Editor’s Note: Practitioners and researchers are focusing on blended learning because of increasing use of Learning Management Systems (LMS) in schools. Individual teachers and professors are finding the LMS invaluable and easy to use for blended (hybrid) instruction within the classroom .
Hybrid Learning and the Principles of Good Practice in Undergraduate Education
Allan E. Young, Devon C. Duhaney
Cayman Island / USA
The use of technology for teaching and learning has been changing the delivery of education. Among these changes is the increasing use of a blended approach to teaching and learning. This paper reports the findings of a study that investigated students’ perceptions of hybrid or blended learning in a private university in southeastern United States. The students’ experiences will be considered in accordance with the principles for good practice in undergraduate education posited by Chickering and Gamson (1987). The paper will also explore the differences between gender and overall student satisfaction with blended learning.
Keywords: blended learning, hybrid instructions, good practice; student satisfaction, teaching and learning, technology, undergraduate instructions.
The pervasive use of various information technologies throughout the society is impacting the teaching and learning environment. Increasingly, these technologies are being integrated in the teaching and learning process. Educators are demanding a more blended and flexible approach to teaching and the marketplace is moving toward providing hybrid solutions in which the Internet is combined with a variety of other options for the delivery of good instruction (Barker Tulloch, 2000). Over the years, such terms as blended learning, hybrid learning, distributed, and flexible learning have been used to refer to this approach to teaching and learning that has seen a resurgence in recent times (Duhaney, 2004; Marsh, 2001; Smith, 2001). The terms hybrid learning and blended learning will be used synonymously throughout this paper.
During the 1990s the emergence of the World Wide Web (WWW) and the increasing use of the Internet precipitated the use of hybrid instruction and learning activities, particularly within the corporate sector. The prevailing belief at that time was that training and development activities could benefit from electronic learning (e-learning). With that format, resources and instruction were provided purely online. However, as Wilson and Smilanich (2005) observed, mixed successes combined with continued workplace changes have led many organizations back to using the classroom as the backbone of their training programs. Within the field of education, there is growing use of blended learning strategies (Kriger, 2003; Villanti, 2003; American Federation of Teachers, 2000). Ward and LaBranche (2003) noted that blended learning first gained acceptance on college and university campuses, where Web-delivered readings, resources, and student discussions increasingly augmented classroom instruction. This was facilitated with the use of course management software such as Angel, BlackBoard, E-College, Moodle and WebCT.
In light of the widespread use of blended learning approaches in college and university classrooms, this paper reports the results of a study that investigated students’ perceptions of hybrid learning. The students’ experiences are discussed within the context of the principles for good practice in undergraduate education posited by Chickering and Gamson (1987). The paper also explores the differences between gender and overall student satisfaction with blended learning. Specific questions, which were raised concerning the students’ perceptions of hybrid learning, are:
Defining Hybrid or Blended Learning
Hybrid learning is described as the use of electronic-learning tools (software, Internet resources - such as e-mail, World Wide Web including video and/or audio streaming, television, voice-mail, conference call) and traditional face-to-face classroom teaching to ensure maximum effectiveness (Marsh, 2001; Kriger, 2003; Smith 2001). Chamberlin (2001) defines hybrid learning as a combination of online teaching and face-to-face delivery. Garnham and Kaleta (2002) describe the hybrid course as a teaching/learning situation where a good portion of learning activities have been moved to the online platform, but the time spent in a traditional classroom has not been eliminated.
Others perceive blended learning in broader contexts (Singh, 2003 & Driscoll, 2002). Driscoll (2002) sees blended learning as four different concepts: (a) the combination of modes of web-based technology; (b) the combination of various pedagogical approaches; (c) the combination of any instructional technology with face-to-face instruction; and (d) the mixture of instructional technology with actual job tasks. Similarly, Singh (2003) views blended learning as a combination of different learning strategies or what he refers to as ‘dimensions,’ although many of the dimensions have over-lapping attributes.
From the foregoing, any teaching and learning situation which incorporates the traditional face-to-face approach with the use of the synchronous and/or asynchronous format and the utilization of different pedagogical approaches, is a hybrid learning environment. With this model, both the instructor and the use of technology are important for the effective delivery of instruction. In this environment the students must play a pivotal role in the instruction and learning process for it to be effective.
A Brief Review of the Research
Many of the studies on the integration of technology in teaching and learning, particularly distance education, are considered anecdotal. Simonson, Smaldino, Albright, and Zvacek (2003) observe that the largely anecdotal nature of the distance education literature makes it difficult to generalize the findings of studies. Consequently, statements regarding effectiveness and satisfaction of technology in teaching and learning are often based on what individuals in the area intuit rather than on empirical results.
In their research on blended learning, Rogers, Graham, Rasmussen, Campbell, and Ure (2003) concluded that instructors and learners value 2-way communication in the blending of face-to-face and distance learners in a synchronous classroom. They also found that it was beneficial to find ways to increase the spontaneity of social interactions in the synchronous class setting and to utilize different asynchronous communication methods to supplement when students are not communicating during class. In their study, Burgon and Williams (2003) observed that social interaction enhance learning by giving course participants a place to voice questions, share comments, and build community. This was also borne out in a study by Brannan (2002) in which a comparison of face-to-face, hybrid, and true online instruction was conducted. This study found that technology increased the interactions for the four categories studied: student-instructor, student-student, student-content, and student-technology.
King and Fricker (2002) found that the use of a multimodal delivery method, such as that which is seen in the hybrid learning setting, was satisfying, and students suggested delivery designs that embraced a mix of teaching delivery strategies (e.g., a mixture of online and face-to-face approaches). They reported the least preference for the use of only one delivery method. It has also been found that students’ interaction and satisfaction improve when e-learning options were added to traditional forms of learning (Kaur & Ahmed, 2006; DeLacey & Leonard, 2002).
In a study conducted in collaboration with some leading corporations and academic institutions, Thomson’s e-learning company NETg found that a structured curriculum of blended learning generated a 30 % increase in accuracy of performance and a 41 % increase in speed of performance over single-delivery. The Thomson Job Impact study, also found that a blended learning approach has the power to increase employee productivity significantly (Barbian, 2002; The Next Generation of Corporate Learning, 2003).
Principles of Undergraduate Education
While the effectiveness of new delivery modes like hybrid learning has not yet been definitively determined, there are some guiding principles by which the effectiveness may be ascertained. Newlin and Wang (2002) believe that the application of the principles of good practice in undergraduate education posited by Chickering and Gamson (1987) can guide the design and implementation of web-based courses. The authors believe that this can be extended to the variety of hybrid courses. The seven principles for good undergraduate education as outlined by Chickering and Gamson (1987) are: (a) encouraging student/faculty contact; (b) encouraging cooperation among students; (c) encouraging active learning; (d) giving prompt feedback; (e) emphasizing time on tasks; (f) communicating high expectations; and (g) respecting diverse talents and ways of learning. These principles, which surfaced in the 1980s, might be considered a good starting point from which to appraise the effectiveness of hybrid learning as a mode of instructional delivery in the 21st century classroom.
Subsequent to the publication of the “Seven Principles of Good Practice in Undergraduate Education” (Chickering & Gamson, 1987), there has been an increase in the use of information technologies for teaching and learning (Chickering & Ehrmann, 1996). Chickering and Ehrmann (1996) have presented a number of cost-effective and appropriate ways to use computers, video, and telecommunications technologies to advance the seven principles. Newlin and Wang (2002) also believe that it is necessary to employ these principles, as the pedagogical research on web-based learning and instruction has not kept pace with the proliferation of web-based courses now offered by colleges and universities.
Participants and Setting
The sample for this study included students in the Business Department at a private university in the southeastern United States who took at least one or more hybrid courses. At the time of the survey the business department had an enrollment of 1000 students. The respondents were 150 or 15% of the business students who had taken at least one or more hybrid courses prior to the administration of the survey.
For the purpose of this study, courses considered hybrid were those that utilized face-to-face and online components in the delivery of instruction as the courses at this institution. The classes met for eight weeks and there was full attendance for the duration of the course. In addition to face-to-face classroom instruction, assignments were given online (i.e., threaded discussions, quizzes and submission of class assignments). Proportionally, 60% of the classroom instruction was face-to-face and 40% online. The courses were organized in such a way that actual teaching and coverage of the class objectives were done in both the face-to-face and online formats. Relevant discussions were conducted on-line and students were given some online quizzes and research based assignments that were to be completed using the online platform. Teachers graded and returned class assignments online and utilized the platform to address students’ questions and concerns.
A short questionnaire was developed to capture students’ perception of the hybrid approach used in their course(s). Educators who were intimately involved in the delivery of courses using hybrid methodology reviewed the questionnaire for content validity. All five reviewers held PhDs or EdDs and taught one or more courses using the blended approach. Based on suggestions from the reviewers, some questions were deleted because of redundancy or rephrased to eliminate ambiguity.
The instrument consisted of 18 statements that were placed in the following categories: student/faculty contact, active learning, prompt feedback, communicates high expectations, respect for diverse talents and ways of learning, encourages cooperation among students, and a miscellaneous category of overall satisfaction of the hybrid methodology. A 5-point Likert-type scale with the possible responses ranging from 5 (very satisfied) to 1 (not satisfied) was used.
The questionnaires were distributed to the subjects during the final session of their summer and fall 2004 hybrid courses. They were offered the option to complete them in or outside the classroom. All 150 subjects returned the questionnaires. However, only 111 or 75% were deemed usable. The remaining 39 questionnaires were excluded because respondents did not answer all the questions. For example, some subjects only responded to the demographic questions. The researchers felt that inclusion of these questions would skew the results. Data were coded and entered directly in SPSS 12.0 for Windows for analysis. The results were analyzed at the .05 alpha level.
Results and Discussion
As stated earlier, 150 questionnaires were returned and 111 were usable. Seventy-two respondents were females (65 %) and 39 males (35 %). Table 1 shows the distribution of respondents by gender and age. The highest percentage of students (36%) taking hybrid courses was in the 18-24 age group. Those 29 and under accounted for 49 % of course takers. Fifty-one percent of the respondents were in the 30 to over 45 age range. The number of hybrid courses taken ranged from one to 15.
Gender and Age Distribution of Respondents in Hybrid Courses
As shown in Table 2, respondents were satisfied with the level of faculty contact, active learning, prompt feedback and the communication of high expectations in their hybrid courses. Prompt feedback received the highest overall mean score (M=3.91, SD=1.03, N=111). The lowest satisfaction score was in the area of respect for diverse talents and ways of learning (M=3.07, SD=1.07, N=111). Respondents were neutral in their views on overall satisfaction (M=3.13, SD= 1.40, N=111). However the standard deviation was much higher, perhaps indicating a measure of disparity with how the respondents felt concerning their overall satisfaction with hybrid Instruction.
Cluster Means and Standard Deviation
Is there a relationship between age and students’ satisfaction with hybrid courses?
An independent sample t test was applied to find out if age was a factor in determining satisfaction. Student-faculty contact and active learning in a hybrid environment tested significant. Respondents in the under 30-group felt that student- faculty contact was a factor to them (t=2.21, df=110, p<. 05). Those under 30 also felt that active learning in a hybrid environment was more of a factor to them than their over 30 counterparts (t=2.66, df=110, p <. 05) (see Table 3).
Means and Standard Deviations of Respondents Over and Under 25 years (Effectiveness
1. Student Faculty Contact
2. Active Learning
3. Prompt Feedback
4. Communicates High
5. Respect Diverse Talents
6. Encourage Cooperation
*p<.05, df, 110, a Degrees of freedom reduced because equal variances not assumed using
Levene’s test of equality for variances.
Is there a relationship between gender and students’ satisfaction with hybrid courses?
Comparison of male and female respondents regarding their perceptions of blended instruction indicated that student-faculty contact, active learning, and the encouragement of cooperation among students were significant. Female respondents were more likely to consider these areas important to their satisfaction than their male counterparts (See table 4). They also were more likely to be concerned about student contact (t=-2.36, df=109, p<. 05), active learning (t=-2.29, df=109, p<. 05), and encouragement of participation (t=-2.41, df=109, p<. 05) than their male counterparts in a blended learning environment. Although the overall cluster means showed that female respondents’ perceptions were more positive than their male counterparts, the overall cluster means were not significant.
(N: Female=72, Male =39)
1. Student Faculty Contact
2. Active Learning
3. Prompt Feedback
4. Communicates High Expectations
5. Respect Diverse Talents and Ways of Learning
6. Encourage Cooperation Among Students
*p<.05, df, 109, a Degrees of freedom reduced because equal variances not assumed using Levene’s test of equality for variances.
Although the study did not produce evidence of extreme satisfaction based on the variables highlighted, the results suggest that several areas tested significant and would be worth further investigation.
As the use of information technology becomes more popular, teachers are using these media to supplement their regular face-to-face classroom instruction. Students are able to attend class and use online tools to complete a variety of assignments (e.g., submit papers, participate in discussions and conduct research) in order to achieve course objectives. With the increasing use of hybrid or blended learning practices, more attention must be given to this instructional delivery model, particularly as it relates to the principles for good practices in undergraduate education (Chickering & Gamson, 1987). While some students are fascinated with this instructional delivery model, others are still reluctant to try it. This study was limited to one group of students in a private university. Consequently, in order to generalize and give more authenticity to the results, it would be necessary for a study utilizing more subjects to be carried out over a longer period. Future studies should also be done on a wider scale and involve subjects, using control and experimental groups, from a variety of disciplines in public, private, as well as for-profit universities.
The following conclusions can be drawn from the findings of this study:
1. Students in hybrid courses, at the participating private college in the United States, were satisfied with the delivery of courses with respect to active learning, prompt feedback, encouragement of cooperation among students, and communication of highest expectations, using the hybrid approach.
2. Although the students expressed satisfaction with the hybrid courses on the variables identified previously, their overall satisfaction score (2.78%) was not significant.
3. Students under 35 seemed to be more concerned with student contact than were their over 35 counterparts.
As hybrid or blended learning continues to grow in usage, these findings as well as those which will result from subsequent studies will be crucial in determining the effectiveness of this model in the teaching and learning environment.
The increasing number of schools that are using Learning Management Systems (LMS) to augment their face-to-face delivery warrants a more extensive research on hybrid learning. Consequently, we recommend further research in the following areas:
A large scale study should be conducted to examine student satisfaction with hybrid instruction.
Empirical research relating to the effectiveness of the hybrid modality in comparison with pure distance and face-to-face delivery methods should be conducted.
Qualitative research should be carried out with instructors who use the hybrid learning to determine their satisfaction with this instructional approach.
Faculty perceptions concerning the use of LMS systems to foster optimal learning should be investigated
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Allan E. Young, Ph.D.
University College of the Cayman Island (UCCI)
George Town, Grand Cayman
Allan Young [firstname.lastname@example.org]