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A Study of Using Blended Learning in Teaching and Learning Modern Educational Technology

Weidong Chen
School of Communication & Visusl Arts, Suzhou University of Science & Technology, Suzhou, China wdcsz@163.com

Abstract. Modern educational technology(MET) curriculum teaching always is a question which is worth discussing. With our many years teaching practice and related research foundation, we adopted Blended learning way to carry on the educational reform in this curriculum, obtained some good effect.This thesis begins with all kinds of its definitions of blended learning and then analyzes the characters of blended learning under the environment of the Internet. We presents related study in Met curriculum teaching. Some of students and teachers in Suzhou University of science and technology are surveyed in order to know the condition of college students and MET curriculum teachers in using computers and Internet. According to the findings from the survey, the researcher concludes that it is feasible to use blended learning in college MET curriculum teaching. Keywords: Blended learning, MET curriculum teaching, Instructional reform.

1 Introduction
With the advancement of technology, it is possible to revolutionize the way people learn and to present the information to them. Most of the traditional instruction, students learn from the instructor-led approach. Usually in a traditional classroom setting, students have access to the experts, involved in questions and discussion, exposed to social interaction and have the opportunity to learn from others. Some students prefer an individualized or less structured environment. In other words, they need self-paced learning material. At the same time, educators are now facing with the challenges of integrating traditional and emerging technology as to balance various students learning styles. Blended Learning(BL) is an educational method that combines the advantages of cyber education and traditional face-to-face education to optimize the learning effects by using the new paradigm of a remote educational system. Today, numerous cyber education institutions are adopting BL, recognizing the limitations of cyber education, and to increase the educational effects. (Kim & Choi, 2004; Kim & Choi, 2006). MET curriculum is one of the basic cousrses for each college normal program. Students experience difficulties in studying MET since they have to understand the theories and rememorize many knowledge points. Studies have shown that attitude to
F.L. Wang et al. (Eds.): ICHL 2009, LNCS 5685, pp. 299308, 2009. Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2009

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be one of other reasons why learning introduction of educational technology is not easy. Because the introduction of educational technology curriculum covers more learning contents, more knowledge points, updating more frequently and involed more foresighting. The objective of this paper is to determine if BL approach which combines the traditional classroom learning, tutorial with the developed courseware and web-based learning will help the students in learning MET. The paper reports the effect and influence factors we adopted BL in our teaching and students learning.

2 Blended Learning Concept and Need at Universities


Blended learning (BL) or hybrid learning describes a learning environment that either combines teaching methods, delivery methods, media formats or a mixture of all these. It also refers to the integrated learning activities such as a mixture of online and face-to-face learning . In other words, BL is a mixture of e-learning and traditional types of learning. It is mentioned as the integrated combination of traditional learning with web-based online approaches, the combination of media and tools deployed in an e-learning environment and the combination of a number of pedagogical approaches. elaborated BL as a set of learning strategies or dimensions that mixes various eventbased activities, including traditional instructor-led training, synchronous online conferencing or training and asynchronous self-paced study. BL means many things to many people, even within our relatively small online learning community. It is referred to as both blended and hybrid learning, with little or no difference in the meaning of the terms among most educators. In general terms, BL combines online delivery of educational content with the best features of classroom interaction and live instruction to personalize learning, allow thoughtful reflection, and differentiate instruction from student to student across a diverse group of learners. The Blended Learning environment is the teaching-learning environment that is becoming increasingly more common at universities and life-long educational institutions. In general, BL refers to an optimized strategic learning process (Mantyla, 2001) that mixes at least two learning strategies. Adoption of BL in universities integrates the e-learning method to the existing lecture-centered classes to complement the limitations of the latter with the end result of optimizing the effect of teaching-learning. In other words, BL presents flexibility that can cast away teachercentered standardized education to support student-centered self-initiated learning (Khan, 2005). As a means for effectively integrating lecture hall-centered education and elearning, Khan (2005) proposed that it is necessary to consider eight factors when planning BL the institution, strategy, technology, interface design, evaluation, management, providing resources and ethics. This is indeed emphasizing the notion that diverse elements need to be reviewed to provide a meaningful learning environment. Moreover, Driscoll (2002) proposes diverse strategies for the application of diverse BL methods including conducting and grading tests or evaluations online, the use of a community to share student questions, discussions and thoughts, presenting reference materials for learning on the web, and enabling the students to obtain the latest data.

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These strategies are resourceful for the design, operation and management of blended learning classes, and they are organically interrelated. However, although these researches present ways to use BL, they are not able to present detailed strategies for the effective adoption and operation at universities.

3 Research Objectives and Methodology


3.1 Research Objective Some people have realised the importance of BL in education, and some universities become do some practices in using BL in network education in Chinese mainland, such as there are some courses teaching using blended learning merhod in the network education college of Shanghai Jiao tong University, Beijing University of Posts and Telecommunications, Beijing Normal University etc.. But at present, BL is more emphasized on introducing and discussing theoretically and few applied in practice. Since there are few study on whether BL is feasible in Chinese education and how to get started BL when the specific subject is concerned, my study is going to research the feasibility and application of BL in college MET curriculum teaching. The specific objective of this study is to research the application of BL used in college MET curriculum teaching, and learning. The specific survey questions are as follows: (1) (2) (3) (4) (5) (6) What is the present situation of students in using computers and the Internet? What is students' attitude toward present MET curriculum teaching and learning? What is the tendency of MET curriculum students' learning style? What is the tendency of MET curriculum students' communicating style? What is the present situation of MET curriculum teachers in using computers, Internet and other information tools? What is the present situation of MET curriculum teaching and learning?

3.2 Research Design According to the literatures we have studied, BL is a kind of learning which combines online and face-to-face(F2F) approaches. So the realization of BL depends an both students and teachers' convenience of using of computers , the Internet and other information tools, students' learning style, the tendency of communication and teachers' concept on technology. Therefore, we designed a questionnaire to know about students' conditions of using computer and Internet and students' learning style, the tendency of communication, etc. A semi-structure interview is conducted among teachers to know about teachers' current situation of using computers and the Internet and their cognition on technology in teaching. The present study employs a multidimensional approach for data collection combining a qualitative and a quantitative research design. Two different research methods are adopted in the present study: survey (quantitative research) and interview (qualitative research) to collect data. The questionnaire we designed has a series of questions or statements to which subjects individually respond. A questionnaire can gather many discrete pieces of

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information about individual attributes such as attitudes, values, habits, and background characteristics including age, education, and income (as cited in Seon-hwa Eun, 2001). After the survey have been finished, five MET teachers are conducted as the interviews in order to know about their current situation in the application of education technology and sovled some problems met in MET curriculum teaching. These teachers use the same couseware , the web based instruction platform and the same blended learning approach. The strength of an interview lies in providing a great deal of information gathered directly from the respondents. Further, an interview is much more flexible and open in form than survey, because the respondents are free to answer in their own words and can answer either briefly or at length during the interviews. 3.3 Subject Selection The target population for the present study is teachers and students in Suzhou University of science & technology. 3.3.1 Questionnaire Participants Since some questions in the questionnaire is concerning about students' access to computers and the Internet, only the sophomores are chosen because they have been familiar to the environment and can fnd the most convenient way to uses the internet. In order to avoid the influence by their major, the participants come from four departments. 15 participants are from the department of chinese; 15 from the department of chemistry; 15 from the department of geography and 15 from the department of physics. 3.3.2 Interview Participants All the interview participants are MET curriculum teachers in Suzhou University of Science & Technology. Their ranks range from teaching assistant to professor. Five teachers participate in the interview, three lecturers, two associate professors. All these teachers teach MET curriculum. Both of them have rich experence in teaching the MET curriculum and participate in the producing and revising the multimedia courseware we used, and two of them and participate the writing the textbook which we have used. 3.4 Data Analysis 3.4.1 Questionnaire In the data analysis phase, we maily used the descriptive statistics like frequency, percentage, central tendency (mean) and variability (standard deviation, rank) through the SPSS for Windows software. Those responses were numerically coded and interpreted based on the mean scores of each items. The items in Part One, which consisted of dichotomy questions and blank fillings questions, could not be summated to constitute one variable, so assessing reliability for the Part One was riot possible. Data in this part was analyzed with descriptive statistics such as frequency and percent.

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The data analysis in Part Two was divided into three steps-item analysis, reliability check, and descriptive analysis. 3.4.2 Interview As for the information got from the interview, it was used to compensate the information from the questioranaire. Through the interview, we read questions for each participant, reflected on the meaning of what she heard from them. For multiple-choice questions, the researcher put tick on the choice they made and took notes according to their main idea for open-ended questions. The data collected from the interview was analyzed in two ways. The multiple choices were analyzed through descriptive statistics such as rank and frequency. The answers to the open-ended questions were quoted indirectly or summarized according to the research questions.

4 Results Description and Analysis


4.1 Results of Questionnaire According the data analysis of questionaire, we can draw the some results as following. 1. The Present Situation of College Students' Using Computer and Internet Students spent their most time consulting materials (91.4%) and chatting on line (75.58%). 68.9% students received and sent E-mail. 64.5% students processed words. 90% students surfed on line. Only a small percent of students used BBS (54.3%)and Blog (8.5%). Students had very convenient access to computers. The survey found that almost all the students could use computers if they wanted. Most students used computers in computer lab on campus, which suggested that this college had a good condition of hardware almost enough to meet students' demand. 55.2% students went to the net bar. Even 42.5% students had their own computers, and this percentage would increase with the decrease of the price of computer (see Table 1).
Table 1. Frequency, Percentage and Rank of the Present Situation Of Using Computer and the Internet Questions I often use: E-Mail word processor Consult materials on line Surf the web BBS Discussion Blog Chat on line Access to Computers: I have my own computer at home I use the computers in the net bar. I only use the computers at school. I have never used a computer. frequency 41 39 49 54 32 5 51 25 33 54 percent 68.9 64.5 82 90 54.3 8.5 85.5 42.5 55.2 90.5 0 rank 4 5 3 1 6 7 2 3 2 1 4

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52.3% students spent 1-5 hours per week on line; 35.2% students spent 5-10 hours on line, 9.6% students spent less than 1 hour on line, 2.9% students spent more than 10 hours on line. 26.5% students spent less than 5 hours per week on computer, 39.4% students spent 5-10 hours per week, 34.1% students spent more than 10 hours per week. 2. Students' Attitude toward Present MET curriculum Teaching and learning (1) Students' Perception of the Present Teaching and learning "I hope teachers can often change their teaching method" got the highest mean score 4.63, which implied that students felt that MET curriculum were dull or at least couldn't motivate them. "I'm satisfied with the present teaching method " and I don't like attending MET curriculum because of its dullness " seems to be contrary, but this shows that students were careless about MET curriculum class, which may be because they had no right to choose what they wanted to learn and didn't know what they needed to learn. Students still felt that the present teaching helped to improve their understanding ans application of educational technology. The results mentioned above displayed that students seldom participated in class leacture activities and communication with others. But why did they agree that the present teaching helped to improve their knowledge or ability of using the MET? The only explanation is that the online courseware worked. Self-study in computer lab fostered students self control. (2) Students' Perception of Teaching and Learning Materials Teaching and learning material is one of the most important part for the blended learning practice in MET curriculum. Most students agreed that the content of the courseware was rich and interesting and the content of textbooks is interesting . Still students agreed that the use of the courseware in this curriculum made it more interesting. Students also agreed that they still learned MET besides textbooks. But time practicing MET because of the use of courseware students disagree that they spent and learning more MET because of courseware . All these showed that even interesting materials might fail to motivate students to study and meet the objective. So teaching model and instructional design of the currculum is the key part to making the materials functional. (see Table 2)
Table 2. Mean, SD, Rank of Students' Perception on the Teaching and Learning Materials Questions The content of the courseware is rich and interesting. I'm interested in the content of the textbooks The use of the courseware in this curriculum made it more interesting I learn Met sometimes from other Met materials. I spent more time practicing Met because of the use of the courseware in this curriculum. I learned more Met because of using the courseware. Mean 3.75 3.42 3.37 3.32 2.56 2.53 Std. Deviation .87 .93 .94 .92 .93 .88 Rank 1 2 3 4 5 6

3. The Tendency of Learning Style As for the tendencr of learning style, students were more likely to study by themselves than through cooperation with their classmates , but this also showed that they

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could accept both way of learning. The result of the total of questions implied that learning styles of students were diversified. Even they didn't like to participate in class activities, but they could accept the concept of cooperative learning. 4. The Tendency of Communicating Style In our teaching practice, students didn't like to ask teachers questions privately; nor did they like to ask teachers questions during the class . Even through BBS and Email they still didn't like to solve problems and communicate with teachers and classmates. All these demonstrated that students didn't like to communicate with teachers in any way. Even though they had the tendency to cooperate with classmates, they were willing to solve them themselves or just left them there when they met problems. The lack of interaction and unwillingness to communicate with others in MET curriculum would lead to the low level of communicative competence. (see Table 3)
Table 3. Mean, SD, Rank of Communication between Teachers and Students and among Peers Questions I would like to ask teachers questions privately. I would like to ask teachers questions at class. I learn Met sometimes from other Met materials. I would like to communicate with teachers and classmates through e-mail or BBS. Mean 2.88 2.67 2.38 2.20 Std. Deviation .90 .86 .82 0.78 Rank 1 2 3 4

4.2 Results of Interview 1. The Present Situation of Teachers' Adoption of Computers and Internet From the results analysis of the interview, the five teachers all agreed that they had convenient access to computers and Internet. The things they often do on the computer and Internet were word processing, consulting teaching materials, editing PPT courseware, sending and receiving e-mail, participating the discussion on BBS, editing Blog and chatting. The frequency of doing things an computer or Internet was as follows (from most often to least often): word processing, consulting materials, sending e-mail, editing courseware by themselves, BBS, Blog, or chatting on line. 2. The Present Situation of College MET curriculum Teaching This research question is divided into 4 sub-questions. The results of them are outlined as below. (1) The Application of Technology in Teaching All teachers adopted multimedia courseware in their college MET curriculum teaching(including the PPT document and other multimedia learning resources). All teachers chose MET curriculum materials on the Internet to complement the textbook. Four teachers conducted some teaching activities by E-mail. Three teachers communicated with students about MET curriculum study through BBS or E-mail. All of them instruction through web pages aided with the web based instruction platform (see Fig1).

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Fig. 1. interface of the MET web based instruction platform

(2) The Way of Improving Students' Communicative Ability Own to their students lack of communicative activity, the five teachers used to improve students communicative ability were presentation, debate, creating some situations for students to communicate with each other. All of them agreed that students were not active in taking part in these activities. They seldom took some other ways such as E-mail or chatting on line. The reasons were that they felt it took time to design activities and the present situation was not good enough to adopt these ways. (3) The Choice of Teaching Materials As a MET curriculum teacher, they have rich knowledge and media processing skills. The five teachers thought that the textbooks were not interesting. So they sometimes chose some materials outside textbook to complement their teaching. These materials were mainly from the Internet and other media styles. The standard to choose these materials was to be appropriate to MET level of students, to be related to the content of the text they learn, to increase the interest of class. (4) The difficulties in the Adoption of Computers and Internet Although they have more experienced, they also meet some difficulties in their using computer and the internet in their teaxhing. All the teachers thought that the hardware and software was not good enough to support their teaching and learning, the speed of net was not fast and teachers had not enough skills and experiences in integrating computers ,the Internet and other forms information technology in teaching. Especially, teachers thought that it was not easy to control student's study since students often did some other things on the computer.

5 Conclusions
Through the survey of students and interview with teachers, both teachers and students spent their most time online in consulting materials, chatting, and sending e-mail. Both teachers and students seldom used BBS and Blog. But the big difference between teachers and students was on chatting online. Students almost spent their most time on it but teachers spent a little time on it.

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All the teachers used multimedia courseware in their teaching. Students gave high evaluation on the courseware, but they didn't think their MET knowledge and skills was improved through the use of courseware. The researcher thinks that although the courseware can improve the interests of teaching and learning, the instructional value of the courseware may be poor. Some published courseware in fact are the copy of textbook decorated by some pictures and sound but lack of interaction and flexibility. So teaching and learning language shouldn't depend on courseware too much. Teachers often adopted teaching methods such as text explanation and group discussion. Students gave positive evaluation on teaching method, but they still hoped that teachers could often change their teaching model. This shows that students have high demand on teaching. The diversified teaching methods not only avoid dullness but also meet the needs of students. There are some discrepancies between students and teachers in learning styles. So teachers need further investigation into students' learning styles to ensure that all students are able to complete their curriculum successfully. Own to the students didn't like any ways to communicate with teachers and students about MET study. Teachers need to designed some activities to encourage the interaction. According to these results mentioned above, we can see that it is feasible to carry out BL in college MET curriculum teaching since both teachers and students have convenient access to computers and the Internet and basic skills to surf online. In addition, it is necessary to take the model of BL since students are not satisfied with courseware and the unchangeable teaching, especially students have the willingness to study by themselves.

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