THE UNIVERSITY OF HULL

The Influence of a University's Learning and Teaching Strategy
On the Use of Blended learning with...
Contents

Introduction

3

Chapter 1. Influences on the Use of blended learning
Within Teaching in Higher Education

7

Ch...
Introduction

The following study will investigate the influence of a University’s learning and
teaching strategy on the u...
in approach with respect to the integration of technology within teaching in higher
education is exemplified in the Higher...
enhance learning. In addition, commentators and some institutions have begun to use
the term blended learning (Sharpe et a...
and the influence of technology on the learner experience. The chapter considers the
various approaches and definitions of...
Chapter 1

Influences on the Use of blended learning
Within Teaching in Higher Education

Our goal is to help universities...
Higher Education Context

The eighth report from the Universities UK, covering the period 1997/98 – 2006/07,
noted a drama...
fewer than 80% are undergraduate students, over 20% of the students are undertaking
postgraduate studies and over 2% are o...
improve quality, address specific challenges, coordinate activities,
encourage cultural change and exploit communication a...
Connole et al. (2007) highlight the importance of the Dearing Report with respect to the
implementation of technology with...
and the development of national e-learning strategies by HEFCE and DFES, which
illustrates that there “is a dialogue betwe...
showed that students were pragmatic regarding the advances in technology, mainly
using it to find information, communicate...
resources to support courses, in particular assessment criteria, reading lists and contact
details. Students thought that ...
presence of both modes of delivery enhances learning. Jara and Mohamad (2007) use
blended learning to refer to “a course o...
“bolster the subservient relationship of HE to industry” but fails to recognise the
“success, experience and expertise of ...
learning, which will be the adopted definition for this research, is more closely aligned
to Jara and Mohamad’s (2007) B3 ...
educational. The institutional rationales related to the organisational changes that
universities are dealing with, such a...


An enhanced reputation aiding the university to the preferred choice
(Sterndale, 2004:32)

One area that is not fully a...
with “current pedagogic and demographic trends” (Sterndale, 2009:1) with limited
resources in a competitive HE environment...
University, in Australia, also identified similar barriers to staff engagement with respect
to web based learning but conc...
new technologies, for example, Sterndale has just implemented a new virtual learning
environment. Finally, organisational ...
Higher education has begun to use technology within learning and teaching to address
the issues associated with the impact...
influences and the barriers relating to Sterndale’s learning and teaching strategy and the
use of blended learning within ...
Chapter 2
Research Design and Methodology

This chapter will provide an overview of the research design and methodology. A...
Stermdale’s Learning and Teaching Strategic Document Hierarchy
HEFCE Aims & Objectives:
E.g., widen. part.; enhance.
Learn...
Sterndale’s Learning and Teaching Strategy Governance

Owner: University

Uni responsibility:
PVC Academic
&Research

Acad...
It can be seen from the diagrams that HEFCE’s strategic objectives influence
Sterndale’s strategic plan, the learning and ...
Furthermore, in the last academic year the Faculty started a Blended Learning Group
which has a strategic context as it is...
Approach
A decision was made to use a case study approach for this research as case studies can
be “informative about expe...
Alignment of Methodology with Strategy
Case study characteristic
More variables than data points, dealt

Strategy
Hierarch...
considering adopting a blended learning approach. It may, also, indirectly or directly
influence strategic practices acros...
In response to the criticism that case studies are best for generating hypotheses as an
initial stage within the research ...
research involved the analysis of teaching staff narratives within the context of the
literature on blended learning, whic...
Thus, theoretical observations can be a consequence of data collection and the
interpretations of this data made throughou...
4. Collect data in the field
5. Evaluate and analyse the data
6. Prepare the report
The research plan for this study appli...
•

Development of student skills

•

Development of academic skills

Barriers propositions:
•

No academic recognition

•
...
Soy (1997) states that a case study should have a research focus which is constantly
referred to during the study, a quest...


Details of the Faculty and University strategic approach



Observations with respect to Faculty expectations



Obse...
Data Preparation

The interview questions were piloted on a Head of Learning and Teaching and a
Teaching Assistant within ...


At the beginning of the interview, the context for the research was provided
with reference to findings in other studie...
A “Grounded Theory” approach was implemented using “Axial Coding” where the
propositions (see above) were identified as ca...
Reliability considers whether the same results can be generated in repeated studies
(University of Colorado 2008). As this...
observations throughout will help to ensure that the research approach is
rigorous.

3. Construct validity, Soy (1997) cla...
“the observer effect”. However as this study did not observe the teacher in situ, teachers
were interviewed about their ex...
Chapter 3
Results and Findings
Applying Yin’s (2003) case study approach, as outlined in the previous chapter, the
analysi...
SLTS and in particular, SSP often interchange this with the terms e-learning and online
learning. This is possibly because...
adequate support. By developing more effective and efficient processes, the University
will be better placed to support it...
The importance of this category will be seen in the interview findings. Staff
development was identified as a proposition,...


Academic skills, information, literacy and numeracy: The University
support intends to facilitate the development of th...
University Reputation
This category relates to enhancing the University’s reputation and thus attracting
students. The fol...


Online assessment: A course team decided to use this because it was a different
type of assessment method (beginner). T...


Location of students: This was with respect to teaching students off-campus on
professional courses (beginner) and inte...
o Staff development week: For the staff development week blended
learning was a theme (intermediate, innovator, early adop...
Support
This relates to help given by colleagues and services within the Faculty and University.
The following sub-categor...
proposition given in the previous chapter. With respect to strategy, the EDU was
referred to in the SLTS and FLTS. Peer ob...


Course leaders: These promote and encourage “uses of different
kind of pedagogy” (manager).



Faculty Head of Learnin...
Student Expectations
This category relates to the influence of student expectations with respect to access to
online activ...


Afraid of using it: some staff suffer from “technophobia” (intermediate) and
find using technology “a terrifying prospe...
Work [needs] to be done in terms of making the step between e-tools and
how you could use them in a meaningful way and the...


From colleagues:
[Not having] anybody to discuss it with [or having] somebody at
department meetings (beginner).

This ...
Time
This category refers to the availability or lack of time. The following sub-categories
could be identified within thi...


Support: “central units [EDU] are pressured, and are not as autonomous as they
might be” (early adopter).

This was not...
The Influence of a University's Learning and Teaching Strategy  On the Use of Blended learning within a Faculty: A Staff P...
The Influence of a University's Learning and Teaching Strategy  On the Use of Blended learning within a Faculty: A Staff P...
The Influence of a University's Learning and Teaching Strategy  On the Use of Blended learning within a Faculty: A Staff P...
The Influence of a University's Learning and Teaching Strategy  On the Use of Blended learning within a Faculty: A Staff P...
The Influence of a University's Learning and Teaching Strategy  On the Use of Blended learning within a Faculty: A Staff P...
The Influence of a University's Learning and Teaching Strategy  On the Use of Blended learning within a Faculty: A Staff P...
The Influence of a University's Learning and Teaching Strategy  On the Use of Blended learning within a Faculty: A Staff P...
The Influence of a University's Learning and Teaching Strategy  On the Use of Blended learning within a Faculty: A Staff P...
The Influence of a University's Learning and Teaching Strategy  On the Use of Blended learning within a Faculty: A Staff P...
The Influence of a University's Learning and Teaching Strategy  On the Use of Blended learning within a Faculty: A Staff P...
The Influence of a University's Learning and Teaching Strategy  On the Use of Blended learning within a Faculty: A Staff P...
The Influence of a University's Learning and Teaching Strategy  On the Use of Blended learning within a Faculty: A Staff P...
The Influence of a University's Learning and Teaching Strategy  On the Use of Blended learning within a Faculty: A Staff P...
The Influence of a University's Learning and Teaching Strategy  On the Use of Blended learning within a Faculty: A Staff P...
The Influence of a University's Learning and Teaching Strategy  On the Use of Blended learning within a Faculty: A Staff P...
The Influence of a University's Learning and Teaching Strategy  On the Use of Blended learning within a Faculty: A Staff P...
The Influence of a University's Learning and Teaching Strategy  On the Use of Blended learning within a Faculty: A Staff P...
The Influence of a University's Learning and Teaching Strategy  On the Use of Blended learning within a Faculty: A Staff P...
The Influence of a University's Learning and Teaching Strategy  On the Use of Blended learning within a Faculty: A Staff P...
The Influence of a University's Learning and Teaching Strategy  On the Use of Blended learning within a Faculty: A Staff P...
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The Influence of a University's Learning and Teaching Strategy On the Use of Blended learning within a Faculty: A Staff Perspective Vicki McGarvey

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The Influence of a University's Learning and Teaching Strategy On the Use of Blended learning within a Faculty: A Staff Perspective Vicki McGarvey

  1. 1. THE UNIVERSITY OF HULL The Influence of a University's Learning and Teaching Strategy On the Use of Blended learning within a Faculty: A Staff Perspective Being a Dissertation Submitted in Partial Fulfilment of the Requirements for the Degree of Master of Education in E-Learning in the University of Hull by Victoria Louise McGarvey, BA Staffordshire University, PgDipILS Manchester Metropolitan University, PgCert History of European Design and Visual Culture Staffordshire University April 2010
  2. 2. Contents Introduction 3 Chapter 1. Influences on the Use of blended learning Within Teaching in Higher Education 7 Chapter 2. Research Design and Methodology 25 Chapter 3. Results and Findings 46 Chapter 4. Discussion, Conclusion and Recommendations 67 References 79 2
  3. 3. Introduction The following study will investigate the influence of a University’s learning and teaching strategy on the use of blended learning within a Faculty. The study focuses on the Faculty of Social Sciences at Sterndale University an English university, which had previously been a polytechnic but became a university in 1992 after the passing of the Further and Higher Education Act. This Faculty was chosen because it has evidenced an integrated approach to supporting the use of blended learning by the creation of a “Blended Learning Group” for teaching staff, the dissemination of good practice, illustrated within existing courses and the development of a policy for learning and teaching and assessing online (FLTAO), which provides a definition of blended learning. The research will attempt to answer the questions how and why Sterndale’s learning and teaching strategy influences the use of blended learning within teaching in the Faculty of Social Sciences. This is a qualitative investigation, using the Faculty of Social Sciences as a case study. A multimodal approach was implemented, which analysed the University’s strategic documents and the interview transcripts of six members of staff within the Faculty, four of which are involved in teaching and two have a strategic responsibility. The analysis and the findings attempts to identify the influences and the barriers on the use of blended learning and to correlate these with the University’s learning and teaching strategy. This research is within the context of the demographic and organisational changes, which have taken place within higher education since the Dearing Report (NICHE, 1997) which includes the impact of the use of technology within teaching. The change 3
  4. 4. in approach with respect to the integration of technology within teaching in higher education is exemplified in the Higher Education Funding Council of England’s (HEFCE) decision to revise its 2005 Strategy for E-learning because of a review carried out by Glennaffric Ltd. (2008). HEFCE decided to change the title of its strategy to Enhancing Learning and Teaching Through the Use of Technology because it thought elearning to be too narrow a term to describe the use of learning technology within teaching in higher education (HEFCE, 2008). The Glennaffric review suggested a move from the “technological determined” approach reflected in the original strategy to an approach that reflected the “transformative potential of technology” (HEFCE, 2008:5). The executive summary provides three levels of benefits for using technology within teaching, efficiency, enhancement and transformation, all relating to existing processes within higher education. The strategy provides a framework for enhancing learning with technology, for institutions, which includes considerations with respect to pedagogy, learning resources, lifelong learning, infrastructure, research and quality. However, after the Dearing Report (NICIHE, 1997) universities had already been encouraged to implement learning and teaching strategies (Gibbs et al. et al., 2000), which included interventions with respect to the use of technology (Sterndale, 1994, Conole et al., 2007). Some universities for example, Oxford Brookes (Sharp et al. 2006) and Staffordshire University (2003) also developed specific e-learning strategies. HEFCE’s recent change in direction but clearer articulation in relation to learning and teaching and the normalising of e-learning will put new demands on institutions to revisit their existing strategic approaches, to ensure that they are responsive to the changing digital educational landscape. The new HEFCE strategy acknowledges the influence of recent studies, which have tried to articulate the drivers and rationales for influencing the use of technology to 4
  5. 5. enhance learning. In addition, commentators and some institutions have begun to use the term blended learning (Sharpe et al., 2006, Sterndale, 2009, Jara and Mohamad, 2007) to define the approach where technology is implemented within face-to-face teaching. Organisations such as JISC (Joint Information Systems Committee), UCISA (University and Colleges Information Systems Association) and the HEA (Higher Education Academy) have all been contributory in articulating learning and teaching rationales for the integration of technology within learning and teaching and influencing strategic directions. The HEA’s 2006 study (Sharpe, et al.) into the undergraduate experience of blended e-learning identified, institutional, course and educational rationales for using blended learning, which included supporting a diverse and increased student population; enabling flexible learning and operating in a global context. More recently, the CAMEL (Collaborative Approaches to the Management of e-Learning) 2008 report on tangible benefits of e-learning, identified a number of drivers influencing the development of e-learning by teaching staff within Higher Education. These drivers included, retention and recruitment; improving efficiency; recording achievement and reflection; skills development; institutional strategic policy; innovative reputation; asset preservation and quality. UCISA’s 2008 (Browne et al.) survey added some additional factors, namely meeting student expectations; widening participation; internal and external funding and responding to technological changes. The UCISA survey also discovered that strategic documents, produced by HEFCE, JISC, the DFES and professional bodies as well as institutional e-learning strategies and policies were all to some extent contributory. The first chapter of this case study provides the theoretical context for this research. It examines in more detail some of the studies cited above and will considered the impact of Dearing (NICHE, 2007) on the strategic priorities within higher education together 5
  6. 6. and the influence of technology on the learner experience. The chapter considers the various approaches and definitions of blended learning, in particular influences on using blended learning and technology within teaching, referring to the research carried out by HEFCE (Sharpe et al 2006), JISC (2007) and UCISA (Brown et al. 2008). In addition, it takes into account the barriers to using technology for teachers. The second chapter describes the organisational context for this case study, it provides an overview of the case study methodological approach influenced by Yin (2003) and the strategic decisions made with respect to the case study approach. The third chapter presents the findings from the analysis of the strategic documents and the interviews. These findings attempt to identify the influences on and the barriers to using blended learning within teaching in Sterndale’s Faculty of Social Sciences. Initially, a number of barrier and influence propositions, informed by the literature, were developed these formed the basis for the coding of the strategic documents and interviews, which were analysed using a grounded theory approach together with axial coding. The interview analysis not only identified the influences on and barriers to the use of blended learning within teaching there was an attempt to establish a relationship between the interviewee responses and the University’s learning and teaching strategy. The fourth chapter reflects further on the findings of the research and discusses if the how and why questions, with respect to the University’s learning and teaching strategy influence on the use of blended learning, were answered within the case study. The chapter considers what improvements the university can make with respect to the development of its learning and teaching strategy together with its implementation and provides a series of recommendations for engaging staff with University learning and teaching strategy and blended learning approaches. 6
  7. 7. Chapter 1 Influences on the Use of blended learning Within Teaching in Higher Education Our goal is to help universities and colleges use new technology to enhance learning and teaching as effectively as they can, so that it becomes part of their activities. (HEFCE, 2009:17) Since the Dearing Report (NCIHE, 1997), Higher Education within the United Kingdom has experienced dramatic demographic and cultural changes. National drivers such as, widening participation, the introduction of top up fees (DFES 2003), quality assurance and modularisation (NCIHE 1997) together with the internationalisation of education, have had a considerable influence on the strategic priorities of universities. These organisational changes have been paralleled by great advances in technology, which have had a major impact on individuals and institutions. The following will provide an overview of these changes together with their impact on teaching, particularly concentrating on the impact of technology. It will critically analyse the use of the term blended learning, which has become a phrase used by some to define a combination of face-to-face and online teaching (Sterndale, 2009, Sharpe et al., 2006) and will reflect on the rationales relating to the pedagogic approaches associated with this. It will finally go on to consider the impact of strategic approaches to the use of technology to support teaching within universities, taking into account institutional learning and teaching strategies. 7
  8. 8. Higher Education Context The eighth report from the Universities UK, covering the period 1997/98 – 2006/07, noted a dramatic change in the student population over that 10 year period. For example, enrolments had increased by 31%; the number of undergraduates was up by 28% and postgraduates dramatically by 45%, although it observed that there was uncertainty about whether the loan debt associated with variable rate fees, would have an impact on enrolments in the future. The report stated that part time study was beginning to play a more important role in addressing the development of skills and the lifelong learning agenda, but addressed in little detail the disadvantaged position of part time students with regards fees and funding. Most part time students were in the 30 – 50 year age group and it was predicted that this group would grow. Another observation presented was the increase in international students over this 10-year period. Non-EU international students have more than doubled; in fact, there has been a greater growth than that of UK based students, with China forming the largest proportion and India being a significant provider of postgraduate students. The report observed an increase in mature students but there was only a slight increase in minority ethnic groups and lower social economic groups, and although female enrolments have increased, male enrolments have slightly declined by 3%. Taking into account this, despite widening participation being a major strategic priority for the government it appears that institutions still have to undertake considerable work in this area. With respect to the UUK report it is useful to see if these observations are accurately reflected at Sterndale University, the institution within this study because it may illustrate that there is parity between national demographic trends and institutional demographic trends. Sterndale University currently has just over 23,000 students; just 8
  9. 9. fewer than 80% are undergraduate students, over 20% of the students are undertaking postgraduate studies and over 2% are on foundation degrees. Over 30% of students are from the local area and nearly 10% of the student population are international students, coming from the EU and beyond. Nearly 60% of students are full-time, over 20% are part time and over 20% are on sandwich degrees. The largest College is Business Law and Social Sciences, which hosts nearly 45% of the student population. Some of these statistics compare favourably with the UK statistics published by UUK, despite some discrepancies; the demographic picture at Sterndale is not too different to the national demographic picture. Comparison of Student Numbers: Sterndale and UK Student type Undergraduate Full time Part time International students Largest Course Business and administrative Sterndale 80% 60% 20% 10% UK 76% 50% 24% 15% 20% 13% studies Consequential to these changes in the student population and a preoccupation with new managerial approaches (Connole et al., 2007, Deem, 1998) institutions have become more concerned with quality assurance and enhancement (Smith, 2007). According to Gibbs et al.(2000), the introduction of modularisation led to the redesign of course specifications and the development of learning outcomes. The Dearing Report (NICHE, 1997) increased the priority of teaching within institutions, institutions, as a result, were encouraged to develop learning and teaching strategies, similarly to the U.S and Australia, and some funding was made available to encourage this activity. According to Gibbs et al. (2000), the purpose of the strategies was to, 9
  10. 10. improve quality, address specific challenges, coordinate activities, encourage cultural change and exploit communication and information technologies (Gibbs et al., 2000:358). Gibbs et al. states that the success of these strategies was dependent on strong leadership and management. Staff needed to understand the rationale for the implementation of the strategy, therefore the strategy needed to be in a language that staff understood. However, there has been some criticism that this is not been the case, that learning and teaching strategies are still not engaging staff and that institutions need to undertake considerable work to “empower and motivate staff by their discourse” (Smith, 2008: 405). The purpose of this research will be to examine whether staff within the Faculty of Social Sciences at Sterndale do engage with strategy and whether the amount of engagement is influenced by strong leadership within the faculty. An attempt had previously been made by Sterndale University to examine staff involvement with learning and teaching strategy, within the context of integrating technology within teaching. In 2007, the University ran an e-learning benchmarking exercise, which was part of the national e-learning benchmarking exercise, led by the Higher Education Academy (HEA) and JISC (Joint Information Systems Committee). The e-learning benchmarking exercise held focus groups within each Faculty, which were comprised of teaching staff, and one of the questions asked was about their awareness of learning and teaching strategy. The analysis of the focus groups found that most staff were aware of the University’s learning and teaching strategy (SLTS) but were not aware of the Faculty Learning and Teaching Strategy (FLTS), which was a University requirement in order to address the priorities in the SLTS. It could therefore be argued that this response showed that some staff were not fully aware of or engaged with their faculty’s strategic approach. 10
  11. 11. Connole et al. (2007) highlight the importance of the Dearing Report with respect to the implementation of technology within teaching as it has fifteen recommendations that reference this. According to Connole et al., a result of the Dearing Report was that institutions began to “interlink strategies” (Connole et al., 2007:47) to ensure that the integration of technology was considered within learning and teaching. Another consequence of the Dearing Report was that Higher Education began to debate the impact of “ICT-scale-up, infrastructure and associated staff and student training needs” (Connole et al., 2007:47). Higher Education also began to identify a range of technological initiatives and products, which would become part of mainstream education, which facilitated the development of ICT skills, such as the implementation of virtual learning environments and digital libraries. Connole et al. argue that the influence of technology in the 90s within Higher Education, was mainly at a strategic rather than an operational level. However, they state that since the end of the last century the importance of learning and teaching has been evidential in available funding, listing initiatives such as, “managed learning environments, sharable resources and digital repositories” (Connole et al., 2007:47). This reflects the findings in Sterndale’s (2007) e-learning benchmarking report, which stated that half of the staff surveyed thought that there was an attempt to integrate e-learning within programmes whilst the other half did not. However, most staff surveyed thought that faculties did not present clear aims, targets and resource plans for integrating e-learning, although the report observed that the Faculty of Social Sciences, which is being examined in this case study, did unusually provide some support via its learning and teaching committee and distance learning special interest group. Conole et al. (2007) claim in order to address the operational aspects of e-learning within universities, JISC implemented an e-pedagogy programme, which supported research into teacher and learner experiences 11
  12. 12. and the development of national e-learning strategies by HEFCE and DFES, which illustrates that there “is a dialogue between policy-makers, funders and practitioners” (Connole et al., 2007:48). Student Expectations Over the last 8 years the development of Web 2.0 technologies, “social web, technologies that enable, communication, collaboration, participation and sharing” (JISC, 2009:5), have changed the way that students interact and share resources. The recent JISC report “Higher Education in a Web 2.0 World” comments that, the timeline is striking for example: WIKIPedia (online encyclopaedia) 2001; del.icio.us (social bookmarking) 2003; MySpace (social networking); Facebook (social networking) 2004; Flickr (social media) 2004; Bebo (social networking) and YouTube (social media) 2005. (JISC, 2009:13) JISC, via its learner expectation reports, has provided some valuable observations in relation to learners’ relationship with technology. The JISC 2007 report “In their own Words” identified a group of adept of technology users who wanted to use their own technologies but were willing to experiment and use a blend of the institutional provided technology with their own. However, the report did observe that there was a digital divide within the student population and that those with poor technology skills were at a disadvantage. It also introduced the issue of information literacy skills and the need for all students to develop these, particularly in the area of evaluating information sources and their appropriateness. JISC’s Student Expectations Study (2007) surveyed students about to go to University. It introduced students’ concerns relating to the integration of technology within learning, in particular the use of technology without providing a clear rationale. It 12
  13. 13. showed that students were pragmatic regarding the advances in technology, mainly using it to find information, communicate with friends and family, and organising events. Their experience of ICT within the learning environment had mainly been in relation to accessing resources rather than accessing learning activities. Overall participants still preferred traditional teaching methods: “ICT was seen to be a supplement to teaching not as a substitute” (JISC, 2007:22). However, some participants thought that technology would play a greater role at university, mainly with respect to accessing resources rather than the delivery of new teaching methods. The 2008 Ipsos Mori study for JISC built on this research by talking to students in their first year of study within Higher Education. Face-to-face teaching was still regarded as the best form of teaching, and face-to-face teaching support with poor use of technology was considered worse than using no technology at all. The participants’ perceptions of the teacher’s role was an authoritative role a conveyor of knowledge, they were more comfortable with online social networking that was initiated by themselves or their fellow students, than that initiated by their tutors. The report commented that there was a challenge for universities with respect to introducing new technologies because of student reluctance. To overcome this, the study stated that universities have to encourage students to consider how technology can enhance their learning and take into account the less technically able. Some of the findings in these student expectations studies are similar to the findings in Sterndale’s (2007) e-learning benchmarking report. In the staff survey in relation student expectations of the use of e-learning on courses, most staff said that there was not a high demand by students to integrate e-learning. However, there was criticism of teaching staff by the student focus groups with respect to the absence of online 13
  14. 14. resources to support courses, in particular assessment criteria, reading lists and contact details. Students thought that there should be more consistency across courses with regards online resources. Some students, conversely, did mention that the dependency on the use of the virtual learning environment had had an impact on the student community with some students feeling socially isolated. Blended Learning In order to address the learning and teaching challenges outlined above, teaching staff and institutions as a whole have begun to explore how learning technologies can be integrated within face-to-face teaching to enhance the learning experience. A term that is popularly used to describe this approach is blended learning (Sterndale, 2009, Sharpe et al., 2006, Jara and Mohamad, 2007), although, there has been some debate over the definition of the term, many of the definitions refer to a combination of face-to-face and online learning. Rovai and Jordan (2004) define blended learning as learning which takes place in different times and places. Another definition is the fusion of face-to-face and online learning and teaching, within a context of a community of enquiry (Garrison and Kanuka, 2004, Garrison and Vaughan, 2007). This definition reflects a transformative approach to course design, highlighting the importance of interactivity within the learner community, both online and in face-to-face settings, to facilitate the development of knowledge, giving learners the opportunity to spontaneously react and reflect, on and off line. Garrison and Kanuka (2004) state that there are three elements within this approach; social, providing opportunities to challenge established beliefs, cognitive, via goal setting and teaching and the final element, teacher facilitated learning. Garrison and Vaughan (2008) claim that blended learning is a new learning and teaching paradigm, the combination of face-to-face and online learning, where the 14
  15. 15. presence of both modes of delivery enhances learning. Jara and Mohamad (2007) use blended learning to refer to “a course or module which includes face-to-face and distance/online elements” (Jara and Mohamad, 2007:7), and to articulate this they have developed a blended learning continuum, a series of models moving from a resource based approach through to transformative design, where teaching takes place mainly online: Jara and Mohamad’s Blended Learning Continuum (2007:7) B1: Online admin support Core learning activities and support are face-toface. Administrative information, resources, B2: Follow-up assignment submission and some support is online Core learning activities and support are face-toface. Additional online task and support are organised in between sessions as follow up or B3: Parallel preparation for other sessions Learning activities run in parallel some in the B4: Face-to-face events face-to-face sessions others online Core learning activities and support are online. Face-to-face events/workshops are held to initiate or wrap up online activities Oliver and Trigwell (2005) criticise the use of the term blended learning, because they say it is ill defined. However, they seem less critical of the definition of a combination of face-to-face and online activities although they do question whether there is anything special about using the internet to support teaching. Oliver and Trigwell claim that the origin of the term can be found within training not education and the approach of combining face-to-face teaching with online was introduced because of the failure of online training. They contend that the term is now used within higher education to 15
  16. 16. “bolster the subservient relationship of HE to industry” but fails to recognise the “success, experience and expertise of Higher Education” (Oliver and Trigwell, 2005:21). Oliver and Trigwell claim that the term could be redeemed if understood within the context of learning theory, in particular, variation theory which pertains that, learning occurs if variation in the object of learning is discerned, in other words the learner experiences something different and this will vary from learner to learner. They suggest the need to look at variations in learner experience within a blended learning context that involves, a critical analysis of aspects of the subject matter that are in variation in the act of using blended learning (Oliver and Trigwell, 2005:24). The rationale for taking this approach is because often what students learn from blended learning is different from what the teacher originally intended, and if there is a blend of learning experiences this could be defined as blended learning. However, it could be argued that this is not specifically related to blended learning but learning in general. Sharpe et al. (2006) claim that the strength of the term blended learning lies in the fact there is not one definition, as it allows, staff to negotiate their own meaning – the implication of the protection of face-to-face teaching and the implication of designing active learning (Sharpe et al., 2006:4). Their report found that “delivery mode, technologies and chronology, are consistent with the use of the term” (Sharpe et al., 2006:22) ranging from the delivery of resources to support face-to-face teaching to transformative course redesign, where online teaching had replaced face-to-face and where learners were even using their own technologies. This continuum is similar to that reflected by Jara and Mohamad’s (2007) models of blended learning, which are a useful reference point. For, example, Sterndale’s, definition of blended learning, within its minimum standards of online 16
  17. 17. learning, which will be the adopted definition for this research, is more closely aligned to Jara and Mohamad’s (2007) B3 parallel model. This programme will combine traditional and online learning approaches. This will include essential information…. [and] a range of online learning activities…Participation in online activities is therefore as important as participation in the classroom. (Sterndale, 2009:3) Rationales for Using Blended Learning The rationales for using blended learning are as varied as the definitions. However, despite one of the main reasons behind adopting a blended learning approach being to address the organisational changes facing teaching staff within higher education, such as the impact of an increasing diverse student population, the most prominent driver appears to be learner enhancement (Garrison and Vaughan. 2007). For example, Jara and Mohamad (2007) provide a number of reasons with respect to why teaching staff should use their blended learning models. Their reasons include, easy 24/7 access to a wide range of resources; extending activities and communication beyond the classroom; improving the quality of face-to-face sessions; the opportunity for students to share experiences and improved support for off-campus students. It could be argued that these reasons not only address organisational issues but also tackle the issue of learner engagement, which as a result will enhance the learner experience. Also in UCISA’s 2008 (Browne et al.) survey of technology enhanced learning, respondents rated the quality of learning and teaching in general as the most important driver for using technology followed by:     Meeting student expectations Improving access to learning for students off campus Widening/participation/inclusiveness Improving access to learning for part time students (Browne et al., 2008:10) Sharpe et al. (2006) in their HEA commissioned report into student experiences of blended learning, organised rationales into categories, institutional, course and 17
  18. 18. educational. The institutional rationales related to the organisational changes that universities are dealing with, such as, supporting a diverse student population, in particular mature students; enabling flexible learning in order to improve recruitment and retention; operating in a global context; efficient delivery of learning and enhancing the on-campus experience. With respect to course rationales, some of those identified by Sharp et al. are similar to Mohamad and Jara’s (2007). These included, coping with large numbers of students; engaging students out of class; providing easier access to staff for students and developing students’ professional skills, mostly relating to I.T. With respect to educational rationales, Sharpe et al. organised these into associative, constructivist and situative. Mayes and De Freitas had used these learning groupings in their JISC review of e-learning theories in 2004. With regards associative learning, Sharp et al. presented illustrations of blended learning which used e-resources and assessments that affected student performance. Constructivist learning was exemplified by online student collaborations. With respect to situative learning this was demonstrated in professional courses where there was a “rationale to develop the skills, attitudes and behaviours of practitioners” (Sharpe et al., 2006:35). Sterndale does not use the term blended learning in its 2004-2010 University Strategic Plan, however, the institutional rationales cited by Sharp et al. (2006) relate to the benefits, within its “E-Learning Strategy” section within the plan, particularly in relation to flexibility and efficiency.       …flexibility to students of time pace and place of their learning opportunity to offer a diverse product portfolio that reaches new markets opportunity to enhance student skills a consistent VLE for staff and students reducing costs of maintenance and support A managed learning environment…thus maximising efficiencies A skilled academic workforce that is at the leading edge of using technologies to enhance learning and teaching 18
  19. 19.  An enhanced reputation aiding the university to the preferred choice (Sterndale, 2004:32) One area that is not fully addressed by Sharpe et al. is the development of academic skills, which it will be seen in this research, is an important factor in encouraging staff to use blended learning approaches. Sterndale is due to release a new strategic plan and it will be interesting to see if it takes a lead from HEFCE (2009) and replaces the term e-learning with blended learning or technology enhanced learning. Sterndale’s learning and teaching enhancement strategy (SLTS), produced two years after the University strategy, which underpins, the policies practices and support needed to promote good practice and foster excellence in learning and teaching (Sterndale, 2006:1) does use the term blended learning. [SLTS] embraces the essence of the Elearning Strategy [university strategic plan] to move towards blended learning in the delivery of University programmes. (Sterndale, 2006:2) It states that blended learning will “engage and excite students” (Sterndale, 2006:5) it does not provide any detailed rationales but goes on to give a set of priorities for implementing blended learning. More recently, Sterndale’s (2009) Minimum Standards of Online Learning policy does provide a definition and an approach to blended learning (see above). However, the policy does not give any rationales for using blended learning but provides rationales for online learning relating to student expectation, which was second on UCISA’s (Browne et al., 2008) list of drivers. In setting a minimum standard of online provision the University seeks to give students a common expectation of access to information and resources across their programmes of study (Sterndale, 2009:2) This is within the context of student expectations in relation to access to technology and development of their digital literacy skills in preparation for work, as well as dealing 19
  20. 20. with “current pedagogic and demographic trends” (Sterndale, 2009:1) with limited resources in a competitive HE environment (Sterndale, 2009, Sharpe et al., 2006). Barriers to Using Blended Learning It was difficult to find research that specifically focused on the barriers relating to the use of blended learning, much of the literature relates to barriers with respect to the use of technology and/or e-learning. However, given that the definition of blended learning that will be used within this research refers to a combination of online and face-to-face activity, the literature relating to staff use of technology was deemed appropriate. Time, lack of staff skills to develop online learning and poor academic recognition of online teaching appear to be common barriers to staff engagement (MacKeough and Fox, 2008, Schneckenberg, 2009, Samarawickrema and Stacey, 2007). MacKeough and Fox (2008) surveying staff at Dublin City University as part of the development of an elearning strategy found that staff had difficulty finding the time to integrate e-learning into their courses. Some staff felt that online learning was a distraction from face-toface teaching and there were concerns about the lack of engagement by students. Staff also commented that there was more recognition within the University for research than for innovative teaching. Furthermore, staff claimed that there was inadequate support and there was fear about the complexity of online learning. Schneckenberg (2009), also, claims that the “imbalance between the value of research and teaching performance” (Schneckenberg, 2009:420) is a barrier and criticises staff development activities for being too long and for not relating to teaching practice. He suggests a movement from ICT training to competency based development, complimented by institutional incentives. Samarawickrema and Stacey’s (2007) case study at Monash 20
  21. 21. University, in Australia, also identified similar barriers to staff engagement with respect to web based learning but concluded, Technology has less to do with academic teachers’ technology skills and their preference to use technology and more to do with the difference in their motivations, approaches to change and to their learning and applying of new processes (Samarawickrema and Stacey, 2007:332) It will be seen that this observation is also prevalent within the findings in this research. Influence of Learning and Teaching Strategies As it has already been stated, post Dearing universities were expected to address the quality of their learning and teaching with limited resources (Garrison and Vaughan, 2008, Conole et al., 2007) by developing learning and teaching strategies. With respect to the use of e-learning, some institutions such as Sterndale (2004) made the decision to incorporate this in their University strategy whilst others, Oxford Brookes (Sharpe et al. 2006) and Staffordshire University (Stiles 2003) have developed e-learning strategies. The UCISA survey (Browne et al., 2008) cited university learning and teaching strategies as being the key strategies that influenced the use of technology within teaching, additionally the report stated that there had been a rise since 2005 in elearning strategies. The impact of strategy may be a result of universities implementing a range of educational, technological and organisational strategic interventions identified to encourage the use of technology within learning and teaching (Conole et al., 2007). According to Connole et al. (2007), educational interventions are concerned with developing learning and teaching approaches and include staff development activities, which has already been identified as a major priority for Sterndale, as well as staff sharing practice, which we will see is important within the Faculty of Social Sciences. Technological interventions include the development and implementation of 21
  22. 22. new technologies, for example, Sterndale has just implemented a new virtual learning environment. Finally, organisational interventions, relate to university strategy or external influences such as quality assurance. However, strategy does not appear in UCISA’s (Browne et al.,2008) top five drivers and Sterndale’s (2007) e-learning benchmarking exercise reported the limited influence of the University strategy, in fact the report found that the main rationales for staff using e-learning were practical, they were to address rising student numbers and the increase of software tools for learning and teaching. Smith (2007) argues that the lack of staff engagement with university strategy may be because of the language used within university strategy. According to Smith institutions need to identify what motivates their staff and understand that, what constitutes progress in education is value laden and subjective, not Universal (Smith, 2007:73). Scott (2003) states that, people will not engage or stick with a change effort unless they see it as being relevant desirable and feasible for them to do so (Scott, 2003:73) He argues that change takes time; it is complex, subjective and cyclical. He argues that the most successful changes require a team approach involving those occupied in the learning process, with strong leadership. Some institutions are possibly beginning to understand this by implementing long-term strategies, for example, Sterndale’s learning and teaching strategy. In addition, we will see in this research the importance of the role of the Head of Learning and Teaching in implementing strategic interventions via the Faculty Learning and Teaching Strategy. Conclusion 22
  23. 23. Higher education has begun to use technology within learning and teaching to address the issues associated with the impact of organisational changes resulting from the implementation of government educational policy. Within their teaching staff have seen the opportunities associated with the use of technology to enhance the quality of the learner experience (Browne et al., 2008, Sharpe et al. 2006). Teachers have understood that learners still value face-to-face teaching but have some expectations in relation to the use of technology (JISC 2007) so in order to address these, blended models of learning have been developed which combine both traditional and online elements (Jara and Mohamad 2007). Strategically, institutions have also begun to focus on the use of technology to support learners and are beginning to understand the importance of blended learning approaches. Institutions like Oxford Brookes (Sharpe et al. 2006) and Staffordshire University (Stiles 2003) have developed e-learning strategies to address this whilst institutions like Sterndale University have opted to integrate e-learning and blended learning within their university and learning and teaching strategies. In order to encourage staff engagement with use of technology universities have implemented a number of strategic interventions (Conole et al. 2007) via action plans (Stiles 2003, Sharpe et al., 2006, Garrison and Kanick, 2004, Sterndale, 2006). However, for Sterndale (2007) and UCISA (Browne et al. 2008) respondents, strategy does not appear to be a major driver in adopting blended learning. Some research shows that barriers exist with respect to staff engagement with integrating technology within teaching, such as time to develop, lack of academic recognition and poor skills (MacKeough and Fox, 2008, Schneckenberg, 2009, Samarawickrema and Stacey, 2007) and possibly a general sceptism of the benefits of online learning (MacKeough and Fox, 2008 Samarawickrema and Stacey, 2007). These observations provide the context for this research. The literature also informed the development of the propositions for the 23
  24. 24. influences and the barriers relating to Sterndale’s learning and teaching strategy and the use of blended learning within the Faculty of Social Sciences. 24
  25. 25. Chapter 2 Research Design and Methodology This chapter will provide an overview of the research design and methodology. As this is based on Yin’s case study approach, a summary of this will be provided within the critical context presented by Flyvbjerg (2006). This will be illustrated by the implementation of the components of case study research, presented by Yin (2003) and Soy (1997), including the establishment of propositions within the area of study. Finally, an overview of the data collection techniques and the data analysis approach that was used to interpret the findings will be presented. Strategic context This research investigates the influence of Sterndale’s learning and teaching strategy on the use of blended learning within the Faculty of Social Sciences. In the previous chapter an overview of Sterndale’s strategic commitment to supporting the implementation of e-learning and blended learning, as illustrated in the University Strategic Plan (Sterndale 2004), Sterndale’s Learning and Teaching Strategy (SLTS) (Sterndale 2006) and within its policy on the Minimum Standards of Online Learning and Teaching (Sterndale 2009), was provided. In order to understand how strategy may influence learning and teaching activities within faculties it is useful to see the hierarchical context of the strategic plan together with the governance of the Sterndale’s learning and teaching strategy: 25
  26. 26. Stermdale’s Learning and Teaching Strategic Document Hierarchy HEFCE Aims & Objectives: E.g., widen. part.; enhance. Learning teaching research Sterndale Strategic Plan 2004-2010 Sterndale Learning & Teaching Strategy 20062010 Sterndale Minimum Standards of Online Learning & Teaching Provision Faculty of Social Sciences Learning &Teaching Strategy Faculty Learning, Teaching & Assessment Online Policy 26
  27. 27. Sterndale’s Learning and Teaching Strategy Governance Owner: University Uni responsibility: PVC Academic &Research Academic Standards & Quality Committee Quality Assurance Quality Enhancement Faculty responsibility: Faculty Head Faculty Academic Standards & Quality Committee Implementation: Head of Learning & Teaching 27
  28. 28. It can be seen from the diagrams that HEFCE’s strategic objectives influence Sterndale’s strategic plan, the learning and teaching objectives are then consolidated into Sterndale’s Learning and Teaching Strategy (SLTS), which is implemented within the faculties via a Faculty Learning and Teaching Strategy (FLTS). The owner of the SLTS is the University, implementation lies within the faculty with the Head of Learning and Teaching, via the FLTS. There are associated SLTS policies, in the context of this research the most appropriate is the Faculty’s, Learning, Teaching and Assessment Online – Faculty benchmarks policy. Unit of Analysis Sterndale’s Minimum Standards for Online Learning policy was influenced by existing practice within the faculties of Architecture and the Built Environment and of Social Sciences; both of these already had implemented policies categorising online learning and assessment activities. A decision was, therefore, made to choose one of these faculties as the unit of analysis (Yin 2003) or the case study for this research, and the Faculty of Social Sciences was selected. This decision was influenced, in part, by the fact that the Faculty had a benchmarking policy for online learning which provided a definition of blended learning: Web dependent and combines online and traditional methods. (Faculty of Social Sciences, Sterndale University 2008:1) In addition, the faculty is quite advanced in its use of blended learning. Blended learning is one of its priority areas within its Learning and Teaching Strategy. [Priority] Supporting the transition from a predominantly document based VLP to blended learning. (Faculty of Social Sciences, Sterndale University, 2006:1) 28
  29. 29. Furthermore, in the last academic year the Faculty started a Blended Learning Group which has a strategic context as it is chaired by the Head of Learning and Reaching and is a sub-group of the Faculty Learning and Teaching group. The Learning and Teaching group is answerable to the Faculty Academic Standards and Quality Assurance Group. Initially the aim was to have a Faculty focus group to capture data. However, it was too difficult to arrange this given that it needed to take place at the beginning of the academic year and staff were unable to plan their time until they had received their teaching timetables. A decision was therefore made to interview teaching staff within the Faculty. These staff were selected from the Blended Learning Group, which is comprised of teaching staff who are enthusiastic about the use of e-tools to enhance learning and teaching. The Head of Learning and Teaching and the Faculty Head were also selected for interview in order to provide a strategic context. The interviewee roles are slightly different from their actual roles to ensure anonymity. In addition, a decision was, made to synonymise each of the interviewee roles in relation to their engagement with blended learning and these categories are in the attribution of statements and quotes within the findings. Existing Role Lecturer: Teaches on and off campus Senior lecturer and course leader: Teaches on campus and distance learning students Part time lecturer: Teaches on campus; provides Faculty e-learning support Lecturer: Teaches on campus: provides Faculty e-learning support Faculty Head of Learning and Teaching: Teaches on campus students and responsible for learning and teaching development in the Faculty Faculty head: Managers the Faculty with the support of the Faculty executive, occasionally teaches 29 Blended Learning Role Beginner Intermediate Early adopter Innovator Strategist Manager
  30. 30. Approach A decision was made to use a case study approach for this research as case studies can be “informative about experiences of the average person or institution” (Yin, 200o:48). According to Yin (2003:1), a case study is the preferred strategy when: • How or why questions are being posed, e.g. “How has the University learning and teaching strategy influenced the use of blended learning” “Why has university learning and teaching strategy influenced the use of blended learning”. • The researcher has little control over events. In this research, the researcher is not part of the academic community that is being studied hence has no influence on the teaching decisions made by staff within this research. • The focus is on contemporary phenomenon within some real life context, where the boundaries between phenomenon and context are not evident (Yin, 2009:18). In this research, the phenomenon is the university learning and teaching strategy and the context is the use of blended learning by staff within the faculty of Social Sciences. Yin (2009:18) states Because the phenomenon and context are not always distinguishable in real life situations technical characteristics including data collection and data analysis strategies” become part of the technical definition (Yin, 2009:18). This is illustrated in the following table, which provides an overview of the case study methodological characteristics together with the strategies that were employed to address these particular characteristics. 30
  31. 31. Alignment of Methodology with Strategy Case study characteristic More variables than data points, dealt Strategy Hierarchy of themes, relating to with within one result strategic influences and the use of blended learning A reliance of multiples sources of Multiple sources will include data such evidence, with data triangulation as, interview evidence and strategic The development of theoretical documents Propositions identified influenced by the propositions that guide data collection literature review It was also thought that as staff may have different understandings of what learning and teaching strategy is, a case study approach would provide a more in-depth exploration into what could be considered complex phenomenon in a way that other qualitative and quantitative methodologies might not provide. There are three types of case study approaches (Yin 2009 and Tellis 2007). Firstly, the exploratory case study, which is often used as an initial stage of a piece of social research. The second type is the explanatory case study, which can be used in causal research. The third type is the descriptive case study, which is the approach that was used in this research as it is more appropriate for considering theory that describes a given phenomenon, such as describing and identifying the characteristics of university learning and teaching strategy that influence the use of blended learning. It was hoped that the outputs of the case study would be of particular value to the staff teaching within the wider university community, in particular staff who may be 31
  32. 32. considering adopting a blended learning approach. It may, also, indirectly or directly influence strategic practices across the university, by providing a greater understanding of how staff engage with strategy. Criticism of the Case Study Approach A number of criticisms have been levied at the case study approach to research, for example, that it is only an exploratory tool, that it can be difficult to establish reliability and generality within findings and that it is open to bias (Soy 1997). Flyvbjerg (2006) counters this by addressing several misunderstandings about case study research which relate to the issues of scientific method, generalising and subjectivity. The first one is that general theoretical knowledge is more valuable than concrete practical knowledge. According to Flyvbjerg “context-dependent knowledge and experience are at the very heart of expert activity” and using only “context-independent knowledge” limits analytical rationality and is “inadequate” when trying to find the “best results” (Flyvbjerg, 2006:222). He argues, “predictive theories and universals cannot be found in study of human affairs” (Flyvbjerg, 2006:224). In addressing the misunderstanding that you cannot easily generalise using the case study approach, and therefore it cannot be considered as scientific, he claims that generalising is “overrated” (Flyvbjerg, 2006:224) and is limiting, stating that, a purely descriptive phenomenological case study without any attempt to generalize can be certainly be of value in this process and has often cut a path to scientific innovation (Flyvbjerg, 2006:227) However, Yin also addresses this criticism by stating that it is possible to generalise between case studies, and like experiments, case studies are generalisable to theoretical propositions (Yin 2003). 32
  33. 33. In response to the criticism that case studies are best for generating hypotheses as an initial stage within the research process, Flyvbjerg agrees that case studies are useful for generating and testing hypotheses, however, he claims that, it is often more important to clarify deeper cause behind a given problem and its consequences than to describe the symptoms of the problem and how frequently they occur (Flyvbjerg, 2006:229) Berg (2007) also argues that a case study is capable of examining simple or complex phenomenon. Answering the criticism of subjective bias towards verification case study research, Flyvbjerg, contends that the advantage of a case study is that it can closely analyse “real life situations and tests views directly to phenomena as they unfold in practice” and he maintains that it is “falsification not verification that characterises the case study” (Flyvbjerg, 2006:235). Flyvbjerg claims that this is an issue in all research methods such as quantitative methods because the researcher does not get close to those being studied. Finally, in response to the claim that it is difficult to summarize case studies, he agrees with this in relation to the process, however, he argues this is not always desirable to generalize that “good studies should be read as narratives in their entirety” (Flyvbjerg, 2006:241). Within the context of this research, it is felt that this approach facilitated the investigation into complex phenomenon, the influence of university learning and teaching strategy. This can be considered complex because this could refer to actual strategy referring to learning and teaching, for example, SLTS, areas within a strategy, as with the University strategic plan or even strategic interventions relating to Faculty Learning and Teaching Strategy priorities and within the context of this research all, these aspects were considered. In order to obtain the level of detail required the 33
  34. 34. research involved the analysis of teaching staff narratives within the context of the literature on blended learning, which appears to suggest that the main driver is learner enhancement (Browne et al., 2008, Garrison and Vaughan, 2008 Sharpe et. al, 2006). With regards generalising the findings, there were some common influences and barriers, within the Faculty on the use of blended learning, which to some extent related to the literature on blended learning. However, it could be argued to make fully successful generalisations the observations within the literature should be within the context of the influence of university learning and teaching strategy. Theory Yin argues, The reliance on theoretical concepts to guide the design and data collection for case studies remains one of the most important strategies for completing successful case studies. (Yin, 2003:3) The rationale for this is that it:    can help select cases aids in defining a complete and appropriate description when undertaking descriptive studies can support generalisations (Yin, 2003 in Berg, 2007:285) However, referring to the work of Fernandez (2005) and Eisenhardt (1989) Berg (2007:285) argues that the case study approach can be used, also, to generate theory because it has three strengths: 1. Theory building from case studies is likely to produce theory 2. Theory can be tested by subsequent studies 3. The resultant theory is likely to be empirically valid via constant comparison and questioning 34
  35. 35. Thus, theoretical observations can be a consequence of data collection and the interpretations of this data made throughout the case study. Within this research, theory relates to the propositions relating to the influences on and barriers to using blended learning generated from the literature review. These were used as the basis of the coding categories but they were developed and added to within the data analysis process. Finally, these propositions were discussed within the context of the influence of Sterndale’s strategies and the associated literature. Research Design Denscombe (2007:36) argues that the value of a case study is lost if attention is not given to the processes that lead to the outcomes. He states that the real value of a case study is that it offers an opportunity to explain why certain outcomes might happen, more than just presenting outcomes. Taking a systematic approach, Yin (2003) proposes that the following should be the components of a case study: 1. study questions 2. propositions 3. unit of analysis 4. logic of linking data to propositions 5. criteria for interpreting findings However, Soy (1997) claims that a case study should have the following steps: 1. Determine and define questions 2. Select the cases and determine data gathering and analysis techniques 3. Prepare to collect data 35
  36. 36. 4. Collect data in the field 5. Evaluate and analyse the data 6. Prepare the report The research plan for this study applied a combination of both these approaches. 1. Define research question 2. Select case 3. Develop propositions based on the literature review 4. Develop interview questions 5. Collect data 6. Analyse data linking to propositions 7. Interpret data within the context of the research question Propositions Initially a series of propositions relating to the influences and barriers on the use of blended learning, based on the literature review were created: Influence propositions:  Quality of learning and teaching • Meeting student expectations • Widening participation/inclusiveness • Flexible learning • Dealing with organisational changes • Efficient delivery of learning • Operating in a global context 36
  37. 37. • Development of student skills • Development of academic skills Barriers propositions: • No academic recognition • No time to integrate into teaching • Distraction from face-to-face teaching • Lack of student engagement • Inadequate support • Too complex • Staff development not relating to practice • Poor staff motivation These propositions were referred to in the analysis of the data acquired from the interviews and the institutional documents (Yin 2003). In the analysis, it was found that some these propositions could relate to learning and teaching choices and/or strategy, depending on the context in which the interviewee referred to them. Study questions 37
  38. 38. Soy (1997) states that a case study should have a research focus which is constantly referred to during the study, a question or questions that determine the purpose of the study. As has already been stated in the overview of the case study approach these questions should ask how and why teaching staff within the Faculty of Social Sciences are using blended learning and whether this is influenced by the University’s learning and teaching strategy. The interview and the questions within the interview were designed in order to facilitate the answering these how and why questions. All interviewees were asked similar questions; there were minor adjustments to accommodate for the role of the interviewee. Questions were divided into two sections: Section one: Academic Practice: These questions were to provide a context and to identify the learning and teaching strategies that influence the use of blended learning together with the barriers. Interviewees were asked in relation to their use of blended learning to provide:  The context/s  Their rationale/s  How they obtained their ideas  Hindrances to using blended learning  Observations with respect to colleagues’ attitudes to using blended learning  Observations with respect to the impact of student expectations Section 2: Strategic: These questions were aimed at identifying the Faculty and the University’s strategic approaches to blended learning: Interviewees were asked in relation to their use of blended learning provide: 38
  39. 39.  Details of the Faculty and University strategic approach  Observations with respect to Faculty expectations  Observations with respect to Faculty and University support  Details of University and Faculty incentives Data Gathering Techniques A multimodal approach was adopted, as guidance states that case studies are likely to be much more convincing and accurate if they are based on several different sources of information (Colorado State University 2008). This approach involved gathering data from selected University strategic documents and structured interviews in order to identify categories that were influenced by the propositions generated from the literature review: Strategic Documents Selected  Sterndale Strategic Plan (2004-2010) (SSP)  Sterndale Learning and Teaching Strategy (2006-2010) (SLTS)  Faculty of Social Sciences Learning, Teaching and Assessing Online – School Benchmarks (FLTAO)  Faculty of Social Sciences Learning and Teaching Strategy (FLTS) Structured Interviews  6 interviews (see above), captured with a digital recorder, transcribed using “Express Scribe” 39
  40. 40. Data Preparation The interview questions were piloted on a Head of Learning and Teaching and a Teaching Assistant within another faculty. On a practical level, it was useful to carry out the pilot interviews to assess the timing. It was desirable to keep the interviews to one hour as the staff involved were in a middle of a busy teaching schedule and were required to fit the interview around other commitments. The pilots also helped in picking up a couple of minor errors in the permissions form. Feedback was requested at the end of each pilot interview on the process itself, particularly on my role and on the clarity of the questions. The feedback was mainly positive but the following minor changes were made because of both this and my general observations:  Interview questions were distributed before the interview to give the interviewee the opportunity to prepare as well as identify any question he/she did not feel comfortable asking.  Where possible the interviews were carried out in a booked room away from the interviewee’s work place. This allowed me to set-up the room appropriately and to carry out sound testing. However, the Faculty Head’s interview took place in his office. His interview was at the end of the scheduled interviews and by that time, I was familiar with the interview process.  Questions were organised into sections (see study questions above) and numbered to aid easier recording and note taking. 40
  41. 41.  At the beginning of the interview, the context for the research was provided with reference to findings in other studies to induct the interviewee into the research. Ethics Denscombe (2007:141) states that researchers should respect the rights and dignity of those participating and researchers should operate with honesty and integrity. He argues that researchers should abide by the following principles: 1. The interest of the participant should be protected 2. Researchers should avoid deception and misrepresentation 3. Participants should give informed consent. The interviewees were asked to give their consent to taking part in the research and the purpose of the data collection, storage and use was clearly explained. The interviews are anonymous, and on the request of the Head of the Faculty, a pseudonym has been used for the University and some of its organisational aspects, apart from the subject areas, which initially it was felt might have been important in the data analysis but turned out to be less significant than expected. Approval was received from the University of Hull ethics committee and the Faculty Head gave formal permission to carry out the research. Data Analysis 41
  42. 42. A “Grounded Theory” approach was implemented using “Axial Coding” where the propositions (see above) were identified as categories or sub categories and relationships and relationships were made between the categories, sub categories and the research question. For example: • I(Influence) (Category) Enhancing the quality of learning and teaching: (sub category) Extending activities and communication beyond the classroom • B (barrier) (Category) Time: (sub category) to embed e-learning A transcript was produced for each interview and each transcript was coded using this approach. This approach allowed some flexibility within the coding for the inclusion of any additional categories and sub-categories that might arise during the data analysis. The coded results for each interview were collated within a template, which was organised into question areas for each interviewee. As there were not many interviews, this process was carried out manually rather than using software. Yin (2009:101) states that documentary information should be “the object of explicit data collection plans” and that within case studies the use of documents is important to “corroborate and augment evidence from existing sources” (Yin, 2009:103). Additionally, all the main strategic documents that mention the use of technology or blended learning were coded using the proposition influences. Reliability 42
  43. 43. Reliability considers whether the same results can be generated in repeated studies (University of Colorado 2008). As this is a case study, it may be difficult to make generalisations that will be applicable to other organisations and Opie (2003) states reliability should not be used as a criterion to assess the goodness in research. However, it will be seen that some generalisations can be made in relation to the influences and barriers that do relate to the literature. However, as has already been stated the possibility of generalising may be limited if the research within the literature has not been carried out within a similar context. Validity Validity is concerned with whether the study reflects or assesses the specific concept (University of Colorado 2008), in this case the influence of universities strategies on the use of blended learning within a faculty. Colosi (1997) presents the following categories of validity, which can be examined in research: 1. Conclusion validity, asks if there is a relationship between the research area and the observed outcome. For example, “How and why the University learning and teaching strategy influences the use of blended learning.” 2. Internal Validity, according to Opie (2003:68), is the “relationship between a claim and the result of the data-gathering process”. Both Soy (1997) and Yin (2003) claim internal validity relates to how rigorous the study has been and whether it has taken into account alternative explanations. Within this study, adopting a multimodal approach to data collection and making additional 43
  44. 44. observations throughout will help to ensure that the research approach is rigorous. 3. Construct validity, Soy (1997) claims this is where the correct measure has been adopted for the construct being examined, for example, in this research did the case study approach identify how and why the University learning and teaching strategy influences the use of blended learning. 4. External validity refers to the ability to generalize the results of the study in other settings. This may be more difficult to show in this research as the case study approach was chosen because it was appropriate to study something that was happening at a specific time and in a specific place, the influence of a particular university’s learning and teaching strategy on blended learning within one faculty in a particular UK university. Conclusion Denscombe (1997:45) presents a series of criticisms of the case study approach. One criticism is that it is difficult to produce credible generalisations, although Opie (2007) questions the importance of this. However, as this research is based on a faculty case study together with documentary evidence, there may be an opportunity to present similarities within an institutional context. Another criticism is that this approach only produces soft data and that the outputs are merely descriptive not evaluative. However, the university teaching community may find a descriptive account useful and the multimodal approach adopted did appear to produce enough data to make evaluations. In addition, Denscombe argues that the presence of the researcher can have an impact, 44
  45. 45. “the observer effect”. However as this study did not observe the teacher in situ, teachers were interviewed about their experiences, this may be less of an issue, although it must be acknowledged that the interviewer had prior knowledge of teaching activities within the faculty, so there may have been some possibility of bias. There was also the possibility that the analysis brought an element of subjectivity to the study, but it was hoped that the multimodal approach and the literature review limited the impact of this. 45
  46. 46. Chapter 3 Results and Findings Applying Yin’s (2003) case study approach, as outlined in the previous chapter, the analysis was based on a series of coded categories and sub categories, influenced by the propositions generated by the literature review. Axial coding was used to identify the interrelationships between these categories. This was a multi-modal approach analysing strategic documents and interviews. The results and findings are organised into two parts. The first part presents the category and sub-category influences for using blended learning identified within the following selected University and Faculty learning and teaching strategic documents:  Sterndale Strategic Plan 2004 – 2010 (SSP)  Sterndale Learning and Teaching Strategy (SLTS)  Faculty Learning and Teaching Strategy (FLTS)  Faculty Learning and Teaching and Assessing Online (FLTAO) The analysis of the strategic documents provides a context for the second part of the results and findings, the analysis of the interviews, which identifies the interrelationship between the barriers and influences on the use of blended learning by staff within the Faculty with the University’s learning and teaching strategy. Strategic Document Influence Categories The research question is an attempt to answer how and why the University’s learning and teaching strategy influences the use of blended learning within the Faculty of Social Sciences. The SLTS, FLTS, FLTAO and SSP all use the term blended learning but the 46
  47. 47. SLTS and in particular, SSP often interchange this with the terms e-learning and online learning. This is possibly because the SLTS and SSP were written at a time when the University had not formally developed a framework for blended learning, the Strategic Plan was written in 2004 and the Learning and Teaching Strategy in 2006. A decision was therefore made to analyse all the references to the use of technology within learning and teaching mentioned within the strategic documents. Enhancing the Quality of Learning and Teaching This category relates to the delivery of learning and teaching. The following subcategories could be identified within this influence:  Access to resources: This will be addressed by providing “seamless on-line” access, to “interactive resources” to ensure student engagement (SSP).  Flexible learning: There will be considerations with respect to “time, place and pace” (SSP) regarding the delivery of learning.  Collaborative learning: The facilitation of this learning environment will be through a combination of “collaborative environments and interactive resources” (SSP), facilitated by “electronic systems and e-forms of collaboration” (SLTS).  Inclusivity: The learning environment will be “rich and blended…for all students, whether on-campus or studying at a distance or flexible mode” (SSP)  Managed learning environment: Staff and students will have access to “up-todate data” (SSP) that will “sustain curriculum design and e-pedagogies” (SLTS). It could be argued that this category of enhancing the quality of learning and teaching has an interrelationship with all the other influence categories identified within the strategic documents. For example, the success of enhancing the quality of learning and teaching is dependent, on developing staff and student skills as well as, providing 47
  48. 48. adequate support. By developing more effective and efficient processes, the University will be better placed to support its diverse student population, which in turn may enhance its reputation. The enhancement of the quality of learning and teaching was identified as a proposition because it was prominent within the literature (Browne et al., 2008, Garrison and Vaughan, 2008, Jara and Mohamad, 2007). Sharpe et al. (2006), also identified institutional rationales relating to organisational changes, such as, supporting a diverse student population, enabling flexible learning and efficient delivery of learning, which could relate to the sub-categories inclusivity, flexible learning and a managed learning environment. In addition, this category could relate to universities’ preoccupation with quality assurance and enhancement (Smith 2007, Conole et al. 2007). Staff Development This category relates to the University’s commitment to developing staff skills with respect to the use of technology in learning and teaching. The following sub-categories could be identified within this influence:  University staff development: There is a commitment to providing “a range of staff development opportunities focusing on pedagogy and specialist training on the virtual learning environment and other technologies” (SSP), as the University acknowledges the importance of staff having a “skill-mix” in order to fulfil academic, administrative and technical roles” (SLTS).  Faculty staff development: The Faculty intends to provide peer observation, support for the Postgraduate Certificate in Higher Education (PGCHE) and to host a staff development week (FLTS). 48
  49. 49. The importance of this category will be seen in the interview findings. Staff development was identified as a proposition, as it is seen as an organisational intervention (Conole, et al. 2007 Stiles, 2003). Support This category relates to support provided by the University for staff using technology. The following sub-category could be identified within this influence:  Elearning Development Unit (EDU): This central unit will provide support and guidance on the “production of elearning resources, assessments and courseware (SLTS). The Faculty acknowledges that the implementation of blended learning within the Faculty is dependent on how the work of this unit “evolves” (FLTS). Despite this not being in the original propositions identified in the previous chapter, this category could have an interrelationship with the staff development category, as helping staff to use technology could facilitate the development of their skills. Student Skills This category relates to the development of students’ academic and digital skills that can be facilitated by the use of technology within teaching. The following subcategories could be identified within this influence:  Digital literacy skills: The University claims that the development of these skills will enhance student employability (SSP) and that these skills are “critical factor for success” of the University’s learning and strategy (SLTS). 49
  50. 50.  Academic skills, information, literacy and numeracy: The University support intends to facilitate the development of these skills by providing a “bank of online student learning materials” (SLTS). This category influence was in the original propositions, given in the previous chapter (Sharpe et al., 2006). This influence could also relate to JISC’s (2007) student expectations research. However, it will be seen that this was not an important influence on the use of blended learning for most of the interviewees as one interviewee (beginner) only identified it. Student Expectations This category relates to managing student expectations with respect to the use of technology to deliver learning. The following sub-category could be identified within this influence:  Access to resources: The Faculty has made a commitment to clarifying for students the use of technology within teaching by providing a statement of use within course handbooks(FLTAO) This was identified as a proposition in the previous chapters because it was identified within UCISA’s 2008 survey. However, it will be seen in the interviews that student expectations with respect to the use of technology appear to be limited to access to resources rather than online activities, which relates to the JISC’s (2007) findings. This category may interrelate with the student skills category, as there could be a correlation between student skill level and expected uses of technology in teaching. 50
  51. 51. University Reputation This category relates to enhancing the University’s reputation and thus attracting students. The following sub-category could be identified within this influence:  Providing a variety of courses: The University wants to ensure that it is attractive to businesses and professions, it also, wants to reach new markets and to make it the “preferred choice” (SSP) for potential students. This was not identified as a proposition, although it could relate to the proposition operating in a global context identified by Sharp et al. (2006) and the internationalisation of education (Ramsden, 2008, Bradwell, 2009). Interviews: Influences and Barriers on the Use of Blended Learning These are the findings from the interviews with respect to the identified influences and barriers on the use of blended learning within the Faculty. The analysis and identification of the influences and barriers is within the context of the research question, so within each category influence and barrier there is an attempt to correlate the findings with the University’s learning and teaching strategy. Influences on the Use of Blended Learning Enhancing the Quality of Learning and Teaching This category relates to what emerges through the data as to influences on the decisions made by teachers in relation to the delivery of learning. The following sub-categories could be identified within this influence:  Active Learning: This approach was taken to enhance the course and engage the students (intermediate) 51
  52. 52.  Online assessment: A course team decided to use this because it was a different type of assessment method (beginner). The early adopter decided to use online assessment to prepare students for their exams.  Enhancing-face-to-face teaching: The online content made available for students was different to that which students were getting in the classroom (beginner, innovator, early adopter)  Feedback: Video feedback was used to provide “quicker” feedback and to encourage student engagement (innovator).  International students: A course team “thought through the delivery of their material and how to engage students who were from a different country and different time zone” (strategist). This influence was prominent within all the interviews, this is possibly because at the heart of a teacher’s vocation is the enhancement of the learner experience. As it has already been stated, with respect to this influence within the strategic documents, it could be claimed that this has an interrelationship with all the other influences identified in the interviews, as they all, to some extent, have an impact on teaching and the learner experience. This influence was also within the original propositions found within the literature and identified within the previous chapter (Browne et al., 2008, Garrison and Vaughan 2007). However, even though this influence was prevalent within the strategy documents, it was difficult to identify a relationship between the illustrations provided by the interviewees and University strategy. Addressing an Operational Issue This category relates to the delivery of teaching. The following sub-categories could be identified within this influence: 52
  53. 53.  Location of students: This was with respect to teaching students off-campus on professional courses (beginner) and international students (strategist).  Group size: This related to teaching large groups of students, where blended learning was seen to, solve a lot of [the Faculty’s] operational dilemmas, in terms of how [the Faculty] assess [and] mark, large groups [the] staff student ratio. (strategist). Also, managing small groups on “small courses” where there has been a “struggle to recruit”, as illustrated on one course, [where there was] a very small group so there were online activities the group met alternative weeks (intermediate). It could be argued that this category also interrelates with the category enhancing the quality of learning and teaching because considerations relating to the operational aspects could enhance the learner experience. It could also relate to the propositions, dealing with organisational changes and efficient delivery of learning (Sharp et al. 2006). However, it is difficult to identify a direct relationship with University strategy in this category, although, the interviewees responses in this category could be seen to show a movement towards flexible and inclusive approaches, identified in the strategic documents. Staff Development This category relates to staff development activities organised by the University and the Faculty, such as workshops, events and peer support. The following sub-categories could be identified within this influence:  Faculty organised: o Peer observation: This was in the area of teaching using blended learning (intermediate) 53
  54. 54. o Staff development week: For the staff development week blended learning was a theme (intermediate, innovator, early adopter, strategist) o Faculty away day: At this event, staff were introduced to different models of online learning together with illustrations of use (beginner). o Staff appraisals: Part of the appraisal looks at “issues around learning styles” (manager). o Postgraduate Certificate in Higher Education: This is run by the University but requires the support of Faculty, with respect to identifying staff and freeing up their time to undertake the course. It was observed that staff who had undertaken this “had more input in terms of elearning” (strategist).  University: o PGCHE: This is compulsory for all new staff (beginner) (also see Faculty category above).  External: o Conferences: This gave one interviewee the opportunity to see innovative practice (innovator). This category interrelates with the support category, which, is discussed below, as well as the academic skills proposition, which was indentified as a strategic intervention (Stiles 2003 Conole et al. 2007). This category is also prominent within the SSP, SLTS and FLTS. With respect to the sub-category, Faculty organised activities, which includes peer observation and the staff development week, these activities are priorities in FLTS, which addresses SLTS. Regarding the University sub-category PGCHE, FLTS states that the Faculty has made a commitment to funding this and the University has made a strategic decision to ensure all new staff have this qualification. 54
  55. 55. Support This relates to help given by colleagues and services within the Faculty and University. The following sub-categories could be identified within this influence:  Faculty support: o Colleagues: This was with respect to talking to work colleagues about blended learning (beginner) and seeing their work (strategist). o E-learning champions: Each department had an e-learning champion, which was “someone people could go to, to get the help” (intermediate). o Head of Learning and Teaching and Faculty Head: Both of these roles have supported blended learning proposals, in relation to time and resources (innovator). o Implementation of the new VLE: The Faculty “organised support for students and staff” (early adopter).  University support: o Implementation of the new VLE: The University organised activities that facilitated this and although there “was quite a lot of anxiety [about] changing over to a new system…as a University on the whole [it] went quite well” (early adopter). o Elearning Development Unit (EDU): This Unit provides supporting documents, assists with technical problems and helped to implement the new VLE (innovator, early adopter, strategist and manager) It has been stated that there is an interrelationship with this category and the staff development category, as formal or informal support could help to develop an individual’s skills and knowledge, and as a result, this relates to the academic skills 55
  56. 56. proposition given in the previous chapter. With respect to strategy, the EDU was referred to in the SLTS and FLTS. Peer observation is a FLTS priority although seeing colleagues’ work, mentioned by the strategist as an important influence, was not discussed within this context. In addition, it will be seen that there is an interrelationship with this category and the strategy category with respect to the roles of the Head of Learning and Teaching and Faculty Head. Strategy This relates to explicit references to the influence of University and Faculty strategic groups, roles and documents referred to by the interviewees. The following subcategories could be identified within this influence:  Faculty strategy: o Documents:  FLTS: This provides a “strategic framework” (strategist). There is “work within the FLTS” [relating to blended learning] which is “influenced by SLTS” (intermediate). This strategy is designed to underpin what the university wants to do it gives the Faculty a sense of direction because it gives [the Faculty] more control (early adopter).  FLTAO: This policy provides a “continuum and definitions [for] where courses might be” (intermediate), there are “three different models” (beginner). It states a “minimum level for what students should have in their courses” (innovator). o Groups:  Blended learning group: This is a sub-group of the learning and teaching committee (intermediate). o Roles: 56
  57. 57.  Course leaders: These promote and encourage “uses of different kind of pedagogy” (manager).  Faculty Head of Learning and Teaching: This role is responsible “for the development of e-learning and blended learning for driving it forward” (manager).   Quality manager: This role identifies good practice (manager) University o SLTS: see comments relating to FLTS All the interviewees had an understanding of strategy and could articulate to some extent its impact on Faculty learning and teaching activities. Understandably, the intermediate, who is a course leader, the Head of Learning and Teaching and the Faculty Head could articulate most clearly the Faculty strategic approach and the relationship with the University learning and teaching strategy, although no SLTS details were given. Three interviewees, the beginner, intermediate and innovator acknowledged an awareness of the FLTAO, which benchmarks the use of technology by the Faculty. Additionally, there is an interrelationship with the support category as the Head of Learning and Teaching’s role is to implement and supports the priorities in the FLTS. This category was not within the original propositions as it was not clearly identified within the literature, for example, Sharpe et al. (2006) researched institutional rationales but not specifically strategy and UCISA(Browne et al, 2008) had a strategy category within its survey but it was not listed in its main drivers. There is also an interrelationship with this category and other influence categories, where an interrelationship between the influence and University strategy can be identified, for example in the support and staff development categories. 57
  58. 58. Student Expectations This category relates to the influence of student expectations with respect to access to online activities and resources. The following sub-categories could be identified within this influence:  Access to online content: Student expectations relate mainly to document delivery (early adopter, innovator, beginner, intermediate).  Comparing courses: Students are beginning to compare and question the resources they have access to on different courses (innovator, beginner, intermediate, early adopter). In this category it was perceived that student expectations related to the delivery of online resources rather than learning activities, although students are appreciative of “what gets beyond very basic document delivery” (early adopter) and students are not “challenging in terms of their own online experiences” (strategist) reflecting JISC’s (2007) findings. This was in the propositions (Browne et al., 2008); however, with respect to University strategy only the intermediate’s response appears to have a relationship with strategy as she mentions the FLTAO. Barriers to Using Blended Learning Staff attitude This category relates what was reported as to the impact of staff feelings towards the use of technology in learning and teaching. The following sub-categories could be identified within this barrier:  It has no place in teaching: (beginner, manager): [Some staff think] it is the scourge of any sensible pedagogy and what we need to be doing is working in a traditional way (manager). 58
  59. 59.  Afraid of using it: some staff suffer from “technophobia” (intermediate) and find using technology “a terrifying prospect and confusing” (innovator).  Do not want to go beyond basic use: mainly relating to staff using the VLE as a repository for storing information (intermediate, beginner, innovator, early adopter).  Concerns about impact on attendance: this was referred to by the beginner who stated that there had been a “big debate” in her division in relation to putting content in “the VLE and students just start using that rather than [attending] sessions”. This interrelates with the influence enhancing the quality of learning and teaching, sub-category, enhancing-face-to-face teaching, where interviewees used online resources to enhance not replicate face-to-face teaching. This barrier category was in the original propositions (Stacey 2007). It could be argued that it interrelates with the category barriers, staff development and support as negative staff attitudes may result from lack of knowledge of pedagogic application of technology. Despite the University and the Faculty making a commitment to staff development and the Faculty providing guidance on expected benchmarks for online delivery some staff appear to remain disengaged. Staff Development This category relates to approaches to staff development provided by the University. The following sub-categories could be identified within this influence:  Does not relate to practice: It is useful if it could be applied to something [to] make it a bit more real and pertinent, or else it’s forgotten (beginner). 59
  60. 60. Work [needs] to be done in terms of making the step between e-tools and how you could use them in a meaningful way and the design of a learning activity, joining up a set of activities. Regarding pedagogy [it’s] still limited and underdeveloped (strategist).  Embedding: If there is an expectation that [staff] are going to do it, it needs to be flagged up (beginner). The University puts people through equality and diversity courses and professional development [and] appraisal training, all academics should go on it, and it might be done online (intermediate). There was a criticism that “training that was set-up for the VLE took place far too early before [staff] started using it” (beginner).  Dissemination of best practice: Some individuals think, there is a limited range of what is capable of but there might be all sorts of things going on that [the faculty] doesn’t know about (strategist). Staff development was identified as a major influence on implementing blended learning and identified, by the University and the Faculty, as a strategic priority. However, it could be seen that there are concerns that staff development presently does not relate to pedagogic uses of technology and that it is not embedded within existing practice. As a result, this category may have an interrelationship with staff motivation category. This barrier was in the original propositions (Schneckenberg, 2009). Support This category relates to formal and informal help provided by the University. The following sub-categories could be identified within this barrier:  Availability: There’s lots of support available but its hidden (intermediate). Some [staff] would benefit from a bit more basic support certainly in the early stages and the development of e-tools and distance learning materials [as more would] be achieved more quickly and more efficiently if there was more support available. If [there were] more people to do some of the preparatory work (manager) 60
  61. 61.  From colleagues: [Not having] anybody to discuss it with [or having] somebody at department meetings (beginner). This was identified as a proposition (MacKeough and Fox, 2008) and in the influences in the interview findings, it was noted that effective help could enhance the skills of those accessing the support; also, it could have an impact on staff attitude if the support is successful. Support was indentified in SLTS and FLTS with respect to the EDU but the manager commented that more support was required. In addition, lack of support by colleagues, as identified in the beginner’s interview, could interrelate with staff attitude barrier, which may have an impact on engagement. Formal recognition This category relates to University rewarding staff for adopting blended learning approaches. There has been little or no recognition with respect to this. I sit on awards and titles committee and people have come through the learning and teaching route I haven’t seen one that’s been specifically around blended learning practices other things seem to be more valued. (strategist) Also there were concerns that the University does not, “[recognise] excellence in learning and teaching generally” (early adopter) This was a proposition (MacKeough and Fox, 2008, Schneckenberg, 2009) and again, this category could relate to staff attitude. If there is, no formal recognition of innovative approaches to blended learning staff may be disinclined to commit time and effort. It is an area that appears to be notably absent from the University’s strategic documentation. 61
  62. 62. Time This category refers to the availability or lack of time. The following sub-categories could be identified within this barrier:  To fit around teaching (beginner, early adopter, intermediate): it is seen as an “additional layer” that comes with the job (innovator) and it is within the context of some senior staff having to deal “with a large admin burden” (strategist)  Takes to develop (beginner, early adopter, intermediate): it is time consuming not just in training but the design and carrying it out (strategist). This needs to acknowledged by the University “if it wants people to do it properly” (strategist) the University needs to provide a “funding stream” for this activity (manager). This was a proposition (MacKeough and Fox 2008) and despite the University’s commitment to implementing blended learning there appears to be no reference to the provision of extra resources to support this activity. University Central Control This category relates to the central control of processes. The following sub-categories could be identified within this barrier:  Publishing on the web: The [University] under the current management took an approach to the use of the web which if effectively destroyed my elearning stuff and a lot of my scholarship so and that put me back some years really and reduced my enthusiasm for doing stuff. And I am deeply suspicious of the institutions motives in this area (early adopter)  Obtaining software (early adopter, innovator): This relates to having to make a business case. The problem is you couldn’t always make a business case for stuff, such is the nature of this an awful lot of it will get dumped and you wont go back to it and you wont use once you have evaluated it. But you need to evaluate it to decide if it is good or not (innovator). 62
  63. 63.  Support: “central units [EDU] are pressured, and are not as autonomous as they might be” (early adopter). This was not in the original propositions and the category only relates to the innovator and early adopter interviews, individuals who are more advanced in their use of technology. However, this category could interrelate with staff attitude as restricting staff evaluating new technologies may de-motivate staff or have a negative impact on the development of their skills, which, the University has made a strategic commitment to. Student Skills This was identified by the beginner interviewee in the sub-categories of poor digital literacy and access to technology, with respect to mature students, who did not have a computer so they had to use a computer at home … because of the nature of where they worked they weren’t allowed access to open forum…a couple of students were really concerned about if they were going to be disadvantaged because they were typing with one finger and one hand. This barrier was identified as an original proposition and it could be argued that this will influence student engagement. This illustration reflects some of the recent findings by JISC student expectations report (2007) which acknowledged that there was a digital divide. The issue of digital literacy skills is a priority within SSP and SLTS. However, the beginner’s experience is in relation to supporting off-campus students on professional courses possibly identifies a group that has slipped through the net. 63

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