Instructor experiences with implementing technology in blended learning

Аннотация

Представлены результаты диссертационного исследования, посвященного проблемам использования технологий преподавателями колледжей и университетов в условиях смешанного обучения. Исследователь использовал скайп для интервьюирования преподавателей из семи стран мира. Целью было выяснить преимущества и недостатки обучения с использованием компьютерных технологий и Интернета.

Общая информация

Ключевые слова: blended learning, phenomenological research, Web 2.0, SKYPE, interview, educational psychology, teaching

Рубрика издания: Психологические проблемы образования в условиях информатизации и компьютеризации общества

Тип материала: материалы конференции

Для цитаты: Instructor experiences with implementing technology in blended learning // Психология образования в XXI веке: теория и практика.

Полный текст

Blended learning is a term used to explain an instructional method. In the blended learning class, teachers integrate computer-based e-learning technologies into the traditional face-to-face class. Students and teachers continue interacting and learning from each after the end of the face-to-face class through online discussion forums, blogs, wikis, and social networks like facebook, linkedin, and nings. Many schools now have courses management systems or other e-learning technologies that allow both the teachers and students to continue the learning/teaching process in a virtual class after leaving the school grounds. learning becomes ongoing without the limits of time or place. learning in a blended online learning environment is an ideal for most learners. But, is it ideal for teachers? In this paper, I’m going to discuss some of the issues instructors encounter in a blended learning format.

I conducted a qualitative phenomenological research study as part of my doctoral dissertation to learn about some of the merits and drawbacks instructors faced in blended learning in higher education around the world [1]. I used SKYPE audio instant messaging system to interview the instructors. I explored the experiences instructors had when implementing technology in blended learning courses in campus-based institutions of higher education in seven countries. Online interviews were an appropriate method given successful online communications in collaborative work with educators over the past 20 years. Since research participants use online communications to teach, I was confident that they had the skills needed to access and use the tools needed to participate in the interview.

Research Design Overview. The study’s purpose was to learn how instructors felt about using technology to complement face-to-face instruction, and what instructional techniques they used to support their students’ efforts to bridge the face-to-face live classroom and online learning. I chose a qualitative phenomenological study because the method allowed me to select participants that would provide the most relevant information and explore their personal and professional experiences and views on teaching with technology. A phenomenological research approach provides a systematic means of developing the interviews, collecting and analyzing the data, and reporting the experiences (Moustakas, 1994;). I interviewed 23 instructors as I followed Moustakas’ steps in gathering and analyzing the data. These steps are: 1) Epoch, 2) Reduction, 3) Imaginative Variation, and 4) Synthesis (Moustakas, 1994). The epoch step meant clearing my mind of any of my own experiences or bias in using technology in blended learningcourses. I had to focus on what was said and not judge or add my ideas when interviewing the instructors. Furthermore, I had to make sure the interviewees stayed on the topic, but allowed them to express themselves as freely as possible. The next two stages referred to the data analysis and my interpretive summaries of the information.

Issues Raised in the Literature. One of the benefits of blended learning courses is that they can transform the way teachers teach and students learn (garrison & Vaughn, 2008; Vaughan, 2010). Vaughan (2010) discovered that faculty members who used blended learning benefited in ways that changed the way they teach. Faculty claimed that teaching blended learning courses allowed them to experiment with technology. The process of experimenting with the tools transformed the way they teach (Vaughn, 2010. In contrast, Zhen, garthwait, & Pratt (2008) found faculty chose to teach online only and spend time learning and experimenting with technology only if they felt it would benefit their students.

A common finding is that blended learning courses require effective implementation of technology to succeed. In blended learning courses faculty members may need to use technology in the form of course management systems such as Blackboard or Moodle, live online classes such as Elluminate or WiZiQ, or tools such as screensharing, audio or video to deliver lessons, clarify assignments or give feedback. learning to use such technologies requires time.

Faculty members who teach blended learning courses may face technical, pedagogical, organizational, and personal challenges that may affect their motivation or ability to implement and use technological tools effectively. For example, Vaughan (2010) identified time and compensation for time spent in preparing online courses as a factor that determined whether faculty will adopt technology or not. Yet, a study on faculty adoption of e-learning by Zhen, garthwait, and Pratt (2008) showed that time was not a factor in determining faculty use of technology in online courses. given these research findings, interview questions were crafted to elicit interviewees’ experiences with benefits and challenges of blended learning, and ways faculty development contributed, or not, to their sense of success with a blended model of instruction.

Sampling Approach. In purposeful sampling, participant selection is dependent on the participant’s abilities to provide information required to learn about the phenomenon. Purposeful sampling was appropriate because of the subjective nature of study in exploring instructors’ experiences with integrating technology in blended learning courses. Selected participants were instructors in campus-based institutions of higher education who had taught at least three blended learning courses and had a postgraduate degree status. Only instructors with experience using technology in at least three blended learning courses had the depth of information required to answer the research questions.

Participants were recruited online for this study. The International Human Subjects Research Requirements and guidelines set by the university review board were used to protect the identities and rights of the subjects. I created an online questionnaire on google documents to recruit targeted blended learning instructors for the study. The questionnaire was published on two online social networks called Facebook and Ning in e-learning and blended learning groups of over 2,000 members. The questionnaire included explanations of the purpose, voluntary nature, and confidentiality of the study. Of the 42 respondents who filled in the forms and showed interest in the study, 23 were invited to participate.

Selected participants received a formal invitation to participate in the study. The letter outlined the nature, purpose of the study, potential risks and benefits of the study, assurance of participant anonymity and confidentiality of information, and criteria for participation. The online form provided the initial screening of (a) demographics, (b) teaching experience with and without technology in blended learning programs. These materials also provided participants with an assurance of anonymity and the options for abstaining from participating or answering any of the questions or for withdrawing from the study at any time without penalty or loss of benefit. Research participants provided written permission to record the online interviews with the understanding that none of the information would reveal their identities. Twenty-three of invited participants contributed data to the study.

Interview style and Data Collection Approach. Data was collected by interviewing the participants online through SKYPE using audio, video. Text chatting complemented audio visual communication when the participants wished to add information such as links to websites or email addresses. I developed the questions and created an interview guide prior to ensure uniformity of the interviews. The interview guide helped me organize the questions, ensure uniformity, and determine (a) the sequence, (b) wording,

(c) the need for clarifications, and (d) to ensure the questions encouraged the respondents to converse freely about the experiences of implementing technology in blended learning courses in higher education. Participants received a definition of blended learning before describing the technology and their experiences in implementing technology in blended learning courses. The working definition of blended learning for the purpose of the study is teaching a course using face-to-face and an online environment through a course management system.

I recorded the online interviews using TipCam uTIPu® screen cast recorder software with the approval of the participants. I transcribed the recordings transcribed without changing the words to avoid bias. ATlAS.ti 6.0® computer software provided storage and helped in the coding of recorded interview transcriptions. After listening to the interviews and reading the text transcriptions numerous times, I analyzed the textual data from two perspectives for the purpose of triangulation (Patton, 2002). The first step involved analyzing the data from the perspective of the respondents and the second from perspective of the interview questions.

Data Analysis. Transcriptions of the interviews were analyzed using a process of scanning, coding, and categorization for recurring themes using a modification of the Van Kaam method of analysis of phenomenological data [3]. The process as prescribed by Moustakas (1994) consisted of 7 steps: (a) Horizonalization or making sure that each statement related to the question asked, (b) Reduction and Elimination meant that the information required me to remove what was not relevant, (c) Clustering and Thematizing the Invariant Constituents consisted of listing common elements into categories, (d) Final Identification of the Invariant Constituents, required me to identify the themes (e) Relevant, Validated Variant Constituents and Themes meant making a list of the themes, (f) Individual Structural Description or summarizing each of the responses by relating to the themes, and (g) Textural-Structural Descriptions meant summarizing the themes. The process was long, but I was able to understand the whole picture from the individual description of the experiences. Through this method emerging themes related to the experiences instructors had with technology in blended learning courses were identified. Key themes were: Facilitating instruction and learning, frustrating, satisfying and rewarding, and socially connecting.

Technology Choices and Rationale. I chose to recruit and interview the participants online to resolve geographic challenges and provide the participants with a familiar and relaxed atmosphere. Data collection involved personal interviews conducted via an instant messaging program. Individual interviews followed a semi-structured conversational format to encourage the research participants to share their experiences freely without guidance from the interviewer The duration of the interviews were approximately 60 minutes each with follow-ups by e-mails for further inquiry, clarifications, and participant approvals.

Kinds of communication such as written, audio, and/or visual. During the recruitment phase I communicated with the participants through emails, instant chats via google chat and SKYPE. Within 11 days, 45 candidates had completed the online questionnaire. Eight candidates did not fit the criteria because they did not have experience teaching at least three blended learning courses in institutions of higher learning. The remaining 37 received e-mails with individualized consent forms with the candidates’ full names and the researcher’s signature. I selected the first 22 candidates who returned the signed consent forms. I then made appointments via emails to discuss the time and choice of instant messaging system for the personal interviews.

Data collection involved personal interviews using the Skype Instant Messaging (IM) system. Prior to the interview, the respondents received the interview questions through Skype as an attachment and were reminded (a) about the recordings of the interviews, (b) of anonymity, (c) about storing the data for 3 years before deleting the information, and (d) of the right to withdraw from the study at any time. Some of the participants asked to use their webcams so I could see them and asked me to do the same. This helped relieve any tension and helped researcher and participant to get acquainted.

The semi-structured interviews began as social conversations that helped build trust. Because the interview questions were general, I was able to begin an informal conversation at the beginning of the interview Participants were able to use the chat box to send links or websites and to clarify any names that may not have been heard correctly. This helped me later on with the transcriptions because I was able to spell the organizations correctly. The average duration of the interviews was 60 minutes.

Interview Experience and Challenges. To prepare for each interview I underwent what Moustakas (1994) called epoche. Epoche means to “stay away from or abstain” from judging things but observe things as if for the first time without preconceived ideas (Moustakas, 1994, p. 85). According to Finlay (2008), engaging in epoche prepares the researcher “to be open to whatever may emerge rather than prejudging or prestructuring one’s findings” (p. 4). Phenomenological researchers practice epoche in order to listen actively to each interviewee, be attentive to their words and thus avoid misinterpretations. The challenge is to sustain a focus on the phenomenon and on the respondents’ experiences and not on the researcher’s pre-conceived notions. I attempted to reach the state of Epoche by practicing mindfulness meditation [4], “reflection and self-dialogue” [3, p. 90] before and during the interviews. I found epoche very useful because it aligned with my experiences with the practice of mindfulness meditation and the Alexander technique.

In a phenomenological research study, interviews focus on people’s innermost feelings and viewpoints concerning a phenomenon. The interview questions allowed me to engage in open dialogues but also provided me with a framework. listening carefully meant each answer was a springboard to further probing questions that were not in the interview guide. Probing questions covered allowed participants to cover topics such as x, y and z. I followed the suggestion made by Moustakas (1994) to view the participants as research partners who share and discuss the experience of the phenomenon.

Interviewing online provided the instructors with an opportunity to reflect on their teaching practice in general and in blended learning courses with technology. Online interviews are more neutral by nature because there are no distracters. Participants may feel more at ease because they don’t have to see the interviewer’s face-to-face and be distracted by external things such as the person’s appearance or body language The interviewees didn’t want to turn on their webcams because they felt the webcam would expose them to the very things that would distract them in a face-to-face interview. The participants must have felt very much at ease because they want to continue taking a long time after they answered the last question.

Research Findings. The analysis of the transcripts of the responses to the interview questions yielded 35 invariant constituents, which means words used to describe the experiences. The invariant constituents were clustered into four themes that describe respondents’ experiences with implementing technology in blended learning courses:

Facilitating Instruction and learning describe findings that show blended as helping instructors teach and students learn. Frustrating describe findings in which instructors are frustrated by the time it takes to learn to use the tools and manage the face-to-face and online sessions.

Satisfying and Rewarding describe the positive feelings of teaching in a blended learning environment

Socially Connecting. describe findings that faculty and students use technology to connect online in ways they could not in the face-to-face class.

Implementing technology into blended learning can be both rewarding and frustrating for the teacher and student. The results of the study indicated that instructors spent a lot of time learning about technology and ways of implementing technology into instruction and learning to engage students in the face-to-face and online components of blended learning courses. The instructors were very enthusiastic about technology than they were about blended. This seems to suggest that perhaps I would have received the same results had I conducted a study on fully online courses instead of on blended learning.

Литература

  1. Deutsch N. Instructor experiences with implementing technology in blended learning courses in higher education. University of Phoenix, 2010. AAT 3429155. Retrieved July 10, 2011, from ProQuest database at http:// proquest.umi.com/pqdlink?Ver=1&Exp=07-08-2016&FMT=7&DID=2203853551&RQT=309&attempt=1&cfc=1.
  2. Garrison D.R., Vaughn, N.D. Blended learning in higher education: Framework, principles, and guidelines. San Francisco: Wiley, 2008.
  3. Moustakas C. Phenomenological research methods. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 1994.
  4. Van Manen M. Writing in the dark: Phenomenological studies in interpretive inquiry. Winnipeg, Manitoba: Hignell Book Printing, 2002.
  5. Vaughan N.D. A blended community of inquiry approach: linking student engagement and course redesign // Internet and Higher Education. 2010. № 13(1–2).
  6. Zhen Y., garthwait A., Pratt P. Factors affecting faculty members’ decision to teach or not to teach online in higher education // Online Journal of Distance learning Administration. 2008. № 11(3).

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