IMPLEMENTING BLENDED LEARNING: A Case-based Sharing Experience

This paper presented in an International Seminar: Learning, Community and Technology, State University of Jakarta, June, 8, 2011. You may find this paper in the proceeding of the seminar later.

Abstract
This paper is based on a single case study research methods toward “the Introductory to Learning Organization” course at the Department of Educational Technology, the State University of Jakarta. This research was aimed to describe as is how the blended learning for its course was designed, developed and implemented. Multiple data collection techniques were used in this research, i.e. observation, archival and document analysis, interview and questionnaire. This research resulting some research findings as follows: 1) the type of blended learning used is the combination of live face-to-face learning, asynchronous online collaboration and self-paced asynchronous activities; 2) online learning activities facilitated by a non-proprietary platform of learning management system (LMS), i.e. claroline (http://courses.web-bali.net) and a community blog i.e. TPers.Net (http://tpers.net); 3) not all e-learning tools facilitated by LMS used to facilitate online learning activities, but only discussion forum, mailing list, and assignment; 4) blog was used as a mean of reflection to express and share lesson learned among students; 5) instructional methods used in online learning activity comprises of discussion through forum discussion, reflection and sharing through blogging, reading and review through literatures searching and reading, presentation through uploaded slide presentation; 6) instructional methods used in live face-to-face activities are more focused in in-depth case study and deepening student’s understanding to the related topics learned, i.e. brainstorming, student presentation and discussion, and case study. Through this paper, authors would like to share experiences in how its blended learning was designed, developed and implemented including challenges and hindrances faced in its implementation. Hopefully, through this case-based sharing experience will inspired participants and the authors will gain some constructive feedback and inputs from participants.

Keywords: blended learning, instruction, online learning, face-to-face, e-learning tools

BACKGROUND
Information and communication technology, esp. computer and internet has influenced all aspect of human life, including education. These emerging technologies, has become a new and special attention for educators, especially in higher education. But, its application in Indonesia is still limited due to several factors such as familiarity of educators to the emerging technology itself, lack of policy support both at national level and school level, inadequate ICT infrastructure and facilities, inadequate other resources support, etc.
Several universities and higher education institutions in Indonesia, are sporadically has initiation to implement the application of computer an internet for learning (e-learning), such as University of Indonesia, University of Gadjah Mada, Bandung Technological Institute, the State University of Jakarta, etc. This application of e-learning is a subject of interest to be scientifically studied for better future improvement. The authors interested to find out why and how an e-learning application program were implemented in one of those universities mentioned above, i.e. the State University of Jakarta, especially the implementation of blended learning at the Department of Educational Technology. The research was focused on its implementation to one course, i.e. the Introductory to Learning Organiozation.

THEORETICAL FRAMEWORK
e-Learning
e-learning is a generic term that explain the use of electronic technology for learning. Author defines e-learning simply as “an electronic technology-enabled learning”. Some authors define e-learning differently, but has a common purpose, i.e. to facilitate learning be more effective, efficient and appealing.
On this paper author choose two definition of e-learning from two authors. e-learning is commonly referred to the intentional use of networked information and communications technology in teaching and learning. A number of other terms are also used to describe this mode of teaching and learning. They include online learning, virtual learning, distributed learning, network and web-based learning. Fundamentally, they all refer to educational processes that utilize information and communications technology to mediate asynchronous as well as synchronous learning and teaching activities. (Naidu, 2006)[1] While, Derek Stockley (2006)[2] define e-learning as the delivery of a learning, training or education program by electronic means. E-learning involves the use of a computer or electronic device (e.g. a mobile phone) in some way to provide training, educational or learning material.

e-Learning System ModelRashty (1999) as quoted by Noirid et.al. (2007)[3] classify e-learning delivery system model into three categories, i.e. adjunct, mixed or blended, and full online. This model is viewed as a continuum rather as discrete classification. It can be figured out as follows:

(adapted from Rashty (1999) by Noirid et.al. (2007)

Blended Learning
One of the continuum of e-learning delivery system model as mentioned above is mixed/blended learning that mix delivery of content, computer mediated communication and or online collaboration with face-to-face instruction appropriately. This means that when delivering blended learning we should pay attention to the appropriateness of decision when, why and how to use online method and when, why and how to use face-to-face instruction. Blended learning is not the same with 50% online and 50% face-to-face.
Blended learning combines the best aspects of online learning, structured face-to-face activities, and real world practice. Online learning systems, classroom training, and on-the-job experience have major drawbacks by themselves. The blended learning approach uses the strengths of each to counter the other weaknesses. (Soekartawi, on http://uny.ac.id), downloaded in 2010). [4] In line with Soekartawi, Graham et.al. (2006)[5], classified three kinds of combination of instruction in blended learning, i.e. 1) combination of instructional model; 2) combination of instructional method; and 3) combination of online and face-to-face learning.
What is the differentiation between online learning and blende learning? The definition of an online program or blended program is similar to the definition used for courses; an online program is one where at least 80 percent of the program content is delivered online and a blended program is one where between 30 and 79 percent of the program content is delivered online (Allen, et.al., 2007).[6] Allen figured them out as follows:

Blended learning is the combination of multiple approaches to learning. Blended learning can be accomplished through the use of ‘blended’ virtual and physical resources. A typical example of this would be a combination of technology-based materials and face-to-face sessions used together to deliver instruction. In the strictest sense, blended learning is anytime any instructor combines two methods of delivery of instruction. Currently this area is divided into the following 3 sub areas, as follows: (e-TQM Blended Learning Approach, on http://www.etutors-portal.net/portal-contents/blended, downloaded on November 10, 2009).[7]

Finally, we figure out the model of blended learning according to Staley (2007)[8] that can be shown as follows:

RESEARCH METHODS
This research was aimed to answer a main question i.e. “How blended learning strategy applied and implemented in the course of Introductory to Learning Organization?”. Research setting is in the Department of Educational Technology. Single case study research method and multiple data collection techniques, such as observation, interview and document/archival records analysis was used to answer the focus of research mentioned above. In-depth interview conducted toward seven students and one lecturer and video taped recording used to observe the live face-to-face activities. While archival and document analysis use to support and deepening understanding toward research findings.

RESEARCH FINDINGS AND DISCUSSION
Type of Blended Learning and Instructional Methods AppliedAs mentioned on theoretical framework above that blended learning is not simply combine the online and face-to-face instruction, but the appropriate combination of any kinds of instructional method, model and delivery strategies both live face-to-face, synchronous virtual collaboration, asynchronous virtual collaboration, and self-paced asynchronous activities. Research finding revealed that in the course of the Introductory to Learning Organization, the lecturer mostly combine live face-to-face instruction, asynchronous virtual collaboration and self-paced asynchronous activities. Observation and archival records found that not all methods choose and used by lecturer. Method used in live face-to-face instruction was lecture, case study, group presentation and discussion. Live face-to-face were more focused to deepening students understanding on the subject or certain topics. Method used in asynchronous virtual collaboration was blogs, online discussion boards and listserve. Method us in self-paced asynchronous activities was online searching, online reading and online assignment. Interview with lecturer showed the reason why synchronous virtual collaboration was not used. Asynchronous virtual collaboration needs more times and assistance from other. It can’t be handled by one person.

e-Learning Tools Used
Research findings showed that not all e-learning tools used in blended learning strategy for the course of the Introductory to Learning Organization. Online learning activities, both asynchronous online collaboration and self-paced asynchronous activities, was facilitated by a non-proprietary learning management system, i.e. claroline (http://www.web-bali.net) and a non-proprietary content management system, i.e. wordpress (http://www.tpers.net). Almost all facilities offered in learning management system was used, except online test. Facilities used were learning path, course description, assignment, announcement, discussion forum, and document as repository of any kinds of learning materials. Content management system, i.e. wordpress (http://tpers.net) was used as a community blog that played important role as a mean to reflect and share information, experience and lesson learned among students.

Learning Materials
Research finding show that one of the weakness of blended learning strategy used for the course of the Introductory to learning Organization is lack of learning materials variation used. Interview data showed that most students complaining the lack of learning materials used. Archival records analysis showed that learning materials used were mostly text-based digital content, i.e. pdf, doc, html, and ppt. Interview with lecturer showed that multimedia-based learning materials, such as animation (swf), video (flv), audio (mp3) etc needs more resources (both time, money and experts) to develop them well.

Evaluation System
Research finding showed that evaluation system used in this blended learning strategy was 1) group presentation judge by other students with certain form prepared by lecturer; 2) group paper and group project judged by lecturer; 3) peer review activities, criticizing and feedback toward blog posting posted by his/her peer and 4) student’ participation on discussion forum.

Student’ Opinion and Preference
Researcher categorized the learning process into three categories, i.e. introduction, main activity and closing. On introduction phase, especially for the explanation of course description and relevancy, five out of seven students more prefer to live face-to-face activities than online activities, since they can ask more detailed directly to the lecturer. Two other students stated that online description would be fine as long as more interactive media used such as video or animation. But, for the explanation of course goal and objectives, all students stated that both online and face-to-face would be fine. This mean that in the first session, it’s important for teacher/lecturer to delivered it face-to-face.
On the main activities, all students stated that discussion through online forum discussion is more appealing than in the classroom discussion forum. One weakness of the forum discussion, according to the interview result was delayed feedback and lack of feedback intensity from the lecturer. The same statement also stated to the activities of blogging as a mean of reflection and sharing lesson learned. Lack of feedback intensity make them unmotivated and feel not appreciated. Students prefer lecturer to pose relevant case to the forum discussion prior to discuss more deeply in the classroom.
On the closing phase, as the follow-up activities they also have no problem with online assignment since the assignment was directly send automatically to their own email account. But, they prefer to onsite test than online test due to the some error that always happened when the test conducted online. Beside, students prefer to essay and case-based test than objective test such as multiple choice, true or false, etc.

Supporting Factors and Hindrances
Based on interview with the lecturer, it was found some supporting factors and hindrances in implementing blended learning. Some supporting factors are 1) the availability of internet access both at campus or home; 2) the high of students and lecturer familiarity or literacy on computer and internet; 3) the availability of online learning resources that can be found and downloaded through internet; 4) lecturer and most of students has own computer facilities such as PCs, laptop, notebook or even PDA, etc.
Lecturer also said that the main hindrance in implementing e-learning or blended learning is the lack of policy from the university or faculty. Implementation of blended learning sporadically initiated by few number of lecturers without political supports. Other hindrances are 1) lack of adequate and varied learning object (learning materials) that is designed and developed well for e-learning purpose; 2) lecturer familiarity or literacy toward platform of learning management system used; 3) e-learning/blended learning needs more sacrifice (both time, energy, and money) from lecturer compare to traditional instruction; 4) inadequate supporting computer and internet access and facilities at campus (esp. slow internet speed and limited internet bandwidth).

CONCLUSIONS AND LESSONS LEARNED

Conclusions
Blended learning is the futuristic learning strategy that is very important to facilitate learning more effective, efficient and appealing for students. The weakness on online instruction can be overcome by the strength of live face-to-face instruction, and vide versa, the weakness of live face-to-face instruction can be overcome by the strength of online instruction. E-Learning should be viewed as a continuum rather than simply as discrete classification. The appropriateness method and delivery strategies between online and face-to-face instruction is the success key for a quality blended learning implementation. In this research case, it’s proofed that the simple application of blended learning that only combine among live face-to-face instruction, asynchronous online collaboration, and self-paced asynchronous activities can be implemented well and perceived positively by the students.
Research finding showed that students prefer to live face-to-face than online instruction in the phase of introduction esp. for the explanation course description and relevancy. On the main activity phase, students prefer to online instruction for the activities of discussion through forum discussion board, and sharing and reflection through blogging. But, the also suggest the lecturer to pose problem online in the discussion forum board prior to discuss more deeply in the classroom (live face-to-face instruction). Immediate and intensity of feedback from lecturer is a success key to the activity of discussion both through discussion forum board and blogging. On the closing activity phase, student prefer to online activities for assignment, but live face-to-face activity for evaluation or test.
Supporting factors for the succeed of blended learning are 1) the availability of internet access both at campus or home; 2) the high of students and lecturer familiarity or literacy on computer and internet; 3) the availability of online learning resources that can be found and downloaded through internet; 4) lecturer and most of students has own computer facilities such as PCs, laptop, notebook or even PDA, etc. the main hindrance in implementing e-learning or blended learning is the lack of policy from the university or faculty. Other hindrances are 1) lack of adequate and varied learning object (learning materials) that is designed and developed well for e-learning purpose; 2) lecturer familiarity or literacy toward platform of learning management system used; 3) e-learning/blended learning needs more sacrifice (both time, energy, and money) from lecturer compare to traditional instruction; 4) inadequate supporting computer and internet access and facilities at campus (esp. slow internet speed and limited internet bandwidth).

Lesson Learned
Policy support is a must when implementing blended learning. The way people communicate and learn is change, so the way people teach and learn. As a consequence the policy that governs the instruction process should also change. Student’ familiarity and literacy on computer and internet, the availability of learning resources on internet, the availability of internet access are opportunities to changes the way we teach students. It’s important to shifting our paradigm of teaching from the traditional paradigm to the new one that is more constructive enabled by electronic technology. Lecturer ICT literacy should be improved not only how to use and apply electronic technology well, but also hoe to use and apply them appropriately where the learning philosophy, not the electronic technology itself, become the main foundation. Well designed blended learning, supported with strong policy, e-learning environment and facilities, adequate and varied relevant learning objects, and qualified lecturer are four success keys to implement blended learning well.

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References:

[1] Naidu, Som, et. al. “e-Learning: a Guidebook of Principles, Procedures, and Practices (Edisi Revisi)”, New delhi: Commonwealth Educational Media Center, 2006.
[2] Stockey, Derek (2006), “e-Learning Definition and Explanation”, (www.derekstockley.com. au), downloaded on February, 19, 2010.
[3] Noirid, Surachet, et. al. “E-learning Models: A Review of Literature” makalah disampaikan pada The 1st International Conference on Educational Reform 2007 November 9-11, 2007 Mahasarakham University, THAILAND. 2007.
[4] Soekartawi, on http://uny.ac.id, downloaded in 2010
[5] Curtis J.Bonk, Charles R. Graham. “The Handbook of Blended learning “, USA:Pfeiffer, 2006.
[6] I. Elaine Allen, Jeff Seaman, and Richard Garrett, Blending In The Extent and Promise of Blended Education in the United States, Sloan-C™, 2007.
[7] (e-TQM Blended Learning Approach, on http://www.etutors-portal.net/portal-contents/blended, downloaded on November 10, 2009
[8] Laura Staley, Blended Learning Guide, 2007.


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