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The success of a student in a blended environment lies in motivation and technology (Science Daily, 2008). The motivation therefore creates students to engage in learning and technology provides facilities in learning. Some university courses replace the phase of face to face interaction and just provide with online activities. The interaction among students and instructions is represented via Internet and face to face communication (Rogers, Berg, Boettecher & Justice, 2009). Students use the web to revise the lecture and follow the instructions of the assignment pattern and discuss any issues related to it. At the whole, it improves the efficiency and effectiveness of collaborative learning when students and a lecturer are getting together (Pan, 2008).
Current studies on learning effectiveness in blended course and programs concentrate on the measures such as grades (Graham & Dziuban, 2008). Jang, Kim & Park (2006) case -study reveals that 56 nursing students for four weeks used blended learning programmes and was found a significant improvement in their learning achievement. It has provided the undergraduate nursing students a potential learning tool.
There are many advantages in using blended learning which is continuing to grow rapidly. Today's university students are fully occupied with part-time or full-time work or engaging themselves in several different curricular activities. Due to this, students are unable to attend classroom lectures affecting their overall performance in the course. However, learning at a distance can help many students overcome their daily routine and can manage both work and university. Student at a distance, no longer need to work in isolation but can join other learners in an electronically supported community (MacDonald & Thompson, 2009). Students can access materials at anytime and anywhere and can also proceed at their own pace (Klimova Frydrychova, n.d.). This leads to motivation amongst students to learn things in a new way. Blended learning can help university students manage jobs, university studies and family (Dzibuan, Moskal & Hartman, 2005). Following these, it is quite easier for students to adapt to blended learning than just face to face in class learning.
Online learning communities strive to develop student's ability to acquire knowledge in a collaborative environment (Stacey & Gerbic, 2009). Students demonstrate their participation in the learning process through regular written communication (French & Vardhaman, 2003). Blogs, chatting, forums and email can make easier access for both students and tutor (Pazio, n.d.). The end result is where the student can easily and actively engaged and can learn more than traditional class room session.
Researchers from University of Central Florida found that blended learning retains the face to face element which was thought to be lost between students and faculty and in other words of faculty it describes as "the best of both worlds". Blended courses were also introduced in UAE which was new to blended learning (Kempin, n.d.). This has introduced 'Discussion board' for students to engage in cultural, personal and business topics which helped them to communicate and exchange their ideas in English giving students real response for speaking English which in turn helped them to improve their vocabulary skills. Students from UAE found this pattern really fun and interesting.
Blended learning courses do not reduce costs but it improves the quality of education with innovative strategies (Fainholic, 2009). Blended e-learning in traditional courses has resulted in improved student retention (Wingate, 2009), as it helps participants to learn on their own speed and improves the interaction between tutor and learner (Torun, 2003). A study by Andrew Zucker (2005) indicates that interaction is important getting to know students, learning the material and motivation. When students become comfortable with their fellow class friends, their interaction increases in the lecture.
Rovia & Jordan (2004) examine the sense of community in blended learning as:
"Interactions resulting in increased socialization, a stronger sense of being connected to each other, and increased construction of knowledge through discourse, which ultimately provides stronger feelings that educational goals were being satisfied by community membership".
Tutors normally use lesson plans to try to communicate ideas and actions in the classroom (Littlejohn & Pigler, 2007). This tactic information shows that it is effective in student learning (Ikeda, Ashley & Chan, 2006).
Miller et.al. (2004) in their research, the authors has described a study taken by Thomson Learning which compared online learning to blended learning on the subject of MS Excel. 128 students took part in the investigation. It was found that those using blended e-learning programme were 30% students more accurate than online learning group.
The Thompson Learning investigation found five important factors which lead to blended learning course to run successfully. The five important factors are:-
Situation related exercises.
Learning with reality.
Assessments related to real world scenarios.
Reid-Young (2003) concludes that wide - ranging application of blended learning principles can result in wide-ranging organisational benefits for all individuals.
Hong-Kong Institute of Education, the Department of English conducted a survey which indicated blended learning has gained majority of acceptance by majority of colleagues from the academic year 2003-04 by 20% to 91% in 2006-07 (Eugeina, 2010).
2.1.3 Computer Programming
Learning to program is a difficult process. Programming is not a single skill but a multi-layered hierarchy of skills (Fetaji & Ebabi, 2007: pp. 1526-1530). Furthermore, not all programming knowledge can be transmitted by the lecturers for the students to construct new knowledge - programming cannot be learnt without doing a lot of practice. Computer programming is however, an essential fundamental skill required in any curriculums for higher education nowadays. Marian et al., (2008, pp. 584-596) found that learning computer programming has been known to difficulty for many beginners. Boyle et al. (2003) has found that modern programming courses at university level use industry strength languages. However, the resulting difficulty and concept of understanding programming cause significant problems for students. Costelloe, Sherry & Maggie (2006) in their research shows that novice programmers experience a number of difficulties, including inadequate problem solving skills, difficult in understanding programming constructs, and the complexity of the environment in which they develop their solutions. There is large body of evidence indicating that some central goals of higher education - student's understanding of key concepts and ways of thinking in a discipline, and the development of abilities to integrate theoretical and practical knowledge in professional subjects are by no means always achieved (Barlow, 1997).
Robins & Rountree (2003) differentiates between programming knowledge (of a declarative nature, e.g. being able to state how a "for" loop works) and programming strategies (the way knowledge is used and applied, e.g., using a "for" loop appropriately in a program). According to Pollack and Scherz (2003), the most common approach to programming among high-school computing students is that of bricolage. This process generally makes students to develop programs directly on the computer and tend to skip the phases of analysis and design. They develop their programs by testing it on the various examples of input. High-school students practising bricolage were not capable of justifying their product (Ben-David Kolikant & Pollack, 2004). Novice programmers feel difficulty in understanding the control flow of programs, especially in complicated control structures such as nested loops and recursions (Kagawa, 2006). Other researchers have shown that programming languages which would "cognitively fit" with the problems-solving skills of novice computer users would lower the difficulties between the users and the computer programming (Witschital, 1995).
For solving learning difficulties, constructivist group of theories has given more importance on the design of the learning environment (Lefoe, 1998). According to Adam (1996), computing novices are unable to take the concepts quickly because of no experience with any programming functions. However, from (Ben-Ari, 2001) view of constructivism, the mindset these computing novice's constructs must be assessed. Constructivism is essential as beginning programming students must actively build a mental model of language constructs to become proficient or accomplished programmers and designers (Truong, Bancroft & Roe, 2002). As a result, constructivist learning strategies to computer programming are only beginning to emerge.
The use of information technologies that give appropriate feedback while working on programming assignments like Web-based programming tutors, online learning systems or similar learning software can be a simple solution to learn computer programming. For example in the research conducted by Marian et.al., (2008, pp.584-596) University of Hong Kong, Department of Computer Science in the development of a web based Automated Programming Assignment Assessment System has proved to be providing opportunities for new pedagogy and innovative strategies for both learning and teaching.
Finally, with blended learning models which consist of face-to-face meeting, weekly assessments and asynchronous chat, asynchronous discussions, email, web-based systems are increasingly becoming a successful and attractive learning method. (Rovia & Jordan, 2004). However, technology alone cannot provide effective and efficient methods for teaching and learning. (Luca, 2006). This is not the final conclusion to be drawn on the effect of blended learning in computer programming.
As a result, even if some progress has been made in solving some learning problems using learning theory and information technologies, the problems and difficulties associated with the learning of introductory programming remain to be researched. However, flexibility for student learning can be provided with more facilities of blended learning. A case study by Joseph Fong (2008) from University of Hong Kong has proven that effective use of blended learning in the institute which involves logging teaching activities into the website which help students learn more effectively inside and outside of classroom. The overall result of this study has proved to be a strong partnership between teachers and students in teaching and learning.
Chapter 2: Background Research
After investigating the problems faced by the module tutor, it is necessary to investigate different theories in education particularly related to university education. This will help to find a solution in the blended learning process in the university education environment.
2.1 Literature Review
2.1.1 Educational Theories.
Objectivism and Constructivism are the two major theories used in education (CHARALAMBOS, 2000).
Today, the traditional forms of learning that relates to actions or cognitive learning are the basis of objectivism (CHARALAMBOS, 2000). According to Carson (2005), Objectivism states that this theory is the only means of attaining true knowledge for a human experience. In other terms, humans acquire knowledge by reason (Elkind, 2005).
According to John B. Bennett (2006):
"Objectivism is the primary intellectual commitment of western culture to the notion that the we cannot know anything truly and well unless we know it from such a distance that the 'object' of knowledge remains uncontaminated by our own subjectivity"
John B. Bennett's philosophy has given birth to the assumption that we must keep the object of our knowledge to ourselves. It also makes a claim that we must be responsible enough to keep and protect the knowledge from the personal attachments.
The quality of student learning can be improved by using the instructional design method (Bellefeuille, G.L., 2006). Instruction helps students in improving their performance in assessments and also provides different ways of learning techniques. Vrasidas (2000) refers Instructional design model to distance education. It provides opportunities for learners to make use of facilities outside of classroom session.
It can be noted that Objectivism is more suitable for classroom teaching and does not match with blended learning criteria. There may be advantages for objectivism within the university education depending upon circumstances on how it occurs and utilized in the classroom session. However, it does not allow independent study which is the most important criteria today in university education.
18.104.22.168 Blended learning and Objectivism
Objectivism relies mostly on being instructed by the lecturer for knowledge. The lecturer has to be organized in making decisions and the student on the other side has to follow the lecturer's instruction.
This raises problems when information is given by a blended learning. In blended learning, the idea would be that blended learning as web based takes the role of instructor and the learner becomes skilled. This type of replica does not fit in well with the blended learning environment and hence the theory of objectivism will not be applicable to blended learning process.
Constructivism focuses on the ability of learners to construct their own knowledge - individually or in a group instead of getting help from the teacher (Brader-Araje & Jones, 2002). Individual learner then has a power of skills and base to solve any problems presented by the education or the lecturer.
According to Jian Piaget (2007), "A child's thinking develops as gradual growth of knowledge and intellectual skills towards a final stage of formal, logical thinking". She elaborates this by giving an example of a child which is seen as an active learner and thinker, who is constructing his own knowledge by making objects and ideas. The child asks questions about what the object is about and why it is. The child has objectives by his experience which he thinks in a logical manner.
The constructivism approach gives more importance to the student in the learning and development of knowledge. This is a better theory when viewed from the university education environment point of view.
Many university modules within the degree of computing use the Constructivism approach. For example, the Professional Issues in Computing module relies mostly on lecturer raising issues on computing which are then thought by students with their own views. It doesn't relate whether it is right or wrong but the student idea will make a difference to a constructivist approach. Also, Service Management module relies raising on issues related to IT Management and what service to be delivered to customers which are then supported by student ideas to formulate the solution to the problem raised by the lecturer.
22.214.171.124 Blended learning and Constructivism
The lecturer acts as a carrier to the student acquiring knowledge. In blended learning environment, the web is the tool for the knowledge acquired.
Constructivism highlights the communication between the lecturer and the student (in other words between the instructor and the learners). In the case of blended learning, this guidance would be by the use of links to resources, problem-solving exercises and engaging in team activities etc.
Effective use of blended learning and in particular the web-based, as a learning tool requires the theory of constructivism, be understood and used in the learning process for students benefits.