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Building trust in blended learning

In my line of work, as an e-learning designer in the corporate world, I seldom get the opportunity to teach in the more traditional context. What I do is mostly creating a product for people to learn from on their own, without the help of a teacher. I do however have an agreement for cooperation with a company which wants me to produce a blended learning course in the next few months, and chances are I will also be facilitating the online meetings for them and possibly teach some during the IRL sessions. Topic 4 gave me inspiration and highlighted a few things that I will make sure to incorporate in my course.

One of the ideas behind the course that the company wants me to make a blended learning version of, is to create a community. When the participants have passed the examination and gets their certificate, they also get access to this community. This means that a learning network is already in place once they are ready - but I as a course producer and facilitator also have to establish a sense of community with open communication and trust during the course. This is also what's stated in Vaughan, Cleveland-Innes and Garrison's "Teaching in blended learning environments (2013):

"The following principles provide a map and guide to creating and sustaining purposeful communities of inquiry: 

1. Plan for the creation of open communication and trust. 
2. Plan for critical reflection and discourse. 
3. Establish community and cohesion. 
4. Establish inquiry dynamics (purposeful inquiry). 
5. Sustain respect and responsibility. 
6. Sustain inquiry that moves to resolution. 
7. Ensure assessment is congruent with intended processes and outcomes."

As a former student of the IRL course that I'm to rework as a blended learning course I've noticed that open communication and trust is key in this particular course. A lot of participants are unsure of their own competence within the area and are afraid to say or do something wrong. This means that it's more important than ever for the facilitator to create a safe environment, something I discussed in my previous blog post about Personal Learning Networks.

Finally, one thing that has become obvious during my time as a student in different courses during the years is the importance of selection. As a teacher you will have to "kill your darlings". Sometimes we come up with so many great ideas, and we want to try them all, but we need to choose - and choose wisely. Otherwise we end up doing exactly what Vaughan, Cleveland-Innes and Garrison warn for in their "Teaching in blended learning environments (2013):

"The key is to avoid, at all costs, simply layering on activities and responsibilities until the course is totally unmanageable and students do not have the time to reflect on meaning and engage in discourse for shared understanding."

References: Vaughan, N. D., Cleveland-Innes, M., & Garrison, D. R. (2013). Teaching in blended learning environments: Creating and sustaining communities of inquiry. Edmonton: AU Press


  1. Very interesting post, Sara, thank you for sharing. Topic 4 was about online course design and the importance of community building through trust. Now what measures do you think will help maintain the community after the members completed the course? I have rearely seen an alumni community really working well with active members and meetings. Maybe ONL is the exception?
    If yes, why? What are they doing differently?

  2. Innovation versus production is an issue for course designer always. For students, it is balance between too many activities or some but meaningful, so it is manageable. Great post.


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