POSTGRADUATE STUDENTS’ VIEWS ON BLENDED LEARNING IN FORMAL EDUCATION IN GREECE: CONTENT ANALYSIS OF MOODLE FORUM POSTS
The Information and Knowledge society of the 21st century requires constant training and enhancement of knowledge and skills and has spurred a radical change in formal education in terms of the boundaries, the structures and processes that define educational systems and students’ experiences. Distance learning, e-Learning and Blended Learning are those promising educational interventions that can address the question of how formal educational systems can continue to productively and effectively produce and at the same time defuse knowledge more in line with the multiple and newly arisen needs of society.
In particular, Blended Learning (BL) promises to overcome the disadvantages of both F2F learning and e-Learning, by providing a combination of various learning strategies or models which increase learning quality, social contact, and interactivity, by combining multiple delivery media. BL offers various advantages, as it can improve student’s academic achievement, support different learning styles and levels, allow cost savings, attract more students’ attention, and allow access to knowledge from anywhere until they meet F2F with their teachers. From a systems-theory rather than a technical perspective, BL systems are the ones that combines two historically separated educational models, that of F2F instruction (traditional F2F learning systems) and computer mediated instruction (distributed learning systems) with an emphasis on the central role of ICT.
BL systems to date follow a multiplicity of Technology Enhanced Learning models, where the selection of each methodology depends on the institution’s pedagogical paradigm, its financial and technological resources, and other conditions. As BL methodologies range from purely F2F educational activities to fully online and distance learning activities, they are characterized by a high degree of complexity and so, there is a great body of literature on evaluation and assessment of BL in formal education. Within the empirical research of this literature there is a whole body of research which focuses on perceptions, attitudes, and views of the students involved in BL.
Given the absence of such research in Greece, this article aims to contribute to the literature by investigating postgraduate students’ views about BL in the Greek formal educational setting (K-12, Higher Education). More specifically, we asked students in a post-graduate program implemented through BL, to present, in a public dialogue forum, their position/assessment regarding the potential strengths, weaknesses, and opportunities of BL application in the Greek formal education –that is, their views based both their past experience in other levels of education and their present experience in the masters’ program. We then analyzed thematically and in terms of content their responses using QDA Miner Lite. The results of our analyses show an overall positive attitude of the part of students (most of the them in-service teachers) toward BL, regarding it as a promising educational intervention, while at the same time reveal a skepticism about the actual applicability of BL especially in K-12 education, in terms of cost, infrastructure and digital skills needed. Moreover, our results indicate, as various other empirical studies have shown, that in order for “new” modes of learning to go successfully forth, a paradigm-shift is needed in terms of teachers’ and families’ mode of thinking about how “learning” should be delivered.