Lessons learnt during ONL journey

When I think about my learning experience during this course, I recognize that I´ve gained a lot during this journey, certainly more than I could expect. When I applied to the course, basically I imagined that I would learn how to design an on-line course. I was a little bit afraid if I could keep up as I had no background in pedagogy. I must say it was not easy, every topic was challenging, in the beginning the scenarios and resources seemed a little far from me, but as I participated in the webinars, group discussions and Twitter chat, it got clear of the importance of the content and it was quite easy to relate it to my present activities and future perspectives.

In spite of the challenges, the course was inspiring. In my point of view, ONL enables you to re-think your learning and teaching strategies, not only for online courses, but also for face to face activities. During Topic 1, I was motivated to use technology in a responsible way. When you are able to critically evaluate the pros and cons of using a tool, it´s empowering! Even those who hate computers would agree that it´s not possible to abolish technology, but we should learn how to use it for our benefit.

In Topic 2, I learned about open education and it was amazing to explore a world of resources freely available that will be of great value for my professional development. I found out that there is so much going on in my country and I was completely unaware of it! Additional to the possibility of using open educational resources, I was also encouraged to share my educational materials. After that, for Topic 3, we discussed about collaboration and networking, a moment that I was captured by the idea of developing a Personal Learning Network.  Although Topic 4 was the most challenging at first, it gave me the foundation for designing effective online or blended courses. I would also say that it has changed even the way I prepare a lecture.

I couldn´t end this post without commenting about the course design. It was amazing!  When I thought about the diversity of people, countries, languages and time zones, I was afraid that the group meetings wouldn´t work. For me it was astonishing when I realized I was connecting with people so different but at the same time with the same motivations, worries and difficulties that I had.

At last, as an open learner, I´m especially thankful for the opportunity to be part of ONL community. It has been a thought-provoking, challenging and rewarding journey.

 

Personal reasons for blended learning

This topic was the most challenging for me, designing a formal course is not part of my routine and my first impression was that this part of the course wouldn´t relate to my own practice.  I believe that I´ve been more involved with informal learning. As a pharmacist, I´ve been working with two main projects at university: a Drug Information Center and an Academic Detailing initiative which aims to inform health professionals about essential medicines lists. Ideally, we expect that students, who choose to take part, have the background information needed to develop the planned activities.

However, in most of the cases, knowledge gaps are easily recognized. Therefore, we frequently have to deliver additional contents to help them engage in the projects. In general, we plan some group discussions or lectures, but sometimes it seems that the strategies are not effective. During this last weeks, it got clear that I´m using traditional designs and probably, I will be less frustrated if I try new approaches. So, my first impression was completely wrong, exploring the world of learning designs would certainly benefit me, the students and the whole team.

This mind shift raised one question: should I try a blended design or should I focus on face to face learning? As I work with small group of students, the barrier of space and time wouldn´t be an obstacle at first. However, after this experience in ONL, I´m totally convinced that students should be encouraged to use technology for their learning, especially to develop the necessary skills to become a successful lifelong learner. In our daily activities, technology has been used for group communication, to search, process and present information in a creative way, but not for the trainings, so there is room for improvement. I´m motivated to bring more online learning to my group.

What the literature says about the benefits of blended learning? Is blended learning really effective to improve learning? I found an interesting meta-analysis evaluating blended learning in higher education. According to Bernard et al., improvement in achievement related to blended learning is low but significantly greater than zero. However, confounding variables could account for the observed differences. Thus, the authors argue that future studies should address questions about the learning design required to produce deep and meaningful learning.

For now, based on the frameworks that I´ve explored, I will try my small scale experiments and evaluate what works for my group. I know that there is so much to learn, but I recognize that I´m no longer where I was. ONL is inspiring, it has changed my perceptions and brought new perspectives about the possibilities of online learning to produce innovative learning experiences.

Reference:

Bernard, R.M., Borokhovski, E., Schmid, R.F. et al. A meta-analysis of blended learning and technology use in higher education: from the general to the applied. J Comput High Educ (2014) 26: 87. https://doi-org.ez29.capes.proxy.ufrj.br/10.1007/s12528-013-9077-3

The value of a Personal Learning Network

ONL course is now on Topic 3! At this point it´s evident that course´s content has been vividly experienced by the participants. Since Topic 2 I got inspired by the idea of Personal Learning Network (PLN). Networking is not something new, its benefits for career development is widely known. In spite of that, I have never put so much effort on it. Maybe unconsciously I believed that I should focus only on improving my own knowledge, instead of spending time developing a network.

However, can we build a network without planning? Will it come naturally or should it be intentional? Peter Grace in an article entitled “Learning the lessons of networking” talks about his strategies to build a professional network, which included attend conferences, socialize in events, connect with researchers that you haven´t met, be generous and build the network before you need. Thus, from his experience, it seems that we should make an effort to develop our network!

What to say about network in the digital age? How can we use technology to develop a learning network? Digital technologies have had a major impact in how people learn, but are we really making the most of it? I´ve been reflecting about all these questions since I´ve started reading about PLN.

Personal learning network is a collection of resources that guide our informal learning, where we can collect, communicate, create and share knowledge and experiences. It can be physical, digital or combined. Digitally it can be developed through social media, such as Twitter, Linkedln, Facebook, blogs, etc. Although it´s based on social learning, it´s driven by individual, the learner actively defines his/her interests and resources. You are free to choose what works for you!

In the digital age, with this huge amount of information, it´s not possible to acquire everything we want. We need others to go further. For me, this is the major reason to invest time developing a network. Besides, it´s important to add that learning occurs through interaction with different sources of knowledge and connecting with groups of common interest, so we can learn more effectively if we manage to create and sustain networks. Thus, PLN is essential for a lifelong learner and shouldn´t be underestimated.

That said, how could we use technology to develop our PLN? Kay Oddone, on her presentation “Develop professional network with social media”, advises that we should use social media do promote our career instead of putting it at risk. Additionally she added that we can´t forget to protect the information we share and also our wellbeing. Maybe new digital literacies will be needed. Interestingly, PLN reinforces the previous topics about digital capabilities and openness.

In conclusion, this course has challenged me to use digital tools, to be more open and share and more recently to build my PLN. I know that it will take time, but I believe it will worth it!

References:

Oddone, K. Develop your Professional Learning Network with Social Media. Available at: https://www.slideshare.net/kayc28/develop-your-professional-learning-network-with-social-media.

Grace, P.M. Learning the lessons of networking. Science, 352 (6286), 2016. Available at: http://science.sciencemag.org/content/352/6286/738.

Making sense of openness

I finished Topic 1 quite positive. All the discussions with my PBL group and the process of exploring other participants´ reflections through their learning blogs and group presentations gave me a new perspective about online learning. Now it´s time to move on.

Topic 2 discusses the concept of openness in education. My first challenge was to find out what openness mean to my own practice. I´m not a formal teacher, I see my teaching process more practical and informal. At university, I work in projects in Health Education and Appropriate Medicine Use. But, frequently, I must prepare trainings for students to complement a topic not normally included in their curriculum. I´m also interested in offering courses for professional development and I believe that online learning can be of great value.

At first, I started exploring the concept of Open Educational Resources (OER). OER are defined as “high-quality teaching, learning, and research materials that are free for people everywhere to use and repurpose” (Hewlett Foundation, 2018). According to David Wiley, they can be reused, redistributed, revised and remixed. Based on that, they are expected to remove barriers between educators and learners, broadening the audience that we would normally have using traditional learning environment. Therefore, they are considered a strategy to promote equitable access to education, giving new learning opportunities for many who were originally excluded.

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As I explored more, it was quite easy to recognize how open education relates to my work. I´ve participated in several MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses), I consider them an excellent opportunity to gain new skills without leaving my home. Conversely, it´s undeniable that they require discipline. Despite of their fame, MOOCs are not the only possible way for open education, it can also be feasible by sharing courses materials, videos, modules, textbooks, tools, softwares or even techniques used to support access to knowledge.

Then, I´ve got intrigued with the fact that open education is not about taking, is about sharing! So, am I indebted? Normally, I´m not willing to share. I don´t want to say it as an excuse, but I was completely unaware that what I produce in my institution can be valuable somewhere else. Working in the public sector, I´m totally convinced of my social responsibility, so the idea to think more openly totally fits my position.

Another potential benefit of openness is to connect people. Sharing good quality material potentially attracts colleagues with common interests; it may also bring new opportunities for collaborative work. On the other hand, there are some challenges, I must be well-informed about the legal aspects, I will need to find more about the rules on my institution and how to license it properly. Lots of things to explore! But I hope I will end this course more confident to share!

References:

Hewlett Foundation. Available at: https://hewlett.org/strategy/open-educational-resources/. Access 19th October 2018.

Weller, M. (2014). Battle for Open: How openness won and why it doesn’t feel like victory. London: Ubiquity Press.

Wiley, D. Open education and the future, Short TED-talk. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rb0syrgsH6M. Access 19th October 2018

Renewed motivations to digital engagement

I have never felt myself as a technological person. Presently I´ve been trying to reduce the time spent online. I don´t like to take pictures of everything and share them with everyone. I feel uncomfortable exposing personal life to someone who is not so close. In my point of view, personal life in social media can be like a fairy tale as we tend to post only the better part us. Sometimes we may get lost and don´t realize that our digital person doesn´t really exist.

In contrast, at my professional life, I´ve been constantly challenged to search and try new tools, mostly helping to build my working group digital identity.  Therefore, according to Visitors and Residents approach (White & Le Cornu, 2011), I see myself more a visitor in my personal life and resident in professional life.

I had never heard of Visitors/Resident model or reflected about digital literacies. As I read about it, I get more convinced of the importance of these concepts to build my own digital identity. At first, I realized that there are still some myths about how people engage in technology. In general, we tend to believe that those who were born at a digital age don´t need to be taught about the use of technology. However, in my own experience, although undergraduate students spend a lot of time online, they may face difficulties to search, interpret, evaluate online information and even to make a slide presentation. These abilities are of increasingly importance to become a successful professional.  Therefore, it is clear that digital literacies must be developed during academic courses. So, what could I do to support this in my institution?

The JISC Guide really shed some light to my doubts. Initially, I will try to use these principles as motivators for my own digital engagement. Once I am aware of the importance of improving my digital capabilities, it is essential to assess it, in order to understand what I know and what I need to improve. Surprisingly, I found out that I already use many digital tools potentially helpful to my learning and teaching ambitions. These hidden abilities improved my self-confidence.

Focusing can be useful when I feel overwhelmed. It´s important to recognize the digital literacies that could help my work!  I´ve learned that during this journey, I don´t need to go alone, it is important to know who can assist me and how I can contribute to others. Bear in mind that we only seek what we need within the relationships that surround us.

My final tip would be: don´t be afraid to take new challenges! Learning is not easy, be persistent and have fun!

References:

Evaluating digital services: a visitors and residents approach (2014). JISC Guide. Available at: https://www.jisc.ac.uk/full-guide/evaluating-digital-services. Access 2018-10-09.

White, D. & Le Cornu, A. (2011) Visitors and residents: A new typology for online engagement. First Monday, 16(9).

First impression of Open Network Learning course

This blog was built to report my reflections about the Open Network Learning Course. In this first week we were asked to explore the learning spaces that will be used during the course. After reading the first instructions (Topic: Getting started), I´ve started to explore the ONL181 Google + Community.

It really impressed me the diversity of participants in many aspects, including locations, formations, interests and experiences. At first, I must confess, this diversity scared me a little bit. I think that I have never been in a course with so many different people. Then, I figured out that this is a great opportunity to learn new tools, get new ideas and improve my comprehension of all possibilities technology  have brought to education.

I also hope that, while I´m learning, I can somehow contribute to the learning process of other participants through my reflections posted at my blog Think, learn and share!