Sunday, November 2, 2014

How combine blog pedagogy and blended learning

Ari Myllyviita (University of Helsinki)
The working and learning environments are complex and there is new dimension: virtual environment. The blended learning more or less de facto learning method in high school, and it is coming also to lower secondary schools. Among adults the pressure from the labour market forces them to arrange time for studying in a new way – by using virtual environments and social media tools. It is possible to communicate widely and work collaboratively with new tools without being in a same place.
In this article I handle collaboration and communication in the blended learning courses mainly by using blogs. It is too often the case that you have to use those environment what official structure gives you. Nowadays it is not so any more. You can create your own virtual environments with quite simple start procedures (invitations, sign ups/ins, guides and first statements). Teacher´s role on taking ICT as a part of learning (bLearning) is crucial. You can found several technological gadgets, social media services for teaching and studying. To find real use and pedagogical reasoning to take those as a part of your daily work needs a process and a holistic view and new kind of teacher education (pre-service and in-service). New gadgets or services comes successful throw a development project as a part of large process.
Weblog or just blog–concept was launched by Jorn Barger (1997) over fifteen years ago. Basically blog is a simple web-page – nowadays blogs are created through special blog service like WordPress or Blogger. New communication technology allow the use of online (synchronize) or asynchronize type of interaction between peer students and between students and teachers. This make possible – called blog pedagogy – reflection between peers and between students and teacher. So in our distances learning period in blended learning is not just a independent work period but also more and more making possible meeting virtually – it could be called “avatar to avatar” –period (see Second Life) and online meeting (using tool like Adobe Connect Pro).
When we collect different ideas how to use blogs, we find them quite powerful, flexible and versatile tool:
  • as a diary, where writer tells about his experiences, happenings to the public, peers or teacher 
  • as a web journal, or as a pamphlet
  • as a portfolio, where blogist shows his artifacts, products and ideas under certain topic; it can be a documentation of the working or learning/studying process 
  • as a reflection tool, where blogs has tools for making, getting or sharing comments; there is opportunity to give feedback (or feed forward as I like to say): or as a tool for knowledge creation and delivering and a tool for assessment and evaluation 
  • as a discussion forum and as an organizer
The most important idea about blogs is the opportunity to make readers interaction possible. For teachers there is an important role to make this happen. If you compare blogs and wikis, the main difference is: blog texts are for comments and wikis are more for collaboration, creating texts together. In wiki all are participants (not audience or just readers).
What makes this all to be called a new pedagogical approach? First of all, this is way to make own reflection possible. When you combine reflection and documentation you have a powerful tools to develop your teaching and pupils learning. Secondly especially when it is question about artifact (material, immaterial), which needs a process, you can create a documentation all the phases and the final artifact. There is a possibility to reflect these phases or the collections of final artefacts (like portfolio). Thirdly blogs are useful in the asynchronized communication or should I say in interaction between participants and it is creating transparence to our studies.
 It is important that teacher finds a suitable communication or reflection tool and feels it practical and supportative tool (to support own teaching and guidance, and feels comfortable with it). Here blogs have to be mentioned.
REFERENCES Barger, J. (1997). Robot Wisdom weblog.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Self-experience in Blended Learning

To gain some experience “from the other side” I enrolled as a student in a Blended Learning Course. The subject was Mathematics and the course provider was a University offering a post graduate university level further training course (finally worth 6 ETCS).

1. Course structure

The course was split into three classroom teaching units and into two distance learning phases.

Structure of the course
 The course structure did fit to the taught subject as well as to the content distribution.

2. Quality fields

I’m going to evaluate the course fitting to the five quality fields that are defined in the Quality in Blended Learning Project.

2.1. Quality of the institution

The institution was an ISO-certified university and offered everything that’s described in that standard definition.

2.2. The enrollment

That was the first weak point: Enrollment was done providing not sufficient information about the course, several detailed as the exact duties during the course, the exact description of content were not described properly.

Additional, the enrollment in the distance learning platform (a Moodle platform) didn’t work properly and the technical support unit had to clear the problems.

2.3. The course itself

I missed competence oriented learning outcomes described at the beginning of each part. A checklist for the activities that had to be done during the distance learning phases would also have been useful (but was not provided).
The structure of the course in the eLearning platform was extremely confusing and unclear. From that experience I’ll claim more intensively a clear structure, well-designed outlays and a well-fitting compilation of the web based course in my publications.
The tutorial support was not exactly defined and it was not clear how it will be done from the beginning. In very general terms the distance learning courses was far away from the quality criteria defined by the project’s consortium.

2.4. The learning environment

The learning environment did fit partly in the classroom teaching as well as in the distance learning phase. The provided material was available on several (not connected) platforms. As mentioned above, the outlook and the structure of the course were basically suboptimal and – from my point of you – not user-friendly. It was necessary to scroll a big number of pages – all of them looking similar – so that it was not easy to keep an overview in the online course.

2.5. The assessment

An academic further training course validated with 6 ETCS must have a kind of standardized assessment. In that case it was the presentation of a content unit (also not competence-oriented defined) followed by a discussion with trainers and the other students. The frame-conditions were not clear defined so it was not so easy to target the expectations of the trainers. A detailed description of the environment of the assessment or details conditions also was not available.

3. Conclusion

It was a very exciting experience to watch how others interpret Blended Learning. To be included in the learning crowd and to watch everything from a kind of evaluator view checking each activity with the developed framework of quality criteria war extremely worthwhile.

From my point of view the development of a quality framework for Blended Learning develops in the right direction and the current results are well-fitting to the needs of learners.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Case Study about Blended Learning

In secondary education, I run a small case study about Blended Learning. The aim of that study was to find out, what students think before their eBlended Learning experience and how their expectations have been fulfilled.

About the Preconditions

I chose two similar classes where I was teaching physics. The students were approximately 16 years old, the majority were female students.
The students had a preliminary and a closing questionnaire with similar questions to answer.

The Execution of the Learning Experience

I selected one topic split into several activities and prepared a well-performed Blended Learning Unit. The content was split into two parts: The starting lesson with the explanations and teaching the basic issues was done at school. The learning phase with multimedia based experiments and some reading activities were in the distance learning part.
A well-known teacher did the tutorial support. As a final assessment, the students posted a summary to several questions. These postings were evaluated. In a final presence session, the students had the opportunity to ask questions to the teacher, additional the postings of the students were discussed.

The Questionnaires

The used questionnaires defined closed questions with four predefined answers. Some answers of the preliminary questionnaire were created similar to the final questions. So it is possible to follow the student’s development or to compare the expectations with the experiences.

The Result – a Study

The questionnaires were analyzed and finally interpreted. Both questionnaires were part of the used VLE (System: Moodle Ver. 2.6) and collected by the questionnaire module. The data was extracted in an Excel file. Finally, a graphic visualization was creating from the available data.

The Graphics

The complete material was visualized using Excel charts. I post an interesting analyzes as an example. Here is the question about the use of the system: At the beginning the students answered that they will use the system intensively – the final question shows that it wasn’t true.
Graphic 1: Use of Blended Learning
The learning results are directly connected with that behavior (or attitude): The expectations were high at the beginning, the success was low (as they didn’t use the system).

Graphic 2: Success of the Blended learning


  • Students expect a lot from eLearning and Blended Learning 
  • They hope to be better or more successful using these teaching methods 
  • Student’s success depends on the attitude of students and the well-prepared and performed course.

    The complete study is available from the European Foundation for Quality in Blended Learning.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Is BLearning a Good Tool for Project Based Learning (PBL)?

First of all, we must define what PBL is. According to Buck Institute for Education (BIE), Project Based Learning is a teaching method in which students gain knowledge and skills by working for an extended period of time to investigate and respond to a complex question, problem, or challenge.

The PBL Essential Elements include:
  • Significant Content - At its core, the project is focused on teaching students important knowledge and skills, derived from standards and key concepts at the heart of academic subjects. Which is related to all types of study.
  • 21st century competencies - Students build competencies valuable for today’s world, such as problem solving, critical thinking, collaboration, communication, and creativity/innovation, which are explicitly taught and assessed.
  • In-Depth Inquiry - Students are engaged in an extended, rigorous process of asking questions, using resources, and developing answers.
  • Driving Question - Project work is focused by an open-ended question that students understand and find intriguing, which captures their task or frames their exploration.
  • Need to Know - Students see the need to gain knowledge, understand concepts, and apply skills in order to answer the Driving Question and create project products, beginning with an Entry Event that generates interest and curiosity.
  • Voice and Choice - Students are allowed to make some choices about the products to be created, how they work, and how they use their time, guided by the teacher and depending on age level and PBL experience.
  • Critique and Revision - The project includes processes for students to give and receive feedback on the quality of their work, leading them to make revisions or conduct further inquiry.
  • Public Audience - Students present their work to other people, beyond their classmates and teacher.

All of these Essential Elements can be easily achieved with a good ELearning platform, plus the aid of classmates and teachers. But, how can we "attach" these Essential Elements in a good practice environment?. The answer is in the kernel of BLearning.

As can be read in a previous post (About the Project). The method dates from 1999, but never defined quality standards. Nowadays different learning methods are emerging. But we need, the most attractive for the learners.

One of the most attractive is PBL because of the use of competences and all its Essential elements can be achieved with a useful tool as the BLearning is. But, first of all, we need to define the quality criterias for this tool. And this is the aim of the project.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Competence Based Learning Outcomes

Competence oriented access as a quality issue in Blended Learning

Blended Learning is a complex teaching method. On the one hand, it offers the opportunity to teachers to mix the best of onsite and online to create a new learning environment. This “blend” can have a positive impact on efficiency, convenience and learning outcomes.
On the other hand, especially these learning outcomes are important. In modern teaching it should be out of discussion to define them based on the guidelines for Competence Oriented Education (COD).

What are Competences?

Competences can be defined easily as “something what you can”. Focusing on the process of learning and the expected learning outcomes you may define competence as a cluster of related abilities, commitments, knowledge and skills that enable a person to act efficiently in a job or in a specific situation.
For teaching, you may condense that to a three column set and define a competence model as a cluster consisting of knowledge, skills and attitudes.

How to define Learning Outcomes Competence Based?

Teaching was content based for a long time. The knowledge of the content was the most important result in the teaching process for many years.
In modern teaching, the knowledge of the content is a means to skills. Content is necessary – without doubt – but to use the knowledge to be able to do something is more important in your daily job.
A good way is to define the competence with the terms “the learner is able to do …” or similar at the beginning. This is the requested competence. The next step is to identify the learner’s needs. Now you have to analyze which knowledge is necessary (so you can define the content). The expected ability of the learner can be used to define the skills. Finally, you define the necessary attitude, which is necessary to bring in the skills of behave in the described way.
With the definition of the competences, you may start to create learning activities.


Teachers should care for their competence of teaching competence orientated. The method is versatile and can be used general in teaching.
In Blended Learning Courses a competence oriented access must be understood as a basic issue.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

The content of the project bases on research work combined with the experience of the involved institutions. That covers school teaching, teaching at university level as well as courses in the frame of adult education (mainly Grundtvig). Besides the research work there ase several events, also open for public.

1st Conference Wiener Neustadt 2014

At the conference the basics of the project were presented. In workshops the quality criteria for Blended Learning wer discussed and summarized.
The conference in Wiener Neustadt took place i the Seminarhotel Corvinus (February 2014)

The results of the conference are available at the project's web page.

Meeting Syros (non public)

At the intermediate meetingthe first project year is summarized and the detail planning for the next stepsfinished.

Pilote Course Helsinki

The University of Helsinki provides a pilote IST training course (the concept bases on the guidelines for KA 1 activities in the frame of the new ERASMUS+ Programme).
The pilote course takes place in Helsingi in spring (starting from January 2015 with a special face to face phase in May 2015).

2nd Conference Málaga 2014

The conference takes place at the University of Málaga from August 27 until August 29, 2015.
To the web page of the Málaga Conference

About the Project

The aim of the project

The aim of this project is to develop a quality system for Blended Learning. 

Why is that necessary?

Although the method had been mentioned first in 1999, any quality management description of the method is still missing until today. Quality covers the teaching environment as well as the learning setting. 

What are the objectives?

The objectives of the project are: 
  • Develop and define precise methods to ensure high quality in planning, developing and implementing, executing and evaluating Blended Learning courses. 
  • Define, test and describe measureable means for quality levels in Blended Learning. 
  • Define the minimum level of achievable standards and develop the tools to evaluate them. 
  • Precise a definition of the relevant issues in bLearning, which ensures teaching and learning quality focusing on the learners. 
  • Describe a realistic environment for Blended Learningincluding the current research results and practical advices and guidelines.
The project started in October 2014 and is coordinated by DigiLab (from the University La Sapienza in Rome, Italy)

The represants of the consortium after the kickoff workshop