Blended learning is a new concept to the educational world, where a number of institutes are now implementing it. Understanding the way, in which teachers and students view the concept of blended learning (BL) is the first step towards helping both attain success. Particularly, locating the attitudes of learners toward BL, one will be able to identify the existing opportunities and possible obstacles, whereas the teachers’ interpretation of the strategy will allow designing a BL-based approach.
Blended education is often confused with distance education on the internet; however, blended or hybrid courses are not delivered entirely online as is done in distance learning (Graham, 2006). In actuality, blended learning is not just a simple transfer of information from teacher to student online, but it actually involves extensive redesigning of traditional courses (LaVergne, 2014).
Blended learning has been defined by Garrison and Kanuka (2004) as the combination of one-on-one teaching experience with online education or learning materials found on the internet, yet it would be wrong to claim that wandering the online environment purposelessly implies carrying out BL (Niemiec & Otte, 2010). Like any other educational tool, BL requires designing, scheduling, and being used with an elaborate strategy.
As a result, the physical and the virtual elements of learning can be blended, hence the name of the approach (Eryilmaz, 2015). In a way, BL is a next step in improving the educational environment (Osguthorpe & Garaham, 2003). Meyer (2003) points to significance of BL as the tool for addressing the problems that learners face in the standard environment.
The increase of internet and web based instructions has led to formation of blended learning. It is very important to understand the definition of blended learning as it informs my research and also will help to understand how the phenomenon will be interpreted using the participants and their experiences. Taking the literature perspective, up till now, many definitions of blended learning have been identified yet everyone has their own way of using the definition. One school’s blended learning is the other’s hybrid learning and yet another’s school mixed mode learning (Picciano, 2009). It is thus important to reach a definition of blended learning in this research as well.
The current educational environment creates a plethora of opportunities for integrating BL-related strategies. Moreover, in some cases, the adoption thereof becomes virtually unavoidable. For example, teachers may consider using interactive technological tools that display the essential information to trick unmotivated learners into paying attention. Thus, for this sake, blended learning in my research is a method of instructions that is multi modal, where instructions are given both online through media as well as face to face and uses more than one method of instructions.
This definition is supported by literature as Graham (2006) defined blended learning as combining of instructional modalities, using combination of instructional methods and combining online and face to face instructions to the students. This is combination of traditional methods of teaching as well as modern ways of teaching. This kind of combination which is called blended learning and helps students assess the educational courses and also help them get equipped with the modern methods of learning.
Blended mode of learning is seen to facilitate learning through better understanding of different pedagogies and is bringing a new change to the field of education (Jones &Lau, 2009). Thus, combing these two definitions into my research, blended learning in my research is blending of both online and face to face sessions for learning and using multimodal instructions through use of both of these media.
While understanding the subject matter will require a thorough and detailed analysis of the existing studies on the concept of BL, it will also be crucial to carry out a survey among teachers and learners to be able to know what they think about it. Thus, their attitudes toward BL and be understood, and the strategies for promoting the tool can be designed successfully. More importantly, the possible obstacles such as the lack of students’ or teachers’ motivation can be addressed in the process. Additionally, BL may help reduce the current dropout rates. Carr, 2000
Blended learning has no pedagogy of its own but is based on various kinds of pedagogies. Constructivist paradigm informs this form of learning in various ways and is thus one of the conceptual frameworks underlying the implementation of success of blended learning. Constructivism is a philosophy of learning which involves and is based on the principle that knowledge is constructed through the active involvement of the individual with the environment which includes any other media and the other learners as well.
It also indicates that human being acquire knowledge through experience (Thomas, 2010). The use of technology can enhance the constructivist learning and is actually an integral part of this kind of learning. In fact, the integration of computer technology along with the traditional face to face learning curriculum helps in better learning. Moreover, educational technology and constructivist learning have been connected with each other as richness of technology provides a more exciting learning environment (Thomas, 2010).
Thus, constructivism paradigm which is the most widely used paradigm since the last few decades also informs the blended learning and this kind of learning is increased through use of blended learning.
Another conceptual framework which informs this research is of blending with purpose model. This model implies that the pedagogical aims and activities should be underlying the instructional styles use by the faculty. It also suggests that blending these objectives of pedagogy within multiple modalities is more effective and appealing for most of the students. The collaborative learning is enhanced with the use of both face to face and online interaction.
Moreover, as learners represent different kind of learning styles, different personalities and different generations, the teachers should try to use multiple approaches for instructions. This includes both traditional face to face instructions and web instructions. The needs of the wide spectrum of students as mentioned above will only be met if multiple instructions are used to teach the students (Picciano, 2009). These two conceptual frameworks are also in line with the definition of the blended learning which has been used to inform the research. Thus, combination of both online and face to face teachings along with the multiple instructions used through both these two mediums help in better learning.
The idea of blended learning
Blended learning has been defined by Garrison and Kanuka (2004) as the combination of one-on-one teaching experience with online education or learning materials found on the internet. However, the idea is not as simple as just bolting the internet in the every classroom or traditional course to teach a difficult concept (Niemiec & Otte, 2010). Instead, blended learning is a complete redesigning of educational courses whereby the way they are developed, scheduled and delivered in completely altered to merge physical and virtual modes of instruction (Eryilmaz, 2015).
Due to the significant amount of cost involved in the start of blended learning courses, the idea faces controversy of whether the investment is worth the effort; however, if universities and schools plan with more measurable and tangible resources in mind, blended learning can be made a feasible step towards educational development (Osguthorpe & Garaham, 2003). In the very basic sense, the initial investment in blended learning will take the form of hybrid courses in which a very significant portion of the instructional activities is performed on the internet with lesser time being spent in the classroom (Garaham, 2006).
The idea in any case, is to indicate the best features of in-class instruction and those of online learning and develop self-directed and more flexible learning opportunities for all ages (Dziuban et al., 2005).
Prevalent perspectives on blended learning
Students and teachers now have experience of being a part of blended learning courses and programs within educational institutions. All of these people become a part of the same system but they have their own unique perspectives. In different contexts, as in higher education and schools, the point of view of students and teachers about blended learning vary markedly. In this section, the benefits and challenges of blended learning as perceived by the constituent groups themselves have been discussed.
Teachers’ perspective and Perceived benefits
Instructors who have taught blended courses share that their teaching experiences yielded positive results. Contrarily, Sheffield and colleagues report teachers to have much more confidence and competence after being trained for blended courses, but showed no preference for blended teaching over conventional classrooms (Sheffield et al. 2015). The discrepancy in responses is dependent on the administrative attempts towards ensuring a higher level of satisfaction in teachers and students alike through enhanced interaction with students, greater student-engagement in classrooms, flexibility in the teaching timings and learning environment, and plenty of opportunities for continuous improvement.
When teachers initially started to teach blended courses, their major concerns were that they would be less connected with their students as there will be the very less face-to-face interaction between them (McGee & Reis, 2012). On the contrary, after teaching a blended course, almost all teachers reported feeling much more connected with their students and claimed to know them better. Instructors were reported to not only have enhanced interaction with students during blended courses, but the interaction taking place was of a higher quality than what they typically had in the normal classroom (Naaj et al. 2012).
Teachers’ Perceived challenges and expectations
Despite the positive results obtained from blended learning courses, many teachers face challenges in teaching with a blended format too. Some of the key challenges are the time commitment, lack of support for course redesign, and most importantly the difficulty in acquiring new teaching and technology skills (Garnham & Kaleta, 2002).The greater time commitment for blended courses is perceived as the most prominent challenge by teachers (Sheffield, 2015).
Also, many teachers who have been teaching traditional classrooms for a very long time complain of the difficulty of adapting to modern technologies and software which they have never used before, but these difficulties are overcome with training and time (Garnham & Kaleta, 2002).
Teachers participating in blended courses also indicated that blended learning is not at all a “solo” activity for them (Hilliard, 2015). To ensure a successful blended-learning experience for learners, there must be faculty to support for course redesigning and for learning the new teaching and technology skills. The course redesign support from the faculty should involve assistance in deciding which objectives of a particular course can best be achieved through online learning activities and what can best be accomplished in the classroom.
Academic staffs indicated that they needed to acquire new teaching role of online learning such as how to promote online learning communities through, facilitate online discussion forums and achieve students’ online learning problems (Baleni, 2015). Especially in terms of technology, many instructors initially needed to overcome their own fears and resistance through “hands-on” experience with various tools and applications. In addition, they were also challenged to provide “front line” technical support to their students.
Students’ perspective and Perceived benefits
Students who have been participating in blended learning courses are reported to give generally very positive response about their experiences. For example, in a study carried out at a community college, students reported to have enjoyed an ability to plan better, organize, self-instruct and self-evaluate as they move towards acquiring knowledge (Carlson, 2014). Although no significant improvement in GPA was observed, students reported having to “drive less and work more.” It is basically the ability to control the pace of their own learning and the convenience of scheduling their coursework, as well as the decrease in time spent commuting from home to the university or school which makes blended courses popular with students (Garnham & Kaleta, 2002).
Perceived challenges and expectations
Despite their appreciation for blended learning, relevant studies have indicated that students encounter a number of challenges with these courses too. The key challenges that have been identified include false expectations that fewer classes mean less work, poor time management skills, difficulties in accepting responsibility for personal learning, and difficulty in dealing with more complex technologies (Naaj et al. 2012).
Research carried out by Naaj et al. (2012) in an institute of information technology in Saudi Arabia reported that during face-to-face learning with video conferencing student satisfaction arose from instructor’s expertise, the technology used, and management of classes, interaction with the teacher, and the quality of instruction. Students who are newly introduced to blended learning tend to equate a lack of in-person classes to less coursework, which is not true Apart from this, time management is a major struggle for many students.
The intent of this review of literature is to discuss the concept of blended learning from the perspective of students and teachers and, the challenges they believe hinder its employment in classrooms. Constructivist is one the implementation of success of blended learning, which provides a more excitement learning environment. However, qualitative interpretive paradigm will prove the success of the application of constructivism.
A detailed analysis of BL will also help understand the perspective of both genders in different culture about the blended learning and how it is helping them. This study would put forward the recommendations for the factors which can be worked on to make blended learning further success. A lot of investments are being made in this regard and the response of the students and lecturers will help further enhance the efficiency and efficacy of this research.
A number of researchers have addressed the efficacy of e-learning, perceptions about blended learning but no study has yet qualitatively addressed the perception of graduate lecturers and students about the success of blended learning and this is according to my knowledge the first study to explore the point of view and opinion of the lectures and students about the factors contributing to the successful implementation of the blended learning and its advantages which are favoring it at graduate level.
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