In this topic of ONL171 it was very interesting to investigate about the different ways one may find to engage students in online courses to avoid them losing their interest and to keep them as enthusiastic as they were at the beginning of the course. It was interesting to find out more about the different tools and resources we have nowadays available to engage and stimulate students, and how to constantly reinforce their interests while learning online. In reading about this topic, I came across the paper by Brindley et al. in 2009 with title: ‘Creating Effective Collaborative Learning Groups in an Online Environment’. This paper not only offers a great overview of the online learning environment with a detailed description of all its verges and problematics, but it also describes a great summary of the tools that can be taken into account to motivate online learners. One of these tools is to adapt the teaching material to include real-life scenarios. Brindley argues that by including real life scenarios, especially when teaching adults, students will relate and understand better the topics because they will find that the situation is applicable to their lifes. Hence, engagement will be triggered by finding the material related to what is occurring or has occurred in their real lifes.
In deepening my online research into this last point, I found out that the reasoning behind creating case studies with real-life scenarios and its relation with improvement of motivation and interest had a sound scientific background. The scientific background behind a stimulated motivation when real-life cases are applied, is related to brain functions that reinforces constructivist learning (Zull, J. E. (2002). The art of changing the brain. Enriching the practice of teaching by exploring the biology of learning. Sterling, VA: Stylus Publications). Constructive learning uses existing knowledge as the foundation for incorporating new information into more complex and sophisticated knowledge. As Zull points out in the abovementioned book, the basis to understand how learning from prior experience works is that learning produces physical changes in the brain. The concept to describe the brain as being “plastic,” makes me reflect upon basic fundamentals in microbiology, where the bacteria that survive best to different environments and those that live longer and in prosperity are those that are ‘plastic’, meaning those that are easily changeable or that can adapt to different environments. Hence, learning about which are the threats that could kill them. Maybe this was a far-fetched example, but we have to relate new knowledge to the fundaments of our previous knowledge, (right?). Going back to the ‘plasticity of the brain’ and how it is important for us to understand how learning mechanisms function, the example of Zull where he thinks about the brain as being like a piece of silly putty that can be molded and reshaped according to prior experiences and that this plasticity continues throughout life, is just dazzling!
To wrap this up and not to go far away from the matter at stake, stimulation of learning in e-learners by applying methods such as inclusion of real-life scenarios, is not as simple as it sounds. It has a scientific background behind it that explains how our brain functions and is amendable throughout our life. I think this is a very important point to take into consideration when thinking about structuring e-learning courses, course materials and assignments. The inclusion of prior life experiences and real-case scenarios could be as stimulating for our brains to receive more and more new information and to transform it into new and relevant knowledge!
In my research for Topic 3, i.e. investigating the theoretical basis of Cooperative and Collaborative learning, I came across the Peer Instruction method established by Mazur and for which he combines an interesting interactive approach of learning by peers’ discussion and the feedback is provided by technology. The most interesting part for me in this collaborative learning method is the use of technology in order to receive feedback from students during the class. The peer instruction method is a great example of interactivity and I look forward to implement this in my own basic science classes.
The original method by Mazur was established in the 90’s when he realised that his introductory classes of physics to pre-medical students was very popular due to his ability as a communicator of information. He thinks that what he was doing in his classes was a Hollywood show, where the students were entertained for some hours during which he explained basic concepts of physics, a subject that he realised were not as easy or interesting for all the pre-medical students. He succeeded in his mission on transmitting information so that the students could be inspired to read the course book in physics and pass the exam. The most interesting part of this story comes to the realisation of Mazur that even though most of his students like his physics classes and the way he explained/performed, and that most of them could pass approved an examination from the material in books, however, when the passing students were tested about real-life problems, where they asked to apply basic knowledge of physics… they failed! So Mazur decided to turn things around, meaning that he will provide the students with the material to read or watch before his class, and during the class he will test their knowledge by asking them to solve simple physics problems. The approach was neat, as the students used electronic polls systems to vote for the right answer to the problem. After that he asked them to turn around to each other and discuss the answer to the problem. Those who knew the answer or understood better the subject will help those who were in another level of understanding. When the students were asked to vote again, there should be a positive difference as to the number of students that get the answer right.
I think of this example in own situation and it just makes me very enthusiastic, as I am also dealing with a ‘heavy’ subject for students, such as is microbiology. At least in the theoretical part of microbiology for dental students that in an ‘old-fashioned’ way has been about learning complicated names of micro-organisms, implementing this collaborative learning method will have positive outcome. Transforming the information into real-life problems will make the students apply the acquired information on basic microbiology to their daily life and hopefully later on in their clinical treatments. In further investigating the available tools for performing polls during classes, there are several apps for IOS and Android that would get the job done. The present and future of Collaborative Learning is promising!
In 2012 while I was studying in UCONN Health Center, I was asked to record a 50 min video which would be part of a class Flipped Classroom in Oral Microbiology. My knowledge about Flipped Classrooms or MOOCS in general was null at that time and I was very reluctant on leaving a class in video that will remain for free access to students taking that course. I was worried about my material of course.
But it is not until I started ONL171, where I have learned how truly amazing are all these new teaching opportunities and capabilities we have in the digital era. I am very grateful about this. To get to know facts such as that the first massive MOOC was done in 2011 when a professor in Stanford University uploaded a MOOC in Artificial Intelligence and got 150k participants from 109 countries! Since then digital courses have just grown exponentially.
After having experienced myself and researched on MOOCS, I agree with many promoters of MOOCS that the main advantages are based on interactivity. The possibility to interact with other students that are perhaps at your same level of enthusiasm to research topics in a specific subject and that will promote your research in the topic. The it is also the possibility of using webcams and see the teacher or other members of your classroom. Video conferences are providing great opportunities to break with the barrier of distance by face to face conversations such as in platforms like Adobe Connect, Google Hangouts, etc. Expanding the possibility to add unlimited number of participants and share with people around the world is simply amazing.
From my almost naïve experience with Flipped Classrooms back in 2012, I have been investigating about this. I must say that it is impressive how students may have the possibility to see the class at home and do more interactive learning physically in the school. I am no longer reluctant to this and I want to apply this in undergraduate education! I really think this is the next step in education as we teacher would be able to monitor the individual progress of students and what topics they struggle more with.
However, one of the main concerns regarding MOOCs is the legal aspects behind sharing copyright material. I understand that the research libraries have worked hard in order to confound and establish ways to avoid legal problems implied in sharing copyright material. The pressure of online learning has triggered that the old-fashioned physical library settings needed to get digital and ready to provide researchers from all over the globe access to educational material without infringing copyright laws.
In summary, I must say that after my own experience and initial reluctance, I have dramatically changed my view on MOOCs. I am extremely positive now that traditional classrooms are suddenly going to be changed to digital. If we get the opportunity to experience the advantages that online teaching brings to our teaching experiences, our reluctances and insecurities will be easily overcome.
I have always found fascinating how by means of online platforms one can be connected with classmates, coworkers and friends in a virtual-social-professional context. At the beginning of 2008 when I got to know about Facebook, only some of my friends had an account, now almost everybody I know has a Facebook account. Even people I haven’t seen for a long time or rather old parents that one could have imagined that they were going to be connected someday has one. I always wonder though how people that has not grown with Facebook or are digitally ‘illiterate’ manage to keep a regular online activity, or if Facebook or other interactive platforms has also become part of their daily lives, as it has for most of us. In some cases that I know, for example my own mother, she has a Facebook account which was created by my sister. In my mother’s case, my sister stands as an ‘administrator’ of her account, and directs her when she needs to reply to a comment or to ‘like’ a picture that was uploaded by another relative. As in this case described, I think it is common that the a younger, digitally-literate person, creates and administers a social platform account such as Facebook, before the illiterate just forgotten about his/her account.
Professionally, having an online presence has been also very important. Sharing profiles and update my work status and ongoing research on open networks such as LinkedIn or Researchgate, has been great platforms to get noticed and to advance professionally. It is however challenging to keep up with all current online platforms, for the most part is a professional interest nowadays that keep me connected rather than social reasons. As for Twitter, I could never get the hang out of it and I have always felt lazy to learn. I found that I have enough with the other online professional or online platforms for the moments, even though I think I might be missing an addictive and important online platform.
In this article by the University of Southern California, 7 main points are covered about the importance of being digitally literate. In the first point, it is stated that being digitally literate does not necessarily mean to achieve being a pro in every app or software out there, but to be able to know how to use a software that will help you do a required assignment. The second point touches upon being a good digital citizen. This means that it is our responsibility, once we are digitally-literate, to find the best use of the information put on the internet, including to avoid academic plagiarism and cyberbullying. Another important aspect touched upon in this article and that has been of great benefit for my own digital literacy is about the importance of inspiring students to take the most of the technology in order to develop their learning capabilities.
In this digitally oriented world that we are living, many aspects of our own literacy emerges as important, as we need to find out by ourselves how to take the best out of technology for the benefit of our own students and social peers.
It is great to be back in a PBL environemnt!! However my journey in understanding and working in PBL hasnt been the smoothest. In my inquiries to understand Problem-Based Learning (PBL), I found this definition in a web site: https://www.learning-theories.com/problem-based-learning-pbl.html, ‘PBL is an instructional method of hands-on, active learning centered on the investigation and resolution of messy, real-world problems’. But then I wonder, what is a messy real-world problem? I have to say that for me it has been certainly a true challenge to understand and adapt my teaching to PBL. The journey started in my first encounters with PBL in Malmö University, where during my first duties as a tutor I had to lead a group into finding solution to a problem. Not easy at all for someone that has learned ‘the traditional way’ and is used to standing in front of a class lecturing. But it took me some time to realize that the whole idea of PBL is not necessarily to solve the problem, just like Wood in her paper of 2003 describes, but it is to trigger a rationalized learning process starting from a scenario to define learning objectives. it is an independent and self-directed way to learn and acquire new knowledge.
Understanding the role of the tutor was also difficult. At the beginning, it was mainly seen by me as boring, especially if we already have a student-leader in the group that leads the discussion. Many times, I was falling asleep or though it was a waste of time. I shortly understood that as it was not easy for me it hasnt been easy for most of us that have been used to be an information provider, i.e. standing in fromt of an audience and delivering information, to be a facilitator of learning. The same questions that I could find in the paper published by Neville in 1999 arose, as to: what are my exact roles as a tutor, how directive should I be within my PBL group?, and what are those skills that I need in order to be a facilitator. At the beginning, I thought I needed to be only an expert in the matter at stake, typical information-provider thinking, right?
Gratefully, the process is very clear to me now that a good tutor in PBL not only needs to be expert in the subject but it also needs to be an expert in facilitation of processing information.
Regarding PBL, I had also found the question if PBL works in other areas than in medicine really intriguing. It is still to me a matter of surprise that it really does work in other areas other than in medicine, where other problems that are not related to health issues can be solved by problem-based learning and that most of all, the journey that the students take during the process of solving them is that what makes the true difference in their careers.
My name is Luis Chávez de Paz, I am a dentist and the head of the Endodontic section in Karolinska Institute. My section is situated in Huddinge (Campus Flemmingsberg) in the School of Dentistry.
I am currently supervising the international post-graduate program in endodontics where we have students from different nationalities. Online supervision and teaching is thus a great possibility to interact with teachers and supervisors from all over the world to interact and share important information.
I am very glad that our PBL GROUP 9 is so diverse and that we are having our first meeting on the 16th of February.