Online and Blended Learning Benefits

Introduction

Blended learning is an appropriate approach for language learning, as it supports the activities that promote student engagement (Larillard 19), a change in the way, in which students perceive content and the learning process in general (Topal 90), and the adoption of the social constructivism principles in the classroom environment (Ocak and Topal 648).

Blended learning has been proven effective in language learning with k-12 learners (Staker and Horn 1), as well as post-secondary learners (Ates 1).

Blended learning is a program in education structure within the frames of which face-to-face classroom instruction may be combined with online learning features (Rovai and Jordan 3). A blended program may help students receive instructions, which will allow for incorporation of modern media as a tool for enhancing flexibility in time, location and face-to-face communication. There are the two theories that may support blended learning and its urgency, cognitivism, constructivism and behaviourism.

Hypothesis

Blended learning improves the learning outcomes: the constructivists consider blended learning as a search for meaning and the ability to define various stages of students’ development, and the behaviourists prove that student behaviour may be predicted and even controlled in case the learning environment is properly identified.

Theoretical Foundation

Constructivism and behaviourism are the two theories that help to understand the peculiarities of blended learning and its impact on students. Constructivism does this by providing the principles that can be applied to online learning environments (Cook par. 1).Behaviorism, in its turn, affects the process by allowing teachers to understand the link between the stimuli and the reaction required to promote learning among students (Beutelspacher and Stock 109).

Thomas and Brown define blended learning as a “new culture of learning” in which the learner is given opportunity to engage with information even outside the classroom (17). The learner cannot acquire information within the classroom environment unless the opportunities for student engagement are provided and the learner is able to relate to the subject matter. Blended learning is defined by constructivist as a chance to “hold learners in their zone of proximal development by providing just enough help and guidance” and thereafter engage the learners in learning activities that encourage them constructing knowledge on their own (“Study Book: Learning Theories for Online Education” 158).

The teacher engages learners in an appropriate environment that helps them master the learning content effectively (“Study Book: Learning Theories for Online Education” 47). It should be born in mind, though, that the specified characteristics are not necessarily attributed to all types of blended learning setting. For the above-mentioned objectives to be attained, a teacher needs to integrate the tools that are designated for a specific group of learners. In other words, individual characteristics of students are to be taken into account prior to creating a blended learning environment. Blended learning offers to use instructional software to help students observe various phenomena and collaboration and make it possible to share insights and solutions.

Behaviourists identify the determinants of blended learning such as the embeddedness of blended learning and the infrastructure variables, such as competencies, planning and evaluation, etc. (Steffens par. 21), and use the stimuli as a possibility to shape students’ behaviour within the frames of the chosen environment. Blended learning is a possibility to combine face-to-face communication with online learning and accessing to the instructions. Beutelspacher and Stock underline that “a pure behaviouristic foundation for blended learning is not very promising as the passive memorisation concentrates on the reproduction of specified learning content and the transferability of knowledge is neglected” (111). In other words, blended learning allows for a major enhancement of the communication process among students, therefore, promoting active knowledge sharing.

Literature Review Summary

Many learning activities occur online so that the time spent on traditional instruction may be reduced (Rovai and Jordan 3). This possibility promotes an appropriate learning experience for the learners (Carman 1), especially in the language learning process (Marsh 4). Blended language learning helps the teacher to provide a more individualised learning experience and increase students’ interests in the learning process (Marsh 3). As a result, taking learners’ preference into account and increasing learners’ motivation becomes a possibility. It provides learners with a platform to practice the target language not only in a classroom.

Blended learning improves the learning process because it supports several forms of interaction. These are the learner-teacher, learner-content, and learner-learner interactions (Anderson 44). Traditional learning involves library study when a learner relies on the books and the notes provided in class. Online learning offers learners numerous opportunities for learner-content interaction, “including immersion in microenvironments, exercises in virtual labs, online computer-assisted tutorials, and the development of interactive content that responds to student behaviour and attributes” (Anderson 47).

Learner-teacher interactions are improved since learners, who cannot get answers from the teachers, may do it online. Behaviourists believe that blended learning helps the learner to absorb factual knowledge and then reproduce it accordingly (Beutelspacher and Stock 115).

The evaluation of the available literature about blended learning through constructivism and behaviourism helps to comprehend its main peculiarities, weaknesses, and strong aspects. Many researchers admit that blended education is attractive due to its possibilities to involve a number of people at the same time and use a variety of sources from different parts of the world. Blended learning is defined as a disruptive innovation due to its variety of forms, a possibility to control student’s time, place of education, and path, and a chance to use an appropriate learning environment to cause the required academic behaviour.

If constructivists regard blended learning as a chance to construct their knowledge according to their own demands, behaviourists believe that a certain attention should be paid to the learning environment that predetermines student behaviour. Constructivism and behaviourism are the theories that show that blended learning is a serious issue that helps to hide the weaknesses of online education at the expense of traditional education strengths, use the strengths and possibilities of online education, and hide the weakness and shortages of traditional education.

Mind Map for the Arabic Language Blended Learning.
Picture 1. Mind Map for the Arabic Language Blended Learning.

The picture provided above shows quite graphically that the process of acquiring speaking skills based on the blended learning approach will require a combination of three basic approaches, i.e., behaviourism, constructivism and cognitivism. Among the key components that will allow for a fast and efficient process of learning, students’ engagement rates, skills training and the application of the aforementioned theories have been identified. As the map provided above shows, the process of blended learning is bound to enhance the motivation rates among the students, which is essential for facilitating the proper learning environment and make sure that the students acquire the necessary knowledge and skills in a proper manner.

The theoretical aspect of the process is linked directly to the practical application of the information learned over the course of the lessons; thus, the behaviorism approach will be adopted so that the students could train their skills to perfection. The stimulus-response reward principle will promote a more effective learning of the key behavioral patterns that the students will have to develop in order to master the required skills. It is also essential that the process of communication should occur unceasingly in the course of learning; as the picture provided above shows, face-to-face communication serves as the basic tool for transferring the data from the teacher to the students.

The fact that the teacher adopts the specified communication mode shows that the learners will be capable of receiving not only verbal, but also nonverbal signals; as a result, the data that the learners will acquire will be fuller and more accurate than in any other scenario. Moreover, the fact that the learners will be able to communicate with each other is also crucial to their understanding of the subject matter and acquisition of the corresponding speaking skills. It should also be born in mind that contemporary technologies should be incorporated into the process of learning so that the students could view clear and understandable visuals that support the reading rules voiced by the teacher.

The Theoretical Justification of the Lesson

In our instructional plan, we have used the approach proposed by Anderson (2004), who asserts that the most effective way of blended learning is the combination of several forms of interaction, such as learner-teacher, learner-content, and learner-learner interactions (44). We have used the mixture of traditional means of learning and the online learning, which provides the pupils with the additional content.

The aim of our project is to improve the students knowledge of Arabic and to develop their communicative skills discussing the conversational topic, which is the United Arab Emirates. It is suggested that the lesson will be held in a class equipped with computers with internet access.

For the successful realization of the goals of the lesson and the involvement of the participants in the learning process, the students are expected to have some prior basic knowledge of Arabic grammar. Moreover, it is presupposed that the students vocabulary allows constructing the simplest sentences in Arabic. In case some students do not have such skills, the repetition of the educational material is involved in the initial part of the lesson, because such a process as the rehearsal “helps transfer information from short-term memory into long-term memory” (“Study Book: Learning Theories for Online Education” 47). The evaluation of the students prior knowledge will be realized by means of a short recitation.

By the end of the lesson, students are be expected to demonstrate the clear understanding of the vocabulary material and the ability to apply it practically. Moreover, the students have to show the proper use of the past and present tenses.

In order to make certain of it, at the end of the lesson the students will be asked to fulfil some lexical exercises revealing their practical skills obtained during the lesson and to answer the teachers questions. The students are expected to compose seven completed expanded sentences with the proper use of the present and past tenses.

For the given lesson, we are planning to use the following educational materials and the technical training aids: computers with internet access and a relevant software, a plasma screen and instructive cards. The cards are represented by two types. The first type introduces the new vocabulary. The second type is an exercise, which is necessary to perform using this material.

Taking into consideration the age of the participants, the main strategy that we have chosen for our lesson is the spiral curriculum. This strategy implies the “representing of the material in the childrens form of thought and then introducing it in the more serious form” (Study Book: Learning Theories for Online Education 104).

Moreover, by presenting material we are planning to be based on subsumption, which supposes “the considering or including the notion or idea as a part of a more comprehensive one” (Study Book: Learning Theories for Online Education 57).

New information technologies provide new possibilities for a learning process. It gives an opportunity to store a huge amount of information, which may be unavailable in hard copies. One of its obvious advantages is flexibility. Teachers and learners are not restricted to time or place. Due to the modern information technologies, the studying process may be changed in accordance with individual demands of a learner. The time needed for a traditional instruction is also reduced. A teacher is not the only source of information now. The role of a teacher is to facilitate a learning process (Study Book: Learning Theories for Online Education 164).

According to the behavioural theory, a learning process is the attainment of a new behaviour by means of repetition and practice, using the approach stimulus- response-reward. We will use this approach in the initial part of the lesson during the repetition of the material. In a process of studying, the new behaviour becomes automatic and correspondent to a certain situation. One of the basic principles of this theory is a motivation. The use of the contemporary technologies in learning arouses interest in studying that provides a learner with the additional motivation. In comparison with print sources, the advantage of blended learning is that an “optic special effect and creative design of computerized multimedia are more lively and interesting, so it could arouse the extrinsic motivation of learners” (Gilakjani 62).

In our lesson plan, we will be based on constructivism and behaviourism learning theories as those, which principles correspond to the blended learning approach. By means of use of the technical equipment, we are going to encourage students desire to solve the problem independently reflecting on their own experience (Study Book: Learning Theories for Online Education 164). In our lesson a teacher is supposed to allow the students a free hand, performing the role of facilitator in learning and interfering only in case of necessity (Study Book: Learning Theories for Online Education 164).

Our lesson is designated for students of 5th grade. The chosen area of study is Arabic as the first language for native speakers. The duration of the lesson is ninety minutes.

Lesson Plan

LESSON PLAN PERIOD:
Teacher: Unit: Subject: Arabic Writing
Grade: 5 Week : Date: Lesson
Lesson Learning Objective:
By the end of the lesson students are
expected: to be able to discuss the given conversational topic (the UAE) and to write using the vocabulary from it

Lesson Learning Outcomes [The measurement of student learning]:
What I am looking for is:

  1. 7completed expanded sentences in a paragraph with correct punctuation and vocabulary of the given topic using the past and present tenses.
  2. students are also expected to discuss the given topic using the active vocabulary.
Planned differentiation activities:
V:visual
A:aural
R/W: Read/Write

(Video sharing) by Instagram about
the seven emirates in the UAE

(Plan B) if internet connection isn’t working
Video – The seven emirates that make up the United Arab Emirates

Starter: Time: 15 Min
The initial part: the repetition of the vocabulary.
A teacher gives pupils the short lecture based on the material that has been studied before. After the short lecture, pupils are expected to answer several questions aiming the repetition of the material. (Behaviourism approach).
The specified activity allows for training the key skills until the students can perform the specified activities automatically. The process aligns with the key tenets of the behaviourism theory.
Main Activity: Time: 55 Min
The main part:
1)The teacher gives the students her account in Instagram where two videos are uploaded. The first video (Capture 1.1) describes the life of the UAE in the past, the second one (Capture 1.3) represents it in the present. The students are expected to find and to write in Instagram the verbs in the present tense from the Capture 1.1, and the verbs in the past tense from the Capture 1.3.
2) The teacher analyses the verbs written by the students and explains the grammatical differences between these two types of verbs, and the differences in spelling.
3) The teacher gives the students her account in Twitter, where the following question is posted: “Share with us a sentence that compares or discusses the life of the UAE in the past and in the present”. Then the teacher discusses the sentences compiled by the students.
4) The students are proposed to download Calligrapher 1.1. Using the sentences of their classmates posted in Twitter the students are proposed to develop a paragraph consisting of 7 complete sentences and to write them in Calligrapher 1.1.
5) Written exercise:
Card activity: students are given two different types of paper-based cards. The first type represents the new vocabulary. The second type is the exercise, which is necessary to perform. The cards from the second type consist of the sentences with the omitting word. The students are expected to choose the appropriate word from the vocabulary cards.
Stretch:
Based on the watched video
students have to form sentences.
The sentences should include the
past and present tenses. For instance :
In the pas people built houses from rocks
Now people build houses using cement.
The activity under analysis is linked directly to the cognitivism theory, as the task helps the learners understand how they acquire information. In other words, the activity launches the process of meta-cognition.
Software: Twitter

Software: Twitter, Calligrapher 1.1
The students have to compile a paragraph based on the sentences of their classmates.

Stretch: Students compose the sentences in Arabic by themselves.

The assignment is based on the key tenets of the constructivism theory, as it allows the teacher to gain a deeper insight on the ways, in which the students learn. By comparing the answers of the students to the expected responses and taking the information that has been represented to the learners, the teacher can make an assumption concerning the correctness and the possible flaws of a certain teaching method and, therefore, identify the strategies that will contribute to a faster acquisition of the corresponding speaking skills by the learners.

Plenary: Time: 20 Min
Students answer the teachers questions.
What are the main cities of the UAE? What is the capital of the country? What natural resource has promoted the economic development of the UAE? What are the main architectural monuments of the UAE? What places of interest do you know?
Students start to write in their books about
the topic.
Homework Task:
Notes / Reflection: Assessment for learning opportunities [tick as appropriate]:
Observation Student self assessment
Oral questioning Peer assessment
Quiz Student presentation
Written work and feedback Verbal feedback
By the end of the lesson the teacher evaluates students knowledge by means of verbal communication
Resources / equipment needed: video, computers, plasma screen.

Conclusion

We think that apart from the advantages of blended learning, which are mentioned in the first part of the research, it is also a good example of the learners motivation. At the same time, traditional forms of learning should not be neglected. The perfect variant is the combination of these two forms of learning. The benefits of the association of the blended learning and the traditional forms allow learners to understand the key aspects of the learning content (Oliver and Keith 22)

Works Cited

Anderson, Terry. “Toward a theory of online learning.” Learning Theories for Online Education. Eds. Anderson Terry and Elloumi Faith. Athabasca University, 2004. 33-60. Print.

Ates, Alev. “The Handbook of Blended Learning: Global Perspectives, Local Designs.” Turkish Online Journal of Distance Education-TOJDE 10.4 (2009): 218-221. Web.

Beutelspacher, Lisa and Stock, Wolfgang. “Construction and Evaluation of a Blended Learning Platform for Higher Education.” Enhancing Learning through Technology: International Conference, ICT, 2011. Eds. Reggie Kwan, Carmel McNaught, Philip Tsang, and Fu Lee Wang. New York, NY: Springer, 2011. 109-122. Print.

Carman, Jared M. Blended learning design: Five key ingredients. Salt Lake City: Agilant Learning, 2005. Print.

Cook, John. A “Constructivist Approach to Online Course Design to Enhance Interaction and Learner Motivation in K-12.” Theories of Educational Technology. 2015. Web.

Gilakjani, Abbas. “The Significant Role of Multimedia in Motivating EFL Learners’ Interest in English Language Learning.” I.J.Modern Education and Computer Science. 4 (2012): 57-66. Web.

Larillard, Diane. Thinking about Blended Learning. Belgium: Royal Flemish Academy of Belgium for Science and the Arts. 2014. Print.

Marsh, Debra. Blended learning: Creating learning opportunities for language learners. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012. Print.

Ocak, Mehmet Akif and Arzu Deveci Topal. “Blended Learning in Anatomy Education: A Study Investigating Medical Students’ Perceptions.” Eurasia Journal of Mathematics, Science & Technology Education 11.3 (2015): 647-683. Web.

Oliver, Martin, and Trigwell Keith. “Can ‘blended learning’ be redeemed?” E-Learning 2.1 (2005): 17–26. Print.

Rovai, Alfred P. and Jordan, Hope M. “Blended Learning and Sense of Community: A comparative analysis with traditional and fully online graduate courses.” The International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning 5.2 (2004): 1-13. Print.

Staker, Heather and Michael B. Horn. Classifying K–12 Blended Learning. Lexington, MA: Innosight Institute, 2012. Print.

Steffens, Dirk: Performance of Blended Learning in University Teaching: Determinants and Challenges. 2010. Web.

Study Book: Learning Theories for Online Education. Athabasca: Athabasca University, 2009. Print.

Thomas, Douglas, and Brown John S. A New Culture of Learning: Cultivating the Imagination for a World of Constant Change. Charleston, SC: CreateSpace, 2011. Print.

Topal, Arzu Deveci. A Blended Learning Approach to Motivation of Medical Students Taking Anatomy Class. International Journal on New Trends in Education and Their Implications 5.3 (2014): 90–113. Print.