The use of educational technology at university and college campuses has grown and changed substantially in the last decades. The province of computer and other forms of technology are now being used for multiple functions in diverse educational settings. At many universities, the lecturer uses the software available to organize lecture notes and e-mail and electronic forums to communicate with their students. Inside the classroom, computer projection systems are replacing traditional overhead transparencies, making it possible to harness the interactive and visual capabilities of the computer for lecture and group activities. The problem faced by any university ‘is how to structure itself so that it’s central academic activity is facilitated, not undermined by technological development’ (Laurillard & Margetson, 1997). Even though universities appear to be more comfortable with traditional forms of teaching and learning, it appears that a shift toward a blended approach is taking place by universities that are trying several different forms of educational technologies to find the right fit. Students often do not want to lose the unique attributes of face-to-face teaching, but they do wish for the benefits of educational technology such as edutainment learning.
The landscape of higher education in Malaysia is rapidly being reconfigured as new media technologies are supplementing conventional teaching practices (Bajunid, 2005). The acceleration of e-learning facilitated by information and communication technology (ICT) is stimulated by dismay with current didactic practices which appears to stem from ancient times, as faculty today seem to teach in the same way as Aristotle or Plato did. Despite initial resistance by some academics who fobbed e-learning off as a passing fad, proponents have embraced the use of ICTs for the many pedagogical promises that it holds (Rosenberg, 2001).
Even though higher education has appeared to be more comfortable with traditional forms of teaching and learning (Laurillard, 2002), it appears that a shift towards a blended approach to training is taking place as higher education institutes are trying several different forms of technology to find the right fit. Reports from the higher education sector identify similar trends. Learners most often do not want to lose the unique attributes of face-to-face teaching, but they do wish for the benefits of online learning (Bates, 2003). Thus, other research has shown that students who have participated in blended learning were more likely to take an online course in the future even though blended learning is not simply a matter of the combination of face-to-face and online instruction, but it has to have elements of social interaction (Heinze & Procter, 2006). There are three factors based on the three types of blended environment: blended IT environment, blended teaching and learning environment, and blended content environment, as shown in Figure 1.
Diagram of conceptual design for the blended approach
Figure 1 represents the conceptual design of the research and the specific phases of research that will be conducted. As Figure 1 illustrates, the blended IT environment can be categorized by using technology platforms from a variety of sources. Meanwhile, for blended teaching and learning environment, instructional technology and pedagogical methods strategies that reflect on teaching and learning situations are used. Blended content environment is used towards the development of content to accommodate a variety of learning styles, teaching approaches, and available technology tools. The blended approach can be useful if the educators will understand the conceptual phases in their strategies towards the blended approach in an e-learning environment for higher education.
Key Terms in this Chapter
Blended Learning: The integration between one or more instructional methods which is applicable in face-to-face and also supplemented by other media such as other e-learning tools or ICT tools for communication, either synchronous or asynchronous.
Blended Content Environment: Used towards the development of content to accommodate a variety of learning styles, teaching approaches, and available technology tools including ICTs.
Synchronous Communication Tool: Consider the physical classroom equipped with the ICT tools for teaching and learning that also support the communications tools between educators and learners in real-time. Examples are computer support workgroup system (CSCW) or computer-mediated communication (CMC) where the students interact with the educators via telephone or face-to-face supported by other media.
Blended ICT Environment: Using technology platforms from a variety of sources, either physically or virtually. This includes the ICT technologies which always support higher education.
Blended Teaching and Learning Environment: The usage of instructional technology and pedagogical methods strategies that reflect on teaching and learning situations. It also considers the multi-agent support for teaching and learner support.
Asynchronous Communication Tool: A tool for the event in which the students communicate at their own pace of time and anywhere. Examples are self-paced tools such as chat rooms, e-mail, discussion group, or Web-based communication tool via Internet or short messaging system (SMS) via telecommunication.
Blended Approach: Generated contextualized guideline when teaching and learning in higher education whereby the technology is available for educators to combine the face-to-face (in physical classroom which supplemented with other electronic media such as video, interactive CD, etc.) and virtual classroom (Web-based approach or online system).