From the European Distance and E-Learning Network – EDEN 26th annual conference (post 1)

The EDEN 26th annual meeting

took place in Jönköping last week. It was the first time I participated. Here, I want to share some presentations that I found particularly interesting, including our own presentation last Friday!

1- Anders Söderholm, UKÄ director talked, for instance, about the University as a platform for learning instead of an institution of learners! In his Keynote presentation, he mentioned some common mistakes from the traditional education and talked about what is Google doing for Higher Education:


1-Try to make a 2D copy of a 3D class: how to replace the social interaction?

In the online environment there is a risk for less commitment and weak study culture. We cannot control students studies from outside screen.  Assessment is difficult. Online education can be a shady 2D of a 3D classroom. How to make it as good as it possibly can be?

2-The standard student assumption

Students are assumed to be 19-22 years old, recent graduates from previous levels who study full time on campus. 

3-Learning methods based on students lack of experience

The students nowadays can be little bit older with a lot of more previous experiences so they may have something to add as well.

Google business models: What would Google do?


 Students seek learning courses from diverse providers. Thus designing their own programs and unique profile.

Multi Dimensional model of learning

Students and teachers learn, utilize students experiences, international experts, live case studies, deliver to community creation

University alliances

Universities specialize in teaching and research and create alliances to make a more competitive offer to prospective students

The corporate university

On the job training or educational internships or tuition education in a global company with a strong focus on international excellence could replace university programs.

Internationalization of universities

International University Based on global expertise

Recognition and validation:

Is still an issue. How to do it?









Sunshine at the end!

There is sun at the end of the winding road. Today I had my last meeting with my PBL5 group. We talked a lot about our experiences during the ONL171 course. It was good. I am aware that we often need to hear about what went well. However, to receive constructive criticism is also important. In our group we were very honest with each other and we spent quite some time trying to work together in a way that satisfied everybody. It was difficult and demanding…but guess what? It was extremely rewarding to come today to our meeting and realize that we could finally grasp the concept of collaboration and understand each other. Watch our final production that Susan put so kindly together for us! I am very proud, PBL5, of being your co-facilitator together with Kenneth Johansson, the facilitator of the group. Thanks for this trip!

These are my take-home messages

  • Take the time during the first week to know the people you are going to work with. Mingle and figure out what they need, expect, fear, how they interact and their learning style.
  • Introduce collaboration as an intended learning outcome and work with this concept earlier in the course
  • Introduce each topic with a Webinar or introductory video. To create more structure.
  • Be clear with setting the group ground rules from the beginning (rules can translate as norms or values for the group). What is accepted and what is not.
  • Talk about netiquette or social behaviour online. How to communicate with each other.
  • Agree with the group about how to use the meeting time.
  • Work more asynchronously with group members not attending meeting or not contributing enough to group presentations. Dropouts affect group dynamic a lot.
  • Be clear about the workload of this course. Yes, it is intense and demanding but also rewarding and amazing.
  • Introduce Problem Based Learning. What is it? Why so much confusion and frustration? Is it unavoidable?

As Alastair Creelman commented in a previous blog post. We often think about education from a consumer perspective and maybe it is time to think about education from a producer perspective. I liked that and it is something I am taking with me.

E Pluribus Unum

This post is not about flowers, I promise! Do you know what happens to orchids when you water them too much or too little? They die! I know it because I no longer have orchids. I do have an online group though. With online groups it may be the same. As a facilitator you really have to find a (water) balance because, you can always buy another flower but you cannot buy another group experience after the course ends.

We are reaching the end of the ONL171 and the reason I am writing here is because my group is currently struggling with the concept of collaboration and I need to find a way to express myself in a professional way about the feelings of frustrations that we all experience right now.

Due to the tone of some posts in the common google+ site, I believed that some group members were frustrated. Maybe because the group participation is not even, or due to poor meeting attendance, task disagreement and small misunderstandings.

Frustrations are expected and normal during online work. We’ve discussed that beefore. However, the way we let out our frustrations and communicate with each other is another matter. My question is what I’m going to do as co-facilitator to improve the group climate? Especially when I am frustrated too? I noticed that some group members need emotional attention while some others need concrete action and structure. I try to fulfill both but sometimes it may not be enough or it could get overwhelming. I want to help and contribute but I don’t want to take over the group activities and decide too much when the group is expected to gain independency. Then I decided that I could, actually, help in other ways and this is what I am trying to do here. I am reflecting about what causes all of these feelings in my group and in me.

What I see right now is that

Personal expectations from this course vs. our expectations from other group members are colliding.

When we enrolled the course we all had individual expectations and goals. Revisiting our first padlet I could read about almost everyone’s expectations and fears which I summarize in this cloud

Expectations cloud PBL5

Strikingly, we share a lot of interests and have quite similar professional backgrounds. We all are related to education. The words develop, learn and education stand out. We all want to learn and to develop new skills and to become more competent educators. Lack of time was a common fear.

However, the word Collaboration is nowhere to be seen in this cloud. The thing is that when we enrolled in this course we thought about our own expectations and maybe wondered: will this course meet my expectations? But we didn’t think much about meeting someone else’s expectations. We integrated into groups and we worked together but we didn’t really understand what this implies. 

Working in a team has different meanings for different people. If we are working together we need to set clear ground rules from the beginning and revisit them from time to time following the group progression. We need to be clear with each other and to be prepared to work asynchronously when we miss the face-to-face meetings. We need to trust each other, be patient with each other and to use a proper language. We can still be open and honest but we need to know how to address each other. No everyone appreciate jokes or understand them in the same way. Be prepared to apologize when need it. I personally believe that often the misunderstanding that happens in a group are not personal but we can make it personal if we don’t stop for a minute to reflect what is going on with a person or within a group.

The word col-laboration means working together toward the same goal. Sometimes we have a strong interest or a coming deadline and our collaborators are not working at our pace or do not share our particular goal. What to do? Shall we run over and do everything by ourselves? Well this is a tricky question. People will probably appreciate us when we do that but they can also hate us for taking all the work and not giving space. In my opinion, this is not good for the development of a collaborative team.

 We have certainly discussed the differences between cooperation and collaboration but did we really understand how to achieve collaboration? A real collaboration? E Pluribus Unum: out of many, one.  Well, maybe not and there is no one to be blamed. To Collaborate is not that easy and it could take more than 11 weeks to develop. Some groups manage to do it and some groups don’t (Susan A. Wheelan’s book “Creating effective teams. A guide for members and leaders”). Team members do not develop at the same time. The important thing is to reflect about it and to expose the factors that contributed to success or failure. This is something that we can take with us for the future and turn it into something positive.


Other sources of frustrations that I am seeing in my group are:

Unstable meeting attendance combined with too little asynchronous work or comments to each other in common spaces.

It is not only that people is not attending meetings but that they are not warning for this. People leave sometimes before the meeting is over. It is important to take clear notes during meetings and publish them in the common spaces so everyone is on the same page. Talk to each other in common spaces, ask questions, be active and show interest. Participate in google docs if that is the designed tool for asynchronous work. Be aware that not everyone will have time to read and comment if we are using different tools than the common google doc. Decide on one common place from the beginning. You can still create your blog or padlet but don’t forget to add in the designed common space.

Poor time availability

We all have too little time and thousand other tasks beside this course: family, students, travel, other job duties…therefore we need to prioritize, to commit and to respect our common agreements in order to avoid stress and finding ourselves working alone when deadlines are coming.


Our common course language is English. However, this is not the native language for everybody. Sometimes we do misunderstand each other. Maybe due to language barrier? Unclear instructions? I think we need to be better at asking questions and interacting more asynchronously if we cannot make it to the meeting. As a facilitator I could make sure that notes are posted after every meeting and that everyone verbally summarizes the take-home message from the meeting.

Dropout causing group instability

That is something that leave us powerless if we cannot prevent the dropout. Especially if we are not so many in the group. Be prepared to accept that with less people the workload will be heavier on the remaining. As a facilitator we may be little more active and help more with the group work but not to take over.

Cognition more than metacognition

I’ve noticed that people gets annoyed when you say: let’s talk about what is happening in this group or about the learning process. This is a non-task related issue to many. This course is very intensive, people have little time and are very focused in achieving results and meeting the course deadlines. I KNOW. However, as a facilitator, my task is to stop the process and deal with frustrations and encourage the metacognitive process when needed. Talk not only about pedagogical issues but also about emotional issues. From my previous experience we know that the emotional component is important to establish the right group climate.

Can we prevent?

I have been watching the group process and trying to discuss these issues from time to time. However, as a good friend said to me, you cannot fight nonexistent problems. In Swedish it is called att måla fan på vägen or to paint the devil on the wall. Conflicts should be addressed when they appear. The things said at the beginning of the course risk to be forgotten very quickly when so much is going on.

What I could do is to introduce a topic and discussion about collaborative work earlier or to introduce these questions during the group presentation?

What do you expect from the course?

What do you expect from the facilitator?

What do you expect from each other?

What is collaboration?

And when the facilitator gets frustrated? How to show feelings in a professional way? Is the facilitator a poker player? A robot? Certainly not! We can be mad sometimes and dislike certain behaviors (Thanks Francisca Frenks for kind advise).

What I think I can do is to be firm, honest and fearless and try to face and solve the conflicts. Here are some of my strategies to cope in a professional way with difficult situations:

Don’t take it personal. Take it as an opportunity to grow and gain experience

Before reacting, talk to other facilitators or mentors 

Read  and write about what is bothering you

Go back and discuss to the group.

If you are a group member you can also do the same. Talk to someone. Talk to your facilitator.

I guess that there is more to be said but I really like you to add your own experiences, advise and feedback.


And as I promised, this post was not about flowers. Actually it is about my group trying to bloom and me trying to help them to burst. 

All images were taken from pixabay and are under CC0 license.

The kind of teacher I want to be

Think outside the box

“It is the supreme art of the teacher to awaken joy in creative expression and knowledge” (Attributed to Albert. Einstein)

I have been blessed with great teachers throughout my life. Both my parents were teachers. At school I recall having wonderful mentors and when, I started to do research I met these people at the National Institute of Oncology and Radiobiology that changed my life by showing me the wonders of using what I knew from school, to solve real scientific problems. Without noticing it, I started to learn through the Problem Based Learning (PBL) approach, that years later came to my aid at LiU.

As a PhD student, I also had a wonderful mentor. He didn’t pave my way and this made me grow as a researcher and as a teacher. During my PhD years, I had the opportunity to mentor several students. For this reason, after my PhD I was more prepared to become PhD supervisor myself.

Thanks to the pedagogical courses that I’ve attended, I gained consciousness about the kind of mentor I wanted to be or, even more important, about the kind of person I wanted my students to become? Now, I realize that thanks to the kindness and cleverness of my previous mentors I strive to be a kind and wise supervisor myself. I am mirroring them.

As individual supervisor, one important thing I’ve learned is that I will not be a better supervisor for solving all the problems myself (Thanks Tina Persson). On the contrary, paternalism will foster dependence rather than autonomy. I have the pleasure to be a co-supervisor of a PhD student who will defend her thesis today! In my relation with this student I tried to be supportive, both at the emotional and scientific levels. I preferred a Contractual Supervisory Style that provides high structure and support (Gatfield T, 2005). However, I was also aware of her evolution towards the end of her PhD journey. This process is compared to a ladder (Hessle S, 1987) where the PhD students need more structure and direction during the first steps and more independence towards the last steps. The climbing of this ladder as well as the PhD journey generates frustrations and we should be prepared to tackle those. However, a good PhD advisor should start encouraging autonomy and leadership from the beginning. Leadership and autonomy come with trust and open dialog between the student and the supervisor. Although, each student differs and we may need to be flexible, all will need emotional support.

As a teacher in Higher Education, one of my goals is to equip the students with the 21st Century Skills (Megan Y.C.A. Kek, 2015) that will make them attractive for the labor market. Next, I will explain these skills in the context of group supervision, during the Tumor Biology Course or Laboratories for medical students.

1-Problem solving

Encouraging to look at problems from different angles, asking questions, making them to understand that complex biological problems may have more than one solution. Make them figure out a problem, to distinguish what is relevant in research or in the clinical practice. When interpreting results make them see the different solutions. Allowing to understand that negative results may be possibilities and not only failures.

2-Network and Collaboration

Making them aware of the existence of personal learning networks (PLN). or connections with people sharing different expertise and common interests. This can be students from upper semesters at the same faculty or students elsewhere. Preparing them to take advantage of each other’s skills. Encouraging leadership by allowing them to try different roles inside a project, lab report or tutorial group. This can be done for face-to-face and for online groups, synchronously and asynchronously by using google+, chat platforms, mail, google docs, voice thread, padlet, etc.

3-Agility and adaptability

What happens when the results from the lab are not the expected ones? For example, when the cells that will be used in the lab contaminate or the precious sample is spilled? Or when the computer crashes in the middle of the presentation? Make them understand that unplanned things happen and they should cope with that.

4-Initiative and entrepreneurship

I would let them propose improvements for a course moment, design certain experiments by choosing between different reagents and assays. I will help them organize their ideas and put them into practice. I will give them the freedom of choice and the possibility to learn by trial and error. I will also show them when to stop and trying something new.

5-Effective oral and written communication

Through group presentations, encouraging the use of different digital and nondigital tools. Making them aware of the different learning styles in a target audience where some people will be more visual, additive, practical or a combination, needing thus different activities to engage their attention.

6-Assess and analyze information

By encouraging the critical review and peer-review. The sources of information have broadened with the technological explosion. Students scan the net looking for videos, blogs, Wikipedia post that deliver faster answers than the course literature. Also, the course literature may not be as updated as the online info. Therefore, it is important to let the students distinguish between factual information and opinion-based information. For example, to appreciate the difference in credibility between a meta-analysis incorporating results from 1000 articles and one article published in a journal of dubious reputation.

7-Curiosity and imagination

In order to make the students understand the importance of what they’ve learned, the Constructive Alignment (John Biggs) is a good method. Some medical students don’t understand the importance of learning the PCR technique at the lab since they claim that in the future they will not need this particular piece of knowledge during patient care and they will not engage in lab work.

During a course, I could explain that PCR is a renowned technique, used all over the world in the labs, not only for research purposes but also to find out patient conditions etc. However, I am not providing concrete examples of how a medical doctor will use this technique in his clinical practice. The Constructive Alignment is about that: aligning the Intended Outcomes of the course (PCR course) to the teaching practice and the assessment. During the laboratories, tutorial groups or seminars, for example, we can discuss examples from real life, construct scenarios where the students need to predict a patient’s condition by analyzing the results of a PCR reaction, or where the students need to understand the limitations of the technique to decide going for another method etc. The assessment is not intended for students to reproduce all theoretical content but to apply what they’ve learned to solve a clinical situation. Students can propose other tests, experimental design, make their hypothesis.

I can use the SOLO taxonomy (Structure of the Observed Learning Outcome) (John Biggs and Kevin Collis in 1982) to create an assessment that build levels of complexity and understanding.  For example, by paying attention to how the students answer the questions I will know about how much they understand and how far they’ve reached in the SOLO taxonomy. I need to design activities that help the students to learn progressively.

These are the levels of the SOLO taxonomy. Within parenthesis is a simplified name of the level and in black characteristic verbs.

1-pre-structural (No idea)

2-Unistructural (One idea: identify)

3-Multistructural (Several ideas: enumerate, describe)

4-Relational (Relate to something: analyze, apply, criticize, compare, explain causes)

5-Extended abstract (Apply to new domain: create, hypothesize, reflect)

The challenge is to take the students to level 5.

During these reflections I can see some advantages in being a researcher and educator trained in PBL: “Instead of seeing changes as something “done to us” we can take command of the changes by using the PBL approach to empower students and teachers and make them engage in productive way of learning” (Megan YCA Kek, 2015).

Higher education is undergoing important changes that requires new level of flexibility and skills among educators as well. The fast-technological development, student decentralization and inter-professional groups are posing new challenges to the teacher core. How can we meet the needs of the students and prepare them for the uncertainties of the future when we are not prepared ourselves?

Therefore, I am learning about Pedagogy based on Information Communication and Technology so called IKT-pedagogik in Swedish. Trying to acquire new digital skills, learning digital tools to apply in my courses, receiving training in online PBL and in online facilitation of inter-professional groups, updating my pedagogical knowledge, acquiring notions of online course and curriculum design, learning how to produce and use Open Educational Resources for my classes and most important the appreciating more openness, networking and collaboration. Now I am willing to continue with this practice as facilitator in future ONLs and to pass my knowledge forward. I would also apply my knowledge to blend some of my courses. However, I am very much aware that blended and online learning is not about replacing teachers with technology. It Is about reaching more students everywhere, supporting and motivating the class with technology, designing and using digital content, expanding the horizons of knowledge and increasing professional development.

Here, I found some examples to To teach with quality in blended environments, Diana Laurillard proposes to prepare a curriculum including these six learning types. She also provides practical examples taken from online (shown below) and traditional classes.

1-Acquisition: Learn from listening to lectures, podcast, demos, videos, reading a book

(Watching animations, videos, listening to podcasts, multimedia, digital resources)

2-Investigation: The learner compares the different sources, criticizes

(Using google Trends, for example, to compare data, Big Data analysis, Reviews on the net etc, polls to assess opinions and draw conclusions)

3-Discussion: Learner exposes ideas, challenges and is challenged by peers and teacher.

(Web conferences, google docs, chats, emails, twitter chats, synchronous and asynchronous online activities)

4-Practice: Learner does something to meet the task goal and uses the feedback from the teacher and class to improve the outcome in relation to the goals

(Models, simulations, microworlds, virtual labs, field trips)

5-Collaboration: Embraces mainly discussion, practice and production. The learner takes place in the building of knowledge.

(Building a common digital output)

6-Production: Teacher motivates the students to show what they’ve learned in the practice

(E-portfolio, visual CV, animations, model, educational resources, slideshows, digital stories, fotos, videos, blogs, homepages, youtube channel)

Personal Learning Networks

This text is part of a chain of events. Just follow the link at the end of the blog post and you will find out more about the collaborative efforts of PBL5. PBL5 is a group of 8 professionals from Sweden and Finland. We belong to different universities, we have different professional, cultural backgrounds and interests. What we have in common is the thirst for knowledge and the passion for sharing what we learn and how we do it.

Some days ago, Alec Couros aroused my curiosity with his webinar about Personal Learning Networks (PLN). I’d not heard that word before but I’d already realized that I needed to get more contacts with other professionals sharing the same interests, having different expertise, I wanted to know about where and how to share ideas, resources, experiences. How to find, select and join a group of people that can help me. So I guess that I already knew about my personal learning networks in an intuitive way.

As Steve Johnson said in his book “Where good ideas come from” : A good idea is a network…

So, I was thinking about the networks that I will need to join in order to survive in my academic environment and came up with these:

1-Research (Breast cancer research)

2-Medical community (Breast cancer challenges and real problems to solve)

2-Funding (Grant writing, crow funding)

3-Entrepreneuship (Economy, implementation)

4-EdTECH (Technology applied to education)

5-Pedagogy (Learning theories and methods)

I am a researcher with interest in technology applied to education and pedagogical development. I need to fund my research and to fund myself in order to do what I like most. Therefore, I would like to have new ideas for my research and to discuss the feasibility of these ideas in a community with similar interests (Research Network). I need to identify the real problems within my field (Medical community), the influencers inside my field and the funding opportunities (Entrepreneurship, Funding network). Moreover, I would like to teach students in blended or online environments using the technology and digital tools available for education (EdTECH) and I would like to deliver with quality and seriousness (Pedagogy).

What tools can I use to build up my PLN?

I’ve neglected twitter for many years but Alec showed me this video, making me realize that my “Twitteracy” (term coined by Christine Greenhow, MSU) was very low. I had participated and enjoyed tweetchats, as good brainstorming opportunities. Sometimes I post in twitter or retweet things but what I am missing is using twitter actively to network and identify people with similar interest. To get new inputs and do research.

What do I need to start using twitter this way?

Check this site

First I had to know more about hashtags (keywords preceded by the pound symbol #keyword) and how to use them and which hashtags I need. I feel like I’m a novice to what everyone already knows: hashtags are useful to track and organize topics in social media.

Here I found this blog  that inspired me to do a twitter experiment 😉

Skärmklipp 2017-03-23 15.27.40

I asked a question in twitter:

I am waiting for answers now but if you know and can help please visit @Gizpe

More than twitter, what else can I use to build my PLN?

Visit some teacher blogs. Some of them have been awarded:

Or to subscribe to a new podcast as suggested by this article

Now continue PBL5 learning journey by following this link

Diversity: a curse or a blessing for online collaboration?

I did this Prezi for LiU pedagogical days. I wanted to share my experiences from the Open Networked Learning course, that I took last year. I believed that this course or a similar one could be an alternative for Linköping University where the teachers are more and more interested in developing their digital skills.

Specially at the Medical Faculty with the imminent decentralization and inter-professionalization of the medical program.

I did it also thinking about the PBL5 group that I am co-facilitating right now at the ONL171.

Skärmklipp 2017-03-17 12.19.46

Even though this is the experience from our PBL group 9, I think you can find it useful if you want to know more about:

-Group diversity. Is it a curse?

-Online facilitation

-What makes a group journey successful?

Behind this work are: Francisca Frenks (video), Sonja Sharp (Slides) Miriam, Åsa, Mohammed and Natalia.  We even intend to present our work at the EDEN 2017 conference and guess what? The EDEN is focusing this year on diversity!

Finally, to answer the question in the title: yes, diversity was a blessing for us. Thanks to the scaffolding presence of the facilitators, a positive group atmosphere and our drive to learn from each other.

Featured image was taken from Pixabay under CC0 licence