Schmooze or lose


I must say that after 10 weeks I feel somewhat attached to my PBL-group. And trust me, I didn’t think that was going to happen after that first chaotic week. As I reflect back on the course I started to think of how that social attachment process happens.

A couple of years ago I did a research project about Stockholm’s health care system. More specifically why so few patients used the e-services for healthcare, such as health care guidance and applying for descriptions online.

The leaders in the city thought the problem was that people didn’t know about this kind of services. And to solve the problem they wanted to inform all of Stockholm population about the e-services. So they wanted to do a classic push-marketing (sadly they are still doing it…)

Anyway, the worst thing is that I actually agreed with them, well, until I meat the customers, the patients. I interviewed a lot patients and it actually took me a couple of interviews before I meat someone that actively used the health e-services provided.

This first interview with a patient that used the e-services gave me an insight. The patient I interviewed was a woman in her mid 40 with two kids that were always ill in someway. She used almost all the e-service tools that her health care center provided; mailing, calling, descriptions… you name it. So how came she used the e-services when so few others didn’t?

First of all she didn’t have much knowledge about technology so it wasn’t that. She told me she had only been using the e-services for about a year since she recently had been moving and got appointed to a new health care center. Ignorant as I was, I asked why she didn’t use them before, because it´s basically the same e-service tools at every health care center.

She answered me:

“But I didn’t know the doctor at the other place!”

Of course, she had only started to use the e-services after she had built up a trust to the doctor. The doctor knew her problems. The problem had never been about the e-tools or pushing information it was about the trust with she used the system with.

I think it’s the same with e-learning. In this course it took I while before we had built up a relationship within the group. This is also well documented in the literature of creating online communities. In their influential article Roberts and McInneney (2004) recommend a forming stage or a warm up period in any course to build that social community for online learning.

Since my background is in research psychology I couldn’t help to think of a classical study on negotiation. Nadler (2004) showed that students who used some social lubrication before negotiation had a significant higher ratio of reaching an agreement. This social lubrication and relation building is essential for any kind of exchanges, especially such as learning.

Maybe the best example of creating that initial social lubrication and commitment to a course can be found here at KTH. Every autumn something weird is happening at the school. Students dress up in weird cloths and play crazy drinking games. It´s the annual kick of at KTH.

My final reflection is that it here online leaning must start, in building the underlying social community. After all the need to belong is fundamental for humans (Baumeister & Leary). If e-learning wants to grow and become bigger then campus education it has to learn how to build social relationships.

E-learning – Schmooze or lose!



Some other articles on commitment and relationship building

Aragon, S. R. (2003). Creating social presence in online environments. New directions for adult and continuing education2003(100), 57-68.

Cialdini, R. B., Cacioppo, J. T., Bassett, R., & Miller, J. A. (1978). Low-ball procedure for producing compliance: commitment then cost. Journal of personality and Social Psychology36(5), 463.

Nadler, J. (2004). Rapport in legal negotiation: How small talk can facilitate e-mail dealmaking. Harvard Negotiation Law Journal, 9, 225–253

Morris, M., Nadler, J., Kurtzberg, T. R., & Thompson, L. (2002). Schmooze or lose: Social friction and lubrication in e-mail negotiations. Group Dynamics Theory, Research, and Practice, 6(1), 89–100

McInnerney, J. M., & Roberts, T. S. (2004). Online learning: Social interaction and the creation of a sense of community. Educational Technology & Society,7(3), 73-81.

Schoebi, D., Karney, B. R., & Bradbury, T. N. (2012). Stability and change in the first 10 years of marriage: does commitment confer benefits beyond the effects of satisfaction?. Journal of personality and social psychology102(4), 729.


Addicted to activities


Monday. Weekend-talk at lunchtime. So what did I do this weekend? I went to maybe the worst bar in Stockholm! One of those really crappy bars, you know that bar with weird tasting beer, the discolored furniture’s and that smell! Service? Nope!

So why did I go? O yes, because they have the best pub-activity in town. I just love a good pub-quiz!

This is also the reason I got really excited about Gilly Salmons talk on E-tivities. Because for me this is what learning is all about. It’s not about the furniture’s in the bar. It’s not about the platform of the course. It’s about the activities.

Just as Gilly mentioned, it´s about creating does smart scaffolding strategies for online learning. Or not even creating them, just steel the classroom strategies and implement them in online courses. There is also a lot of research showing that effective scaffolding techniques that emphasizes on collaborative learning can promote effective learning and help student to achieve learning outcomes.

(see eg. Armellini & Salmon, 2007; Brindley et al., 2009; Salmon, 2013, pp. 3-9).

I think Marita Ljungqvist presentation on how the flipped classroom strategy was used in their MOOC was a good example on how a well-established scaffolding strategy can be implemented into an online environment.

I believe this is the way to go. Using well-established scaffolding strategies from face-to-face education and pack them into a “ready-to-use” format for online learning.

And there are a lot of activities that have been proven to work in classroom environments that can be transferred and applied into online environment. Another example of a very well used tool at KTH is scalable learning. The tools basic feature is that it gives the teacher the opportunity to use quiz questions in video lectures. Again a very easy tools to implement one of the best-proven techniques for learning – practice testing.

More. Another “ready-to-use” strategy is the peer grading system developed at Denmark’s Technical University. It gives the teacher the opportunity to implement a peer grading system into almost any kind of course.

I have also started the process of developing a “ready-to-use” learning tool for online education. The Jigsaw– collaboration strategy, my hope is to create an activity-module that can be implemented in a lot of online courses to create social activity.

So will my future courses be like that bar I visited this weekend?

Well, I hope my courses will look a bit nicer, but be sure, there will be a lot of E-tivities in my courses… Quizzes, peer-grading, flipped classroom, jigsaw… and if I know myself – I´ll fit in a digital Ping-Pong activity as well!



Armellini, A., Jones, S., & Salmon, G. (2007). Developing assessment for learning through e-tivities.

Brindley, J., Blaschke, L. M., & Walti, C. (2009). Creating effective collaborative learning groups in an online environment. The International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, 10(3)

Salmon, G. (2013). E-tivities: The key to active online learning. Routledge.

For more references see links.

Starting a Book Club


In the laundry room in my house we have a big bookshelf full of all kind of different books. The system is easy – Sometimes you bring a book, sometimes you take a book. It’s a book box. I think the book box idea is great and sometimes I take a book and start reading while waiting for those last 3 minutes on the washing program… Which by the way always takes 10 minutes!

The system works. Everybody who wants shares a book. I like the system and see the same system growing on Internet. I get amazed how many book boxes there are on the Internet. It’s just full of open boxes packed with Open Educational Resources.

Still. I’m not satisfied.

Yes open systems are good, but there is something essential missing – Collaboration!

I think it’s important to differentiate between passive and active sharing. Just putting out material that everyone can use is good, yes, but is not going to create collaboration. It’s not going to develop or create something new.

So what is needed to create active sharing? Well, the answer is easy – Book clubs!

I have two ingredients for creating a good book club.

  1. Agree on what book you should read before you start reading.

I had a interesting experience from a research project in psychology. What we did was that we started the collaboration process early on. Not just sharing data after we collected it. Rather we shared the experimental setup and the research method. This created an interest to understand the reflections and interpretations of others. To collaborate. Hear what others have found, what are their thoughts? What was the same, what was different?

We should not just share Educational Resources. Its more important to build the resources together.

  1. You must tell others about the book.

In this weeks webinar we had the usual discussion regarding MOOCs.

I think somebody (me) said…

“The thing that is really unique with MOOCs is that they are really unsocial!”

We have to create courses and OER where collaboration is built in. As discussed by Weller and Anderson (2013) I think it´s important to build big support systems when creating open courses and OER. Otherwise the system will be very fragile. And not just support, but stable scaffolding systems that are connects users and of the material.

Open resources shouldn’t just be book boxes – it should be a book clubs!




Weller, M., & Anderson, T. (2013). Digital resilience in higher education.European Journal of Open, Distance and E-Learning, 16(1), 53.

You need a box to think outside the box.

When I went to primary school there was one class that really scared me – the art class. I remember sitting in the school´s big art studio, the room had beautiful canopy and all different kind of paintings on the walls. But I was just terrified.

But it wasn’t my bad skills in drawing or even the much awaited war with rubbers that scared me. It was one sentence that scared me, one sentence from the teacher. The sentence that scared me was:

“Today you can do whatever you want”

What should I do now! I could do whatever I wanted, but I didn’t know what I wanted! The room was full of so many tools, equipment’s and material to do I was overwhelmed. I just couldn’t start doing anything.

As I was reading the material on flexible learning my thoughts were drawn back to my experiences from the art class in primary school. My experience that when everything is set to be very flexible it sometimes ends up in mess and stress.

Sometimes I think flexible courses try to be a bit like my old art studio full with tools and equipment… but with no good assignments. Just like a felt overwhelmed in the art-class I can really feel overwhelmed with all the digital tools… Prezi, google+, wordpress, Adobe connect etc. But I have hard to see what I should use them for?

In my opinion we have plenty of tools for creating flexile learning but we don’t have enough of assignments and projects that fit for flexible learning.

Just as Alastair Creelman mentions in his video it’s vital that flexible course have clear scaffolding techniques. There must be clear structures for collaborations. For example just creating an online forum or a google+ group won’t create collaboration (Of course!).

If the course goal is clear and set in real-life context, students will themselves be able to find and chose the right tools for solving the problem. This is the essence of Problem based Learning. Just as Kearney et al. (2012) discuses learning environment and goal must be set into “real world” contexts. It will then be clear that the important thing is not what tools you use, but that the real problem gets solved.

Here I think that Kearney et al. (2012) two other parts in their framework (collaboration & personalization) should be subordinated creating a “real-life” experience. Don’t create an assignment with the purpose that students should use twitter. Instead we should think of creating assignment with high degree of authenticity where the only way of solving the problem is to use twitter.

Back to art-class… 

One day we had a new trainee teacher at Art-class. He gave us a very strict assignment. We were to make a poster for upcoming school game in football.

The best poster would be used. The aim was clear. The thing the still strikes me is how diverse the output became. All kind of tools and techniques where used. Some students put a lot of effort on the task other did not. Some collaborated for a better result and some did not.

That´s how I think flexible learning should be.

A learning environment with a clear and well-defied framework. The students know what the goal is but they can choose how to reach the goal in whatever way they desire.