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Is blended learning well blended? A comparative study of students' and educators' perspectives on introducing blended learning in MBA programme - James Kwan, National University of Singapore | ANZTLC15

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The exploratory study reports the benefits, limitations and challenges, and blend mix of blended learning from the perspectives of students and lecturers for one of the part-time Australian MBAs currently conducted based on traditional classroom teaching at a private education institution in Singapore. The data collected through semi-structured interviews with 10 existing MBA students and 10 lecturers teaching this MBA programme. In line with prior studies, while students recognise blended learning provides them with greater flexibility and improving their learning outcome and performance, they noted that discipline and commitment to online learning, reduced interaction, and resistance to changes were the three major weaknesses and challenges faced. Lecturers also felt that though blended learning increased flexibility through designing the course curriculum to suit students with diverse learning style and pace, they noted that the resistance in learning new technology and heavy work load remain as two key challenges in introducing blended learning. Majority of the students preferred online learning to the introduced gradually over time. The findings in this study provide useful insights to the university and institution in assessing the readiness of students and lecturers for blended learning, and taking appropriate measures for successful implementation of blended learning. Delivered at Innovate and Educate: Teaching and Learning Conference by Blackboard. 24 -27 August 2015 in Adelaide, Australia.
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  • 1. Is blended learning well blended? A comparative study of students’ and educators’ perspectives on introducing blended learning in MBA programme James Kwan National University of Singapore
  • 2. Presentation Outline • Background of Study • Prior Literature • Research Methodology • Findings and Discussion • Implication of Findings • Conclusion 2
  • 3. Background of Study • Rapid growth in blended learning (BL) courses provided by various higher learning institutions globally (Twigg, 2003b; Matheos, 2011; Oh & Park, 2009; Tham & Tham, 2013) • However, BL in the private education sector in Singapore is not popular, which could be due to resource constraints, lack of faculty and management support 3
  • 4. Background of Study • Prior studies focus mainly on educators’ or/and students’ perspectives on introducing BL at undergraduate level (e.g. El- Mowafy, Kuhn, & Snow, 2013; Jones & Chen, 2013; Stuart, 2013) and postgraduate level (e.g. Grandzol, 2004; Kistow, 2011; Stacey & Gerbic, 2007; Waha & Davis, 2014) • Lacking in the current literature are educators’ and students’ perspectives on introducing BL in MBA programme administered by the private education institutions (PEIs) 4
  • 5. Background of Study • This exploratory study is to evaluate the views from both students and educators on the introduction of BL for one of the Australian’s MBA programmes administered by one of the largest PEIs in Singapore, Kaplan Higher Education (KHE) • Research questions: – What are the students’ and educators’ perceptions of the benefits, limitations and challenges of introducing BL in an MBA programme? – What are the students’ and educators’ perceptions of blend mix in a BL MBA programme? 5
  • 6. Prior Literature • BL is defined as the combination of traditional face-to-face and online learning environment, where students and teachers interact synchronously with and without the use of technology (Garrison & Vaughan, 2008; Tselios, Daskalakis, & Papadopoulou, 2011; Williams, 2002) • BL involves an extensive course redesign with the use of technology to enhance learning and teaching in a combination of physical and virtual environment (Bleed, 2001;Vaughan, 2007) 6
  • 7. Prior Literature • Benefits of BL: – more flexibility in learning, anytime, anywhere (Garham & Kaleta, 2002; Kistow, 2011; Papp, 2000; Spender, 2001; Trasler, 2002; Vaughan, 2007) – reduce commuting time to school (Bourne & Seaman, 2005; Garham & Kaleta, 2002; Vaughan, 2007) – redesigned curriculum enables students to learn more and thus improved their learning outcome (Akyol & Garrison, 2011; Aspden & Helm, 2004; Lin, 2008, 2009; Twigg, 2003a) – improve students’ analytical skills, achieving better grades and increased motivation to learn (Chen & Jones, 2007; Collopy & Arnold, 2009) 7
  • 8. Prior Literature • Benefits of BL: – educators to employ a wide range of instructional tools in redesigning the course to promote more effective teaching and active learning (Dodge 2001; King, 2001; Laumakis, Graham, & Dziuban, 2009) – effectiveness of BL is positively associated with students’ age, prior online learning experience, clarity of online materials, and students’ comfort with the LMS (Harriman, 2004; Kistow, 2011) – students who are highly-disciplined, self-motivated and enjoy active participation in online discussion perform better in BL courses (Owston, York, & Murtha, 2013; Smyth, Houghton, Cooney, & Casey, 2012) – other studies found no significant difference in performance between traditional teaching and BL (Gagne & Shepherd, 2001; Grandzol, 2004) 8
  • 9. Prior Literature • Limitations and challenges of BL: – time spend on ‘learning how to learn’, including using sophisticated online educational tools (Aycock, Garnham, & Kaleta, 2002; Vaughan, 2007) – students feel isolated and stressful due to confusion, anxiety, and frustration over the ambiguous web instructions and unclear feedback received from the course website (Hara & Kling, 2001; Serwatka, 1999; Volery & Lord, 2000) – students may not be comfortable to face the computer at home without the ‘human touch’ (Edginton & Holbrook, 2010; Heinze & Proctor, 2004; Maddux, 2004; Salmon, 2002) 9
  • 10. Prior Literature • Limitations and challenges of BL: – reluctance among teachers to employ online learning as part of their teaching pedagogy due to the following reasons: - time consuming in redesigning and administrating the course (Alebaikan & Troudi, 2010; Crow, Cheek, & Hartman, 2003; Dziuban & Moskal, 2001) - fear and resistance in learning new teaching pedagogy with the use of technology (Aycock et al., 2002; Eshet-Alkalai, 2004; Ooms, Burke, Linsey, & Heaton-Shrestha, 2008; Shemla & Nachmias, 2007) - inadequate training and technological support from education institutions (Beadle & Santy, 2008; Buchanan, Sainter, & Saunders, 2013; Jeffrey, Milne, Suddaby, & Higgins, 2009) 10
  • 11. Prior Literature • Blend mix – there is no ‘ideal blend mix’ (Bryant, Kahle, & Schafer, 2005) – Jones & Chen (2008) report 30 MBA accounting students want at least three out of the four meetings to be face-to face, i.e. 25%-75% split – Kistow (2011) reports 52% of the postgraduate business students prefer a 25%-75% online and face-to-face; 24% of them prefer a 50%- 50% mix, and the remaining 14% opt 75%-25% – factors to consider in decided the blend mix: course objectives and learning outcome, students’ profile, availability of online resources and technological support from university, motivation and capability of faculty members in delivering (Ostguthorpe & Graham, 2003) 11
  • 12. Methodology • Graham, Woodfield and Harrison (2013) identify three implementation stages for adoption of BL: awareness/exploration; adoption/early implementation, and mature implementation/growth • this study focuses on the awareness/exploration stage • the MBA programme is awarded by one of the leading Australian universities, which has partnered with KHE to offer the MBA programme in Singapore via distance learning 12
  • 13. Methodology • the MBA comprises of 12 modules, with each module currently conducted entirely on traditional classroom teaching over a 12-week period of three hours each • sample comprises of 10 part-time students (S) currently pursuing the MBA programme and 10 lecturers (L) currently teaching this programme • semi-structured interview conducted for each participant, focusing on benefits, limitations and challenges of BL, and blend mix 13
  • 14. Findings and Discussion – Benefits of BL • Flexibility in learning (Kistow, 2011; Papp, 2000; Spender, 2001) – “…as and when we got time we can actually log in to learn and if let’s say in the middle of the night you can’t sleep you an wake up and log in to watch the video and contribute your ideas to the forum.” (SM9) • “Enhances the learning experience””(SF4 and SF6) via increased quality online student-teacher interaction which enriches their learning experiences and also “improve their learning outcome” (SM7) – Supported by earlier studies (Aspden & Helm, 2004; Chen & Jones, 2007) 14
  • 15. Findings and Discussion – Benefits of BL • Cost effective and reduce commuting time (Bourne & Seaman, 2005; Twigg, 2003a; Vaughan, 2007) – “I don’t have to be physically there and this saves me lots of travelling time and cost of parking my car.” (SM7) • Lecturers also see flexibility for students as a key advantage of BL, as the redesigned curriculum suit students with “diverse learning style and pace” (LF2) and “maximize students’ learning and promotes continuous improvement” (LM6) in their teaching. These views are supported by Aycock et al. (2002). 15
  • 16. Findings and Discussion – Limitations and Challenges of BL • Discipline and commitment to online learning – “Part-time means no time! I believe many part-time MBA students will not make the point to listen to the online lectures and participate actively for any online discussion unless it’s part of the summative assessments.”(SM10) – structured classroom teaching ‘forces’ them to come to class to learn and interact with their classmates and lecturer 16
  • 17. Findings and Discussion – Limitations and Challenges of BL • Reduced interaction (Heinze & Proctor, Maddux, 2004; Salmon, 2002) – “…reduced opportunity to interact with their peers and lecturer.” (SF5) – structured classroom teaching ‘forces’ them to come to class to learn and interact with their classmates and lecturer – views are contrary to those reported by Akyol and Garrison (2011) where conclude BL allows students to interact in a highly collaborative learning environment and promotes higher-order thinking – Akyol and Garrison (2011) employ both quan and qual methods to examine existing online and blended MEd students 17
  • 18. Findings and Discussion – Limitations and Challenges of BL • Resistance to changes (Aycock et al., 2002; Eshet-Alkalai, 2004; Oblinger, 2003) – “BL has a strong reliance on technology and technical resources so definitely it will present barriers to students in terms of accessibility, their experience and comfort in using it… personally I’m not comfortable with the use of e-tools.” (SM9) – “… may result in students falling behind in learning if the use of technology is not preferred or avoided.” (SM10) – respondents could be the digital immigrants (Prensky, 2001) 18
  • 19. Findings and Discussion – Limitations and Challenges of BL • Resistance in learning new technology among lecturers (Eshet-Alkalai, 2004; Ooms, Burke, Linsey, & Heaton-Shrestha, 2008; Shemala & Nachmias, 2007) – “If you don’t use Facebook, you don’t know WhatsApp, you don’t have a smartphone, they [students] will see you as a dinosaur (laugh)…I am aware that there are many ‘dinosaurs’ around at Kaplan who just don’t see the benefits of online learning at all.” (LM9) – “I think online learning will ultimately replace us one day… lectures are recorded and the school may use publishers’ materials… so we are going to be redundant in future (sigh).” (LM10). Such response is also consistent with those reported by Benson, Anderson and Ooms (2001) and Greener (2009). 19
  • 20. Findings and Discussion – Limitations and Challenges of BL • Time consuming and additional workload (Dziuban & Moskal, 2001; Johnson, 2002) – “… using BL will be extremely time-consuming in the initial redesign phase. I have to learn how to use the technology, which is also time-consuming (frown).” (LM10) – “BL increases workload of lecturers rather than removing it. For instance, like online forum, there seems to be an unspoken expectation that lecturers should reply students’ enquiries almost instantly! (annoyed)” (LF2). 20
  • 21. Findings and Discussion – Blend Mix • Ranged from one-fifth to two-third of the time (36 hours per module) for online learning, with several respondents felt that BL is considered new and the proportion of online learning can gradually increase over time – “I think it will be 20% to start with because BL is quite a new and unexplored delivery mode at Kaplan.” (SF1) – “For a start, I would think we can try one-third of it, which is 12 hours to test the market – in terms of the acceptability, students’ performance, effectiveness of learning, productivity. If it is proven to be successful, I do not have a problem increasing it to half or two-third.” (SF5) – blend mix is slightly lower than the findings gathered by Kistow (2011), who reported 52% and 14% of the 106 respondents opted 25% and 75% respectively for online component21
  • 22. Findings and Discussion – Blend Mix • Nine out of 10 respondents would not want more than 50% of the programme to be conducted online, which suggest that respondents would still have strong preference for traditional classroom teaching over online learning. – “I feel that face-to-face interaction is still quite important to make the course work for many students because that’s what we are used to and that’s what we think what learning should be.” (SF1) – “I will still prefer classroom teaching if I have the time but if I am travelling due to the nature of my work then online learning is a backup where I can wacth the video to revise my lecture.” (SM9) – findings are consistent with those reported in prior studies (Akkoyunlu & Soylu, 2006, 2008; Balci & Soran, 2009; Jones & Chen, 2008; Orhan, 2008) 22
  • 23. Findings and Discussion – Blend Mix • Finding the ‘right blend’ remain as an ongoing challenge as each student has different learning style and preference (Bryant et al., 2005) – “The biggest challenge could be finding the right blend to suit most of the students because different students may prefer different ways of teaching and their experience and knowledge may be different at different levels.” (SF4) 23
  • 24. Implication of Findings – Student Readiness • Kaplan and the university should assess students’ readiness by conducting campus wide survey for all MBA students. Further actions to prepare students to accepting BL include: – conduct information sessions on the benefits of BL when marketing the MBA programme (Jaggars, 2013; Moore, 2013) – provide training on the various web tools to new students during orientation and existing students on a regular basis (Jaggars, 2013; Moore, 2013) – provide appropriate technical infrastructure and support to address any technical issues students may face during their course of study (Ackerman, 2008; Jaggars, 2013; Jefferies & Hyde, 2010) – security issues (personal particulars not accessed by unauthorized users) 24
  • 25. Implication of Findings – Teacher Preparedness • Kaplan may engage BL specialist and instructional designers to conduct training to all lecturers involving in teaching this MBA programme – relevant training programmes on digital education should be conducted regularly to ensure lecturers are well-equipped with the latest technology employed in higher education 25
  • 26. Implication of Findings – Teacher Preparedness • As part-time students have limited time devoted to studies, lecturers need to redesign the curriculum: – promote and improve learner autonomy and motivation on online learning – online activities involving teacher-student interaction and come with sufficient scaffolding (Komarnicki, 2014) – clear learning outcome and well-structured course materials and assessments to allow students to assume greater responsibility for their learning and also to develop sufficient level of self-directed learning skills, time management skills, and decision making skills (Arbaugh, Desai, Rau, & Sridhar, 2010; Tabor, 2007) 26
  • 27. Implication of Findings – Teacher Preparedness • Highly committed and highly responsive to students’ queries during online learning phase (Jackson, Jones, & Rodriguez, 2010) – synchronous e-learning for certain online learning sessions, where all students can logged on at the same time and communicate directly with each other (Gilbert, 2007; Moore, 2013) – ongoing encouragement and motivation to students, provide guidance and feedback on their progress, boosting confidence in their learning and instil confidence in them – clear learning outcome and well-structured course materials and assessments to allow students to assume greater responsibility for their learning and also to develop sufficient level of self-directed learning skills, time management skills, and decision making skills (Arbaugh, Desai, Rau, & Sridhar, 2010; Tabor, 2007) 27
  • 28. Implication of Findings – Teacher Preparedness • Promote and bring in the positive aspects of BL to students – introduce BL and the e-tools at the early stage of the programme to reduce their anxiety, stress and confusion – encourage students to work in pair – create a ‘Café’ forum where students can ‘meet’ and chat online and share their experiences in BL (Marsh, 2012) – start a new discussion topic relating to the module every week to encourage students to participate actively in the forum to gain participation marks 28
  • 29. Implication of Findings – University Keeness • Determining the fit of BL within the stated goals and priorities – consider issues relating to student access to technology and flexibility in learning – consider whether moving to BL will disadvantage some students over others (e.g. geographical, learning preferences, familiarity with e- learning tools and cost) – may need to conduct a comprehensive survey to all existing MBA students to gauge their acceptability and challenges face if BL is introduced 29
  • 30. Implication of Findings – University Keeness • Approval by department heads, Dean of Business School and faculty council – consider the proportion of each module that involves online element, allocation of assessment weightage to online, faculty workload, deployment of manpower in designing the curriculum and teaching pedagogy 30
  • 31. Implication of Findings – University Keeness • Support for development and delivery of BL between university and Kaplan – additional financial budget to invest in equipment, facilities, student and faculty support and training – agreement between the university and Kaplan in sharing the cost of developing the programme – possibility of having faculty members from the University and Kaplan to jointly delivering the programme 31
  • 32. Implication of Findings – University Keeness • Ownership of materials – copyright for online materials has increasingly becoming vested in collective agreement between faculty and university (Wallace & Young, 2010) – faculty members retain copyright ownership if materials are entirely developed by them, else jointly held by the faculty member and the university, or remain with the faculty member but with negotiated institutional use of the materials if they are jointly developed by curriculum specialists, instructional designers and the faculty member 32
  • 33. Conclusion • Students recognize BL provides them with greater flexibility and improving their learning outcome and performance, they note that discipline and commitment to online learning, reduced interaction, and resistance to changes are the three major weaknesses and challenges faced • Lecturers acknowledge BL increases flexibility through designing the course curriculum to suit students with diverse learning style and pace, they note that resistance in learning new technology and heavy workload are the two key challenges in introducing BL 33
  • 34. Conclusion • Majority of the students prefer the weightage of the online learning to be increased gradually over time, with no more than 50% online • Findings gathered in this study provide some practical implications for students (access and flexibility), lecturers (teaching pedagogy), and the university (resource utilization) • The readiness and commitment of these three parties are vital to ensure a seamless transition to a BL environment 34
  • 35. Conclusion • Future research directions: – obtaining views from a larger pool of existing part-time students and lecturers by employing both quantitative and qualitative methods – conduct similar studies for two other UK MBA programmes offered at Kaplan, which are taught entirely in classroom but on intensive sessions held over weekends – extend the study using focus group interview with management at Kaplan and the University on the other two stages of adoption (adoption/early implementation and mature implementation/growth) proposed in the framework by Graham et al. (2013) 35
  • 36. Conclusion • As Young (2002) states, “The convergence of classroom and online education is the single greatest unrecognized trend in hig
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