3c tree for online learning

This is an attempt to visualise some of the findings of the recent online PBL trial.

Once upon a time there was the 3c tree for online learning

Once upon a time there was the 3c tree for online learning...

through supportive facilitation we will all start communicating...

through supportive facilitation we will all start communicating...

and lay the foundations of a community...

and lay the foundations of a community...

in which we will all be able to collaborate...

in which we will all be able to collaborate...

and learn together to (co-)construct new knowledge.

and learn together to (co-)construct new knowledge.

The above is a very simplistic representation of my thoughts linked to the role the human factors play within online PBL and other online learning activities more generally. I felt the need to create the 3c tree. It helped me understand better how the human factor, and especially online facilitation, influences and to what extend online collaborative learning beyond peer-to-peer support structures. Facilitation is what holds it all together!

Gif version of the 3c tree for online learning

3c tree for online learning

3c tree for online learning

3C tree for online collaborative learning

3C tree for online learning

Alpha Version: 3C tree for online learning, an attempt to visualise my thoughts

an attempt to organise and visualise my thoughts (warning! this is not
a model but could be developed into one!) linked to the evaluation
of the online PBL trial I am working on at the moment. Images
created based on some sketches made in the train on pink sticky
notes, digitalised with Photoshop and action added at http://www.loogix.com Captions are missing at the moment from the visualisation seen here. A more complete visualisation will follow soon. Not sure how I will get the captions on… so that they don’t look like foreign bodies. I will try my best.

Making also good progress with my dissertation. Just some more work is needed to finalise the draft. Feeling more positive already. I still have to write this paper for the PBL conference. Deadline is a bit later in January. I hope I will make it. I have to!
Happy New Year!

PBL data



Back here to check where I am with my online PBL trial completed a few weeks ago thanks to all participants and the 2 facilitators. In total, we had 2 drop-outs (work and family reasons) but both groups come up with solutions to the given scenario and provided feedback to each other. So, mission accomplished. There, were of course a number of issues, which are coming out of the data and are in line with my own observations and I find that really interesting. More on that to follow further down.

I have now completed all interviews, except 1 participant from whom I will hopefully hear this week. I have to admit that I felt overwhelmed by the data collected through the interviews. The good thing is that it is so rich and will help me to capture the variation of the experience. It also helps that everybody who completed the trial was interviewed. A few participants had technical problems and we couldn’t use skype (used the MP3 Skype Recorder– really good!!!) or any other technology to talk and record and we emailed each other and had, if I can say conducted an asynchronous interview. It worked but I have to admit that the data I received by speaking with participants and facilitators directly, was richer. Let’s hope that the remaining participant will respond to my invitation.

After recording the interviews, I had to transcribe them. I had heard when you do it yourself you really get to know your data. Not that I was looking forward to transcribing these 30-40min interviews but this gave me hope that the time spent wouldn’t be wasted. And it definitely wasn’t. I ended up with loads of pages in Word. What next? I went for excel and created a table to insert the data and create categories as I was going along. Not as easy at it sounds and I definitely haven’t finished with the categories and will probably have to re-think my approach to categories anyway. We will see in the next few days. But I would like to use this opportunity to share with you the very very first findings:

Almost nobody, including the facilitators had participated as a learner or tutor in online programmes before. Scary! However, all participated because they found the idea interesting, wanted to find out about online PBL and explore if it could be used in own practice. That was encouraging. Also, the opportunity to work with colleagues from other institutions and other disciplines was also a factor why most decided to participate in this trial. Some of the participants stated that they had negotiated with their own institutions to use work done during this trial for assessment for one of their PgCert modules. I was very pleased to find out about that and I wish the facilitators knew about that!


  • Time seems to come up again and again. Everybody was very busy!
  • The technology and tools used.
  • Working 100% online problematic.
  • Some commented that asynchronous communication slowed things down
  • The social element was missing and many commented on this!!!
  • Facilitation! This was the biggest issue of all and recognised by participants and the facilitators themselves.

Suggestions made by participants and facilitators:

  • Facilitators to receive training in advance
  • More structured and supportive approach to facilitation
  • Arranging regular synchronous meetings and
  • participants and facilitators to get to know each other and create the foundations of a learning community from the very beginning.


  • Everybody found it a useful experience and learnt a lot despite the above issues
  • The trial provided an insight into the problems of working fully online, engaging in PBL (as a student or facilitator) and made them think of developing strategies to resolve these
  • Participants and facilitators see a potential in using online PBL with some adjustments to resolve the above issues but most feel that blended PBL would work better. Nothing can replace face-to-face sessions – many told me during the interviews.

The above are my very first observations, which will be refined further after more thorough analysis of the data.

The next 2 weeks will be very exciting and will enable me to immerse in the data attempting to make sense of it all.

random thoughts and things



I have been away from this blog for a while now. Or at least it appears this way… some of my posts have remained as drafts. But I feel it is time to return and re-surface. The truth is that I was also blogging on our LDU/ADU space and shared there my thoughts about the core PGCAP module and other activities I was involved or was thinking about.

However, other things have happened during that time. The PBL trial is now almost over as well. Final questionnaires need to be completed and interviews organised. Transcribing the interviews will be exciting but I think I already feel a bit overwhelmed with the amount of data I will collect. We will see. Still a lot of work to do on this.

What else, in the process of starting to write something with 2 of our PGCAP participants. I am really looking forward to that. Actually I am not just looking forward to that. It is very exciting!!! More to come very shortly.

There are plans to use the MoRe model in cohort 2 with my tutee group. Creating the space and setting it all up at the moment. I think there is a huge potential to use it within Academic Development. The key is to be there, to facilitate learning. People seem to think online learning just happens on its own…

Also thinking to come back and reflect within this space in the next semester but at the moment I am not sure. Chrissi think, think, think and decide. We will see.

living with constant change

well, we won’t be able to use categories after all… had to decide for tags. This was the easy option without changing rights. Sometimes, we just have to go for the easy option and think on our feet. Nothing wrong with that!

I have to admit that I assumed that authors could add categories within wordpress, but apparently that is not the case, unless you go and add rights following a specific procedure, which I started looking at but it seemed too complicated at this stage. I should have checked that earlier!!! Anyway, the tags are also a good solution and I have decided to monitor posts and add tags if not used, so that when I come to analyse the data, it will be a bit easier for me.

So, no new categories but yes to tags! Participants are still able to select from existing categories. I have do look further into the difference of categories and tags. I think the difference is in the rights, who can add, edit what and there are good reasons for that depending on the project. Categories seem to work at project/admin level. Tags seem a more personal approach to categorisation. Must explore further.

Useful link to who can do what within wordpress. Just click here to view the default rights.

very useful meeting

We had the opportunity to have a chat on Skype, the 2 PBL tutors who participate in the trial and myself. I should have done this before the trial started… communication is so much more effective when you actually talk to the other person… and can clarify things faster. It somehow feels less complicated. In a written message it is easy to loose track and mis-understand or not understand at all. I am happy that we managed to find the time to have that skype chat today. Issues were identified and some of them resolved. Collectively, we came up with some solutions. I think one of the most significant one is the use of categories when posting. Introducing the ones below, will make things easier for everybody.

For me as well, since I am most of all interested in how participants experience this trial and their reflective accounts. This new system, will help me identify their reflections with a mouse click. Super… if, of course, the categories are used. Somebody will have to monitor in the background if that is the case and this will be me.

We decided to introduce the use of categories


for now to make it easier to access what is posted. All existing posts have now been categorised. We need to let participants know to select one of the above categories when they post something new.

Also, it would be good to untick the ‘allow pings’ button before publishing something new that we don’t get everybody else’s posts within the trial space. Not excactly sure how pinging works but outside posts seem to be linked to ours. COuld I maybe change the default settings? Will have to check that one out as well.

It was also suggested that PBL tutors could subscribe to receive email notifications of any new posts, which would save a lot of time and energy checking the trial space and keeping on top about what is happening. We need to let participants know about that as well because it will make things easier for them as well.

How I feel at the moment? I think PBL tutors have now a better understanding of the trial and what is planned to happen and their involvement. Already PBL tutors have taken a more active approach and are establishing an online presence among the participants and have started engaging in a dialogue.

The weekend has started but I can’t stop thinking about this trial.

slow start but getting there

little feet, little steps... the wings are opening

little feet, little steps... the wings are opening

Officially we started on the 6th of September the online PBL trial. It took us a while to sort out the technology and mainly to get the wordpress accounts created and link them to the group blog. Everybody is now happy, am I right?, and the ethical issue has also been resolved.

I have to remember that it is a small group and took quite a while, what could one do for larger groups? I think self-registration would definitely be a big bonus. We are all sorted now.

First posts have started appearing despite the fact that PBL tutors are not present yet. They are on their way, so to speak and will be live on Monday the latest. I can just feel, at the moment, that we definitely need a facilitator in online groups, somebody who co-ordinates what is happening, how and when. It might not have to be the tutor. It could be somebody who takes the lead from within the group but then this person would have to have the support of his/her peers. And there are other issues linked to that as well into which I am not going to go now.

A mini meeting with the PBL tutors has been planned and Monday they will be ready to start. I am stepping back and observe in the background. This is the hardest of it all, because I would love to be part of it. The nature of this research project, however, doesn’t let me… I hope that I will be able to re-create such an approach in the near future with our PGCAP participants. We will see.

big day…



… for the online PBL trial is approaching. Monday, the 6th of September. Just emailed participants. I hope I didn’t forget anything at this stage. Went through the trial space again and made more changes. Will everything go well??? Hm. We will see. I am feeling a bit nervous and am trying to think of something that I forgot. At the moment, I can’t think of something. The first week will show.

There was a good interest in the PBL trial and it is a shame that I couldn’t enlarge the number further. Would need more PBL tutors, that was the main problem… Perhaps in the future, a similar project could run that would join up 2 institutions and 2 PgCert programmes, 2 whole cohorts! I am now running again with my ideas. Let’s just focus on this small scale experiment and see how it goes first before making big(ger) plans.

Already, I feel that I am learning so much from this experience and it hasn’t even began yet. Will keep you all posted ;o)


climbing begins

climbing begins

There I thought I wouldn’t find anybody to participate in the little online PBL trial and now suddenly I am receiving loads and loads of responses, even from far far away and as far as Singapur. Very impressive. Mailing lists do work! At least the SEDA one! So, hopefully, by the end of this month, I should have the 6 participants I need. I am already thinking of increasing the number of the groups but am not sure if I should do it. It is hard to turn people away, especially if they are so keen to participate. I think I might add 1 participant per group, so that we have 4 max in each group, but no more. Larger groups can be problematic in online settings. I have personal (bad) experience and learnt from it. Of course, it doesn’t mean that it would never work… anyway.

My initial idea was to run the trial with people who are starting a new PgCert or have already started a programme last academic year. Should I open it up to other groups, for example individuals who already completed the PgCert? But then the focus of the research project would shift. Perhaps this could be done in the future… think, think, think.

It would be really nice to trial it with different groups. However, at the moment, I need to focus on the group I picked. Why did I pick PgCert participants? Well, I would like to explore if this approach could be used within the PgCert and at some point move beyond the trial and use it with a whole cohort. I am sure changes will need to be done. But first of all I need to investigate how it will work this time. Will it work? We will see. Again, looking ahead, I am thinking that perhaps a whole module could be delivered using a PBL format. I wouldn’t go for the whole programme. Variety is the spice of life!

It is getting exciting now! The PBL tutors are already working hard on the scenario and everything should be ready for the 6th of September. It is happening now… well almost ;o)


no shortcuts!

no shortcuts to get to the top!!!

I have made good progress with my online PBL research project. I am positive that the literature review will be ready by the end of August. Well, the draft is there already and more.

Do I enjoy literature reviews? I know Adam does, he told me the other day! I think I enjoy reading what other people have to say and find out about their studies and experiments. Many times it confirms my own findings and that is really fascinating. Sometimes, however, you read something and think, that can’t be right, no way. But that is ok too. Wouldn’t it be boring if we would all agree. I am getting side tracked here… do I enjoy composing literature reviews? I actually don’t know, if I do, or if I don’t. I have to admit that I find it challenging and always the hardest bit is to make a start and organising materials. Many times I find myself re-arranging things and it feels like moving furniture around. Then of course, some things, end up on the skip too and usually there is too many pieces of furniture… like in real life. The process of writing a literature review is like climbing a huge mountain. My legs get tired as soon as I go upwards on this mountain. Downwards, I feel much lighter and happier, all the hard work has been done.

… I don’t know why I wrote the above. It wasn’t my intension when I started typing this evening. I guess, I needed it out of my system. Maybe it is Adam’s fault who told me that he loves literature reviews and that made me think.

Anyway, what I do enjoy is the experimenting part and recording raw findings. This is the bit that fascinates me most. I am really looking forward to the trial and hope to find my 6 participants. Nobody yet… unfortunately. Just the PBL facilitators and that is great! I know it is summer now and many are on a beach somewhere… but I have to find them soon. The idea and plan was to start the trial in September… this year.

Will send the email again and contact a few people I know within other HE institutions. Looking back, I am thinking that it was probably not a good idea to try and recruit PgCert participants for this trial… I could have opened it up to a wider audience… but, but, but… and there are a few of them. It was important for me that it was for PgCert people. Maybe I should have designed it in a different way and discussed the trial with my manager so that it could perhaps be linked to an assessed task on our programme. Was I too ambitious? Will it be too hard to find 6 PgCert participants from 6 different programmes? I understand that everybody will be busy with the programme when it starts in Sep/Oct and I really would get only enthusiasts who would be willing to spend a few hours a week on the trial. This is the thing! Time! Will I find people who will make the time to participate??? I have to come up with an alternative strategy, just in case I don’t get anybody! While I am writing this now, I start making connections and this might hopefully lead to an idea. We will see.

So, more thinking for me ;o)

Biggest surprise so far? How little I have found about PBL within Academic Development!