Monday August 24th my colleague, Heilyn Camacho – also from e-Learning Lab at Aalborg University, and I kicked off a 6 week course on Problem Based Blended Learning (PBBL). We have designed the course as part of an EU funded research project called COMmunity of integrated Blended Learning in Europe (COMBLE). In the COMBLE project my colleagues and I from Aalborg University work together with 3 other lead partners from Estonia (University of Tartu), Germany (The University of Applied Sciences Wildau) and Poland (Marie Curie Sklodowska University).
We have all been offering the course to our affiliated partners which means that we have participants not only from the above mentioned countries, but also from Argentina and since Heilyn is from Costa Rica we really have an international cross-cultural setting. Most participants come from the academic sector, but we also have a few participants from the cooperate world. Besides this my colleagues, Thomas Ryberg and Jacob Davidsen will at some point bring in Danish on-campus 7th semester students from Human Centered Informatics.
The main objective of the course is to provide the participants with a combination of conceptual, theoretical and practical strategies with regards to designing, implementing and teaching/training courses of different duration in blended modality using an overall PBL approach. There is no consensus on how to define Blended Learning. We will, however use this definition from Sonja Trapp (2006:1) as a starting point:
Blended learning can be defined as the combination of multiple approaches to pedagogy or teaching, e .g. self-paced, collaborative, tutor-supported learning or traditional classroom teaching. Blended learning often refers specifically to the provision or use of resources which combine e-learning with other educational resources.
What makes this PBBL course particular interesting and challenging is the fact that there are no f2f activities for the adult participants – we only meet each other online in different platforms. For the on-campus students this of course will differ a bit, but as I understand it their main activities will also take place online. Heilyn and I have chosen Moodle as our main platform for the teaching and learning activities.
Flexibility not only regarding place, but also time is a keyword in this course, and in our point of view Moodle provides a good environment for especially text-based, asynchronous activities. Our participants are located in different time-zones and should be able to contribute at any convenient time, but a far more important argument for using an asynchronous platform for the main activities can be found in our pedagogical foundation. We have chosen to blend Problem Based Learning with elements from Action Learning and in both strategies reflection is a keyword.
By and large the course design is heavily inspired by another course I run at the Masterprogramme in ICT and Learning (MIL), and based on my experience from that course we have also chosen to use Second Life (SL) as main platform for synchronous activities in this PBBL course. The course outline can be seen in the picture below:
Since Aalborg University does not own land in SL – I only rent a small place on the Island Wonderful Denmark for my MIL course – our Polish partner has kindly let us use their Second UMCS Island for the course. Below is a picture of what the main teaching and learning area looked like, when we fist arrived there:
Second UMCS owner, UMCS Maximus, and I discussed the design of the area …
Later Heilyn and I met to discuss the design …
One of the first changes was replacing the existing presenter with The Clever Zebra presenter …
My dear friend, Coughran Mayo, recommended the CZ presenter and thanks to Fleep Tuque’s great video, I easily managed to set it up :-) Even though Heilyn, Thomas and I will use traditional presentations in our in-world lectures we still wanted the environment to better reflect our pedagogical foundations, so we also had the white chairs removed.
Yeah! .. lots of empty space to play with …
This week of the course is preparation week meaning that the participants are expected to familiarize themselves with both Moodle and SL. Only a few of the participants have prior experience with SL, so this week has been spent on learning the basic features of SL. As a preliminary setting I put up a few objects to enable the participants to practice very basic, but important skills such as learning how to walk and sit:
I rezzed 5 chairs close to each other – trying to walk in between without bumping into any of them is not an easy task for newbies ;-) I also rezzed “The Opinionater”, created by Entropy Hax, which can be bought for the tiny sum of 99 Lindens at this location. Besides being a great tool for decision making I like the fact that “The Opinionater” is interactive making walking practice a bit more fun.
This week I’ve also held optional in-world “Get-off-to-a-good-start” meetings, and here are some pictures from those meetings:
Heilyn and I getting ready to embark the Testis Tour with participants Dido and Ina
Um, “immersed” inside a testis …
and outside a womb in Doctor Asp‘s (my regular landowner :-) amazing holodeck
Participant, Hans and I trying to build Bears … LOL not easy, since the Bear is meant to wear!
The Bear was created by Danish resident, Kaj Bing, and can be found in Wonderful Denmark’s Freebie Factory, where you’ll also find my favorite SL object; The Pink Elephant created by Asp himself :-)
Last night participant, Marcus and I met in my place …
Marcus is one of the participants with a couple of years experience in SL. BTW Marcus directed my attention to an interesting post written on this first week’s impressions by participant, Susanne from Germany :-)
Both Heilyn and I are using this PBBL course to collect empirical data for our PhD-projects and we will meet later today to assess this first week as part of our own Action Learning cycles. We will post our reflections in Moodle, so that the participants are able to see how we actually try to apply the chosen research and teaching and learning strategy in our own projects encouraging the participants to comment on our thoughts. Furthermore Heilyn and I will rearrange the teaching and learning area to match the next weeks’ activities …
And I will for sure return with more posts on this as the course progresses …
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