Placing Technology in Learner-Centered Design through Blended Learning in Post-Secondary Education

Placing Technology in Learner-Centered Design through Blended Learning in Post-Secondary Education

Doug Reid (Grant MacEwan University, Canada) and John Ewing (University of Alberta, Canada)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-0892-2.ch004
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Abstract

Two university education courses were converted from face-to-face delivery to a blended learning delivery model. Ideally the conversion took place to leverage new pedagogical understandings and new technologies to improve student learning. The redesign of the courses also came about for economic and scheduling reasons. The result of this conversion was the creation of two new blended learning courses that were designed to be learner centered, constructivist, and reflective. In theory, two different courses were created demonstrating the possibilities available when applying theoretical practices to course redesign. In practice, this allowed pre-service teachers to experience a pedagogically appropriate course that they can use as a model later in their own professional practice. It also emphasized the importance of giving learners control of their learning, their time and valuing their input into course design.
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Introduction

The research began at two different universities by two different instructors teaching two different university courses. The instructors were challenged to examine their own teaching practice in light of current research into Learner-Centered pedagogy (Harris and Cullen, 2008) and teacher reflection (Marcos & Tillema, 2006). Their experiences came together when both met and began to discuss new challenges faced in teaching in their respective university settings. Both instructors had backgrounds in the field of education. Both had also completed their PhD’s in respective fields, which examined the impact of emerging technologies on teacher practice. One focused on the daily routines of face-to-face impact on teacher practice as technology came into the classroom, while the other focused on the impact of teacher practice related to online course instruction. The two worlds now came together as they discussed similar questions that they were now facing. The initial discourse was drawn from the discussion found in the book, Technopoly (Postman, 1993). Postman challenges the reader by asking central questions related to technology use in society. It was this debate that challenged the currently existing practices surrnding the two courses in this study and as areas were identified provided a vehicle to form the basis of considerations in planning and implementing of future course iterations in their respective universities.

The action research began in earnest when the two instructors were challenged to shift from a face to face delivery into a blended model of instruction leading towards fully online course delivery. The following section provides the details into the unfolding of the study.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Learner-Centered Pedagogy: Learner-centered education, broadly encompasses methods of teaching that shift the focus of instruction from the teacher to the student. In original usage, student-centered learning aims to develop learner autonomy and independence by putting responsibility for the learning path in the hands of students. Student-centered instruction focuses on skills and practices that enable lifelong learning and independent problem-solving. Student-centered learning theory and practice are based on the constructivist learning theory that emphasizes the learner's critical role in constructing meaning from new information and prior experience.

Teacher Centered Instruction: Teacher centered instruction is where the teacher is the center of knowledge and in charge of learning. In such models knowledge is transmitted from instructor to students. Students are usually passively receiving information. The emphasis is on acquisition of knowledge outside the context in which it will be used. The instructor’s role is to be primary information giver and primary evaluator.

Blended Learning: A formal education program in which a student learns at least in part through delivery of content and instruction via digital and online media with some element of student control over time, place, path, or pace. While still attending a “brick-and-mortar” school structure, face-to-face classroom methods are combined with computer-mediated activities. Blended learning is also used in professional development and training settings, as it can be used to translate knowledge into a particular skill that is useful and practical for a specific job.

Transformative Pedagogy: Teaching to inform and equip learners with the capacity to effect change in one’s environment. It is transformative in that the learner becomes aware of the social, political and/or personal barriers that produce an oppression that undermines the ability to make change or control one’s outlook on social mediated constructs.

Reflective Practice: The capacity to reflect on action so as to engage in a process of continuous learning. According to one definition it involves “paying critical attention to the practical values and theories which inform everyday actions, by examining practice reflectively and reflexively. This leads to developmental insight”. A key rationale for reflective practice is that experience alone does not necessarily lead to learning; deliberate reflection on experience is essential.

Emerging Questions: Questions that are drawn out of field experience, observation and actions implemented during the action research cycle. The questions become obvious and are of importance to the researcher as he or she identifies areas of practice that they seek in order to improve or understand as in an area of teaching practice.

Learner Autonomy: The provision by an instructor to provide the learner with making personal choices surrounding the choices, places and time of learning. This is also linked to learner autonomy where the learner takes ownership of their learning.

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