1 HTW Berlin (GERMANY)
2 Glasgow Caledonian University (UNITED KINGDOM)
About this paper:
Appears in: EDULEARN13 Proceedings
Publication year: 2013
Pages: 348-353
ISBN: 978-84-616-3822-2
ISSN: 2340-1117
Conference name: 5th International Conference on Education and New Learning Technologies
Dates: 1-3 July, 2013
Location: Barcelona, Spain
Postgraduate degree programmes in areas such as business administration and industrial management often admit students with diverse nationalities, academic backgrounds, working histories and study motivations. While diversity may enrich many aspects of the study experience, the resulting variance in the participants’ initial levels of preparedness presents the teachers with a course design and delivery challenge. In a diverse postgraduate programme, the participants of a given mandatory module may range from an absolute beginner to an expert. Whereas experienced teachers may be skilful in assessing the participants and balancing the course, the lack of common base level of knowledge is likely to result in a compromise; advanced students will not gain much of repeating basics whereas beginning students lack the fundamentals needed to gain from advanced topics.

Motivated by observations and feedback pointing at the above challenges, this paper discusses the use of e-learning tools and blended learning pedagogy in improving the teaching of professionally diverse groups. The paper reports on two core results of its underlying research. First, the impact of diversity on learning in different types of modules is assessed from the student and teacher perspectives. Second, the paper presents a blended learning concept developed to address the challenge considering the teachers’ and learners’ preferences and limitations. Following the “flipped classroom” form of blended learning, the concept’s aim is to establish a base level of knowledge, shared by all participants, providing the teacher with a point of reference for course design and delivery. It is assumed that the properties of e-learning such as flexible time and place of learning, unlimited repeatability of lessons and e-assessment support this type of application. A special attribute of the concept is to experiment with advanced students assuming e-learning tutor roles.

The methodological foundation of the research is a student survey and a series of teacher and student interviews conducted in the postgraduate programme Master of Business Administration and Engineering (MBA&E) at the HTW Berlin. The MBA&E is an interdisciplinary programme offering a combination of technical, management and specialization modules. Promoting diversity, peer learning and creative teamwork, the programme enrols an international student population with previous degrees in technical sciences (ca. 65%), economic sciences (25%) and other areas (10%). Motivated by teacher and learner feedback, the programme is currently developing blended learning concepts to suit its specific environment. The survey target group consists of 110 students and graduates. The interviewed group consists of five currently active teachers who have taught several semesters in the programme, as well as of a representative sample of 10 students.

The paper’s main contribution is to provide postgraduate educators an evaluation of a potentially useful application of educational technology. The paper is part of the author’s PhD research on blended learning applications. The next steps on this research track include the implementation and practical, multiple-semester assessment of the developed blended learning concepts.
Postgraduate education, management education, e-learning, blended learning, diversity.