University of Antwerp (BELGIUM)
About this paper:
Appears in: EDULEARN16 Proceedings
Publication year: 2016
Pages: 522-531
ISBN: 978-84-608-8860-4
ISSN: 2340-1117
doi: 10.21125/edulearn.2016.1100
Conference name: 8th International Conference on Education and New Learning Technologies
Dates: 4-6 July, 2016
Location: Barcelona, Spain
There is an increased research interest in how to enable students to navigate language learning and training processes in order to meet their own needs as effectively and efficiently as possible (Basturkmen & Elder 2006; Hutchinson & Walters 1987; Long 2005; Van de Poel et al. 2013). This evolution is synchronizing with the evolving development of learning platforms as support mechanisms. Accordingly, learning occurs inevitably in a blended environment, which can include face-to-face teaching, coaching or tutoring through social networking platforms and self-directed learning with autonomous online programs.

Contributing to the discussion, this research paper will investigate the applicability of guidelines designed to develop second language students’ metacognitive awareness of professional communication in a blended training environment. The motivation behind fostering students’ metacognitive skills is to encourage autonomous learning in ComforPro ( by improving student wellbeing and efficiency (Van Lier 1996; Veenman et al. 2006).

The guidelines are based on longitudinal research, which involved the design and implementation of twin communication training programs for (pre-) professional doctors and nurses. The initial case study for this research was based at the University of Stellenbosch, South Africa, where first year medical students have to complete a communication course in Afrikaans, which is one of the country’s eleven official languages. Apart from using a blended approach that utilised the online platform for autonomous learning, as well as face-to-face teaching, a closed Facebook group, run by the lecturer, was created. The Facebook group functioned not only as a learning platform, but also as a supportive community of practice. Based on the experience and data from this group of students, for the following two case studies tasks were specifically designed to encourage metacognitive awareness: First, the same online program was operationalized amongst qualified medical professionals emigrating to Sweden and learning Swedish. To support these students a closed Facebook group was operated from the University of Antwerp, Belgium. Second, using an online program supported by the same pedagogical principles and structured in a similar way than the medical programme, a study was conducted on a group of professional nurses in Antwerp, Belgium, taking part in a communication training course in English to further their professional qualifications. Apart from the online module, these students were also members of a dedicated closed Facebook community and had three face-to-face teaching sessions.

Sets of quantitative and qualitative data were collected and included tests, pre- and post-course questionnaires (Likert scale type and open-ended questions), interviews as well as written posts from the Facebook groups. The students' online logs were also tracked and statistically analysed with the focus on how the incentives provided through task instructions, the Facebook tutor and face-to-face teaching influenced the online behaviour and learning strategies of students.

The results were compiled as guidelines to foster the learners' metacognitive awareness. These guidelines can be integrated with the content of the online program, as well as implemented in face-to-face teaching and within the Facebook community of practice. Examples of how to implement these guidelines will be provided.
Medical communication, blended learning, metacognitive skills, vocational coaching and training.