An article recently published in the Computers in New Zealand Schools Journal, gave the details of a study that examined a teacher’s first implementation of online learning in a Learning Management System (LMS). The programme of learning was Home Economics, and the students and teacher are based in a New Zealand high school. The article, entitled The first blended or hybrid online course in a New Zealand Secondary School: A case study, lists some of the benefits of using a blended approach, including the development of ICT confidence and skills, enhanced interactions, and the fostering of independent learning with increased self management and higher order thinking skills.
“From my experience so far, and the results of the questionnaire that I put out to the students, I would agree with much of what they say in this article but there are a few areas that I feel I have worked through and am possibly in front of where this study has got to.
The need to scaffold the course varies by level (ie Level 1, 2 or 3) and also by the IT competence of the students. I have been amazed by the lack of working knowledge of some of the Office packages that some of the students exhibit so this re-inforces the statement in the article about us assuming that students are digital natives (a phrase that Prensky himself has now moved away from apparently!).
I have found that students are working at their own pace and own level and the course so far has been a great leveller especially for the less able or less confident students. Online questioning has been invaluable for some of these students. The ability to upload their work, have it ‘e-marked’ and returned quickly has also been a plus. I have found that I am marking far more work and in far more depth now than I have for years. This is partly due to the increased amount of work the students are producing and also partly due to the fact that I can read what they have written and have space to add a valid comment at the appropriate place in the text, which in the past there wasn’t room for.
- I agree with the positive outcomes stated and have my own evidence to support this from my students
- The challenges faced are also very well stated.
- Strategies suggested are also good for the growth of e-learning
- The statement about schools having a professional responsibility to expose students to e-learning really rings true. Morally we also have this obligation as educators.
- Students may be familiar with the ICT but they still need guidance in how to use it effectively and this is best achieved in a blended rather than fully OTL environment
- I found it interesting that they were proposing the more practical subjects were best suited to blended learning; what is wrong with more academic subjects going down this route?
- My results also back up the flexibility comments, but the amount of flexibility/freedom also concerned some of my students
- Greater resource options is definitely true but again care is needed to ensure validity”