Developing Independent Learning Skills for Postgraduate Students through Blended Learning Environment

Developing Independent Learning Skills for Postgraduate Students through Blended Learning Environment

Ing Liang Wong
Copyright: © 2013 |Pages: 15
DOI: 10.4018/jcit.2013010103
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Independent learning is a critical learning strategy in higher education, especially in the blended learning environment (BLE). This paper investigates the relevance and suitability of enhanced teaching, learning and assessment (TLA) activities within the BLE and evaluates how these can help postgraduate students to become independent learners at Glasgow Caledonian University. The existing TLA activities of Building Assessment module were reviewed, curriculum redesigned and constructively aligned to learning outcomes. An online survey was carried out to evaluate the appropriateness of TLA activities in developing students’ independent learning skills. Students’ responses on their preferences for module delivery were investigated. Success of TLA activities depends on students’ experience and their familiarity with these activities. Most students agreed that, the use of formative assessment and learning technologies in the BLE was able to develop their independent learning skills; however these activities should be designed and structured properly, with learning supports provided by tutors.
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Setting The Stage

The term ‘blended learning’ has become increasingly common in higher education. Despite many researchers have attempted to define it, the term is still ambiguous. Blended learning can be defined as a combination of e-learning and classroom teaching (Steffens & Reiss, 2010), integration of classroom learning with activity experienced online (California State University, 2009), or integrated combination of traditional learning with web-based online approaches (White & Jelfs, 2003). It was also been referred to as particular forms of teaching with technology (Oliver & Trigwell, 2005), combination of traditional face-to-face teaching methods with authentic online learning activities (Davis & Fill, 2007), or a mixture of different methodologies, such as, learning and instructional technologies (Baldwin-Evans, 2006). Mason (2005) defines it as an approach to the design of learning interventions, using a mix of learning media and methods, such as, mobile devices and web-blogs, with the aim of achieving specific learning outcomes. One of the main purposes of creating BLE is to encourage students to develop independent learning skills, which are critical to achieve success in higher education.

Independent learning is an important learning strategy used not only in higher education, but also for the continuous development of writing skills for school entrants at the age of five (Girling-Butcher et al., 1991). It is neither a new concept, nor is it a concept where there is universal agreement on its meaning (Broad, 2006). The term ‘independent learning’ can be defined as “working with increasingly less structured teaching materials and with less reliance on traditional kinds of tutor’s supports” (Moore, 1984). One way of effectively motivate students is through encouraging them to work independently and flexibly, for example, in a BLE (Gregory & Jenkins, 2004). Despite the flexibility and convenience of when and where to learn (Baldwin-Evans, 2006), learners have to build up their own independent learning skills.

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