Topic 4 Design for online and blended learning

PBL, is a pedagogical idea and method where students are divided in small base groups composed by 6-9 students and a base group leader. PBL was implemented at Linköping University in 1986 and is a good mix of self learning and reflection about the learning process. The word ”teacher” is banned from the PBL word list and instead there is a base group leader who overlooks the PBL process and make sure the students stay on track.

For students coming from a traditional classrum, where a teacher instruct the students about what to learn, it might be little difficult to fully understand what PBL presuposes. In terms of group work, self discipline, self responsability, contribution, social skills, etc.

For instance, I observed this in a course called HEL1 from Health, Ethics and Learning. Some of the participants came directly from high school and never heard a word about PBL. After some PBL sessions the students believed they’d engaged the HELL course instead…the reason? They felt unsure about how to handle their own individual and group learning while meeting the goals of the program.

This experience gave me the idea of designing a PBL course for dummies aimed to show to these type of students what is PBL and also that PBL is actually fun and useful for the future.

I must say that this course idea materialized thanks to the ONL that push me into Topic 4 and thanks to my awesome PBL9 group that shared the same experiences and interests.

To meet the requirements of Topic 4, the most challenging topic to date, we were introduced to two models: the ADDIE model and the Five Step model.

Soon after our first group meeting we decided to go for the Five Steps because it was develop with online learning in mind.

So we were heading now, not only toward PBL but toward PBL online.

The Five Step model was designed by Gilly Salmon and is widely used in higher education for learning and teaching online. Here, the role of the e-moderator or e-facilitator is key.

Participants progress through 5 steps and the role of the e-moderator is to support the student engagement and online learning using online activities (e-tivities).

Briefly, step 1 is access and motivation. Here, the students become familiar with the online environment, the platforms for communication and participate in social networking and group games. Step 2 is about online socialization or meeting the actual working group and e-moderators. Step 3 is dedicated to information exchange and it is when the students start to work on a group task together. Step 4 or knowledge construction, is to finalize the group task, to present results together and finally Step 5 is for development or reflection.Step 5 is a metacognitive moment where students reflect not only about what they learned but also how they learned it.

To align our PBL course for dummies to this five step model was NOT easy, I remember sitting until 12 am struggling with ideas but luckily someone in the course made clearer instructions and things started to move again.

Yes, clear instructions are important also in course design!  Also to identify the overall purpose and goals of the course and the target audience. So someone in our group proposed to start by the end and that made things a lot easier: What is the intended output?

I must say that our own group meetings have become very effective by now. In one of these meetings the idea of creating a home page just popped out and I embraced it with enthusiasm. So we took this challenge and we created a whole home page for a whole course! Figure it!

The platform that we used is called openlearning but there are also google sites and Wix. Both provides great flexibility, allows collaboration (google sites at least) and are quite intuitive. Openlearning was not that intuitive but we make it work together and it was fantastic what we did in the group.

If you register as a student into our home page you will find a welcome message, clear instructions and functioning links under HOME, you will also find the course purpose and who is the target. Under Learning outcomes you will find what skills you will acquire after passing this course

And then under Learning activities/module 1/Introduction, the students are encouraged to socialize in the big group, get familiar with Adobe Connect and a padlet is proposed to write about themselves. Taken together these pages make for the Step 1.

Further on under Learning activities/module 1 you will find several scheduled meetings corresponding to steps 2-4 where the students are encouraged to perform different e-tivities. And finally the last meeting  (Step 5) is for reflection.

In addition, there are group spaces where students post their findings and suggested learning materials and tools. However, we didn’t have time to make an intro video, the assessment is missing as well as the feedback after the course.

I must also mention that the five step model have been criticized for excluding other learning ideas, for being rigid in its implementation, for failing into taking account individual learning styles and because access and motivation, for example, cannot only be restricted to step 1 when those are ongoing issues throughout the entire course see Pam Moule’s article.

Now after implementing this model,  I found that we would need more time to test it but a model implementation very much depend on the person who implement it right?

During this topic we also developed two supporting materials in form of videos.

The first video was intended for students from a high school in Tranås. These students were visiting Linköping University to get inspiration about higher education and of course we have to explain for them what PBL was.

What I liked most about this video is the fact that my coleagues, being PBLers themselves, didn’t need so much instructions to solve the cogwheels problem using a problem based learning approach.

The second video is an interview with our co-facilitator and entrepreneur Francisca Frenks. She owns a company called, organizing online courses and working with online teams. I liked this interview because it gives a perspective for a future, outside academia and helps to understand the advantages of being responsible for our own learning and stresses the importance of collaborative work.

So in summary, in Topic 4 I learned the following:




The initial picture was taken from Pixabay under CC rights


16 thoughts on “Topic 4 Design for online and blended learning

  1. Hi @Gizeh Great that you painted you process so clear.In your shortlist of “lessons learned” I recognize a lot of my own course design assumptions. THX for this great summary. Please let me know if your own online corse “PBL for dummies” is ready. I will give you comments if you like. It is a pleasure to work with you.


  2. What a fab idea well done PBL9 such a shame about the technological problems in the Adobe room at the Webinar 😦 Would have been great to see your presentation of it.


  3. I really liked your idea about PBL for dummies! That is something that I will keep in mind for our online activities, an introduction not only to the activity but also to e-learning. Thank you for sharing 🙂


  4. Hej Gizeh (aka Unicorn? :-)), I agree with Maddy, what a shame we didn’t get to see your presentation at the closing seminar! It sounds like your group did a fastastic job. I am also a bit surprised by your comments that, though PBL type of education is quite a bit used at your university, you still feel the need to educate about what it is to your students. Especially for the B.Sc. students, fresh out of highschool. I only teach in the M.Sc. and PhD level at my university, and I thought it was the lack of PBL/ONL type education in B.Sc. part that was partly to blame for the apprehension I encountered in my courses. Somehow you would think that those fresh from highschool are still open enough and in fact used to group work. But apparently not! But your iniative about having an ‘about PBL’ type course sounds great, and I think it is in line with some other blogs I have read so far, that we all come to the conclusion that we cannot simply implement ONL courses, but that we also have to ‘massage’ the process along the way!


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