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The theme of blended learning is not new. Many researchers offer their ideas on how beneficial or dangerous blended learning can be. Even students do not have one similar attitude to this type of education because some of them are still eager to talk directly to their professors and discuss all the points face-to-face. The peculiarities of blended learning and its worth to students and the faculty members turn out to be the major points for discussion in this project.
Several articles are chosen for the analysis: Naaj, Nachouki and Ankit (2012) with the intentions to prove that student satisfaction in blended learning is a crucial aspect that cannot neglected because it influences motivation and the level of performance, Tamim’s desire (2012) to explain that blended learning has to be regarded as one of the acceptable delivery modes and a chance to enhance a variety of interactions, Kemp’s interpretation (2012) of blended learning as the background for uncertainty among students, and Singh (2003) with the attempt to present a clear basis for blended learning and explain that different institutions want to have options in regards to only one single delivery mode program. The levels of satisfaction among the students, who choose blended learning, are different. The articles chosen help to understand that student satisfaction is a significant factor on the basis of which the whole educational process should be based.
Due to the fact that the UAE has already established “an excellent and diversified system of higher education” in a short period (Naaj, Nachouki & Ankit 2012, p.186), it is interesting and justified to use the educational system of this country as an example to rely on. Blended learning is not only about choices; it is about the effectiveness that is necessary for tutors and students to rely on (Singh, 2003). Still, it is necessary to remember that cultural differences do play an important role in an educational process, and some students may be challenged by a blended learning option (Kemp, 2012). Blended education is still more advantageous in comparison to distance education, and students may want to enjoy the possibilities they can get (Tamim, 2012).
The authors identify several factors that may contribute to student satisfaction in regards to blended learning like technology, the role of instructor, course management, instruction accessibility and clearness, interactivity, courses choice, and even cultural preferences (Naaj, Nachouki & Ankit 2012). Tamim (2012), Singh (2003), and Kemp (2012) pay much to student satisfaction in education, the necessity to use the current technological progress, and improve the educational process.
However, is it enough to rely on a gender factor only to understand the effectiveness of blended learning like Naaj, Nachouki and Ankit (2012) did? Can it be that the age of student plays a greater role in blended learning and the attempts to measure satisfaction for students of bother genders? Naaj, Nachouki and Ankit do not even mention this possibility in their study. In their turn, the authors of other articles admit the necessity of blended learning as an outcome of the technological progress. They fail to consider the environment in regards to which students and tutors have to consider the adjustments. Is it enough to provide people with some general facts or is it better to focus on one particular aspect and develop it accordingly?
The idea of blended learning has been already implemented in several Arabian colleges and universities to understand if student satisfaction with the chosen type of education is on an appropriate level (Naaj, Nachouki & Ankit 2012), if the cultural dimension of the UAE students defines the quality of an educational process (Kemp 2012), whether individual or collective type of work is more appropriate for blended learning (Singh 2003), or if distant education can be improved with the help of blended learning (Tamim 2012).
Face-to-face education is one of the main competitors for blended learning processes, and people want to know what kind of a learning process is more effective in such gender-segregated environment as the United Arab Emirates. Blended learning is known to many people; still, not all aware people are eager to use the opportunities available. Some of them cannot understand how to communicate distantly and share their points of view. Some people just want to be encouraged to make the right choices. The rest have nothing to do but accept the requirement set by their institutions.
The purpose of the project is to understand how blended learning can be offered to students and teachers and introduced as a powerful alternative to the already known forms of education. It is an attempt to develop an instrument with the help of which it is possible to measure student satisfaction in regards to blended learning and to clear up if satisfaction depends on a gender factor (Naaj, Nachouki & Ankit 2012). As soon as the main factors are defined, other goals can be set to analyse the level of student satisfaction and cultural dimension (Kemp 2012). Therefore, such issues like geographical location, information technologies, course details, management, and even interaction peculiarities have to be regarded to understand how influential the idea of blended learning can be.
Blended learning helps to reduce the possibility of duplication and is defined as “a combination of face-to-face and video-conference learning, complemented with the use of Moodle as a learning management system” (Naaj, Nachouki & Ankit 2012, p. 187). It is clear that blended learning and student satisfaction are in relations, but these relations are not clearly identified. Learning tools, support systems, and the explanation of the essence of web-based courses help to realise that blended learning is not a simple thing. It is a complicated process that should be divided according to the stages that can be properly accepted by tutors and students (Singh 2003).
The main problem about blended learning is the necessity to understand if it is effective enough for students, and if the UAE students are more satisfied with a possibility to use video conferences or study face-to-face. The combination of different factors may have an impact on education, students, and their attitude to the necessity of starting a learning process, also known as students’ motivation.
Blended learning is not about only face-to-face education or video conferences. It is about the necessity to combine a variety of options and have access to content, instructions, and assessment via different delivery methods. It is important to clear up if students and teachers are able to combine different forms of education and benefit from this opportunity regardless the possible challenges.
In my opinion, the peculiar feature that makes the chosen topic and literary sources appropriate and strong for consideration is the necessity to combine different forms of education and learning process and choose the positive aspects of the options to enhance an educational process. A perfect picture of how blended learning is developed in the United Arab Emirates and accepted by the students is given. A descriptive survey is offered by Naaj, Nachouki and Ankie. They introduce a solid background for blended learning and combine their achievements with the investigations of Singh (2003), who discussed the peculiarities of blended learning. In his study, Singh (2003) explain that blended learning is not just a one-time event that has its definite start and ending. Blended learning is a continuous process during which it is possible to extend the read and use the experience of people from different parts of the world.
I think that the article by Naaj, Nachouki and Ankit (2012) is another attempt to explain the benefits of blended learning as the authors identify such factors like course management and instructions that can influence student satisfaction and improve the learning process considerably. In addition to the work done, it is possible to consider the achievements of Kemp (2012), who underline the presence of uncertainty among the UAE students, who are involved in blended learning. The author considers the important of such terms like exams, knowledge, material, and research sources, compares the answers of different students, and concludes that the necessity to introduce blended learning to international students is evident and cannot be extended any more. Tamim (2012) offers to enhance the learning process by means the blended learning approach and the already developed Learning Management Systems. Students are able to understand what kind of learning processes are more appropriate and convenient for them and make use of the sources available.
The UAE is the country of contrasts, and the gender difference plays a very important role among its population. Therefore, the role of gender and cultural preferences remains to be crucial for any educational process the UAE students are involved in. The problems that some students may face with choosing blended learning and understand student personal preferences in education exist. Singh (2003) explains that blended learning is the way of how students meet and solve the challenges and develop their needs with the help of the current technologies.
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I like the way Naaj, Nachouki and Ankit (2012) use in their research to explain how students should cope with the challenges of blended learning: they admit that the existing blended learning systems help to change the way students can learn the material and the way teachers can teach. Nowadays, there are many options for education for the Arabian students to pick up from. Still, the surveys show that even the mature students, who are confident in what they want to become, are not ready to give the answers if they want to study face-to-face, online or try blended learning because they are not sure of their readiness to cope with the challenges.
Regarding such points like country, student background, and the reasons for student satisfaction in blended learning, the developed hypothesis was partially rejected. It was proved that male students are usually more satisfied with blended learning in comparison to female students (Naaj, Nachouki & Ankit 2012). Still, the findings from other studies specify that it is necessary to pay more attention to cultural preferences and expectations to understand why female students are more interested in their education and try to choose a form of learning in accordance with their opportunities.
Female students believe that interaction plays an important role in an educational process. They want to have a direct access to instructors and consult them as soon as they are in need of some help. Male students are not usually bothered by the necessity to discuss each detail of an educational process with the other. Tamim (2012) admits that students are eager to use the contemporary learning spaces to achieve more in their educational processes, and female students are able to develop their skills in time management, sharing ideas, and online communication.
In my opinion, literature chosen for the analysis is a good way to prove that students are eager to choose blended learning; still, the relations between student satisfaction and the peculiarities of blended learning have to be investigated deeper. The results show that the UAE students admit a number of benefits of blended learning, but they also prefer face-to-face courses during which it is possible to pose direct questions, ask for privacy, and raise different themes for discussions. Male and female students may have different attitudes to blended learning due to the cultural background and expectations society sets.
Kemp, LJ 2012, ‘Introducing blended learning: An experience of uncertainty for students in the United Arab Emirates’, Research in Learning Technology vol. 21, no. 1, p. 18461-18474.
Naaj, A, Nachouki, M & Ankit, A 2012, ‘Evaluating student satisfaction with blended learning in a gender-segregated environment’, Journal of Information Technology Education: Research, vol. 11, no. 1, pp. 185-200.
Singh, H 2003, ‘Building effective blended learning programs’, Educational Technology, vol. 43, no. 6, pp. 51-54.
Tamim, RM 2012, ‘Enhancing education in the UAE through blended learning’, in FA Albadri (ed), Information systems applications in the Arab education sector, IGI Global, Hershey, pp. 194-207.