Thursday, 19 May 2022

Topic 5: Last journey of ONL221


In music when we see the sign above we are supposed to repeat that entire section bounded by the two pair of dots. 

Though this ONL module has come to a close, this week the last week, it feels like we can add the above musical notation to the end of this week and start all over again. 

I like the approach adopted in this module where i get to feel what a student feels in a blended learning, online, problem-based, group work setting with lots of reading resources available on the module website. In particular I also appreciate that there are two beautiful facilitators supporting our group and standing behind in the "classroom" watching us get out act together, which we seem to do quite seamlessly every time even though the group is separated in both the spatial and temporal dimensions. I also appreciate each member of the group for sharing their thoughts and ideas freely which inspired me to try out new techniques and tools for the new semester.

What I learned from over this period of learning is as follows:

1/ To begin with, it will be to look broader over the issues related to education. I feel my understanding of a thoughtful or reflective educator is still rather primitive and really struggle to appreciate the sociological and cultural aspects of education, not really being able to articulate it in a meaningful way I wish I could.  

2/ Although I have studied and lived outside of Asia for several years (in the UK and Italy) this is the first time for me to do such a project with multi-national colleagues on an education project online. It is enjoyable to listen to different accents from different countries during our group sessions and to share some Singaporean phrases which made most of them laughed. (I won't forget Miro-Board for Mee Rebus quite so soon 😁)

3/ Blogging is quite a nice way of capturing my own thoughts and while I hope some people out there would take some precious time to read my rambling on education, learning and teaching, I benefit from simply writing out to straighten out my over-cooked spaghetti thoughts. 

I think I will stop here. It's 11pm and I made it. 5 blogs in 24 hours. I even made some comments on the blogs others wrote. I never fail to surprise myself.

That's another thing I learn from this module. 

μ•ˆλ…•νžˆ κ²Œμ„Έμš”. 

쒋은 일만 κ°€λ“ν•˜μ‹œκΈΈ λ°”λžŒλ‹ˆλ‹€.

λ‹€μŒ μ‹œκ°„ λ‹€μ‹œ λ§Œλ‚©λ‹ˆλ‹€ μΉœκ΅¬λ“€.

Topic 4: Design for online and blended learning

Topic 4: Design for online and blended learning

I would say I am an advocate for blended learning, especially Blended Learning 2.0 where digital tools and the Internet is interwoven into the learning flow of the module. 

Although video recordings of lectures conducted (either in person or via Zoom) are usually provided for students, the idea of Blended Learning 2.0 is broader and includes asynchronous and synchronous components similar to how a flipped classroom is typically practiced. There will be elements of technology-enabled learning and teaching as well as traditional in person interaction between teacher/facilitator and students. 

Here I would like to share 1 of 3 modules which I have redesigned to align towards Blended Learning 2.0.

The main challenge of this particular module is to teach the National Society of Professional Engineering Code of Ethics which is dry to the students and a drudgery for the teacher. It is also my aim as the teacher to get these budding engineers to actually read the code for themselves and use it as a basis for how they conduct themselves professionally, ethically when they join the workforce. I have attempted several versions of module design and finally settled down to a 3rd version which worked out quite well in that, instead of explanation through every clause in the code, students will have to read it themselves in order to answer a set of true and false quiz prior to  the synchronous session (either in person or live via ZOOM).

In this present design, there are activities students have to do prior, during and after the live session. In the diagram below, there are also some techniques I have adopted to engage students by linking day-to-day ideas (e.g. Tag Line Opening games) as well as real case-studies (e.g. You be the Judge) as well as tutorials where students work in a small group setting of (2 or 3 to a group) to discuss, present, report on selected tutorial questions and a mini project. 

As this module is a core college-based module, all engineering students will go through this fully CA (100% continuous assessment) which require the support from colleagues from every department in the college/faculty. The number of students per enrolment is typically 600 to 700 and this module is offered every semester. 

What I learnt from the designing of this module are as follows:
1. Flipped online classroom format
    - It frees up time to allow for interaction between students and lecturer. Although somewhat stressful because you never know how the questions from students can be posed. Think of yourself as a facilitator who is also learning this wide area of Ethics. Students do appreciate your readiness to admit there are no straight answers for some situations and that we do not know everything about the topic. Always going back to using the Code as a basis to make a reasoned judgement on a certain ethical situation is already an outcome we would like students to have.

2. Getting students to read the Code (for themselves).
-That being wrong can be motivational. To be surprised that one can get a common-sense question wrong cause us to take a close look at the "facts" to see what went wrong. The set of TRUE/FALSE questions who slightly edited from the original wordings in the code but could change the nuance or spirit of the code hence, students who do not read the code properly could easily mistook a seemingly common-sense answer which inadvertently turns out to be wrong. Simple TRUE/FALSE questions are effective in highlighting salient points and enforcing deeper understanding. This promotes deeper thinking, discussions and engagement with the code.

Blended Learning allows a lot of freedom in designing the module to maximise on contact time with students and also to pass the responsibility of learning back to students while we engage them at a deeper level since they will come into class with some knowledge ready to be built upon.

In my opinion, Blended Learning 2.0 is the way to go.


1. Weller, M., van Ameijde, J. & Cross, S. (2018). Learning Design for Student Retention. Journal of Perspectives in Applied Academic Practice, 6(2)

2. Conrad, D. & Openo, J. (2018). Strategies for Online Learning. Engagement and Authenticity. Edmonton: AU Press.

3. Kay, R., H. & Hunter, W. J. (Eds.). (2022). Thrivingonline: A guide for busy educators. Ontario TechUniversity

Topic 3: Learning in communities – networked collaborative learning

Topic 3: Learning in communities – networked collaborative learning 

For a start, in my mind, for collaborative learning to happen in a group, each of the participants must have something to offer that is related to either some knowledge of the topic under discussion or the knowledge on how to get the discussion going. Achieving the former is the purpose of the the existence of the group while the later is the support that is needed to work towards achieving the aim of the existence of the group.

In an online environment, the use of appropriate digital tools at different moments for different needs [1] during the course of the group discussion is important only because it supports the central purpose of the existence of the group. Apart from the choice of appropriate tools, other supporting skills include :- 
  1.     how to carry out successful discussions and interactions, 
  2.     how to encourage positive group dynamics, 
  3.     how to integrate all the thoughts from each participants cogently and 
  4.     drawing out take-away points. 
These are all learning moments as members of a learning community. 

At both of these levels, i.e. the support level and the discussion level, learning opportunities aplenty. 

At the support level, we learn may about new digital collaboration tools which others in the group may have learned through past group experiences and we learn to negotiate the social plane on how to have everyone in the group come to an agreement when decisions, small and big, are needed to move forward. Here is also where the "hidden curriculum" that was discussed with regard to the part on learning to socialize or learning to work with others towards a common goal and become better people at the end of it. 

This part of learning may be intentionally planned by the educator or facilitator of the course for the benefit of the participants but may not be as evident as the course content which the group is formed to work together on as deliverables for the course. The collaborative learning derived from this group exercises depends to some degree the composition of the group and to a larger degree the participants themselves individually. In a poorly performing group, the individual can observe and draw lessons as to why the group performed poorly and how he or she could contribute, lead or teach the other participants good practices learned from past experiences in group settings. This is a form of social learning that educators would like to see in their classes. 

At the discussion level, the learning tend to be focused on abstract ideas, sharing of past practices, expressing of doubts, skepticism, supports and gleanings from past observations. Here, through the exchange of ideas each participants learn new perspectives, get inspired, and form new opinions about the topic. Humans are incredible that by the making of certain sounds in a certain way, we can transmit complex ideas from our brain to somebody's brain across the globe using digital tools connected to the Internet. The part that is most incredible is the forming of ideas and how one can be influenced by another human being. To me this is social learning fundamentally.

As community learning is encouraged, the power of group think or herd mentality cannot be ignored. Since we are social creatures and most would want to be accepted in a group, there has to be safe place for participants to express contrarian views without being judged or excluded. Patience is often required and the role of a objective and fair facilitator is important to create a open and welcoming space within that community. 

Unsurprisingly, contrarian or minority views which are well supported with reasons often are good learning moments for every participants. It helps remind us to keep that judgement door ajar. Keep an open mind is what we hear all the time but practiced much less. It takes time to build up convictions or perspective and it is a messy job to demolish old presuppositions to accommodate new ones.  

To end this blog, I thought it is of interest to gain another perspective on collaborative learning. This time from the world of management. This article published in the MIT Sloan Management Review seems to give a sense of balance to a work-obsessed society constantly connected to social media (a form of social collaboration, isn't it?) and suggests that over doing the collaborative learning can be detrimental to the organization. 

Here is the gist of the paper which I copy and paste here for convenience. 

" With so many digital tools in the workplace, collaboration has gone omnichannel. Given how hyperconnected people are, the authors set out to explore the implications for organizations and teams. In their research, they discovered that always-on connectivity was good for fact finding and information sharing but not for problem-solving, as we tend to assume. For tasks that require imagination, it’s better to alternate between connectivity and quiet focus. Leaders must help establish a good rhythm."

Extracted from [2]

Just like all the nice things in life, we shouldn't have them constantly just because they are nice. 

Practicing a rhythm of sort not only enhances the value but also....

gives everyone a break from everyone.....


1. Dron, J. & Anderson, T. (2014). Teaching crowds: Learning and social media. Athabasca University Press. Fig 3.1, Page 79

2. Improving the Rhythm of Your Collaboration September 3, 2019 | Jesse Shore, Ethan Bernstein, David Lazer | WORKPLACE, TEAMS, & CULTURE

Wednesday, 18 May 2022

Topic 2: Open Learning – sharing and openness

Topic 2: Open Learning – sharing and openness

Cassiopeia A is a supernova remnant in the constellation Cassiopeia. Credit: NASA/CXC/SAO From:  

"Reaching more people."

For this topic, the word I would associate with the idea of "sharing and adopting an open approach to sharing " (or allowing it to be shared by others) is the word Reaching More People

Three words actually. 

In courses I create as part of my teaching in the university, "knowledge" is shared to students but "teaching materials" are shared with no one in particular. The knowledge shared with students is what they receive as the content of the course while the teaching material used is usually not the focus of their study. By teaching material, I mean the overall design of the course, which include the rationale for the choices of certain assessment methods, the particular flow of the contents, the teaching techniques employed to encourage student learning and many other components designed into the course. So there is the course content and there is the teaching material.  

Sharing the course content (i.e. from me to my students) and the sharing of the same  course content from my students to other students, whether these are internal or external students to the university) is usually what I what comes to my mind when talk about "sharing and openness". For this, the idea of openness is exciting to me in that with social media, such as YouTube and TikTok, it is possible to easily share course content to a large audience worldwide. 

However, to be heard is another side of the coin in "sharing and openness" that makes or breaks the idea of sharing content with the world. With so many people offering so many of the same content, it is a crowded place in the Internet. Not knowing how YouTube algorithm works means that my desire to share my knowledge with the world could only be a desire and nothing more. In the world of YouTube or other social media, not knowing how to work along their search engine optimization algorithm, they will likely sideline your noble attempt and only be assigned a far corner of the digital universe much like a star waiting to be discovered. 

So desiring to share openly in the digital world and to have people hear what you are sharing are really the two hands that need to clap together. This is unlike the scenario in the university where my contents are shared to a captive audience of 100 to 200 students.   

I have a YouTube channel aimed at sharing knowledge related to numerical methods (which is a branch of engineering and mathematics commonly used for predicting values of discreet points of an object based on the solving of linear or differential equations). The process of preparing the content to make it YouTube-worthy was fun but not without its share of frustration. The only thing that kept me going was the thinking that someone out there might find this burning ball of gas and finds it useful, then decided to share to his friend and friend's friend and so on and on. As it gets shared multiple times, some sort of chemical explosion would occur and who knows it will get viral and ....I will become known as.... the sensational, the unpredictable, the unfathomable, Master of the Numerical Methods! The only nation in this world where this sort of desire meets reality is in the realm of imagination.

Now coming back down to reality, the fact of the matter is that the probability of that happening is even smaller than being discovered. Perhaps I should realistic and focus on changing the world one student at a time and hope for the best while continue to produce high quality content to share with the world. With this selfless thought, I could keep frustration and disappointment at bay and not eye ball the viewer counter every now and then for sign of life. 

Another thought on the sharing of course content. In recent times, it has come to my knowledge that my course materials (and those of my other colleagues) are available on sites such as or and I have certainly not uploaded them there. My only conclusion is that present or former students of my course have uploaded it for the benefits of new incoming students. Bless their hearts. Strangely though I like the idea of openness when it comes to knowledge and education, I don't like how my course notes is shared in the "dark alley of the Internet". (tsk, tsk). 

Or perhaps I shouldn't be concerned since it is helping some desperate students doing a similar course somewhere out there and simply needs better notes to help them get that A*.

Is there a solution to eliminate such "dark-alley transactions" over something as addictive as a potential high A* grade? 

May I suggest that being open about knowledge by making the course notes downloadable from legitimate sites without charge covered under the Creative Commons license [1] to way to go? Personally I have benefitted from course notes published by other colleagues from universities abroad either from their own website or other proper channels and have wondered why they are so generous and open about their creative work. Although the knowledge itself (numerical methods) is common textbook knowledge, it is the presentation of the knowledge, the application examples, the worked solutions and explanations that make the material unique to the content creator and therefore qualify as a piece of creative work. I don't want my creative work to be copied or "improved-on" without properly crediting my effort. 

Perhaps this is the same struggle many educators [2] have when considering making their work open to the public, open in the sense that there is no barrier to access and all the questions, skepticism and implications involved. Perhaps also, for me, I have put too much emphasis on wanting to be credited so something which, to be really honest, the result of learning from other people through the years over coffee or tea [3,4] without crediting them or being asked to do so. 

Furthermore there is really nothing significantly new I have contributed that is really ground-shaking and of the scale of a supernova. Perhaps I should just relax, chill and just enjoy the process of sharing openly. What's good may return to me but if it doesn't just be thankful I played a part in it, whether it is credited to me not.       

That's a nice place to end today's reflection.

  2. Weller, M. (2014Weller, M. (2014). Battle for Open: How openness won and why it doesn’t feel like victory. London: Ubiquity Press.

  3. Ellis, M. (2008). An introduction to the coffee-house: A discursive model. Language &  communication28(2), 156–164.


Topic 1: Online participation & digital literacies


Topic 1: Online participation & digital literacies

Elisa.garcia.1994, CC BY-SA 4.0 <>, via Wikimedia Commons

The American Library Association (ALA) defines digital literacy as “the ability to use information and communication technologies to find, evaluate, create, and communicate information, requiring both cognitive and technical skills.”

While the above definition could be a good starting point for me to start to think about what digital literacies mean (to an educator like myself) I thought perhaps I would like to ask myself what it means to be literate, whether it is achieved through digital means (implying access to the Internet) or conventional means of ink on paper (implying access to the brick and mortar library). The more I think about it in this way, it seems that one the clear differences is the ease and speed of access to information

I cannot remember when was the last time, I step into a library (even before the COVID pandemic) although I frequently go to international book shops such as Kinokuniya. I go to Kinokuniya because I can browse through titles, pick one up, run by thumb through and quickly get a feel if I like the book or not. Another reason is that I like the smell of new books. Whether I eventually succumb to the temptation of purchasing the book or not depends on no small extent the attractiveness of how the information is presented in the book, the ease of of viewing and acquiring information from the of the book and if it makes financial sense.

Thinking about it, another key difference between acquiring information on the Internet and from the pages of a book is the cost of acquiring that information (or investment if you like it better). I am not comparing the e-version (true or pirated copy) and hardcopy of the same title but thinking about how much of the same information is available on the Internet for free (of charge) and which are freely available (ease of accessing). A lot of good information is free and freely available on the Internet if we want to be become digital literates. 

Furthermore, it is also clear that in order for me to get to the library or bookshop, I have to take the time to get there, which is not as easy and fast compared to acquiring that information from the Internet, if accessible. 

But does the way this term "digital literacies" is commonly understood in the literature simply mean becoming a literate person by acquisition of information (or knowledge) through the Internet? Using the Internet for acquisition of information does not preclude someone from acquiring additional information from conventional printed sources such as the library or bookshop? *

Certainly the end goal of both digital literacies or "non-digital literacies" is, using the partial definition by ALA, "the ability ... to find, evaluate, create, and communicate information, requiring both cognitive and technical skills." The difference would then be the "use of information and communication technologies" 

Perhaps it is not about the means through which we can be educated (or become literate) at all, whether digitally or non-digitally. 

Let's shift our view a little and look at this from a different angle. Perhaps what "digital literacies" means is WHEN using the Internet for acquire information, we exercise certain abilities, or behaviours, or practices as we go about the process of handling information, such as finding that information, evaluating its veracity, making judgement of its value on the go as we consume the information as well as the process of producing information and how we go about telling the world that information. The first part sounds like what an editor does in terms of filtering truths from lies (and half truths) from a first haul of information. The second part sounds like what an author does in terms of how an author offer the world a part of his intellectual life and ideas through words, images, sounds - content creator.

Just as what numerical literacy and financial literacy would mean in that it is the ability to understand and handle basic math skills for the former and managing your finances for the latter, digital literacy would mean the ability to use the digital tools and handle what the Internet can offer in terms of ease, speed and cost effectiveness as we consume and create content thoughtfully, carefully and responsibly. When accessing and publishing information on the Internet and use of various digital tools connected directly or indirectly to the Internet will require mastery at least at some basic level to effectively consume and create contents through this digital universe of zeros and ones.

Learning to teach in this digital space would imply ability to handle the Internet as a tool where ever your starting point is as a user of this technology. As development in the EduTech continues at an ever increasing pace, we are novices and experts at the same time depending on our depth of encounter of the digital tool or environment we are in. Whether we are the teacher or the student, digital literacy needs to be updated as much as software and apps get updated to be able to handle this tool effectively and create value for all involved in the educational process.


*of course, these days, our brick and mortar libraries have mostly all upgraded themselves by offering digital contents in addition to the standard offerings of printed medium. Having information in a digital form allows much easier access by anyone who wants to access them as well as the ease of distributing that information with the press of just a button.

Thursday, 24 March 2022

 There are so many digital tools available these days to help the educator enhance engagement with students online. This is one of the "problem statements" we have been looking at in PB04 and I volunteered to look into this particular one: How do we decide which is the best digital tool in the module we teach. How do we decide?

I found this article by Miral Gibson, Deputy Director of Education, Roehampton University  helpful: 

Friday, 11 March 2022

 Coursera and Udemy are excellent sources full of examples of high-quality online teaching offering features such as the following


  • Pre-recorded videos
  • Live sessions and office hours
  • Real-world projects
  • Peer collaboration
  • Web and mobile access
If my current NUS online course can be modified to have such features, could I then mount my course as a Coursera or Udemy course? and earn some money at the same time?
Would anyone want to do an academic course in Numerical Methods? Or could I publish my course on YouTube?

What makes an online course effective? If the 5 features outlined above are included, would that make the course effective for student learning? What is the benefit of attending a face-to-face course in university if learning online via courses one can find in Coursera or Udemy are equally good if not better?

Topic 5: Last journey of ONL221

  In music when we see the sign above we are supposed to repeat that entire section bounded by the two pair of dots.  Though this ONL module...