Ghana Technology University College (GHANA)
About this paper:
Appears in: EDULEARN16 Proceedings
Publication year: 2016
Pages: 697-703
ISBN: 978-84-608-8860-4
ISSN: 2340-1117
doi: 10.21125/edulearn.2016.1135
Conference name: 8th International Conference on Education and New Learning Technologies
Dates: 4-6 July, 2016
Location: Barcelona, Spain
Blended or Hybrid Learning - an approach to learning where Internet technologies are strategically integrated into face-to-face learning activities so as to better achieve learning objectives - is gaining worldwide acceptance, particularly in higher education. However, whilst some institutions have over a decade of experience with implementing blended learning, many others are beginning to explore its potential and feasibility within their peculiar contexts. The latter is particularly applicable to many institutions in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) that are grappling with financial constraints, low Internet bandwidth availability, high bandwidth costs, limited and unreliable power and communication infrastructure etc. Under these conditions, widespread adoption of blended learning is a considerable challenge. Consequently, research works aimed at establishing the effectiveness and validity of this mode of learning within the SSA context are quite sporadic, with many important issues remaining unexplored. It is therefore not surprising that there is presently no clearly defined framework for institutional adoption of blended learning within the developing world context.

It is against this backdrop that this study implemented a blended learning approach in a graduate level course at a private university in Ghana, with the objective or exploring students' perceptions of this instructional approach, and also assessing learning processes and outcomes. The course, which usually has in-class sessions for six hours each on Saturdays and Sundays for a four week duration, was restructured to meet for six hours only on Saturdays. For the subsequent days (until the next in-class meeting), students were required to log into the school's Learning Management System and participate in online discussions and group learning activities. The goal of this design was to have students spend some time in class listening to lectures and taking notes the traditional way, and also spend some time online interacting with each other and the instructor, through asynchronous online discussions, question and answer sessions, group discussions etc.

Forty eight (48) graduate students and one instructor participated in the study. A qualitative research approach involving data gathering methods such as, direct observation, collective discussion, survey questionnaire, web-server logs analysis etc. was adopted. As a quasi-experimental study in which learners' attitudes, behaviors, needs, desires were being investigated, it is believed that these methods afforded the researcher the best opportunity to obtain credible data. Data were analysed using simple descriptive statistics and content analysis.

Findings reveal that students had an overwhelming preference for the blended approach to learning and this is evidenced by:
­- Increased student participation in learning activities in both the face-to-face and online environments
­- Increased student participation in group project activities, particularly in the online environment
­- Richer and more reflective discussion postings by students in the online discussion forum
­- High student satisfaction with regard to the learning approach adopted

The presentation elaborates further on the study and discusses the findings and lessons learnt so as to set the tone for further exploratory and empirical studies aimed at establishing best practice blended learning strategies and frameworks within the SSA higher education context.
Blended Learning, Hybrid Learning, Higher Education, Ghana, Student Perceptions, Sub-Saharan Africa.