successes and high point moments
4. Encourage “positive affect” (hope and elevated thoughts)
5. Identify underlying values, goals and motivation
6. Encourage narration (life story, life in perspective, making sense of it)
7. Identifying resources, protective factors and potentials of learners
8. Validate effort rather than achievement
9. ONLY THEN, if possible, talk about uncertainties, fears, lack of skills
As the list-lover I am I save these nine-points list for future teaching situations.
Another important theory on motivation for learning is the “Self Theory” due to Dweck. Very schematically the self theory means that there are two ways of viewing learners. The first way is “entity”, which means that intelligence is largely fixed and cannot be changed by effort. The other way is “incremental”, which means that intelligence could be changed by effort. Both for learners and teachers it is important to be aware of how you see on self theory, whether you are mainly an entity-theorist or incremental-theorist. This is important to know when motivating a learner.
According to Simpson there is ”little research on… how learner motivation can be changed by institutional activity”. As far as I know there is not much research on learner motivation in on-line courses. Simpson presents a theory of learner support for motivating learners in on-line courses. The theory is called “Proactive Motivational Support” (PaMS). Simpson argues that in on-line courses the institution needs to take initiative to contact with the student and be pro-active. PaMS would be (1) individual, (2) interactive and (3) motivational (using “identify learners´ strength” and “self theory”).
I think when doing an on-line course it is tempting to leave motivation for learning to the learners themselves. It is tempting to believe that on-line learners are motivated from the start because the course requires extra effort and motivation to join in on-line, and to plan the time for attending the course. However, drop out from on-line courses are very high. Reading the literature for this week I have been convinced that pro-active motivation, especially in the start of the course is important. To contact the “slow starters” early and see if any help is needed. Also to motivate social activities early in the course is important. It is important to ensure that participation and social activities gets started during the first weeks. After that I think that it will roll on easier and more by itself.

Wenger, E. Communities of practice and social learning systems: the career of a concept

Boniwell, I. Positive psychology in a nutshell. 2006

Dweck, C.S. Self-theories: Their role in motivation, personality, and development. Philadelphia, PA: Taylor & Francis. 1999

Simpson, O. Motivating learners in open and distance learning: do we need a new theory of learner support? Open learning. 2008

Collaborative learning and communities

This week structure of collaborative learning in FDOL courses has become a little bit clearer to me.  I have read a very interesting article “Asynchronous and synchronous e-learning” by Hrastinski. This blog post is mainly reflecting on that article.

Hrastinski studies are based on three types of communication; content-related, planning tasks and social support. These three types of communication are thought to be acquired to build sustaining e-learning communication (Haythornthwaite, 2002).

Type exchange Examples
  •   Ask or answer   a content-related question
  •   Share   information
  •   Express an   idea or thought
Planning of tasks
  •   Plan work,   allocate tasks, coordinate joint efforts, or review drafts
  •   Negotiate and resolve conflicts
Social support
  •   Express   companionship, emotional support, or advice
  •   Provide   support when problem arise (such as when having technical difficulties)
  •   Talking about   things other than class work

Hrastinski studied two e-learning classes that were given the same tasks. In the first group communication was synchronous (chat during three hours) and in the other group communication was asynchronous (discussion board scheduled over a week). He found that in the class with synchronous communication the exchange in the three groups content-related, planning of tasks and social support were more evenly distributed than in the class with asynchronous communication. In the class with asynchronous communication almost all exchange was content-related.

Hrastinski suggest the concepts personal and cognitive participation. Personal participation is higher in synchronous e-learning and increases arousal, motivation and convergence of meaning. Cognitive participation is higher in asynchronous e-learning and increases reflection and ability to process information.

My own experience of attending an on-line course that had only asynchronous exchange is very positive. It suited me because I was already motivated to do the course (social support not necessary), instructions were clear (planning tasks not necessary), and I could not spend much time on the course. Therefore the time I spent was almost entirely content-related. I was amazed of how much I learnt in a short time. For me it was a revolution and one of the reasons why I want to attend this FDOL course. I want to spread this fantastic way of learning much in short time.

However, I cannot expect everyone do be as unsocial and having such scarce time as me. In the skill of planning an on-line course I must also have some theories and tools for planning both synchronous and asynchronous communication. Also this was given in a nice table in Hrastinskis article:

Asynchronous e-learning Synchronous e-learning
  • Reflecting on   complex issues
  • When   synchronous meetings cannot be scheduled because of work, family and other   commitments
  • Discussing   complex issues
  • Getting   acquainted
  • Planning tasks
  • Discussing complex issues
  • Getting acquainted
  • Planning tasks
  • Students have   more time to reflect because the sender does not expect an immediate answer.
  • Students   become more committed and motivated because a quick response is expected.
  • Students become more committed and motivated
    because a quick response is expected.
  • Use   asynchronous means such as e-mail, discussion boards and blogs
  • Use   synchronous means such as videoconferencing, instant messaging and chat, and complement with face-to-face meetings
  • Use synchronous means such as videoconferencing,
    instant messaging and chat, and complement with face-to-face meetings
  • Students   expected to reflect individually on course topics may be asked to maintain a   blog.
  • Students   expected to share reflections regarding course topics and critically assess their   peers´ ideas may be asked to participate in online discussions on a   discussionboard
  • Students   expected to work in groups may be advised to use instant messaging as support   for getting to know each other, exchanging ideas, and planning tasks.
  •  A teacher who   wants to present concepts from the literature in a simplified way might give   an online lecture by videoconferencing.
  • Students expected to work in groups may be advised to use instant messaging as support for getting to know each other, exchanging ideas, and planning tasks.
  • A teacher who wants to present concepts from the literature in a simplified way might give an online lecture by videoconferencing.

Probably synchronous e-learning is better for some people and asynchronous e-learning is better for others (like me). Does anyone have any reflections or tips on literature on different learning styles and different conditions (time, language) in accordance to synchronous and asynchronous e-learning? I would be thankful for such reflections and tips!


Hrastinski, S. Asynchronous and synchronous e-learning. Educause Quarterly. Nr 4 2008

Haythornethwaite, C. “Building Social Networks via Computer Networks: Creating and Distributed Learning Communities” in Building virtual Communities: Learning and Change in Cyberspace, Ann Renninger and Wesley Schumar, eds (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002), pp 159-190.

Drivers, benefits and challenges of FDOL

From last week I have actually found out how to drive the car. I am getting familiar with some internet platforms for education.  My PBL group has met twice at hangout in google+ .We created a presentation with three slides each on google drive, reflecting on a scenario about difficulties in a FDOL course. We presented and discussed our slides with each other at the latest hangout. I have also got a great tip on a web-based project management application,

The task of this week in the FDOL course is to explore drivers for flexible, distance and online learning and discuss benefits and challenges of FDOL in your professional context

I think that a very strong driver for FDOL is curiosity of a new technique. What could it be used for? Where are the limits? It is important to reflect on this when planning a course that contains on-line learning. It is tempting to use cool gadgets just because they exist and because you are curious how they work. However, I am convinced that one should always let pedagogy go before technique. Never forget the constructive alignment; learning outcomes-learning activities-examination.  Once learning outcomes and examination is clear, one can plan learning activities and perhaps choose to do them on-line.

The flexibility in time and place is of course very cool and tempting to use with no further reflection on what it could add in pedagogy.  My own experience is that flexibility in time per se adds to pedagogy. This is the second course I have attended using FDOL. In both courses there has been a weekly task that should be commented on from other course participants. It is stressful getting mails the whole day long from facilitators and course participants that should be considered to be commented on or not. However, I have found that the constant flow of comments, tips and thoughts make me think about the topic of the week almost constantly. It drives a remodeling process in me that give much more knowledge in the end than an ordinary course would do. I do think, based on this experience, that pedagogy is enriched by the flexibility in time, if used in certain ways.

A challenge when planning a course with FDOL is clarity. Before starting a course, students and teachers must receive clear and realistic explanation of

  • Expectations (learning outcomes and examination)
  • Extent and nature of autonomous, collaborative and supported aspects of learning (learning activities)

Planning FDOL courses in my professional context, family medicine, requires extreme clarity in time planning.  Family doctors plan their tight schedules months ahead. When they apply to an FDOL course it must therefore be very clear how much time in every week the course participants needs to spend. Benefits for family doctors to attend an FDOL course would be that they are forced to be active and comment on others works. As a family doctor you work a lot alone. Therefore there is a need to reflect and discuss topics and maybe to be forced to do it weekly in an FDOL course. The flexibility in time and place would also make it possible to attend the course in a week with ordinary work, if you also set off time for the course. Bild

Digital me

Welcome to my blog, where I reflect on flexibel on-line learning as part of a course (FDOL 141) at Karolinska Institute. I am a family doctor, researcher and teacher. Here are my first reflections. The theme is ”digital me”.

I have found digital connection with people who I know from real life, such as family, friends and working pals, extremely useful. I correspond a lot by email and text messages. However I am not very familiar with digital open platforms. The openness frightens me because I do not know who will share my thoughts. I also find the technique confusing and think that I miss information somehow by not knowing who in the community that I should connect with or missing information in a long thread. A reflection so far in the FDOL course is that it takes time and experience to understand the structure of an on-line community.

However, in this first two weeks of the FDOL course I have managed to start a blog, twitter account and have joined a google+ group. I liked the picture of “being in the driving seat of your learning” that was given in the interview “learning through problems” with dr Leslie Robinson Right now I feel like entering a car for the first time trying to find the gas pedal and brake by just reading the manual.

Since I am in the driving seat I must decide where I shall drive, what I would like to get out of the FDOL course.  My goal is to achieve skills that can help me to create on-line courses for education of medical students in the area of family medicine. I would also like to be able to create open platform (not a closed university platform) national on-line courses for doctors at vocational training in family medicine and maybe international on-line courses for specialists in family medicine. I think that on-line learning is a valuable complement in education. One of many advantages is that the learner is forced to be active and cannot hide being quiet in the classroom. Another advantage is the flexibility, both in time and place, which makes it possible for more students to join in. My dream is to increase online learning in specific courses for family medicine. Currently digital platforms are used widely in family medicine to obtain information. However, as far as I know, there are still very few courses given in digital form in family medicine. I would like to change that.

I have just started to get into the literature of flexible on-line learning. Coomey et al a present a “paradigm grid” for on-line learning in the paper “Online learning: it is all about dialogue, involvement, support and control-according to the research”. This grid is a good help when starting to think and learn about online flexible learning.

                                                      Specified tasks

 NW                     NE

       Teacher controlled                                                Learner managed

SW                     SE

                                               Open-ended, strategic                  Coomey et al a

I think that the FDOL course is in the south-east quadrant (SE) of the grid with “learner managed and open-ended activities”. I will surely experience how this type of on line learning works by attending the FDOL course.

And hopefully I will soon drive on a motorway………….


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