The Blended Learning Cookbook

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And in what ways is it effective? According to Dewar and Whittington 5 there is a good deal less literature on the effectiveness of blended learning than there is defining it and suggesting how to implement it. There is also a growing literature base about the learning outcomes achieved through using various types of technology.

The biggest challenge is finding studies that specifically address blended learning, as opposed to the use of technology alone. Little more appears to have been published on the effectiveness of blended learning since Dewar and Whittington noted the lack of literature on the subject. At tertiary level evidence indicates that blended learning may improve student retention rates.

This leaves me questioning if this is a primary consideration for many of the educational providers for adopting a blended approach especially at tertiary level and maybe increasingly so in the EFL sector, or if flexibility and cost, to provide a competitive edge in a global market, are the real drivers for change. Clearly more studies to investigate the pedagogical effectiveness of blended learning in ELT are required that provide us with empirical rather than impressionistic evidence in its favour. Two out of the three of these reasons Stracke gives are referred to in other articles on blended learning.

It certainly heavily influenced the design of my blend see Chapter 16 , resulting in the content of the three modes being linked to a relatively high degree either by grammar, vocabulary or topic. Also Banados found that students preferred face-to-face to online learning, so designed her course accordingly. This would seem to indicate that getting the balance right in terms of the percentage of time spent on each of the modes, and the way they are integrated, is significant. This is a sentiment shared by both Sharma and Neumeier Graham also notes that a blended learning course can also be comprised of the least effective modes just as easily as the most effective modes, although this is rarely acknowledged.

Studies conducted into how best to integrate technology into the curriculum appear to confirm the viewpoints in the preceding paragraph. A similar study conducted by Adair-Hauck et al. Later studies continue to reach the same conclusion. It is therefore envisaged that the case studies in this publication will inform professional practice and enhance the theory of blended learning course design in ELT by adding to the rather limited current knowledge base.

Banados, E A blended-learning pedagogical model for teaching and learning EFL successfully through an online interactive multimedia environment. Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge, 1— Available online at www. Harlow: Pearson Education Limited. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan. Harker, M and Koutsantoni, D Can it be as effective? Distance versus blended learning in a web-based EAP programme. Hockly, N Five things you always wanted to know about blended learning but were afraid to ask. English Teaching Professional Kerres, M and de Witt, C A didactical framework for the design of blended learning arrangements.

Lamping, A Blended Language Learning. A blended language learning approach for CALL. Aldershot, Hampshire: Gower. Neumeier, P A closer look at blended learning — parameters for designing a blended learning environment for language teaching and learning. Edinburgh: Dunedin Academic Press. Reid-Young, A n. The Key to E-learning is B-learning. The Modern Language Journal 39— Oxford: Macmillan.

Sharma, P Try a blend that creates a new class of learning. Guardian Weekly 16 February Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge, 41— EL Gazette , December: 5. Valiathan, P Blended Learning Models. Yang, SC Integrating computer-mediated tools into the language curriculum. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning 85— Today, this coursework includes an expectation that faculty and students will use a variety of technologies to support teaching and learning, including internet- based research sources.

This paper describes the conception and implementation of an EAP reading project designed to help students develop effective online reading and research skills. In addition to providing opportunities to practise traditional reading skills such as skimming, scanning, and critical reading, the project aims to help learners gain autonomous strategies for evaluating the credibility of online information. A student-centred, experiential learning approach to instruction framed the design.

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This required students to do most of the project work online, and involved a blend of face-to-face activity in computer labs along with out-of-class online collaboration. Teaching context The University of Lethbridge in Alberta, Canada, operates a small EAP programme for undergraduate-bound students who have not yet met the English language proficiency requirement for undergraduate admission. The EAP programme has a modular structure consisting of four courses at three levels.

Each course Grammar, Reading, Writing, Communication is normally taught by a different instructor, for five classroom hours each week. EAP semesters run three times per year, for 13 weeks, with class sizes generally ranging between ten and 18 students. Historically, the majority of students come from China, Korea, and Japan. All EAP classrooms have networked computers and data projectors. The majority of students have their own laptop computers with wireless internet access. There is also excellent access to computer labs and networked computer stations throughout the campus.

Hardware in the labs is updated annually, and all labs have data projectors and whiteboards. The university supports Moodle as its official online course management system. In many of these assignments, students use internet-based information for content. My personal observations and evaluations of student work led me to research use of the internet by English as a Second Language ESL students, both in general and in my immediate teaching context.

Students in the Advanced Writing course often include internet-based references in their work. Sometimes this information is taken from religiously biased, commercial, or politically motivated websites, where more objective or neutral evidence was required for the assignment. She remarked that she had spent around 15 minutes exploring this commercial site before I approached her. Teaching English for speakers of other languages TESOL researchers also recognise that students may require specific guidance on appropriate use of internet-based information to support academic study.

Jarvis 51 questions whether EAP students are able to make appropriate and effective use of internet resources in their academic work. Based on this evidence, I determined that my Advanced level students needed further guidance and preparation if they were to make properly informed decisions about the credibility and applicability of information they were finding on internet web pages.

The Advanced Reading course curriculum is based on a core ESL reading text which is used for the length of the course, but the course instructor is free to choose further readings and activities to supplement the text. Key tasks and skills in the course include summarising, critical reading, reading strategies, and reading response. The activities in the project were created with these learning goals in mind. Design and rationale The design of the project was underpinned by the notion that the critical literacy and language skills which support effective online reading and research are probably best developed through student-centred experiential learning.

Experiential learning allows students to explore ideas from their own perspectives, building individual understanding of new ideas and information based on previous experience and knowledge. Based on their study, Levine et al. In order to build awareness and develop critical literacy skills for reading and researching online, a number of authors recommend having students work through web evaluation experiences see Gardner et al. Slaouti and Jones , cited in Slaouti, recommend a constructivist, learner-centred pedagogical approach to developing critical literacy skills in learners, which can prepare them to work more effectively with constantly changing technology.

Miller et al. My strong belief in the potential benefits of integrating technology into the project, and confidence with the technical aspects of campus resources networked computer labs, data projectors, Moodle led to a blended learning design. As determined by the pedagogical aims, the project necessarily involved student use of the internet to search for, read, and evaluate web-based information.

In addition, the project required groups to post their initial summaries and evaluations on the Moodle forum. Moodle was already established as an online learning space in the course, serving administrative functions such as scheduling and posting of course grades, and hosting a variety of learning activities including links to interactive reading skill exercises and course vocabulary learning resources materials.

The availability of well-equipped computer labs meant that induction and other initial online work could occur in a face-to-face setting during regular classroom hours. Groups could then do the project work outside of regular class time by using the online Moodle forums, which allowed students the flexibility to choose when and where they would contribute to their group project.

The project: preparation and induction At the beginning of the Advanced Reading course, the class met face-to-face in the computer lab to take part in general induction activities on the Moodle website, such as navigating the site, accessing site resources, creating forum posts, and hyperlinking in forum posts. Students then regularly used the Moodle site to access course resources and activities. Specific preparation for the Collaborative Online Reading and Research Project occurred in the third and fourth week of the course and required a total of around five hours of computer lab class time.

Groups of three students were formed based on shared research interests. When the online work began, carefully structured guidance was provided. Following this exercise, a class discussion allowed learners to reflect on and share their experiences. Next, each group developed research questions based on their shared interests, and conducted an internet search for one article related to their topic.

Requirements for the project were introduced at the end of this session. Transition to online collaboration Groups transitioned to online work, and no further official classroom time for the project was scheduled. However, I did provide regular opportunities for students to ask questions or voice any concerns about the project. Groups were encouraged to complete full evaluation posts of any unreliable web pages they encountered, since it is in the process of doing so that they were most likely to develop the critical literacy skills needed to evaluate internet-based information sources.

The minimum length of each sourced article was 1, words. Groups posted their summary evaluation submissions on the Moodle course forum, and included hyperlinks to the web pages they summarised and evaluated in each post. This allowed for quick user access to the web pages under scrutiny. All class participants were able to see the work of other groups as it was posted and review my feedback posts on the work as well. Students were encouraged to post further comments or questions if desired. Over the next five weeks, groups posted the remaining seven summary evaluations on the Moodle forum but received private feedback from me.

At the end of the semester, each group delivered a ten to fifteen minute presentation, bringing the online phase of the project back into the classroom. A question and answer session followed each presentation. Discussion Internet searches and the summary and evaluation of web pages were the main tasks for this project.

Feedback indicated that participants saw the online forums as a logical option for collaboration, and the transition to online work went smoothly. The content of the web page evaluation posts revealed that the students were focusing on relevant webpage features to judge reliability. I have used the project in other semesters with some slight modifications based on this feedback, and seen similar results.

The blended design contributed to a positive and meaningful learning experience for the participants, and several students commented that assessing web pages for credibility was a new activity for them and they found the project useful: …it was a good experience to learn how to evaluate web page. Before we learn it, I have never thought about the credibility of web pages. Now, I always think and evaluate web pages before click them. Studying web sites evaluation and practising critical thinking was very useful and interesting. You gave us a chance to think critically and we achieved it unconsciously.

One student commented that her understanding began to change as she realised the relevance and importance of evaluating web-based information: Actually, at the beginning I did not know why I was doing the project. However, as the time went by and I started my research paper, I realized how important the skills of determining whether the website I am looking at is credible.

The time spent for this project was absolutely worthwhile, for I was able to recognize whether a website can be used for my research paper almost at first look. I am pretty sure that I have gained a good strategy of finding reliable sources on the web. These aspects include induction, relevance of the learning aims, and the rationale for using online forums in the project.

For second language learners working online, a lack of confidence in language skills can be exacerbated by limited experience with technology, and this in turn can decrease motivation. Coming into the project, students were already familiar with navigation and features of the Moodle course site. The project design included opportunity for participants to work together on structured tasks in a face-to-face setting before transitioning to online collaboration.

The face-to-face induction sessions provided insight into the kinds of difficulties students might experience while working on the project tasks during the online phase. For example, students can find it challenging to deal with the overwhelming volume of information that is returned when conducting web searches, and an induction period provides opportunities to discuss effective search strategies before students tackle web searches on their own. In this project, I initially provided links to several different web page evaluation templates and asked students to choose the resource that they preferred.

However, most students found the choice difficult, and wanted a recommendation instead. In my second experience with the project, I provided more guidance and structure here, making students aware of the different guides available, but recommending the UC Berkley site in particular, based on positive student feedback. An informal discussion at the start of the project revealed, as expected, that all students in the class regularly searched the internet for information to support their study.

However, relatively few students reported that they normally questioned the credibility of the information on the internet. The online user interface for collaboration was not complex, and user issues were minimal. There were no connectivity issues, or technical difficulties with Moodle. Some groups turned to additional technologies to facilitate collaboration, and reported using Skype, MSN, and web-based document storage in their work. Students cited collaborative challenges, including the sharing of workloads and group dynamics, but no students attributed these difficulties to the online mode of work.

There were also no concerns about the time required to complete the project, even with the study load of three other Advanced level EAP courses. The online phase of the project allowed group members flexibility in time and place of their work. Most importantly, the forums appeared to facilitate learning in important ways, although they were used mainly to display and share student work rather than as interactive discussion boards.

The Moodle forums provided public evidence of the project work and teacher feedback, documenting individual and group learning as the projects developed. In turn, students had opportunities to learn from the work of their classmates. Several students commented that seeing the work of other groups on the forums motivated them to work harder to improve their own work.

For example, one student wrote: …I think model [sic] was good. It motivated us to work harder than them. This no doubt contributed to their motivation to work online, but the class discussions and student feedback also indicated that students perceived immediate practical value and relevance in the project and the use of the Moodle forums to facilitate the group work. For this particular EAP project, the use of technology is inextricably linked to the pedagogical aims and learner needs which inform those aims.

Within the teaching context, face-to-face classroom time is quite limited and the time required for effective collaborative work on the project exceeds available classroom instructional hours. A blended design allows for a face-to-face induction period and ongoing instructor support, while providing flexible opportunities for learner reflection and online collaboration. Helping students evaluate sources. Oxford: Oxford University Press. English for Specific Purposes Other than reading of computer assisted language learning CALL in the literature, none of us had first-hand experience of supporting learning with technology.

Decisions were made ad hoc, and experiments carried out more in hope than in expectation. The curriculum was tinkered with from time to time.

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Progress was slow and challenging. The main challenges included the technical logistics of implementation and integration, as well as the academic issues of pedagogy. We did not have the advantage of learning from the experience of any institution in Nigeria; neither did we have support from any authority. Five years down the line, from a borrowed Web 1. Uptake is expected to increase exponentially in a couple of years as we have formed a Blended Learning Research Group BLRG to provide training for the growing numbers of academic staff.

Like most universities in Nigeria, FUTA has a General Studies Unit, to cater for the arts and social science subjects with the aim of giving students of science and technology a balanced perspective of life. All students take the in- sessional courses in the foundation year. Nigerian universities are low-resourced with the triple constraints of few teachers, large classes and grossly inadequate facilities.

Enrolment continues to increase with freshmen now accounting for around 3, plus each year, but staff numbers have remained low, with facilities remaining inadequate. Both courses are credit bearing and students need a pass grade in each one to graduate. Students come from various disciplines, including biological and physical sciences, and engineering. Class sizes range between and for each teacher, with each student receiving two contact hours a week.

A course runs for about 13 weeks of a semester. In the first semester, course GNS has the objective of equipping students with information literacy and study skills. The course culminates in writing a term paper after investigating a topical issue. At the end of the course students are expected to be able to read critically in academic contexts, raise questions, reflect on their learning processes and use basic research and internet skills.

The challenge For the enrolled population, language teaching in the large classes remained a Herculean task. LoCastro , among others, suggests that when a language class exceeds 15 in number problems arise, such as those of pedagogy, management and of the affective type, especially in a low resourced environment. In the last decade, the majority of students who enrol for university courses come with low English language proficiency on account of declining standards in pre- university education and the rising profile of Nigerian pidgin among young people.

An increasing number of youths, especially from the Niger Delta, have pidgin as their first language Ihemere, ; Marchese and Shnukal, For a language course, interaction is crucial. Therefore, the main driver of change to incorporating technology in our practice is pedagogic — the large class situation that made interaction in English, the target language student—student, student— teacher , difficult, if not impossible. In class most students with difficulty in using English hardly spoke out but would communicate with peers in pidgin or their first language.

With online discussions they would take time to compose whatever had to be said and struggle to construct their ideas in English, even if in poor English with traces of pidgin or mother tongue. There, a presentation on using the wiki opened up a new vista. Relying on elaborations of the subject by Beatty and Dudeney and Hockly , teachers took themselves through several sessions of professional development to decide what they needed to know and do, and how to get students using the wiki Aborisade Why blend?

In low-resourced contexts the triple problems of inadequate classroom spaces, lack of teaching-learning facilities and few teachers create a complex mix of constraints, including timetabling. An extension of the classroom was needed. Learning technologies are reported to help extend teaching-learning flexibility. Other reports Murray, contend that computer-based technologies can be powerful pedagogical tools as extensions of human capabilities and contexts for social interactions supporting learning.

Blended or hybrid learning Rodriguez and Anicete, was therefore an appealing choice for two main reasons. Secondly, accounts in e-learning literature suggest that blended or hybrid learning has great advantages; Graham listed six: pedagogical richness, access to knowledge, social interaction, personal agency, cost effectiveness, and ease of revision.

It has been found that many students preferred this mode because of the advantage of combining the affordances of face-to-face and online modes and building on their diverse learning styles Reynard, ; Rodriguez and Anicete, The blended mode enables an enhanced learning experience by enabling diverse learning environments, thus fostering reinforcement, increasing accessibility of learning materials; and helping to build a sense of community and collaboration through the collaborative and communication platforms of the wiki and forums for sharing experiences of learning.

The requirements of this approach drew us to look for alternative methods of course delivery beyond the constraints of the face-to-face teacher-fronted, rote learning mode. The courses were already task- and skills-based, adopting the process-product and problem-based approaches. What remained was to enable learners to do more on their own, to help teachers be able to give more support by giving more frequent feedback and providing links to diverse materials and sources and, especially, to create avenues for greater interaction amongst learners in the target language.

GNS , for example, followed a seven-stage process up until the writing of the term paper, and each stage had a number of steps with varied tasks: 1 raising awareness of language use, 2 choosing a topic, 3 sourcing for materials, 4 structuring the essay, 5 drafting the essay, 6 writing references, 7 using checklists.

All of the stages, except 5, start off in an face-to-face meeting, presenting and explaining the ideas and principles. Tasks and samples of good practice are set, but are only available online. However, most tasks are carried out at group meetings, while answers are uploaded onto the learning site. Students have the opportunity at face-to-face meetings to debate, brainstorm and raise queries on aspects of each stage while collaborating and communicating on their group tasks out of class.

Equally important is the opportunity this affords to explore materials the teacher is unable to provide as they investigate their project topics. We use the face-to-face meetings to build the group teams after explaining and debating the course rationale, goals and learning outcomes. Also important is giving an explanation on how the online component integrates and works. Each stage of the course and the expectations are clarified. Feedback is given on issues around the tasks that students carry out.

On the Moodle VLE the learning materials are available for download; links to other sites with useful materials are provided a regular one is www. The totality of the blend is a learning experience that has kept students engaged, interacting in English and interested in learning like they never have been before. We interpret the outcome as suggesting that our experiment is succeeding, though a lot more needs be done in the areas of peer support and interactivity, but this represents considerable movement from near zero level.

Figure 1: COLLES survey result Preferred Relevance Reflective Interactivity Tutor Peer Interpretation options Thinking Support Support Almost Always Often Sometimes Seldom 49 48 58 70 Almost 15 18 49 17 54 20 Never Lessons learned and the way forward We have learned that the bottom-up evolutionary process works for educational development in our context. Of the seven higher education institutions in Nigeria listed in the Moodle user directory, four use the VLE for distance learning as a repository for content; one uses it for assessment only.

Blended Learning

Only in FUTA where teaching staff own and drive the process is take-up growing in a gradual but fairly steady rate. The tools in the VLE are a major boost for collaboration and communication, two key things we had longed for but lacked in our practice. With their tongues let loose, students were a source of inspiration; they knew more than we always credited them with and had skills we knew nothing about. Teachers can be learners too and students can help drive the process. A group of students that went through our courses have emerged as ICT champions, giving support to other students.

We have learned that the unexpected could happen when using technology, but we were undaunted because we had our face-to-face comfort zone as a backup when the site crashed. Teacher workload increased rather than decreased as time was required for professional development in IT and pedagogy, for course design, VLE management and course facilitation. As often happens, shut-downs of universities by government, staff or students disrupt academic programmes.

On the downside, however, poor technology infrastructure and inadequate facilities exert great pressure on the most willing students and staff, in terms of effort, time and finance. Teachers are unable to respond to all questions and posts because of large numbers.

Also worth noting are the technology downtimes and inadequate bandwidth problems, coupled with not having backup servers, which make us lose data constantly. Training requirements for academic and technical staff are issues anyone in our context must pay attention to when going in for blended learning. Conclusion The much talked about digital divide is a reality. In a developing country such as Nigeria, the obstacles to educational change are myriad.

They include the generic issues of strategy, perceptions and e-readiness; human and contextual issues, and resources of time, cost and technology. The gap can be bridged by teachers who are daring and resourceful and students can be sources of expertise. Essex: Pearson Education Ltd. Modern English Publications in association with the British Council. San Francisco, CA: Pfeiffer. English for Specific Purposes — Ihemere, KU A basic description and analytic treatment of noun clauses in Nigerian pidgin.

LoCastro, V Teaching English to large classes. English World-Wide 4: 17— Murray, DE Changing technologies, changing literacy communities? Reynard, R Hybrid learning: challenges for teachers. THE Journal. Learner characteristics My learners are undergraduate students at the Department of Foreign Languages, majoring in Teaching English as a Foreign Language, Translation and Interpretation and Intercultural Communication. During the first two semesters students learn how to write one-paragraph essays of several types, such as descriptive, narrative and argumentative, with the focus on such elements of their organisation as the topic sentence, supporting examples and conclusions.

It is taught in face-to-face mode only. One of the reasons for this is the level of ICT competence of the first-year course instructor and, to a certain extent, that of some of the students. During the second year of instruction the students learn how to write five-paragraph discursive essays that should be fluent and clear and meet the standard requirements for essay content, organisation, language use, the mechanics and style.

The course puts an emphasis on letting the students understand different stages of the writing process, recognise their own strengths and weaknesses and use this information to their advantage when composing their essays. The decision to offer this course as a blended one was made for the following reasons: 1. To motivate the students to write, which is cited in literature as one of the benefits of using Web 2. To create a space for them to share their experiences Davoli et al. To give the students opportunities to provide each other with feedback on their writing Davoli et al.

To encourage informal communication Richardson, ; Solomon and Schrum, To support course management Bonk and Graham, ; Davoli et al. The wiki is also equipped with the tools for synchronous and asynchronous communication providing additional channels for it. Besides being used for the course activities throughout the course, the wiki is also used for formative and summative assessment, with the students completing quizzes as well as creating and submitting their e-folios at the end of the semester and the academic year to the wiki.

To provide additional channels for interaction and opportunities for collaboration Richardson, ; Solomon and Schrum, The choice of workspace The foreign languages department is equipped with a multimedia lab which is used to deliver the course. Thus in choosing the software and tools to teach my course I am limited to those available for free. It was chosen as one of the learning environments for the course because it met this requirement. What is also important, is that PBWorks is free from advertising, which I see as its significant advantage over some other online services. It is important too that such course delivery can help to promote a shift towards more learner-centred teaching.

How is the course blended? During the weekly face-to-face sessions, for the duration of two academic hours students read and discuss a variety of materials, the selection of which is made based on their interests and taking into account their learning needs.

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Then the students are offered a series of activities and exercises to help them to improve different aspects of writing and the language. In addition, depending on time availability, the students are asked to work on their own to freewrite on the topic of their essay and then discuss what they have written with their peers.

In the wiki the students post their works in progress or completed ones. Each of them has her own folder in the wiki, which makes it easier to navigate. The students are asked to post their works in the wiki at least one day before a face-to-face session to leave their peers some time for commenting on their work. After that the students should revise their essay drafts based on the comments of their peers and the teacher.

This way the students go through all the stages of the writing process and can continuously work on improving their essay drafts. In total the students received hours of instruction over the period of two years, including 34 and 68 private study hours during the two academic years of instruction, respectively. The teacher controls the choice of texts for discussion, and discussion questions for the reading selection. After the discussion in the classroom, the students make suggestions about their possible essay questions and the points to consider in them.

Generally, the students submit two essay drafts, with the second one being graded. However, the students have a further opportunity to improve their essays, if they want them to be included in the portfolio drafts at the end of the semester. Teaching methodology Approach to teaching writing To teach this course a combination of process and product approaches with some elements of genre approach to writing are used Badger and White, ; Flower and Hayes, ; Kroll, ; Steele, In essence, the product approach as defined by Pincas is primarily concerned with the proper use of the language, with the students producing a piece of writing after analysing a model text first and imitating it next , cited in Badger and White, Peer-editing Different aspects of peer-editing pedagogy have been widely discussed in research literature.

Some of the advantages of incorporating peer revision in writing instruction include students working in a friendly environment Hyland, ; Villamil and de Guerro, 67 , gaining a better sense of the audience Hyland, ; Nation, , assuming a more active role in the learning process Mendonca and Johnson, ; Hyland, , and developing skills of critical reading Hyland, All the students are new to peer-editing and revision activities, so a special training session is held at the beginning of the year to introduce them to such activities.

In addition, later in the semester when the students get used to working this way, a special feedback session is run to discuss their experience in peer-editing. To help them make their comments more substantial we read and discuss the comments they give to each other, so that gradually they become clearer and more specific. Every effort is made to ensure that each student in the group receives some feedback on their work. It is stressed that working in the wiki students receive a greater level of responsibility: the students are not only responsible for themselves but also for their peers.

Sometimes this is a difficult aspect of the course instruction which some students struggle with for quite some time during the course. In accordance with the course requirements, in addition to publishing their own works each student is required to comment on a work published by at least one of their peers.

Some common activities and exercises One of the first activities the students are offered is to share their experience in writing an essay or some other kind of work when discussing the question of the stages of the writing process in the beginning of the academic year. They are asked to describe their approach to writing an essay and share some insights into it, as well as some difficulties they can encounter with their peers.

They also need to read at least one reflection written by another student and comment on it. This way the students are first introduced to one of the common activities in which they will participate regularly throughout the course. Among the exercises the students are offered to complete are student-generated exercises. To start using them on a regular basis, the teacher first creates a worksheet with common errors students made in a particular piece of work and publishes it in the learning environment, for the students to discuss and correct the errors.

Later on in the course, the students are asked to create their own worksheets for their peers based on the analysis of their own common errors. This way they are able to recycle the material with which they have problems several times, and to help each other along the way. Contextual challenges When taking the course offered in the described mode the students face several kinds of challenges, some of which are associated with learning to write itself and others with the mode in which the course is delivered.

Challenges of learning to write are probably common to the majority of learners working on the development of their writing skills, such as formulating the topic for their essay, developing it with adequate support, and organising their ideas logically and consistently. These include: a. Learning to use the learning environment: for most of the students working in an online environment is a new experience, so they need some guidance and practice in using it.

Learning to use the learning environment to its full potential, for which the students need to become more familiar with its affordances and limitations. Learning to manage their time more efficiently: this is of general concern, and becomes even more acute than usual in the given context, for obvious reasons.

Lessons learned and advice While designing the blend and teaching using it, it has become clear that it takes time for students to get used to both participating in peer-editing and doing it in the wiki. Also, it is necessary to make the students aware of the time management issues that can interfere with the learning process. In addition, students should be encouraged to take more control over some aspects of the learning environment, such as adding relevant content to it, maintaining its appearance and using its editing and commenting features to their greater potential.

Pains and gains from blending Keeping the students motivated throughout the whole duration of the course was one of its worrying aspects. The other one was enabling the students to stick to the deadlines for wiki submissions. Also, thanks to blending, students gain greater awareness of audience issues because peers provide a broader and more natural audience for their writing, which agrees with research on the benefits of peer-editing reviewed in this article.

Overall the attitude of the students to the described course blend was rather positive and encouraged me to work on improving it. Education and Information Technologies — Flower, L and Hayes, J A cognitive process theory of writing. Flowerdew J An educational or process approach to the teaching of professional genres. Hyland, K Second Language Writing. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Krebs, M et al.

Lee, L Fostering reflective writing and interactive exchange through blogging in an advanced language course. Pinkman, K Using blogs in the foreign language classroom: encouraging learner independence. Thousand Oaks, Calif: Corwin Press. Rowley: Newbury House. Tribble, C Writing. Zhang, W Blogging for doing English digital: student evaluations. Journal of Computers and Composition — In terms of technology, los Andes has a very strong internet culture and it uses a learning management system LMS , which is an aid for many administrative and pedagogical matters.

Students who enrol at los Andes are mainly Colombians whose native language is Spanish, and the University requires them to have a good command of a foreign language in their academic life. This is enforced by two requirements. One is to have a minimum level of reading in English by their third semester of studies, and the other is to demonstrate a high proficiency level in English or another foreign language in order to graduate.

Type of English courses — The English Academic Support Programme The English programme is an English as a Foreign Language EFL programme that is part of Departamento de Lenguajes y Estudios Socioculturales, which has situated the practices of language learning within the study of cultural and social issues, intertwined with language. The content used involves a light approach, with more emphasis on language. This is because most input students receive in their subject field of study is provided in English and the University wishes to prepare students to take postgraduate courses in English speaking environments.

Each course focuses on one skill. Levels 1—3 have reading as the main skill, in order to have students reading in their field of study as soon as possible. Levels 4 and 6 have a strong emphasis on speaking to prepare students to participate in class, and level 5 deals with writing to enable students to write essays and papers in English when they graduate. The aims of the course respond to the theoretical background of the programme. It is a week long high-intermediate course that meets three times a week for 1. The first unit is five weeks long while the second and third units are four weeks long.

In addition, each week in one of the sessions students have access to a language laboratory. When the blend began, this was the only level in the programme that had instructors who were willing to experiment with technology and there were four groups taught by two instructors. The number of groups in this level had the potential to increase, unlike in other levels. In a nutshell, it was selected as a pilot for blended learning courses because its instructors were willing to take the risk in terms of technology and the pilot would affect a limited number of participants.

Students and instructors in the blend The population involved in this project includes students and instructors whose backgrounds are varied. On the one hand there are los Andes undergraduate students, who, as mentioned before, are technologically literate, and come from different fields of study including, but not exclusively, mathematics, engineering, medicine, law, and literature.

These students need to learn English due to the foreign language requirements established by the University or because the academic environment imposes the need. On the other hand, there are instructors who are qualified in EFL and have teaching experience at undergraduate level, but are not as familiar with the use of computers as students are. In addition, they have taught undergraduates before and have experience of teaching in the programme. Despite the fact that some of them have been working in the University for some time, their command of information communication and technology ICT skills were not as good as their students.

Some instructors had used computers in the classroom while others had hardly ever used them for personal reasons or outside of the classroom. The instructor turnover in the course is high: four in a year. It was a top-down decision from the administration, but was favourably received by EFL instructors. This could have been due to the fact that there was a small, but new generation of EFL instructors who championed and led change and other forms of teaching that were more up to date, and former teachers were ready for a change.

According to Graham this integration is known as blended learning. He explains it as a teaching system that combines face-to-face instruction and computer mediated instruction. Blended learning offered flexibility in the learning environment, which was crucial to our context since students learning English in the University come from different majors and have different studying habits and schedules. This is where the Department started considering online, hybrid or blended courses and realised that blended learning was most suitable.

Graham argues that blended learning fosters pedagogical methodologies that use interactive strategies, which, in our context, instructors had pinpointed as necessary. These needs are what Waterhouse highlights as some of the strengths of blended learning: fosters student centred learning, fosters asynchronous and distant learning, fosters student- content interaction, fosters communication and collaboration, makes course administration simpler, and helps track student learning, among others. Blended learning was desirable due to the limitations of the campus, because since it is located in downtown Bogota, it cannot grow more and classrooms and study spaces are limited.

Blended learning seemed to be a solution when incorporating an online laboratory, which would reach a larger number of students. How the blend has been built The idea of this project was to take a course that had proved to be successful and to alter the teaching conditions for the instructors as little as possible at the beginning, but to benefit the students. The outcome of the blended course would be the result of gradual incorporation of ICT through an ongoing process, which has six major stages, as shown below.

In terms of numbers, the blend has increased significantly in terms of number of students, instructors, and groups using the blend from the first year to , when growth seemed to be stabilising. The use of the blend in hours per week reached its peak in the year both for instructor use in the classroom and student use outside the classroom. Practise privately to later show themselves and classmates in the classroom they can speak in English.

Control of some resources to the students giving them independence to practise in the language. Manage easily the recordings and keep record of their performance in English allowing them to track their progress. Use technology they are familiar with as part of the course. Create other environments in the course to share with classmates and instructor. The blend Our blend can best be explained as the use and implementation of an ICT environment or tool that expands the classroom walls to the virtual ICT synchronous and asynchronous reality, thereby aiding and reinforcing classroom instruction and enhancing learning potential.

This is what I tried to do in the blended course. The blend is composed of several aspects that are a fact of the course; they are inseparable now from the course.

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It is in a sense what Chappelle 1 claims by stating that everyday language is tied to technology emailing for example ; and as a result, language learning with technology is a fact of life. Video of online laboratory. Laboratory orientation session. Pronunciation profile recording on a private oral discussion board. Dictionary use. Instructor feedback. Learning key words for Dictionary drills — automatic feedback.

Links to consonants and vowels Private oral discussion boards and instructor guidance. Using a pronunciation Consonant and vowel drills — self-evaluation guide. Learning styles video discussion. Such instruction was important to students given that the sessions were predominantly led by the student-directed research on their respective case. Students presented conflicting viewpoints when asked whether they preferred the EBM content to be delivered in the existing tutorial format, or using the proposed blended-learning approach.

Much of this difference was dependent on the preferred learning style of students. Whilst the tutorials are intended to be interactive in their design, the majority of tutorials seem to incorporate a large amount of didactic teaching of EBM concepts.

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Students that preferred a didactic approach to learning demonstrated a preference for EBM concepts to be delivered in the existing tutorial format. Conversely, other students perceived that the tutorial style of teaching did not consolidate, or build upon their previous knowledge and skills in EBM. These students voiced that the course was subsequently not stimulating from a clinical viewpoint.

They actually made sense. Last year was all jumbled up, but I thought this year was a bit more structured, with what we were supposed to get out of it. Students discussed that the EBM course could be effectively taught in a large group, in which critical concepts in EBM were introduced and then further discussed when students broke back into the original tutorial groups. I would be more than happy to study this subject in a bigger group, with one expert in EBM teaching.

Students in the DID group did not demonstrate a preference for tutors to be solely clinical experts, over content experts in EBM. Rather, students placed greater emphasis on the tutor being able to demonstrate the integration of EBM with clinical practice. The same with this EBM. Both student cohorts found that the library session was practical and useful — particularly for techniques for accessing quick evidence-based information in the clinical setting.

Both cohorts demonstrated positive opinions about the use and value of the assessment tasks. Both groups believed that the assessment tasks were a valid tool in assessing student competency in EBM. Both groups were asked whether they would use the EBM skills taught in the future as clinicians. Whilst students did not explicitly use the skills currently as students, for example during the study, both cohorts believed that they would use EBM skills in the future as clinicians.

This study generates novel findings on the impact of adopting a blended-learning approach to EBM in graduate-entry medical students. Our findings also demonstrated no difference in EBM competency between students who received a traditional didactic, tutorial-based implementation of an EBM course compared to a blended-learning approach. Conversely, it identified that students prefer utilising a blended-learning approach to learning EBM as it is perceived to offer a greater opportunity to integrate the theoretical concepts of EBM with the practical situations of clinical practice.

Findings from this study concur with those of a systematic review that concluded that standalone teaching may only improve knowledge, but not attitudes, skills and behaviour in EBM in postgraduate students [ 13 ]. Similarly, it provides further evidence that utilising a PBL approach to EBM may increase student attitudes and behaviour towards adopting the principles of EBM in clinical practice [ 20 ]. Students exposed to the BL approach found the EBM unit more intellectually stimulating, were able to translate their EBM skills to other components of their study and appreciated the link between theory and practice.

If an evidence-based approach to medicine is to be practiced by clinicians, then these future clinicians need to be taught how to use EBM as students during their clinical years. Providing evidence, be it physically or the tools to effectively search, identify, evaluate and implement, to busy clinicians increases the extent to which evidence is sought and incorporated into medical decision making [ 32 ]. Integrating EBM teaching alongside bedside and other PBL and blended-learning approaches provides students with an opportunity to improve competence in both their EBM and clinical skills — a nexus that it essential if EBM is to be applied in the clinical setting.

The principles of EBM rely on the integration of evidence, clinical expertise and patient values — all of which will differ across clinical scenarios. The proportion of clinicians incorporating and practicing EBM in their daily clinical workload varies considerably [ 34 , 35 ]. Barriers to successful implementation as practicing clinicians may include a lack of time, resources, patient-related factors or influence of peers [ 36 ].

Providing medical students with the knowledge and skills in EBM increases their ability to implement such skills in the clinical setting [ 37 ]. It remains uncertain whether the influence of the above mentioned barriers negates the transfer of their EBM skills in clinical practice. This study demonstrates that adopting blended-learning approach to teaching and learning EBM provides a framework that integrates with the existing steps of the EBM process.

The blended-learning approach is clinically focused, with the problem-based aspect encouraging learners to rely on their existing EBM knowledge whilst implementing their EBM skills to identify, evaluate and implement evidence relevant to the clinical scenario. This study was not a RCT, but a pragmatic trial, since it was not possible to randomise and blind individual students to the intervention.

The use of a mixed methods approach, integrating quantitative and qualitative data further contextualised and triangulates the results of this study. This study has demonstrated the effectiveness of adopting a blended-learning approach to teaching EBM. This blended-learning approach was successfully implemented in a small teaching hospital. The feasibility of implementing this approach in a large teaching hospital remains uncertain. Student numbers will dictate how many facilitators are required, of which few seem to have both the clinical and EBM expertise so often desired by students.

DI is the coordinator of the EBM program, but also facilitated the focus group discussions. This raises the possibility that this dual role may influence the manner in which students express their perceptions about the BL and DID learning styles. During the recruitment and conduct of the focus groups, it was strongly reiterated that participants may openly express any views on the EBM course; which would seem to be reflected in the responses provided.

Assess of EBM competency was assessed by the Berlin tool, which has been previously validated and psychometrically tested for this purpose. Both the assessment tasks and self-reported perception questionnaire have not been psychometrically validated. The findings from this study suggest that a blended-learning approach to teaching EBM promotes greater student appreciation and increase in self-confidence in using the EBM principles within the clinical setting.

This direct application to the clinical environment provides an opportunity to bridge the gap between theory and practice. Future research is required to investigate whether similar findings are apparent in undergraduate-based medical students and the feasibility of implementing such a program among a large student cohort. DI designed the study, collected the data, performed quantitative and qualitative data analysis and drafted the manuscript.

WH contributed to the design of the study, and drafted the manuscript. PF contributed to the design of the study, and drafted the manuscript. MM performed the qualitative data analysis and drafted the manuscript. EV designed the study, collected the data, performed quantitative data analysis and drafted the manuscript.

Adopting a blended learning approach to teaching evidence based medicine: a mixed methods study

All authors read and approved the final manuscript. The authors wish to thank all students who kindly participated in the study. National Center for Biotechnology Information , U. BMC Med Educ. Published online Dec Author information Article notes Copyright and License information Disclaimer. Corresponding author. Dragan Ilic: ude. Received Sep 19; Accepted Dec This article has been cited by other articles in PMC.

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Methods A mixed-methods study was conducted consisting of a controlled trial and focus groups with second year graduate medical students. Results A total of 61 students Conclusions Implementing a blended-learning approach to EBM teaching promotes greater student appreciation of EBM principles within the clinical setting. Keywords: Evidence based medicine, Blended learning, Graduate medical education, Pedagogy.

Adopting an evidence based approach to medicine requires that users are competent in understanding and applying the following steps in clinical practice: i Asking a clinical question that is constructed using the PICO patient, intervention, comparison, outcome framework; ii Acquiring the evidence via a systematic and efficient search of the literature; iii Appraising the evidence through the application of critical appraisal techniques; iv Applying the evidence to the clinical scenario; and, v Assessing the EBM process as it relates to the clinical context [ 2 ].

Methods A mixed methods approach consisting of a controlled trial and focus group was adopted for this study [ 26 ]. Study design and setting A controlled trial with intention-to-treat analysis was performed with second year medical students undertaking the graduate MBBS degree at Monash University. Table 1 Overview of the EBM course content. Session Key EBM content covered 1. Open in a separate window. Recruitment Second year graduate medical students were recruited from four teaching hospitals associated with the course Traralgon, Warragul, Sale and Peninsula.

Figure 1. Outcome measures The primary outcome measured in this study was competency in EBM. Qualitative data collection A phenomenological approach to collecting qualitative data, through the use of focus groups, was adopted to identify student perceptions on the delivery of the EBM course using the existing DID versus the BL learning approach [ 30 ].

Data analysis Quantitative data were assessed for Normality before analysis. Results From a total of 71 eligible students, 61 Table 2 Assessment of student competency in EBM using the Berlin tool and a criterion-based course assessment task. I can confidently construct an answerable question using the PICO framework 4. I understand how biases selection, performance, attrition, detection may affect the validity of a study 3.

I can confidently calculate and interpret different measures of effect i. I can interpret a systematic review and apply the findings to a clinical context 3. This unit enabled me to achieve its learning objectives 3. I found the unit to be intellectually stimulating 3. Overall I was satisfied with the quality of this unit 3.

I have used my EBM skills when studying this year 3. The workload for each EBM session was reasonable 3. I believe that I will use my EBM skills during my clinical career 4. I believe that practicing evidence based medicine is critical in being a good clinician 4. Figure 2. BL students Using a blended-learning approach Students preferred using a blended-learning approach as it primarily allowed them to make the link between the theoretical aspects of EBM and the practical aspect of application at the bedside with patients.

DID students Using the didactic approach Students presented conflicting viewpoints when asked whether they preferred the EBM content to be delivered in the existing tutorial format, or using the proposed blended-learning approach. Role of the tutor Students in the DID group did not demonstrate a preference for tutors to be solely clinical experts, over content experts in EBM.

Assessment tasks Both cohorts demonstrated positive opinions about the use and value of the assessment tasks. Discussion This study generates novel findings on the impact of adopting a blended-learning approach to EBM in graduate-entry medical students. Conclusions The findings from this study suggest that a blended-learning approach to teaching EBM promotes greater student appreciation and increase in self-confidence in using the EBM principles within the clinical setting.

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