DEVELOPMENT OF A BLENDED LEARNING ENVIRONMENT AND A PRELIMINARY PERFORMANCE EVALUATION
Università degli Studi di Genova (ITALY)
In this contribution we propose an instructional design approach for courses that blend online and face-to-face delivery, with a substantial proportion of online teaching. Moreover we describe the experimental comparison of a traditional course with a blended course that adopts the approach.
LMS is the core of the online delivery, providing functionalities for group work, assignments, chat room, content creation, assessment, administration and learning analytics (Piña, 2010; Mattingly, Rice & Berge, 2012). The model focuses on two main objectives: the efficacy enhancement of teacher’s effort (Shea & Bidjerano, 2014), in terms of better results of students’ knowledge acquisition and decrease of time spent in face-to-face lectures, and a reduction of students’ dropout (Lopez-Perez & Rodriguez-Ariza 2011; Gunter, 2001; Sanders & Morrison-Shetlar, 2001). The main points of our model consist in face-to-face meeting at the beginning and at the end of the course, conditional and customized online activities, online collaboration and support and pre-exam assessment aimed to stem the failure rate.
Contents are divided into suitable learning chunks and presented in various formats to students (video lectures, presentations, books, tests), taking into account their different backgrounds and diverse ways of learning. Contents are managed as graph nodes, where arcs represent their precedence/succession relationships(Carchiolo & Vincenza, 2003). This allows to define personalized paths that generate different classrooms at the same time. Besides the content flow’s control, the LMS allows to combine tools with different learning approaches, as discussion and debate, collaborative writing, peer review, enquiry-based learning, knowledge repository on course concepts, questionnaires and online quizzes(Macdonald, 2008; Nissen & Tea, 2012).
The incremental use of e-learning platforms and blended learning is a purpose promoted in recent years by Genoa University. Accordingly, we applied the model above to the Computer Science course of the Foreign Languages Faculty, which enrolls approximately 600 students each year. We compared the exam results of two different years, the former using synchronous face-to-face lectures, with the support of an online repository of materials (A.Y. 2014/2015), and the latter using a blended approach that implements our model composed of a brief synchronous part and an asynchronous one, managed by Moodle LMS(A.Y. 2015/2016).
The course is structured into learning chunks, each one composed of video lectures and quizzes for self-assessment, customized learning paths, defined through conditional blocks and differentiated according to different classes of students by using a set of constraints, and a final pre-exam assessment which provides students with a Badge, required to take the exam.
By comparing the two years results, we had a drastic decrease of subscribers to the exam, due to the pre-exam assessment, going from 331 to 91, and meanwhile we got an increase success rate from 35% to 86%. The average vote raised from 21.1 to 22.7 and the difference calculated with ANOVA test is statistically significant(p < 0.01).
As far as our evaluation allows to infer, we can observe that the approach succeeds in improving student’s performance. Moreover, the analysis of collected data on in itinere activities and their distribution over the year(s) suggests a reduction of dropout. The details of the analysis will be discussed in the paper.