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Online Course Design with Technology and Blended Learning

Table of Contents Preamble Background What’s next? Risks Motivation Developing a community Problems to overcome Critical Evaluation of Own Performance in Self Study Importance of the Study Ethical considerations Findings References

Preamble

“Learning technology is the broad range of communication, information and related technologies that can be used to support learning, teaching, and assessment.” (Source: http://www.alt.ac.uk/about-alt/what-learning-technology 2017). The Further Education Learning Technology Action Group (FELTAG) was set up in January 2013 by Matthew Hancock, Minister of State for Skills and Enterprise in BIS, as a sector group to make practical recommendations aimed at ensuring the effective use of digital technology in learning, teaching and assessment in Further Education and Skills, this has set a standard for ensuring educators are aware of the importance of enhancing technology into teaching and not merely embedding because the word embedding almost sounds as though it is secretly snuck in to a session without learners realising this. The time has finally come, I recall watching ‘Tomorrow’s World’ during the 1980’s. Tomorrow’s world was a programme broadcasted on national television and first aired in 1965, the BBC’s flagship science programme ran for nearly forty years. Its mix of quirky film reports and live experiments examined the changing state of current technology and put new inventions to the test. I can remember being told that I was the generation of being able to work from home, make calls whilst walking around in a shopping centre and typing in a postcode and being directed to the door of the required destination. This vision was truly unbelievable however upon reflection incredibly underestimated because now these ‘smart’ devices can be a teaching machine. Nowadays someone can take a picture or video clip and upload it to the internet for the world to view and become an internet phenomenon (Macdonald & Creanor 2010). To think that nowadays students can actually perform coursework etc. whilst sitting on the bus on their way to school or college is truly remarkable but also something which education needs to take advantage of by creating effective strategies to merge this in to teaching and learning. The purpose of this module is to design a module of study which is to develop course content incorporating technology and the characteristics of blended learning which would include content accessed online, by doing this the learner can access the work, anytime and anywhere. With the course content being online it provides each learner the opportunity to gain practical, relevant knowledge about course design. The Department for Education and Skills (2005) published an article claiming that teachers needed to introduce ICT in education. FELTAG is a driver for providers to re-energise their visions for how technology can enhance their core business: improving the educational experience for all learners. Developing a digital strategy that can harness the potential benefits of technology to offer enhancements and efficiencies around the delivery of teaching, learning and assessment will ensure learners develop the digital skills they need in their future employment”  (Sarah Knight 2016) This module is very relevant to the manufacturing and engineering department today due to the new level of qualifications which the Prime Minister Theresa May is looking to develop. Theresa May as quoted in Welding World magazine (February 2017) stated that “we must help people and businesses to thrive by: ensuring everyone has the basic skills needed in a modern economy; building a new system of technical education to benefit the half of young people who do not go to university; boosting STEM” (Iten, 2017: 4). By having course content on a page which is personal and accessible to learners at all times on Moodle. Moodle is a virtual learning environment (VLE) and is used by more than thirty thousand educational organisation worldwide (Jason Cole & Helen Foster 2008).  Moodle is used at Colchester Institute and allows for learners to simply log on to the internet and watch an instructional video to reinforce their learning or to provide learners the opportunity to look at the work covered in class again (Cole & Foster 2008). This resource also offers learners the chance to reflect (Schön 2005) and help reduce mistakes or even prevent them. The instructional videos are going to be thirty second to minute video logs (‘V-logs’) and they will be performed by tutors in the faculty. By using these digital images/clips students have the opportunity to re-visit them at any time the learner wishes (Maier & Warren 2002) It is not hard to see why the government and educational facilitators are so keen to employ the use of the Internet and Online learning. Online learning provides the opportunity of direct delivery to individual learners and groups whom by tradition missed out on a lesson if they failed to attend for whatever reason. Also by employing online teaching and learning the educational facility helps to promote greater inclusion to its learners and can teach to a larger audience. The faculty are also looking into recording classroom sessions and then uploading them to the learner’s personal Moodle page, this then helps learners who are off sick to actually watch the class or even for the learners who didn’t understand what was said in class to replay the session. The camera would not be aimed at the faces of the learners in order to stop the learners’ faces being recognised etc. the guidelines set out by BERA (British Education Research Association 2011) require that full co-operation must be obtained and in any way possible the identity of students are to be protected. The Engineering department are also going to create a study note drop box on the group page which promotes peer coaching/mentoring. There are several forms of a ‘drop box’ already; one resource the faculty has introduced to the learners is ‘Padlet’. Padlet (previously known as Wallwisher) is a free application to develop an online notice board that can be used to display information for any topic. You can add pictures, links, videos, and more. You can return to add more at a later date. Settings allow you to make your wall completely open for public contributions, completely private, or moderated by you (you approve all contributions before they show). So, if a student sees something of relevant importance or performs a good weld etc. they can screen shot it and then digitally upload it on to the drop box part of the site. This then permits learners to engage on the online peer coaching and learning also because something that a lecturer puts on a drop box site/page may not be what the learners understand. Geoff Petty (2017) claims that people learn by actually doing and research shows that active learning is much better recalled, enjoyed and understood. Therefore active learning means employing a method which involves the online learner in performing a task, or engaging in self-directed study with their learning, this work they perform has to result in learning and also a grade has to be issued or at the very least feedback from the lecturer should be given to keep learners motivated. Elizabeth Barkley (2010) created a Venn diagram model of student engagement as shown below: Image result for venn diagram model of student engagement Student engagement is at the heart of this Venn diagram and is something which can be encouraged or foregrounded by the lecturer whilst in the class room or the course content on-line. When creating on-line material such as videos it is important to create them in easy to digest clips and to try and keep them as interesting but relevant as possible, Conrad and Donaldson (2011: 5) state that “engaged learning stimulates learners to actively participate in the learning situation, and thus gain the most knowledge from being a member of an online learning community”.. To ensure learner participation in the next classroom session the faculty has decided to use word maps. There is a website called ‘Mentimeter’. It is an easy-to-use tool that makes facilitators and presenters look like stars. No installations or downloads required – and it’s free!, the tutor creates a word cloud discussion and then the learners are required to write three words and submit them, they are instantly uploaded to the tutors main screen and then the class and lecturer can engage with the answers given.

Background

When designing an online course one of the most important things to remember is that all learners are different: they have various learning styles and numerous ways which they assimilate information. Neil Fleming (2005) notes that the VARK model (2001) suggests that there are four main types of learners. These four key types are: Visual learners, auditory learners, reading / writing learners and kinaesthetic learners (VARK) (In Gravells 2012:31). The way tutors use technology can be framed by this knowledge for example: video clips are suggested to engage the majority of learners, especially auditory learners (Armitage et al., 2012). As the Colchester Institute already has a Moodle page (VLE virtual learning environment). Moodle is a learning platform created to provide education establishments and learners create a personalised learning environment (Cole & Foster 2008). The course which is being created will be uploaded on to this format. Before going any further in this essay it is important to eliminate five most common myths in regards to a Moodle course. Firstly you do not need to be an IT guru to design a Moodle course, secondly you do not need to be on the computer twenty four seven to effectively operate Moodle, thirdly Moodle is used in a wide variety of learner, fourth, just because a course is online doesn’t always mean that young learners will find it more interesting and finally Moodle is designed to make the learning journey simpler not to make things harder. Classes can become more effective and efficient by integrating technology and distance learning to a course if used well (Cole & Foster 2008).

What’s next?

Sarah Knight 2016 claims that “senior leaders and governors need to understand the role of technology in supporting their college’s core business, embed digital in their strategies and model behaviours they wish staff to adopt. What has been developed for the Engineering and Manufacturing at the Colchester Institute department is an online section of the course which is required to be completed within the learners self-directed study (SDS) time, this is due to the new qualifications which are being introduced. Self-directed study is where learners are given a simple task to perform in their own time and then email the work back to the tutor, this does not have to be done individually it can be performed in groups to help solidify the class, promote peer learning and enhance interaction. From the open events through to the interviews SDS has been introduced and its importance to the course has been discussed, the importance of self-directed study is to act as a study/revision aid for the learner but as the learners are set assignments or research topics the tutor can physically monitor the work produced. The way the faculty will look to enforce the online part is to have sessions sandwiched between lessons where learners are given tasks to complete before the next session. SDS has also been introduced due to the reduction in contact hours with the learner. If the learners do not commit to these tasks within the first six weeks the learners in question would be transferred down to the lower level. As learners are going to be taught in the classroom and also have units online this form of eLearning is known as blended learning, it is a way of teaching that combines online resources with face-to-face tutor led instruction to create a more personalised learning environment and permits studying to be performed online with the tutor acting as the facilitator (Allison Littlejohn & Chris Pegler 2007). With online learning, instructors often make some or all of the content available to the students out of class time. By putting the course content online students can work at their own pace to suit their own ability, if they do not understand something they can pause, slow down, re-watch the content or even employ other online resources to help them understand what is being taught.  Dvorak (2011:25) states that blended learning is “designed as combining online delivery of educational content with the best features of classroom interaction and live instruction to personalise learning, allow thoughtful reflection, and differentiate instruction from student-to-student across a diverse group of learners”. John Stephenson (2002) also notes that it is important for learners to be able to navigate to the right resource sites, so what the faculty will do is provide a reading and website list for learners to explore, if they find another website then they can copy the hyperlink and paste it in to the drop box section. Poore (2013:31) states a hyperlink is a “referral to a document, image or other object elsewhere on the internet”. What has been developed on the Moodle page is a section where there is some instructional videos uploaded onto the subject area homepage which can be accessed at any time for any learner to view and make notes in order to help learners overcome any problems. These are known as V-logs, V-logs are a blog in which the postings are primarily in video form. The department believe that it is vital to help keep learners engaged, upon reflection (Schön 2005) the faculty all feel with these short videos we are helping learners to also catch up or indeed even keep up with other learners. In our faculty we sometimes find that learners will rather not ask in a group of peers on how to do something in case they look silly; with the V-logs in place this should promote inclusivity.  Gravells (2012) explains that by treating all learners the same, fairly and equally without isolating anyone you are promoting inclusive learning. Armitage et al (2012) recognise that the main advantage with these files being online is the accessibility to the learner and can be used as a revision aid also. The added benefit of the course content available to access at any time is that the learner can choose to engage with the work when they are most alert but the learner must realise that they are responsible for their own time management. This concept is most likely to be new for the learners so a period of guidance in how to manage time effectively needs to be carefully planned and integrated into the self-directed study time effectively (Bennet et al., (2007).

Risks

Ethical considerations have been carefully considered classes in the theory section are also going to be recorded and posted onto the Moodle page to allow people who were unable to attend to watch the session (Poore 2013), before any recording is undertaken the learners will be informed first and also be made aware that their faces will not be revealed, however; as the guidelines set out by BERA (2011) learners are to be fully informed and voluntary consent should be gained prior to undertaking any recording. Also another issue which must be considered is copyright or plagiarism with regards their assignments that will be submitted. If anything used on the site by learners is found to be a breach of copyright then its material will instantly be removed and the learner will be spoken regarding the problem, this is also something which will be explained in the rules of this resource from the outset. As a teacher it is fairly easy to know if something is written by a learner in a ‘different hand’, if there is any hint of work being copied and pasted then there are various software tools (Turnitin is a plagiarism checker that the faculty use) that make it easy for an assessor to check this (McFarlane 2015).

Motivation

To start, I feel it vital to define what is meant by the term ‘motivational teaching strategies’ and give a brief overview of how it can be implemented utilising technology. Barkley (2010:81) states that “when students want to learn, they are more inclined to do what is necessary in order to learn. They pay attention in class, they take notes during a lecture, they study when they get home, and they don’t monitor their own progress and ask questions when they don’t understand.” Blackburn (2016:8) claims that “students are also motivated when they believe they have a chance to be successful”. Motivation is either intrinsic (from within), meaning the student wants to learn for their own accomplishment, or extrinsic (from without), meaning there may be an external factor inspiring the student (Hattie 2012). However no matter what level of motivation that learners have, it all comes down to how they are being treated and how they are made to feel, therefore need to endorse a professional relationship that leads to individual learning and trust (Gravells 2012). Some students may seem naturally enthusiastic about learning, but many need or expect you to inspire, challenge, engage and stimulate them, with this in mind Matthew Hancock MP (FELTAG proposals 2013) claims that by embracing the FELTAG’s proposals a well-designed model will “to enable the system to become continually adaptive to an environment that creates new challenges for learners and teachers”. Blackburn (2016), Petty (2009) and Cox et al (2014) suggest that it is vital to build a rapport with students in order to motivate them to achieve. New learners who enrol on to our course are often referred to us by students in the faculty who have completed their studies previously and claim that ‘the lecturers are fun’ or they feel ‘part of a team’ and that sometimes it appears that this personal relationship and interest in their progress is more important to learners than the actual course content. I firmly believe that any learner, once motivated can learn any subject. From the first moment the learners are introduced to teaching staff they need to be made to feel safe and accepted (Maslow’s hierarchy of needs 1943). The online course will have interactive games and quizzes for learners to complete so that this can be regulated by the course lecturers to see who has used them. Games will have various levels of challenge and stimulation, starting off at a low level and gradually becoming harder and the learners will be challenged and motivated to engage in this form of assessment activity (Poore 2013). This also gives learners autonomy in the work they do. Autonomy allows for learners to learn at their own speed which can be linked to the learners’ motivation. If highly motivated the learner can go much deeper into what they are learning (Race 2005). With having an online part of the course we have had to decide upon ways to incorporate the process of self-study, as mentioned previously this has already been explained to the learners from the interview stage however; once a learner is on the course we need to ensure learner participation and motivation levels remain high through the entire learning journey, Stavredes (2011:59) claims that “new learners exhibit similar high levels of motivation when they first begin their program of study”. The level of motivation needs to be constantly stimulated and regulated by the lecturer from the start. By how the lecturer demonstrates interest in the subject will set standards for learners to follow, if we are negative towards something or do not give learners feedback online to be motivated to participate or complete the tasks (Blackburn 2016, Stavredes 2011). Reece and Walker (2002) mention that motivation is a key factor in successful learning and believe a student who is less able but is highly motivated will achieve more than someone who is more intelligent but is not motivated it is the ability to be self-motivated and self-directed that this online learning materials are promoting with our learners. As the course which has been developed is of a blended learning it will primarily be taught in the classroom to reduce any problem-based learning as noted by Stavredes (2011) claims that where necessary any learning which is likely to be problematic should be delivered face to face in order to monitor the learners understanding the subject matter, this blended learning course has been developed to permit learners to access the content they require both in the class and online in any environment which is accessible. The curriculum has been designed to allow for face to face instruction with teachers in the classroom so that the learners are supported to make sure they understand the content.

Developing a community

Gilly Salmon (IN Kear (2011:25) developed a “five stage modelThis model applies to learning through group communication, in particular via discussion forums”. Image result for salmons five stage model

5
4
3
2
1

Maslow's Hierarchy of NeedsAs the diagram shows, step 1 is the initial familiarisation with the Moodle site, this is where learners will be given an easy task to perform in the classroom to ensure learners are all able to access the site and can navigate their way through the site this confirms each learner is participating and helps the teacher to assess learner needs if applicable (Gravells 2012). As mentioned if previously, if a learner is not participating in the tasks either online or self-directed study then the learner will be transferred down to a lower level. Step 2 is online socialisation, this is where the learners interact with one another and feel part of a community (Macdonald and Creanor 2010). This also feeds in to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs (1943) of the belonging section. Step 3, learners are now researching information and sharing their work with their peers. At this stage active learning has begun. Petty (2009) and Barkley (2010) notes that regarding active learning, it is the teachers’ role to make the learners realise that they must also teach themselves. Step 4, this is where learners engage in course content thoughts and association. The community is now established, the environment is safe and learners have a sense of belonging as mentioned in step 2 and active learning has initialised (Barkley 2010). Image result for bloom's affective domainStep 5, this is where learners reflect upon their experience. Reece and Walker (2002:140) state that “reflectors prefer to think about things and explore all aspects before coming to a conclusion”. Reflection is also important when teaching certain learners and considering how they are feeling about the task at hand or their moods due to inside or external pressures (Biggs 1988). We need to learn from the experiences, and mistakes of others, you need to look at what you are doing and how others are doing the same thing; can anything be improved? Can anything be done better? Bill Rogers (2006:15) also reinforces this statement by claiming that “if we’re willing, and see a need for fine-tuning, even change”. The Moodle site which is in the modelling stage now will also have a ‘drop box’ where learners can place relevant comments and notes regarding a session or video demonstration clip. By having a drop box learners can also peer coach and assist each other’s learning journey. Richard Ladyshewsky (IN Cox et al., 2014) notes that peer coaching is a process where people with a similar status work to expand and build new skills and that the peers have a similar level of background history to the subject Kear (2011). The drop box will also permit learners to conduct debates or start up discussions. Tina Stavredes (2011) claims using debates aids with learner engagement and permits learners to offer their own view electronically instead of in a verbal conversation where the learner may not be confident enough to give their opinion. The drop box is a form of open communication and permits learners to interact with their peers (Kear 2011) in a manner that they are familiar with in their daily habits of communication using their mobile phones and social media.

Problems to overcome

Ground rules will be set in place on the very first day of enrolments at the college, this way every learner knows what is expected of them and what is unacceptable this is not just in regards to the use of technology in their learning but also in the way in which the learner makes best use of their self-directed time in a useful way (Petty 2009). Making the online part of the course accessible to every learner is vital. Gravells and Simpson (2010:25) state that “inclusive learning is about recognising that each of your learners is different from other learners in many ways, and should not be excluded from any activities within your sessions for any legitimate reason”. In the classroom this is not an issue for a teacher to check however with online learning this can be harder to regulate so in order to facilitate full participation every learner at Colchester institute has access to the library and can loan laptops from there, also learners can connect to the college Wi-Fi for free whilst on campus to ensure that it is an inclusive approach. As previously mentioned plagiarism and copying of each other’s work is something which needs to be monitored closely, the benefit of how the course is going to be set up is the fact that learners have two exams, so the work that learners do online is to help with studying for the exams and or to be used as a prompt, to reinforce learning. If a learner does copy and paste work then even if they still proof read it, hopefully they would have retained some of the information. Another problem to consider is any form of bullying, the course leader we have full editing rights to the page so comments etc. can be withdrawn immediately. Unfortunately in this day and age cyber bullying now means that bullying does not stay at school or college, it can now appear in your own home (Kear 2011 and Poore 2013) this something which will not be tolerated and this matter will be dealt with instantly. Time management for some learners can be a problem, so they are going to be encouraged to develop a Gantts chart (1917). A Gantt chart is a horizontal bar chart developed as a production control tool, so with this chart learners can set themselves targets and goals and visibly keep track on these targets. Frequently used in project management, a Gantt chart provides a graphical illustration of a schedule that helps to plan, coordinate, and track precise tasks in a project. The chart may be adjusted frequently to reflect the actual status of project tasks as, almost inevitably; they diverge from the original plan. The introduction of the Gantts chart will be of great benefit for the learners for two reasons. The first of which is to allow learners to create their own individual targets which have a deadline to work to. The second benefit of the introduction of the Gantts chart is the fact that in this year’s syllabus the learners need to be taught about them in modern day engineering business. Time management and organisation is not a standalone skill. Only you can manage how you use your time. In order to achieve your goals (Kerzner 2009) mentions that having a ‘to-do pad’ and also having a daily calendar log. This permits you to prioritise, plan and also encourages you to be more proactive. When making decisions about what to focus your time on, you should always be cognisant of your goals and how each action is aimed at bringing you closer to achieving those goals. Petty (2009:67) adds that “if students don’t know where they are going, they are hardly likely to arrive!” This can have a knock-on effect to their motivation levels also which in turn affects retention statistics. People struggle with prioritisation because they start too late in the process. They attempt to prioritise the items that are on their task list. However, if you look closely at most task lists, you will find that they contain items which never should have made it on to the task list in the first place. Wilson (2006: 88) states that “you will create a safe learning environment in which the electrical cords are taped down to the floor to prevent anyone tripping over them”. This is an issue which is paramount in my faculty due to the nature of the environment. No two people work in the same way. We all have our own preferences for how we prefer to work. We are motivated by different things and like to work in our own way. There is nothing wrong with this. In fact, it is quite healthy. It just means that you need to have a good understanding of your own likes, dislikes and needs. Gravells (2014:40) reinforces this by claiming that “some students may seem naturally enthusiastic about learning, but may need or expect you to inspire, challenge, engage and stimulate them”. You will have days where you do not want to do anything. You may be sick, tired, bored or simply lacking motivation. On days like this, there is little that anyone else can do to get you going. You need to be able to motivate yourself to take action, even though you’d rather not. If you have improved your self-awareness, you will have a great deal of the information that you need to motivate yourself. Petty (2009) talks about ‘the carrot’ and adds that this is the most powerful motivational tool in the box. It is important to note that no matter how many tasks need to be done, you can only effectively work on one task at a time. Multi-tasking causes many problems for those who wish to improve their time management but if you want to get results, you must learn to focus on one task at a time and block out all distractions. The use of the ‘SMART’ target system is worth employing (Gravells and Simpson 2010). It would be nice to think that you could just sit down and do your work without having to put any serious thought into it. Unfortunately, learning or studying does not work like this. Decision making is one those time management skills which if you are not good at it, you will notice the negative impacts in every area of your life. It is imperative that you are able to consider the consequences and make effective, clear decisions. Andersen (2008:220) claims that “if action is necessary, an impact assessment should be made before deployment”. Planning is one of the essential time management skills because it allows you to foresee all of the tasks which will be required to complete a project and, how they will best fit together. A well-made plan will save you a great deal of time. This theory can be demonstrated as something as simple as a room layout for example (Gravells 2014). Blackburn (2016:20) also claims “the overall environment in your classroom impacts your relationship with students, their motivation, and ultimately their learning.” To summarise, even though the course is only ten weeks through the academic year, the infrastructure of this course is enabling the department to encourage learner led teaching and permitting the lecturer to discuss subjects but gets the learners to do the research online and feedback their significant findings, this demonstrates a far greater level of interaction as opposed to a lecturer continuously talking at the students (Hattie 2012). The department also set assignments, the learner can log on to the college Moodle site from anywhere and perform the tasks set out at their own convenience and also have all of the necessary course content to aid them. Initially the self-directed study was met with some negative belief from tutors because this meant that tutors can longer just use the same notes but physically develop online quizzes/resources instead. And because of the level of engagement learners are getting on with the tasks which are set in a productive manner. If learners wish to get ahead they are fully encouraged to get ahead of the course by looking at the weeks commencing work, again tutors were not too keen on this idea because it meant that their lesson’s would have to be prepared at least three to four weeks in advance. What has been noted mainly is the fact that learners are performing the homework set, emailing tutors the work on time, receiving feedback and then even asking how their grades can be improved.

Critical Evaluation of Own Performance in Self Study

So what is critical self-evaluation? Put simply this is self-reflection and it refers to the process of questioning personal views or performances (Mezirow 2006).  Since transitions involves directing changes where a person moves from one point to another, critical self-reflection can be an imperative skill for aiding changes by permitting individuals to re-evaluate or alter certain things. Reflecting critically on the impact and origin of one’s own thoughts, purpose, feelings, and behaviour all represent the first steps in this process (Finlay 2008). Gravells (2014:137) cites Schön and “suggest there are two methods: Reflection in action and Reflection on action”. Kolb (1984) citied by Gravells (2014:36) “suggests that without reflection, people would continue to repeat their mistakes.” So, if as a course leader and tutor, if I was delivering a course which was poor and disengaging my learner motivation would be low, if learner motivation is low then the link between motivation and behaviour is an issue (Wallace 2006). If learners are demotivated then they may fail the course and not come back for the following year which would damage my success and retention statistics. Barkley (2010:91) states that “teachers who believe in their students and expect success are more likely to get it than teachers who doubt their students’ ability and are resigned to minimal or mediocre performance.” Literature proposes that the origins of the notion of reflection can be traced back to John Dewey and Donald Schön. Schön (1983) interprets reflection as a process in which a person tries to deal with and make sense of ‘some puzzling or troubling or interesting phenomenon’ while simultaneously reflecting on ‘The understandings which have been implicit in his action, understandings which he surfaces, criticises, restructures, and embodies in further action’.

Importance of the Study

The purpose of this study was to explore student motivation and engagement made possible through incorporating blended learning in the curriculum in the Engineering and Manufacturing faculty with specific emphasis on if the students would engage and prefer an online module section of the course to benefit the learning experience. The information gathered will be used to formulate appropriate strategies and interventions that can be implemented in order to improve learning motivation and resultant value added measure scores within vocational programmes at institutional level. As Jean Mc Niff and Jack Whitehead (2011: 37) suggest “action research should, in the context of this assignment, provide the evidence of the impact of the use of eLearning, allowing for the continual and consistent improvement of my teaching practice through reiterative reflective practice promoted by action research”.

Ethical considerations

Verena Tschudin (1994: 5) states that Ethics can be defined as “the study of the nature and grounds of morality, where morality is taken as the general term for judgements, standards and rules governing how one behaves towards others”. During this research process I acted as a practitioner researcher (Burton & Bartlett 2005 and Bell 2010). The main ethical consideration is ensuring that my learners are comfortable within this project so any students wishing not to be involved in the experiment can choose not to be a part of it, so prior to me starting this project I asked all learners who were participating to sign a consent letter. Due to the age of my learners I did not have to ask for parents’ permission due to all of the learners being over the age of eighteen (BERA 2011). My participants were fully briefed at the beginning and had the option to withdraw at any part of the research process because if my learners weren’t comfortable this would surely affect their motivation, engagement and even enjoyment of the program. Where learners have been asked to fill in questionnaires they are not required to put their names on the paper so they do not feel like they questioned or singled out for their views. By employing full anonymity this should help to improve the quality of results. McNiff and Whitehead (2010:78) also state that “you should not reveal the names of people or places unless you have specific permission to do so in writing”.

Findings

I developed a small discussion group comprising of five learners, one learner had left after successfully gaining a full level three diploma in welding and fabrication 2017, and one is a learner in their final year 2018, another in their second year and two in their first year. Whilst trying to be as critical as possible to reflect on the success of this action research I was mindful that when planning research not all variables can be controlled (Bell 2010). By using a discussion group (five participants) and questionnaires, qualitative data (Bell 2010) I was trying to get ‘richer results’ (Bell 2010). Qualitative research often consists of describing and understanding people and groups in certain situations and often there is a huge amount of complexity to be recognised by the researchers (Kvale 1996). Qualitative data can be criticised for being researcher bias this is because it is the practitioner researching their own practice (McNiff and Whitehead 2011), it can pin point the issue the researcher is claiming and also help the researcher realise what they want to find (Burton and Bartlet 2005). One of the main advantages mentioned was “how easy it is to catch up” if a learner was unable to attend a lesson for whatever reason. The learner who has successfully completed the course said “it would have benefited them as a study aid”. The down side was noted that the level of feedback given online was short and could have been more detailed, but this is the problem I believe of online learning – the personal discussions. This type of teaching would not be as successful as a face to face relationship and that there are several reasons why the relationship could fail and break down, this could include not being computer literate or not having the required equipment. Also Garvey et al., (2009) note that this form of technology can lead humans to become alienated from people because they are interacting only with the computer and not developing the personal relationships which are a very important part of the teacher/student relationship. Data from the interaction with the proposed flipped or online learning module demonstrated that the video’s uploaded onto the Moodle site was beneficial for learners to replay certain instructions several times to understand what was being taught.

Conclusion

The implementation and use of blended instruction is not a new interactive resource within the faculty of Engineering and manufacturing however; it is in fact a mandatory expectation which is set out at the very first interview event which learners have to attend before joining the course. It is now accepted as a practice of learning theory with the learners but more importantly the lecturers also. As far as the holistic effectiveness of the pedagogy, the blended teaching method is expected to lead to higher-order thinking skills, a deeper appreciation of an academic community and an increase in self-management skills, such as time management. Blended instruction when performed correctly will ultimately produce a positive impact on overall student outcomes. When an instructor takes the effort and integrates the blended teaching principles aligned with individual students’ needs, the final course success statistics should be just as or even more effective for most students compared to a direct face-to-face classroom based learning. A significant facet of education and buzz word is to stretch and challenge the learners and to promote higher-order thinking skills to learners, with the design of the course this is taken into account. With recent advances in the capabilities of educational technologies (STEM) and the new technical qualification introduction (City and Guilds Tech-Quals), the faculty has almost had to develop new interactive teaching resources and strategies to permit blended/flipped classes to occur. Once created effectively and performed correctly, the flipped/blended classroom model can have a hugely positive influence on student’s learning and allow for full learner inclusivity.  However, this teaching method does not come easy; it can be somewhat laborious and takes commitment from the lecturer. Tools such as e-learning modules, Moodle, Padlet, social media, and student response systems can have a significant impact on the workload of the instructor and the overall success of the course which is something which does not always get taken into consideration, it is of my own personal opinion that a lecturer should have been freed up for an entire term to allow them to create this whole new format of teaching and learning.

References

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