Reflective post on PK’s blog Topic 3

Reflecting on Networking and Collaborative Learning


Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

For topic 3 of the course ONL191 the focus was on networked and collaborative learning, a very relevant and challenging topic. This was a very appreciated topic as collaborative learning is something that is high on the agenda for me and my colleagues currently developing and delivering on-line distance courses in environmental engineering at Mälardalen University in Sweden.

The last two years we have tried several approaches to engage our distance students in real time on-line discussions and discussion forums. However, surprisingly few students attend the online sessions and the discussions have not been as vidiv and engaging as we would like them to be.

So, what new insights has Topic 3 given me to engage and motivate my on-line distance students to attend and contribute to on-line collaborative learning?

According to Palloff Pratt (2005) there are some specific pedagogic benefits of collaborative learning:

  • Development of critical thinking skills
  • Co-creation of knowledge and meaning, Reflection
  • Transformative learning

Siemens (2005) state that seeking and constructing knowledge in an on-line environment is achieved through interaction and dialogue. This may be true, but something we realised is  that it is important to consider the objectives of the students enrolling in an on-line distance course. Many students, based on our experience choose on-line distance courses to be able to study where and when they want to. Collaborating with other students is not a priority for these students.

Furthermore, Siemens (2005) identified four stages of interactions among learners in an on-line distance course: 1) Communication, 2) Collaboration, 3) Cooperation, and 4) Community, with a progression from low to high levels of collaborative learning. In our current on-line courses we are still working on strengthening communication and collaboration. The goal is to provide an environment that stimulates to more in-depth collaboration, aiming towards increased cooperation and community building.

Brindley et al. (2009) identified 10 points to enhance communication and motivation to participate in collaborative learning:

  1. Transparency of expectations
  2. Clear instructions
  3. Appropriateness of task for group work
  4. Meaning-making/relevance
  5. Motivation for participation embedded in course development
  6. Readiness of learners for group work
  7. Timing of group formation
  8. Resect for the autonomy of learners
  9. Monitoring and feedback
  10. Sufficient time for the task

For details about these points: check out (Brindley et al. 2009).

Based on the discussions we held in PBL group 4 there are several challenges to consider when implementing collaborative learning in a course: e.g:

Students may prioritise their independence when choosing to enroll in a on-line distance course instead of depending on fellow students to succeed.

Conflicts as a result of unclear responsibilities, uneven workload and different levels of motivation is another risk.

It is more time consuming to facilitate (teacher’s perspective) as well as committing to collaborative learning (students’ perspective).

One should remember that many participants that enroll in a on-line distance course are working, or taking the course on the side of other studies. This limits the ability to commit to group meetings and interactions with fellow participants.

According to the PBL group 4 there are some solutions to this, ranging from avoiding conflict by listening and giving everyone in the group time to reflect and share their views, to defining rules of engagement from the beginning of the collaborative learning task, clearly define group membership and defining participants different roles in the group.

So, if I now blend this learning with my own experiences from giving a number of different on-line distance courses I can conclude that for collaborative learning to be successful it seems to be important to:

  1. Clearly communicate that collaborative learning is a central part of the course at the time when students apply to the course.
  2. Provide adequate on-line platforms for collaboration in real-time as well as through different forms of passive collaboration, e.g. discussion forums and such.
  3. Implement a structured and clear pedagogic framework with relevant assignments and tasks, ensuring that relevant information and instructions are easily accessible.
  4. Ensure clear and timely facilitation and communication with groups and individual participants of the course.

I hope this post was worthwhile reading, and please, feel free to comment on this text, and share your own experiences from on-line collaborative learning.


Brindley, JE, Walti, C and Blaschke, LM, 2009. Creating Effective Collaborative Learning Groups in an Online Environment. International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning. Volume 10, Number 3.

Palloff, R. M., & Pratt, K. (2005). Collaborating online: Learning together in community. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Siemens, G. (2005). Connectivism:  Learning theory for the digital age.  International Journal of Instructional Technology and Distance Learning, 2(1), January 2005. Retrieved May 25, 2008, from

Open learning: is bigger better?

8288335386_217d82f9c9_zIllustration Created by Jessica Duensing for

Patrik’s reflections on Topic 2: Open learning – Sharing and Openness


Topic 2: Open Learning Sharing and Openness is coming to an end and it is time for some reflections. The concept of open learning is appealing and something that feels right, but when you dig deeper into the subject you soon become aware that sharing and openness is something that is rather complex with both pros and cons.

The scenario for topic 2 of the ONL191 course was based on an educator that would like to offer a course openly, i.e. wishing to go open. The discussions in PBL group 4 resulted in this Coggle mindmap illustrating the complexities of going open.

Coggle Topic 2

There are several aspects to consider but in this reflection I focus on only two, the definition of Open Learning and some pros and cons related to OL compared to traditional forms of learning, something that in this context may be referred to as Closed Learning.

The discussions with the group members concluded that OL is learning for all and information available to all, as well as life long learning. The main differens compared to ‘closed learning’ seems to be that information materials are made freely available to anyone, often on-line, without requiring and qualifications. Dr. David Wiley describes this very well in his Tedx Talk  where he says that modern digital technology (New media/tech) has given us an unprecedented ability to share information and knowledge without giving anything away, e.g. an online book or lecture can be read and attended by millions of people at the same time.

On the positive side

From the perspective of a university the number of potential students increase manyfold compared to a traditional campus course.

This form of education is free and the definition of success and failure is in the hands of the student. Regardless of a student taking the entire course or just some parts of it, the approach contributes to lifelong learning and a general awareness raising of the public (attending the courses), even if no degree of diploma is awarded.

This suggests that bigger is better, i.e. we reach more potential students and contribute to increased awareness and lifelong learning, which is building on the concluding remark by Dr David Wiley in his Tedx Talk who said: the more open we are the better education will be.

On the negative side

Free means no income, so how will we sustain the development and upkeep of open freely available resources? One model is to make information free but charge for assessment and diplomas (the MOOC approach). The success of MOOCs is now being questioned by some authors. For instance A. Kovacevic elaborated on the Post-MOOC era, stating that the lack of income has forced several MOOC platforms to restructure and aim towards enterprise customers instead. A major reason for this seems to be the low completion rate, as low as 5,5% according to Kovacevic.

Another aspect that can complicate matters when going open is the protection of intellectual property, e.g. course material. How do I protect the material I develop and make openly available to anyone? This requires some thinking and luckily the Creative Commons licensing is there, which is well described by Creative Commons Aotearoa New Zealand. This is a great approach, but after looking into this I still wonder how this will protect my stuff from being used in a way that I don’t want to, and how it will be controlled…

In conclusion

  • There are issues related to the business model of open learning as access to information is for free. In the MOOC approach you only pay for assessments and grading. However, with extremely few participants completing MOOCs there is little income and therefore the sustainability of open learning is often poor.
  • Risks related to protection of intellectual property rights have to be taken into consideration.
  • Even so, the philosophy of open learning is great.  It makes information freely available to the public, and by doing so contributes to life long learning and increased awareness.
  • Sharing  a course openly on a digital platform is likely to increase the number of potential students that can learn from the course compared to the same course only being offered at campus –> Bigger is better (some times).

This became a long reflection, I hope you made it to the end and that it was worth the effort!

Some refections on my learnings from Topic 1 on ONL191

My reflections on Topic 1

Topic 1: Online participation & digital literacies is almost completed and it is time to do some own reflections.

Topic 1 turned out to be very interesting. When I first read the instructions of the topic I didn’t even understand that the scenario was the actual scenario we were expected to work with… I thought it was an example of a scenario, and that the real thing could be found somewhere else. Anyway, after communicating with my co-facilitator of Topic 1, Alexia, I soon realised that the scenario text was the center piece of Topic 1.

I had the joy to lead our PBL group 4 through this topic together with Alexia, mentored by our two PBL facilitators Tore and Fernanda. We managed to co-host four Zoom-meetings with our team. We alternated the lead- and co-facilitation between meetings, which worked out really well. The Zoom application has worked really well. We have participants based on three continents collaborating and sharing our thoughts and ideas without any serious glitches. The only issue we have had during Topic 1 is that all group members have not been able to attend all our group meetings. This is something that I hope will improve during Topic 2.

In summary: the group work in my PBL group has been great! We have managed to hold our meetings, jointly identify focus points that require some further investigation, conduct individual investigations, which were compiled in online documents, and then finally jointly decide on how to present our results to our fellow colleagues in the greater PBL community, and develop this, all in good time.

What I have learnt during Topic 1?

Online participation and digital literacy has many more sides to it than I thought at first. I have for the first time reflected about how I engage and participate online. If I am a vistior or a resident, and how I separate my private and professional presence when participating on-line. It was very interesting to read the original thoughts by Marc Prensky in his article Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants Part 1 in ’On the Horizon, published in 2001. And to see how Prensky’s theories have been further developed, and excellently presented in the video by David White in his two youtube films: and, introducing the concept of visitors – residents and the private and professional dimension of online participation and digital literacy.

I have always been a bit cautious to share my private as well as professional opinions and views on platforms like Facebook and Instagram as you never know who is reading and interpreting what you may say. When it comes to platforms like Research Gate and LinkedIn it becomes trickier. Here you would like to share your professional experiences and knowledge, but it is not easy to become a resident on these platforms. To air your opinions and to engage requires time and committment, and that you see some meaning and benefits from sharing. I so far have not managed to take the step from being a visitor on these platforms to becoming a resident, taking active part in discussions and contributing my ideas and opinions.

Twitter is another platform that I never used with much of a purpose, more than following the steady stream of news and information from some organisations that I am following. During Topic 1 we had a Tweetchat about online participation. This was a new experience, which I so far haven’t made up my mind about. Did it really add value? What do I do with my corny tweets after the meeting? Are these anything I would like my few followers to read? I am looking forward to the next opportunity to do a Tweetchat to see what more this form of exchange can bring.

The learnings are: try to become more resident on the platforms where I spend time online, and develop my professional interaction and engagement on these platforms, using the right tools for the right purpose.

In conclusion

I have now reached the end of my first reflective blog post for the ONL191 course and it is time to sum up the thoughts and conclude. The experiences and the learnings from taking part in this course have so far exceeded my expectations, and I am waiting with anticipation for Topic 2 to be launched, eager to see what it may bring.

Excited to start the ONL191 course

Tomorrow it is time to really get going with the ONL191 course. The first week was spent establishing this blog, revitalise my dormant Twitter account, and familiarising myself with the learning platform and the outline of the course.

It is so interesting to read the introductions of the participants of this course, joining from so many different countries and organisations. I am really looking forward to hear more from all of you.

So, this week is the week when we start to interact in the working groups. It will be nice to see who else is in my group, and to find out more about what we will do together.

That’s all for now, wish you a great week ahead!

First entry into the BLOG Patrik’s thoughts on open networked learning

Hi and welcome to the Patrik’s ONL191 blog space!

This is my first entry in the newly established BLOG: Patrik’s thoughts on open networked learning. Here I will share my thoughts and ideas related to the topic, based on what I pick up from the course ONL191. 

I am enrolled in the course ONL191 as an Institutional Learner at Mälardalen University (MDH). I am looking forward to this course and hope to learn many things that I can turn into practice in my online distance courses in the subject of environmental engineering at MDH.

We initiated the work with developing and giving online distance courses in environmental engineering in 2017. The first course, Introduction to Environmental Engineering was first given in the autumn of 2017 and then also in the autumn 2018. The format that we developed for that course was a success, and we have now developed and are giving five distance courses, two on undergraduate level and three on advanced level, in environmental engineering. The coming autumn we will offer as many as 12 online distance courses in environmental engineering at MDH!

If there is any interest in hearing more about our approach towards online distance courses, then I am more than willing to share how we done this and what lessons we have learnt on the way.

Wish you a good day, and hope to see you here at the Patrikk66ONL191 blogg soon again.