Providing Blended Learning as Part of Your Corporate Training Services?: A Learning Theory You Can’t Afford Not to Know

Recent advancements in e-learning technologies have inspired many corporate trainers to search for more creative ways of maximizing employee productivity and performance in their work place. As discussed in my previous posts, empirical findings from university settings have convinced many trainers that blended learning can have a significant positive impact on the company bottom line.  This is not surprising as blended learning provides a pedagogical design where characteristics of online environment (e.g., time flexibility, student autonomy, reduced in class requirement) complement the characteristics of a face-to-face environment (e.g., higher quality of interaction between students and instructor, more direct feedback from instructor, and more instructor-controlled course structure).

Although many companies have begun introducing blended learning as part of their training and development services, very little is known about the motivational, cognitive, and behavioural attributes that may contribute to employee performance and productivity in the work place. In recent years, some researchers have turned to the social cognitive model of self-regulation in order to examine the role of cognitive and motivational attributes in online and blended learning environments (Joo, Bong, & Choi, 2000; Kitsantas & Chow, 2007; Lin, McKeachie, & Kim, 2003). Self-regulation is a multi-dimensional construct that combines behavioral, motivational, and cognitive components of learning in order to understand how students attain their learning goals (Zimmerman, 1998, & 2002).

By understanding the role of self-regulation in blended learning environments, corporate trainers can focus on the factors that can contribute to employees’ performance, thus maximizing their potential in the market place. To date, four self-regulatory variables have been shown to influence one’s performance in blended learning environments:

  1. Self-Efficacy
  2. Intrinsic Goal Orientation
  3. Time and Environment Management
  4. Help Seeking

A description of the findings for each of these domains will be provided in my upcoming posts.

References

Joo, Y., Bong, M., & Choi, H.  (2000).  Self-efficacy for self-regulated learning, academic self-efficacy, and internet self-efficacy in web-based instruction.  Educational Technology Research and Development, 48, 5-17.

Kitsantas, A., & Chow, A.  (2007).  College students’ perceived threat and preference for seeking help in traditional, distributed, and distance learning environments. Computers & Education, 48, 383-395.

Lin, Y. G., McKeachie, W. J., & Kim, Y. C.  (2003).  College student intrinsic and/or extrinsic motivation and learning.  Learning and Individual Differences, 13, 251-258.

Zimmerman, B, J.  (1998).  Academic studying and the development of personal skill: A self-regulatory perspective.  Educational Psychologist, 33, 73-86.

Zimmerman, B. J.  (2002). Becoming a self-regulated learner: An overview.  Theory Into Practice, 41, 64-70.

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My Experience at the 2012 Sloan Consortium Blended Learning Conference and Workshop

The 9th annual Sloan consortium blended learning conference was held at the Hyatt Regency hotel in downtown Milwaukee last week and who’s who of online and e-learning environments researchers and consultants were gathered to discuss the latest developments in the field of e-learning and blended learning environment.  The theme for this year’s conference was “perfecting the blend” and Dr. David Wiley, the distinguished professor of instructional psychology and technology was selected as the keynote addressee for the conference.

The Sloan-c conference took place over two days and the extensive program offered papers from number of consultants and distinguished international speakers. Similar to previous years, this year’s conference was divided into number of specific sessions:

  1. Workshop session
  2. Information session
  3. Poster presentation
  4. Plenary session

The sessions were fantastic and i could not stop taking notes! I wanted to attend all the sessions but that was not possible as some of the presentations were conducted simultaneously at different parts of the hotel. I had the privilege of attending the following workshop sessions:

  1. Blended Learning: The Next Steps
  2. How to Successfully Evaluate Blended Learning
  3. Developing Open Educational Program: Blending OER Into Curriculums

I also had the privilege of attending the following information sessions:

  1. On the Fast Track, Administering a Quickly Growing Accelerated-Blended Learning Program
  2. Strategic Integration for Developing and Implementing Blended Learning
  3. Online and Blended Learning: Maximizing the Investment

The poster presentations were held on Monday afternoon (April 23) and i had the privilege of presenting my recent research alongside other international speakers from United States, Canada, and Lebanon. I was one of the only two Canadian presenters that participated in this year’s poster presentation session! The title of my presentation was “The Impact of Lecture Webcasts and Student Self-Regulated Learning on Academic Outcomes”.

Image

Setting up for Poster Presentations!

Although this was not the first time i was invited to present my masters research (i also attended the 2010 Sloan-c conference) i was much more confident and relax during this year’s presentation.  I have spent many months mastering my craft and learning about the principles and theories of e-learning and blended learning environments, and this presentation was an opportunity for me to do my part as a researcher and contribute to the growing field of blended learning environment.

Overall, this year’s conference was a definite success and i had the opportunity to meet and speak with some of the notable directors, deans, and leaders from well known American and Canadian Universities.  When minds work together, amazing things can happen, and by gathering international researchers, consultants, and entrepreneurs in one place, the conference provided  ideas and inspiration for individuals  to  “perfect the blend” in their own institution.

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Three Categories of Studies that Every E-Learning Professional Should Know – Part 2

As discussed in Part 1, research examining effectiveness of online and face-to-face instructions fall under three categories.  In this post, i will analyze a few empirical studies in each of the categories. In doing so, you will have a better understanding of the topics that are  frequently examined in online studies.

Category 1: No significant difference in effectiveness of online and face-to-face learning

            As shown in Table 1, Leasure, Davis, and Thievon (2000), Johnson (2002), Smeaton and Keogh (1999), and Thirunarayanan and Perez-Prad, (2001) are among the studies that found no significant difference in the learning outcomes of students in online and face-to-face environments.  At first glance, it is clear that apart from Smeaton and Keogh’s (1999) study, the rest of students in above studies were enrolled either in education (Thirunarayanan & Perez-Prad, 2001) or medical science (Johnson, 2002; Leasure et al. 2000) courses.  This is not consistent with the findings of Zhao et al. (2005) who suggested that online students enrolled in medical science courses are much more likely to perform better than their face-to-face counterparts.

As demonstrated in Table 1, not all instructors demonstrated high levels of involvement in the above studies.  For example, Johnson (2002) reported that the instructor was not responsible for writing the final exam in their study, which reflects in low levels of instructor involvement in the course. On the other hand, both Thirunarayanan and Perez-Prad (2001), and Smeaton and Keogh (1999) reported that instructors were highly involved in their courses.  This is not consistent with the findings of Zhao et al. (2005) who argued that online students would generally perform better than face-to-face students when the instructors is highly involved in the course.  The following section will critically analyze the studies that found online learning to be more effective than face-to-face learning.  In doing so, the present post will examine the key characteristics that may contribute to students’ learning outcomes in online learning environments.

Category 2: Online learning is more effective than face-to-face learning

As shown in Table 2, Campbell et al. (2002), Maki et al. (2000), Schoenfeld-Tacher et al. (2001), and Dutton et al. (2002) are among the studies that found online learning to be more effective than face-to-face learning. The critical review of the above studies indicated that apart from Dutton et al.’s (2002) study, students in the above studies were enrolled either in accounting (Campbell et al., 2002), introductory psychology (Maki et al., 2000) or Histology (Schoenfeld-Tacher et al., 2001). Again, this is not consistent with the findings of Zhao et al. (2005) since none of the above courses fall under the categories of education, medical science, or computer science courses.

With respect to instructor involvement, the analysis of the above studies also indicated that instructors were generally highly involved in the courses. This is consistent with the findings of Zhao et al. (2005) where instructor involvement was found to be a significant contributor to students’ learning outcomes in online courses.  However, one cannot overlook the fact that results from the above studies partially contradicted the findings of Zhao et al. (2005), since course content did not appear to influence the performance of online students within their courses.  The following section will critically analyze whether course content and instructor involvement contributed to the performance of online students in studies that found face-to-face learning to be more effective than online learning.

Category 3: Face-to-face learning is more effective than online learning

As shown in Table 3, Anstine and Skidmore (2005), Faux and Black-Hughes (2000), and Ferguson and Tryjankowski (2009) are among the studies that found face-to-face instruction to be more effective than online learning. The critical review of the above mentioned studies indicated that apart from Anstine and Skidmore’s (2005) study, instructors were highly involved in the courses. Again, this is not consistent with the findings of Zhao et al. (2005), since the authors reported that high instructor involvement will positively contribute to the performance of online students.

With respect to course content, the contents did not fall under business, computer science, or medical science categories, which may justify the performance of face-to-face students in the above courses. However, it is difficult to interpret the findings of the above studies since Faux and Black-Hughes (2000) and Ferguson and Tryjankowski (2009) reported high levels of instructor involvement in their courses.  Therefore course content and instructor involvement may not necessarily play an instrumental role in success of students in online settings.

Summary

The critical analysis of studies partially contradicted the findings of Zhao et al. (2005), where the authors reported that effectiveness of online learning may be significantly associated with course content and level of instructor involvement. Although Zhao et al. (2005) claimed that their meta-analysis provided a clear pattern for understanding the role of environmental characteristics within online learning environments; the present critical analysis was unable to confirm these claims in studies that were not included in Zhao et al. (2005).

Overall, to date, the results have been mixed from studies which examined the academic outcomes of students in online and face-to-face learning environments. Some studies have found no significant differences in the academic outcomes of students in online and face-to-face settings, whereas other studies have either supported or condemned the use of technology in higher education institutions.

References 

Anstine, J., & Skidmore, M.  (2005). A small sample study of traditional and online courses with sample selection adjustment.  Journal of Economic Education, Spring 2005, 107-127.

Campbell, M. C., Floyd, J., & Sheridan, J. B.  (2002).  Assessment of student performance and attitudes for courses taught online versus onsite.  The Journal of Applied Business Research, 18, 45-52.

Faux, T.  L., & Black-Hughes, C.  (2000).  A comparison of using the internet versus lectures to teach social work history.  Research on Social Work Practice, 10, 454-466.

Ferguson, J., & Tryjankowski, A. M.  (2009).  Online versus face-to-face learning: Looking at modes of instruction in Master’s-level courses.  Journal of Further and Higher Education, 33, 219-228.

Johnson, M.  (2002).  Introductory biology online:  Assessing outcomes of two student population.  Journal of College Science Teaching, 31, 312-318.

Leasure, A. R., Davis, L., & Thievon, S. L.  (2000).  Comparison of student outcomes and preferences in a traditional vs. world wide web-based baccalaureate nursing research course.  Journal of Nursing Education, 39, 149-154.

Maki, R. H., Maki, W. S., Patterson, M., & Whitaker, P. D.  (2000). Evaluation of a web-based introductory psychology course: I. learning and satisfaction in on-line versus lecture courses.  Behavior Research Methods, Instruments, & Computers, 32, 230-239.

Schoenfeld-Tacher, R., McConnell, S., & Graham, M.  (2001).  Do no harm—A comparison of the effects of on-line vs. traditional delivery media on a science course. Journal of Science Education and Technology, 10, 257-265.

Smeaton, A. F., & Keogh, G.  (1999). An analysis of the use of virtual delivery of undergraduate lectures. Computers & Education, 32, 83-94.

Thirunarayanan, M. O., & Perez-Prado, A.  (2001).  Comparing web-based and classroom-based learning: A quantitative study.  Journal of Research on Technology in Education, 34, 131-137.

Zhao, Y., Lei, J., Yan, B., & Tan, S.  (2005).  What makes the difference? A practical analysis of research on the effectiveness of distance education.  Teacher College Record, 107, 1836-1884.

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Three Categories of Studies that Every E-Learning Professional Should Know

In this blog i am going to critically analyze students’ academic performance in online and face-t0-face learning environments.  Research examining the effectiveness of online technology on students‘ learning outcomes has grown dramatically in the past few years. Generally, research in the effectiveness of online technology has been dominated by what is known as comparison studies. These studies compare online learning with traditional face-to-face classroom instructions and usually fall under one of the following categories:

1. Studies that take a neutral stand on the issues of learning effectiveness and propose that there are no significant differences between the learning outcomes of online and face-to-face students.

2. Studies that report online learning is better than face-to-face learning since online instructions allow students to exercise high degrees of control and flexibility over their learning processes.

3. Studies that report face-to-face learning is better than online learning since online instruction may hinder online students‘ academic outcomes. 

In recent years, research has been trying to understand whether environmental characteristics may influence the effectiveness of online technologies in university students. Despite the growth of comparison studies in recent years, very few studies have examined the degree to which characteristics of comparison studies may influence the effectiveness of online or face-to-face learning environments in higher education (Zhao, Lei, Lai, & Tan, 2005). In a comprehensive meta-analysis conducted by Zhao et al. (2005), the authors reported that online education tends to be more effective for undergraduate students who were enrolled in business, computer science, and medical science courses. The authors also added that online learning is much more likely to be effective if the instructor is highly involved in the course. However, the review of research not included in Zhao et al. (2005) failed to support these findings. My next post will critically analyze the course content and level of instructor involvement for studies in each of the above categories. In doing so, the following section will examine whether course content and level of instructor involvement plays role in success of online students in the above studies.

References

Zhao, Y., Lei, J., Yan, B., & Tan, S. (2005). What makes the difference? A practical analysis of research on the effectiveness of distance education. Teacher College Record, 107, 1836-1884.

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Blended Learning: An Excellent Investment

Advances in educational technologies in the past two decades have made it possible for institutions to incorporate online learning into their curriculum. During the past 10 years, post-secondary institutions have witnessed a significant growth in enrolment of students in online courses. The estimated number of students taking at least one online course grew from 1.6 million in 2002 to 4.6 million in the fall of 2008 (Means, Toyama, Murphy, Bakia, & Jones, 2010). As online learning became popular among students, a few institutions became interested in integrating online technologies into their traditional face-to-face curriculum. In a comprehensive meta-analysis sponsored by the U.S. Department of Education, the combination of online and face-to-face learning designs (i.e., blended learning) was found to be more effective than online education alone, thus providing a rationale for the implementation of technology into face-to-face learning environments (Means et al., 2010).  

Can the findings be generalized from higher education to corporate settings? Absolutely!! In any organization, learning strategies depend on effective learning systems and in the past few years blended learning has been shown to be the most effective instructional method available today. Blended learning can revolutionize training and learning development in organizations, and can maximize the personal productivity of both managers and employees.

I strongly believe that learning is an investment and not necessarily a cost. Many organizations may view blended learning just as another learning system that may or may not improve their bottom line. Without any evidence, learning consultants may have a very difficult time convincing senior consultants and managers that blended learning can be much more effective than face-to-face or online learning instructions.

Perhaps findings from published studies may turn those senior consultants and managers into believers! However, before jumping into blended studies, I am going to critically analyze the studies that have compared the learning outcomes of traditional students (enrolled in face-to-face classrooms) to online students. Since online and face-to-face environments lay the foundation for blended learning, investigating the effectiveness of each environment may provide insights into the possible benefits and drawbacks that are associated with blended learning settings. The next post will provide a brief overview of learning effectiveness in face-to-face and online learning environments.

References

Means, B., Toyama,Y., Murphy. R., Bakia, M., and Jones, K. (2010).  Evaluation of Evidence-based Practices in Online Learning: A Meta-analysis and Review of Online-learning Studies. US Department of Education, Office of Planning, Evaluation, and Policy Development, Policy and Program Studies Service: Washington, DC.

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Subtypes and Categories of Blended Learning (Educational and Corporate Settings)

In my last post i provided a brief overview of blended learning.  In this post, i am going to talk about the subtypes and categories of blended learning that exist in today’s educational and corporate settings.

 

 Subtypes of Blended Learning Approaches

According to Graham (2006), there are currently four specific models of blended learning instructions:

  1. Activity level (i.e., learning contains both face-to-face and computer-mediated elements).

2.   Course level (i.e., face-to-face and computer-mediated activities included as part of the course).

3.  Program level (i.e., selecting both online and face-to-face courses).

4.  Institutional level (i.e., organizational dedication to blending face-to-face and computer mediated instructions).

When designing a blended learning model using the above mentioned levels, it is very important for instructors to have a clear objective for introducing blended learning to their students.  To date, research has shown that instructors tend to blend online and face-to-face instructions using three specific categories of blended learning.  The first category is referred to as “enabling blends”, whereby the focus is on addressing issues of access and convenience. For example, students at the University of Phoenix can select their courses (i.e., face-to-face, online, and blended) based on their budget and the time flexibility required to successfully complete their classes.

The second category is referred to as “enhancing blends”, whereby the goal is to permit the implementation of resources and supplementary tools into the traditional face-to-face environment.  The third and last category is referred to as “transforming blends”, and the goal is to allow a fundamental transformation of pedagogy by using the latest technologies that are available today (Graham, 2006).  According to Graham (2006), corporate settings are much more likely to rely on the third category (i.e., transforming blends), since they have access to more resources. Higher education institutions are less likely to select the third category due to limitations such as lack of enough class space or accessibility to modern technologies.  In my next post, i will focus my attention to corporate settings and talk about the importance of “appropriate” delivery solution in the Organizational Learning Cycle.

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What is Blended Learning?

In recent years, researchers have recognized the possibility that more integrative learning environments may help university students to maximize their learning potentials within their courses (Graham 2006; Vaughn, 2007).  Therefore post-secondary institutions have introduced a new pedagogical design where online and face-to-face learning is combined to provide a more effective learning environment (Graham, 2006; Osguthorpe & Graham, 2003; Vaughn, 2007).  In order to best understand the essence of this newly introduced learning approach, we need to define face-to-face and online learning learning.

I have selected the the following definitions of face-to-face and online learning from Allen and Seaman (2010)’s report on the state of online learning in United States.  According to Allen and Seaman (2010), face-to-face instruction consists of two categories.  The first category is referred to as “traditional” where all course content is delivered in a face-to-face format and no technology is used at all. The second category is referred to as “web facilitated face-to-face format”, where web-based technology is used to deliver 1% to 29% of the course content such as syllabus and assignments (e.g., The Blackboard Learning System).  With respect to online learning environments, Allen and Seaman (2010) defined online learning as a learning that delivers 80+% of its content online.  The combination of face-to-face and online learning instructions would give birth to a learning environment that is currently known as blended learning environment.

In order to reflect the “essence” of blend learning, Graham (2006) proposed that blended learning could be best defined as the combination of online and face-to-face instructions.  I really like this definition as it provides a clear description of blended learning. However, one of my colleagues argued that this definition is way too general and does not provide any details on the percentages of online and face-to-face portions in the blended setting. It seems like, Allen and Seaman felt the same and decided to create a more specific definition of blended learning. At first glance, i was very excite as i would have access to a more clear blue print of blended learning for my research studies.  According to  Allen and Seaman (2010) blended learning is defined as a type of learning that delivers 30 to 79% of its contents online.  Although this definition is somewhat consistent with Graham’s (2006) definition noted above, it appears to be less restrictive and more generalizable than Graham’s (2006) definition of blended learning.  I beleive, leanring and development consultants need to take into account both of the definitions when designing or evaluating blended learning in either university or corporate settings. In my next post, I will talk about the different categories of blended learning that are frequently used in educational and corporate settings.

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