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International Journal
of
Learning, Teaching
And
Educational Research
p-ISSN:
1694-2493
e-ISSN:
1694-2116
IJLTER.ORG
Vol.21 No.9
International Journal of Learning, Teaching and Educational Research
(IJLTER)
Vol. 21, No. 9 (September 2022)
Print version: 1694-2493
Online version: 1694-2116
IJLTER
International Journal of Learning, Teaching and Educational Research (IJLTER)
Vol. 21, No. 9
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Foreword
We are very happy to publish this issue of the International Journal of
Learning, Teaching and Educational Research.
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Research is a peer-reviewed open-access journal committed to
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with this issue.
Editors of the September 2022 Issue
VOLUME 21 NUMBER 9 September 2022
Table of Contents
Exploring International Post-Graduate Students’ Speaking Experiences in an English as a Medium of Instruction
(EMI) Context..........................................................................................................................................................................1
Ma Huiling, Lilliati Ismail
Promoting Self-Directed Learning as Learning Presence through Cooperative Blended Learning .......................... 17
Chantelle Bosch, Dorothy J Laubscher
Academic Satisfaction of Pedagogy Students Regarding Learning in Virtual Mode .................................................. 35
Fabián Muñoz, Juan Carlos Beltrán, Regina Alves, Fabián Rodríguez
Socio-Cognitive Awareness of Inmates through an Encrypted Innovative Educational Platform............................ 52
Hera Antonopoulou, Athanasios Giannoulis, Leonidas Theodorakopoulos, Constantinos Halkiopoulos
Mapping the Efficacy of Artificial Intelligence-based Online Proctored Examination (OPE) in Higher Education
during COVID-19: Evidence from Assam, India.............................................................................................................. 76
Afzalur Rahman
The Roles of Mediators and Moderators in the Adoption of Madrasati (M) LMS among Teachers in Riyadh .......95
Hamad Alharbi, Habibah Ab Jalil, Muhd Khaizer Omar, Mohd Hazwan Mohd Puad
Economic and Management Sciences as the Ground Rule for Grades 10 to 12 Accounting Learners in South
Africa .................................................................................................................................................................................... 120
Motalenyane Alfred Modise, Nombulelo Dorah Jonda
Opportunities to Stimulate the Critical Thinking Performance of Preservice Science Teachers Through the Ethno-
Inquiry Model in an E Learning Platform ....................................................................................................................... 134
Saiful Prayogi, Sukainil Ahzan, Indriaturrahmi Indriaturrahmi, Joni Rokhmat
Reliability and Construct Validity of Computational Thinking Scale for Junior High School Students: Thai
Adaptation........................................................................................................................................................................... 154
Meechai Junpho, Alisa Songsriwittaya, Puthyrom Tep
Impact of a Digital Repository on Producing e-Courses for Mathematics Teachers ................................................. 174
Essa A. Alibraheim, Hassan F. Hassan, Mohamed W. Soliman
Factors Affecting Teachers’ Pragmatic Knowledge Incorporation into Thai EFL Classrooms.................................197
Somboon Pojprasat, Somchai Watcharapunyawong
The Smartboard in Chemistry Classrooms: What is Its Effect on Chemistry Teaching and Learning in Selected
Topics in Grade 11? ............................................................................................................................................................ 217
Abdou L. J. Jammeh, Claude Karegeya, Savita Ladage
Inquiry-Creative Learning Integrated with Ethnoscience: Efforts to Encourage Prospective Science Teachers’
Critical Thinking in Indonesia........................................................................................................................................... 232
Ni Nyoman Sri Putu Verawati, Ahmad Harjono, Wahyudi Wahyudi, Syifa’ul Gummah
An Investigation on the Speaking Constraints and Strategies Used by College Students Studying English as EFL
Learners................................................................................................................................................................................ 232
Like Raskova Octaberlina, Afif Ikhwanul Muslimin, Imam Rofiki
Spicing up Undergraduate Collaborative Writing Course through Feedback Dialogues ........................................ 250
Abdulrahman Nasser Alqefari
The Development of a Guideline in Assessing Students’ Creation Video-Based Project in Programming Subject
............................................................................................................................................................................................... 274
Jamilah Hamid, Haslinda Hashim, Saira Banu Omar Khan, Nor Hasbiah Ubaidullah
Teachers’ Perceptions of School Readiness Among Grade 1 Learners in Lesotho Schools: The Case of Roma
Valley.................................................................................................................................................................................... 291
Julia Chere-Masopha
Instructors and Students’ Practices and Behaviours during a Quantum Physics class at the University of Rwanda:
Exploring the Usage of Multimedia .................................................................................................................................309
Pascasie Nyirahabimana, Evariste Minani, Mathias Nduwingoma, Imelda Kemeza
Effectiveness of Learning and Teaching the Appreciation of Ethics and Civilization Course from the Perspective
of the Educators and Students in the University of Malaysia Kelantan (UMK)......................................................... 327
Ateerah Abdul Razak, Siti Fathihah Abd Latif, Fairuz A'dilah Rusdi, Amanina Abdul Razak @ Mohamed, Yohan
Kurniawan, Lukman, Z. M., Ruzaini Ijon, Nur Azuki Yusuff, Asma Lailee Mohd Noor
Ergonomic Perceptions and Practices among Students in E-learning during COVID-19......................................... 348
Huny Bakry, Noha A. Alrasheed, Shahad M. Alqahtani, Reem M. Alshahri, Ghada S. Alburaidi, Fatmah Almoayad
Correlation of Self-regulated Learning on Blackboard and Academic Achievement of Islamic Studies Students 370
Ibrahim Al-Dawood
The Effects of Connected Speech Instruction on Second or Foreign Language Learners’ Perceptive Skills and
Connected Speech Production: A Systematic Review of the Literature (2000-2021).................................................. 389
Najma Momen Omar, Zahariah Pilus
The Influence of Lighting, Noise, and Temperature on the Academic Performance of Students amid Covid-19
Pandemic.............................................................................................................................................................................. 415
Phuong Nguyen Hoang, Maisoon Samara, Sami Shannawi, Johnry P Dayupay, Hani Jarrah, Cheryl F Olvida, Eddiebel P
Layco, Alfe M Solina, Sanny S Maglente, Alson Rae F Luna, Leonilo B Capulso, Cinder Dianne L Tabiolo, Sixto N Ras
Investigating the Role of Digital Learning in Enhancing Educational Values: Online Socialization and Its Effect on
Peer Learning, Collaborative Skills and Knowledge Construction.............................................................................. 441
Rohaila Yusof, Khoo Yin Yin, Norlia Mat Norwani, Noor Lela Ahmad, Zuriadah Ismail
EFL Students’ Perceptions of Online Flipped Classrooms during the Covid-19 Pandemic and Beyond ............... 460
Luu Nguyen Quoc Hung
The Influence of English Literacy on High School Students’ Academic Achievement ............................................. 477
Xiaoxia Tian, Guangchao Zhang, Kyung Hee Park
1
©Authors
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0
International License (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0).
International Journal of Learning, Teaching and Educational Research
Vol. 21, No. 9, pp. 1-16, September 2022
https://doi.org/10.26803/ijlter.21.9.1
Received Jul 3, 2022; Revised Sep 20, 2022; Accepted Sep 24, 2022
Exploring International Post-Graduate Students’
Speaking Experiences in an English as a Medium
of Instruction (EMI) Context
Ma Huiling
Universiti Putra Malaysia, Selangor, Malaysia
Lilliati Ismail
Universiti Putra Malaysia, Selangor, Malaysia
Abstract. This study aims to explore the practice of English as a medium
of instruction (EMI) in Malaysia by investigating the experiences of
international students enrolled in doctoral programs at the university
level. In addition, the study provides an in-depth insight into the
students’ attitudes, the challenges they face, and the factors that influence
academic English speaking. The authors also examine the implications of
enhancing English as a Foreign Language (EFL) within the international
post-graduate students’ academic English-speaking experience in the
Malaysian EMI context. This study adopted a qualitative approach. Data
were collected using semi-structured interviews with 16 international
doctoral students enrolled in various doctoral programs at a university in
Malaysia. Data were coded and categorized according to themes using
the NVIVO 12 software. The results show that there is a variety of
challenges faced by the students in academic English speaking in an EMI
context. Factors influencing their academic speaking include their past
experiences and willingness to communicate. The study also suggests
that lecturers should know that code-switching between English and
Malay may impact international students’ understanding and
involvement in class.
Keywords: doctoral students; Academic English speaking; EMI; Malaysia
1. Introduction
The English language is widely used around the world. It is a medium of
instruction in universities where English is a foreign language (EFL), as in the
Malaysian context. However, some students with inadequate English proficiency
struggle where English is used exclusively at the tertiary level. Thus, studying the
practices, challenges, and factors related to academic English-speaking is
fundamental to ensuring academic progress.
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High English language proficiency gives students a significant advantage in
communication and research. Therefore, there has been an increase in English
medium courses in universities in many EFL countries. University programs and
courses in English as the medium of instruction capture international students’
attention and align with the university’s mission to be world-class. As an
international medium of instruction, many journal articles, textbooks, resource
books, and other resource materials are also written in English. Thus, universities
adopting EMI is a growing phenomenon in all phases of education and
educational contexts (Dearden, 2014). Therefore, there is a growing need to
understand EFL students’ experiences and practices in using academic English in
the EMI context. In particular, doctoral studies require extensive and intensive
reading, academic discussions, attending lectures, presenting at conferences, and
thesis writing. As such, there is a strong need for doctoral students to study in an
EMI context to achieve high proficiency in English, including academic speaking.
In this era of globalization, English is an essential language for professional,
educational and personal growth. As the medium of instruction, English usage
increases the opportunity for EFL students to study abroad and obtain
employment. Dearden (2014) mapped the increasing number of EMI on a global
scale and found a rapid expansion of EMI provision in 54 countries with prospects
of higher growth in the future. As one of the countries using EMI, this is a common
phenomenon in Malaysia as the preferred education destination among
international students. Currently, 170,000 international students are enrolled in
Malaysian universities from 162 countries. Further, Malaysia aims to attract
250,000 international students by 2025 (Education Malaysia Global Services, 2021).
The internationalization of universities has resulted in a growing interest in
investigating post-graduate students’ experiences in EMI contexts, including in
Malaysia, the US, Singapore, and Pakistan (e.g., Bolton et al., 2017; Gu & Lee, 2019;
Kaur, J., 2020; Owen et al., 2021). Previous studies predominantly focused on local
students or both local and international students. However, this paper attempts
to gain valuable insight into international students’ experiences in the Malaysian
EMI context. The number of international doctoral students has increased and
constitutes the majority of students in many universities in Malaysia. However,
there is a lack of understanding regarding Ph.D. international students’
experiences in the Malaysian EMI context. Rahman et al. (2022) claimed that EMI
had been implemented in the context of higher education in non-native English-
speaking countries for internationalization purposes. Therefore, there is a strong
need to understand the academic English-speaking experiences, practices, and
needs of international students in Malaysia.
This study examines three research questions as follows:
1. What are international doctoral students’ English-speaking practices,
perceptions, and attitudes in the EMI context in Malaysia?
2. What challenges do international students face in academic English-
speaking practices within the EMI context in Malaysia?
3. What factors affect the academic speaking of international students in the
EMI context in Malaysia?
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2. Literature Review
Higher education requires students to display their strength in academic English
speaking for world-class education and better employment opportunities.
Accordingly, the global use of EMI in higher education is the most significant
current trend in internationalizing higher education for the global visibility of
national education systems (Parr, 2014).
Student engagement in the academic language is the specialized language, both
oral and written, of academic contexts that facilitate communication and
understanding of academic content (Nagy & Townsend, 2012). As the number of
English learners in higher education programs increases, lecturers must ensure
that students meet specific academic standards. In other words, students must be
proficient in English for educational and career growth.
In order to enhance English learners’ academic speaking ability, higher learning
institutions will have to provide a conducive learning environment for learners to
improve their speaking ability. The measures that can be implemented include:
(1) more opportunities to speak while lowering anxiety;
(2) emphasizing the importance of academic speaking; and
(3) specific courses on teaching academic and content vocabulary.
Many higher education institutions worldwide are committed to international
recognition. English-medium instruction is mainstream in countries where
English is not the native language (Bradford, 2016; Chang et al., 2017; Clegg &
Simpson, 2016; Dafouz & Camacho-Miñano, 2016). Dearden (2014) also defined
EMI as the use of the English language to teach academic subjects in countries or
jurisdictions where most of the population’s first language (L1) is not English. Past
related studies have mainly been conducted in Europe, focusing on the impact of
EMI on learning outcomes. There is also an increase in studies on EMI in Asia as
practices and challenges in implementing EMI vary depending on local conditions
and contexts.
Byun et al. (2011) studied students’ beliefs about EMI in Korean higher learning
institutions. They pointed out that EMI improved English proficiency. Yeh (2014)
also carried out a similar study and found that 75% of students in Taiwan claimed
that EMI benefited their English, mainly in listening. Song (2019) conducted in-
depth interviews with 51 Chinese students from EMI programs and concluded
that EMI guarantees employability and career growth. Universities can also
benefit from EMI by attracting and increasing international students' mobility and
raising university rankings (Chang et al., 2017). Similarly, in their study involving
graduate students from China studying at a university in South Korea, Yong-Jik,
Davis, & Yue (2021) found that the EMI environment helped the graduate
students improve their English ability and learn content.
Corrales, Rey & Escamilla (2016) found that implementing EMI can be beneficial
but also poses challenges. Generally, they were concerned whether the challenges
of implementing EMI have been neglected with the accelerated expansion of EMI.
They found three categories of challenges: linguistic challenges, including
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students’ inability to take academic notes and lecturers’ use of a less accessible
language in the classroom, cultural challenges related to different cultural
backgrounds, and structural challenges related to management.
Due to the reason that there is no systematic guide for EMI, different countries
have adopted different methods and standards. Thus, further studies will
determine the specific patterns of EMI in higher learning institutions in different
countries and contexts.
3. Research Methodology
This study aims to develop a deeper understanding of students’ academic
English-speaking experiences and practices among students with different
English proficiency levels. The study utilizes a qualitative case study approach,
which is an in-depth exploration from multiple perspectives of the richness and
complexity of a bounded social phenomenon (Bloomberg, L. D., & Volpe, M. 2018).
A qualitative approach helps generate deep insights to inform international
students’ practices and challenges in the EMI context when studying in Malaysia.
3.1 Research Design
The sample group in the study consisted of 16 international doctoral students
currently studying in an EMI context in a public university in Malaysia.
Data were collected through individual face-to-face, in-depth interviews with 16
international doctoral students from different countries who share the same
experience of studying in a public university in Malaysia.
In order to encourage the interviewee to share detailed descriptions of their
experience (DiCicco-Bloom & Crabtree, 2006), semi-structured interviews were
used to explore the experiences of international doctoral students and seek
patterns using the NVivo software version 12. The interview questions were
designed to guide the interview and enable the researchers to cover the main topic
of the present study (Mason, 2004).
3.2 Sampling
This study collected qualitative data through purposive sampling. The
respondents were international doctoral students in Malaysia. Since the
respondents were a small group, the snowball sampling technique was used. The
respondent identified their friends or colleagues so the data could be enriched like
rolling snow (Haque, 2010). Table 1 shows the respondents’ profiles.
Table 1: Profile of respondents
No. Age Gender Nationality First language
S1L 26 Female China Chinese
S3H 26 Male Pakistan Urdu
S5H 27 Female China Chinese
S2A 35 Male Nigeria Hausa
S4E 49 Male Nigeria Hausa
S5E 32 Female Iran Persian
S4L 41 Female China Chinese
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S2H 35 Female Pakistan Urdu
S3L 28 Male China Chinese
S2M 33 Female Iran Persian
S2E 35 Male Iran Persian
S1E 45 Female Iraq Arabic
S1A 25 Female Iran Persian
S3A 27 Female China Chinese
S3E 39 Male Iran Persian
S4A 29 Female China Chinese
3.3 Data Collection and Analysis
The researchers conducted semi-structured interviews for data collection. The
objective of the interviews was to understand the independent thoughts of
international students in Malaysia on their English-speaking experience within
the EMI context. The semi-structured interview guide was constructed based on
the research objectives and questions. The researcher mainly asked probing, open-
ended questions, such as “How do you feel about the EMI education in Malaysia?”
and “What are the academic English-speaking challenges you are facing now?”.
Before the actual interview, the guideline was sent to several researchers for
proofreading. Meanwhile, a pilot study was conducted to gather participants’
feedback regarding the research questions to ensure trustworthiness.
The interviews were conducted on a one-to-one basis. Each interview took
approximately 30 minutes on average. During the interview, the researchers took
notes and recorded the audio. At the end of the interview, the researchers
transcribed the interview verbatim. Next, the researchers employed a thematic
analysis to analyze the transcripts. Thematic analysis is a method for identifying,
analyzing, and reporting themes within data (Braun & Clarke, 2006) with the aid
of NVivo qualitative data analysis software. Participants signed a consent form.
Pseudonyms were used to protect their identities through a coding scheme. The
researchers also asked the students to assess and rate their English proficiency
level.
4. Results and Discussion
4.1 International Doctoral Students’ English-speaking Practices, Perceptions,
and Attitudes in an EMI Context
The answers varied when respondents were asked about their former education
in English. The results reveal a significant disparity in the English proficiency of
international doctoral students due to different education policies on the English
language. Some countries use English as the official language, while others adopt
English as a medium of instruction in the classroom. Some students have been
using English since primary school and perceive that they have mastered the
English language.
On the contrary, some students studied English only as one subject or never used
English as a medium of instruction because their official L2 is another language
(e.g., French). The data findings fell within three groups as follows:
(1) good performance in academic English speaking;
(2) lack English language proficiency; and
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(3) low English language proficiency.
The self-assessment and categories depend on former English education
experience. Those who have been using English as an official language or as a
medium of instruction, such as students from Nigeria, perceive that they tend to
perform well in academic English speaking. For example, two respondents
reported that:
“Because I think previously in my institution, for my master,
undergraduate, and even my high school, I was a good English user, so
that’s why I didn’t face any difficulty when I got here.” [S3H]
“I have so many experiences regarding to this, so I feel less difficulties. I
don’t face any stress when doing presentations because in my university,
All the presentations, all the discussions, everything was in English. I
can even speak without preparation.” [S2A]
However, those who had less opportunity to use English in school or daily life
found it challenging to express themselves in English. They had to overcome
difficulties when studying for the courses they were taking. Otherwise, they will
not understand the content of the courses. Inevitably, their academic research
becomes more complex, distracting them from their research focus by spending
extra time studying the English language. Some students felt they did not have
sufficient vocabulary to express themselves, while others found it hard to find the
right words to express their thoughts. Communicating in English was strange and
new, as doctoral students were required to present their studies to their classmates
and discuss their research. Their limited academic English-speaking skills also
hindered them from being understood. The concerns of doctoral students to
communicate effectively are shown in the following excerpts:
“I can only understand a little when I first came here… after often
communicate with classmates and ask them, like if there is something I do
not understand, I will let them write it down on a piece of paper. It's the
only way to understand what the teacher's questions was. Now, I'm used
to it. If I preview in advance, I may understand sixty or seventy percent.
If I don't, I'll probably have a hard time. If there were something beyond
the course he was talking about, some extra knowledge, I probably
wouldn't understand it too well.” [S1L]
“My vocabulary is limited, I can't express it well, but I can use simple
words to express it.” [S5H]
“It’s just my English is not good enough; I wouldn’t understand what they
were saying until they repeat two or three times.” [S4L]
“I feel that my words are not satisfactory. I feel that I am not accurate
enough to express their ideas. Maybe it's because I use less English on a
daily basis.” [S5E]
“I remember one time I did a presentation, and someone asked a question,
I knew what he meant and I knew what I thought, but I just couldn't
express it. People may not understand what I was trying to say.” [S1L]
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The respondents indicated that EMI is one of the crucial reasons why international
students prefer furthering their studies in Malaysia. The international students
took the language of instruction and the language dominantly used in the country
into account when deciding to study abroad. They went online to research
university websites or learned from friends and teachers that university lectures
would be conducted in English. EMI is essential to international doctoral students
because it is beneficial for them to read scholarly work in English and understand
progressive ideas. English can also help them present their research to people
from different countries. These findings are reflected in the responses given by the
respondents below:
“I choose to study in Malaysia because the cultures are near and the
language is English. It’s not like other countries, for example. Russia,
you have to speak Russian. Or, like Germany and other countries. So, I
can improve my English.” [S3H]
“Malaysia is an English-speaking country with a similar academic
system as British universities.” [S1L]
“Yes, I considered… English is very popular recently, and I wouldn't
come to Malaysia if they are teaching in Malay.” [S4E]
“Actually, one of my teachers told me that whenever you choose
University for Ph.D. study, you better choose those using English as first
language. But I heard from my friend in Malaysia, their first language is
Malay, but the courses are taught in English. So, it’s all the same to me,
come here or go to the L1 Countries. Because here people can speak
English. And teachers also speak English. That’s why I don’t face any
problems.” [S2H]
The doctoral students also believe that EMI provides more opportunities for
students to practice speaking in English. Malaysia is a multicultural country, with
Malay, Chinese, and Indian ethnicities making up most of the population.
Therefore, people have to be proficient in more than one language. Besides the
Malay language, Malaysians often use English in their daily activities. Therefore,
international students have the opportunity to talk to others in English. They
made remarkable improvements in their academic English-speaking abilities by
talking to their classmates and practicing during academic activities, as shown in
the following excerpts:
“I can communicate with friends from different countries. … Because I’m
in this situation, situation is very important because if I’m in Iran. In my
country. Maybe I couldn’t be like now, because now I can communicate
with others in this situation. So, … it’s very good for me, especially good
for my English.” [S5E]
“After all, there is no language situation (in China). We do not need to
always use English to communicate with the teacher. But here you have
to communicate with him in English. It's a challenge for me. It forces me
to speak English.” [S1L]
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“In the past, English was not like everyday language tools, but just a
knowledge to learn, you rarely use it. Here it is your daily
communication tool. You have to go and use it. Malaysia's classroom
activities are more diverse, students are more willing to directly ask
questions and interact with lecturers. The Chinese classroom form is
relatively single. Most of the teacher is doing all the speaking, so the
interaction is less. I think the Malaysian classroom activities are very
good for my English.” [S3L]
4.2 Challenges in Academic Speaking Practices among the International
Doctoral Students in Malaysia
4.2.1 Malaysian English Accent and L1 Use during Lectures
Since Malaysia is a multicultural country, there are people from many ethnic
groups. There are also international students from different countries with
different accents. Based on the findings, respondents had a difficult time,
especially when they first encountered people speaking in different accents. Most
of them found it very hard to understand each other when speaking. In return,
this contributed to adverse effects on their academic journey due to
miscommunication with supervisors or lack of understanding of the course
content, research discussions, and various academic activities. Even some
students confident in their academic English-speaking abilities face problems
when talking with their supervisors. One respondent claimed that his supervisor
did not know how to express certain words in English. Therefore, the information
conveyed was incomplete, and that caused some misunderstandings when he was
submitting his thesis draft. However, this problem can be solved by frequently
communicating in English with supervisors, lecturers, or classmates. According
to respondents, they got used to the different accents after a while. They also often
asked for clarification from their supervisors. It took approximately two months
to one semester to adapt to the situation and learn to manage communication with
their supervisors in English.
“Language is one part, but there are some accents, you know? There is
something that the lecturers said I can't understand. As usual
communication, teacher might say a very simple word, but I cannot
recognize. I don't know what he said. In fact, I know the word, maybe
they have accents, maybe I have some misconceptions about the
pronunciation of words myself, so it leads to some difficulties in
communication.” [S5H]
“The first time I got here is very hard for me to understand what are
people saying. For every sentence, I have to say; please repeat again. But
after a while, I got used to the accent.” [S5E]
“When I first started talking to my advisor, I felt a little bit of a problem.
He has a strong accent and speaks fast. I understood 60% of the first
communication with him. Then the second time I spoke to him was two
months later. I found that I could almost understand what he was saying,
about 85%. There's another class teacher. I don't understand what he's
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saying. Because his accent is too heavy. And he's always mixed with
Malay. Some of the teachers have a heavy accent.” [S2A]
One problem commonly raised by international students is that lecturers mix both
languages, Malay and English. International students get confused because they
have difficulty understanding different accents besides the Malay language. They
feel like an outsider in class when the lecturer makes a joke in the Malay language,
and everyone laughs except the international students. When teaching local
students, it was common practice to build rapport and understanding by
explaining certain things in the native language. However, with the rapid
internationalization of universities in Malaysia, the composition of students has
changed with more international students, especially in doctoral courses. It is
crucial to consider the needs of international students from both educational and
psychological perspectives. Language use can affect these facets, as highlighted
by some of the respondents:
“Unfortunately, our lectures during class also speak Malay. This is not
good for international student. This is a big problem.” [S2M]
“Because I even don’t understand what he saying in English, can you
imagine he speaks Malay, one time after the first class, I went to the
lecturer, and I said please, we are from different countries. Please speak
English. He said, of course, yes. He said yes, but next time he forgot. This
is a very big problem. I heard this from many international students.”
[S2E]
“This brought very bad feeling It seems like they were talking about us
or even laughing at us, I know they are not, of course, but it’s just
feelings.” [S1E]
4.2.2 Lack of Proficiency
Several international students from countries where English is the official
language considered themselves fluent in the language. However, most students
with problems in academic speaking include those who consider themselves
familiar with academic English use. Generally, they believe that their academic
vocabulary is inadequate and that they cannot find the right words when
discussing academic issues. Many expressed that they spend a lot of time reading
and thinking deeply about their research and use rigorous research methods.
However, they cannot adequately describe and discuss their research plans or
results due to a lack of academic speaking ability and language proficiency. As a
result, many students feel nervous during a presentation and fear making a
negative impression on lecturers and other students.
“My vocabulary is limited, I can't express it well, but I can translate it
into other words to express. So, I chose to use simple words to reorganize
and express it.” [S5H]
“The language I use is very low-level language. I have not used very
academic vocabulary. I might think deeply, but the words and ways in
which I express something is very simple. The vocabulary presented is
not professional enough.” [S5H]
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4.2.3 Administrative and Managerial Challenges
Most universities provide English language courses for international students
who do not have the minimum English language requirement to pursue doctoral
programs. These courses are beneficial for enhancing English language
proficiency. However, it can be time-consuming and distract students from their
research work. Further, the respondents claimed that the fees could be high.
Despite the importance of being proficient in English for a doctoral program in an
EMI environment, they hope for less time-consuming and more economical
English courses.
“When I first got here… (I) spent six months studying English. I spent
700 dollars for each English courses.” [S5E]
“If you have a certification, I didn’t want to take language courses to
study English. But because I didn’t have. And I didn’t have time. I didn’t
want to spend a lot of time. If my country force us to get certificates for
bachelor or master. I must have certificates that I didn’t need to go to
English language center.” [S1A]
“We have English language center, but it’s expensive.” [S2M]
“If they make it cheaper, it would be much better for us. This is good for
the students, maybe some reasons they haven’t studied English in their
own countries. So, they would decide to come here and study English. It
is very good opportunity and very good time. But only if they are
cheaper.” [S3L]
4.3 Factors Influencing Academic Speaking of International Students in an EMI
Context in Malaysia
4.3.1 Former Education Experience
Previous learning experiences have significantly influenced the English academic
standards of international students. Some of these experiences include the age
they started learning English, the length of time spent learning English, and
whether they have experienced authentic English communication situations.
Students who claimed to be fluent in spoken English stated that English is the
most familiar language. They have also been communicating with others in
English since a young age, and English is their official language. Several
respondents also reported that they have been neglecting their native language,
as English is the language of instruction and official language.
“Since I was a child. My tutors have been using English. But we have
one subject called native language subject. In that subject, we use our
native language to teach. So, you can recognize it, but all the other
subjects are taught in English.” [S4E]
“We use both our native language and English in our daily life, but
English is the official language. To communicate in all the school and
universities in Nigeria. Right from kindergarten to university.” [S2A]
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In response to this phenomenon, some countries have adopted multilingual
mediums for education. Students or parents can choose between native language
or English medium schools.
“Actually, in Pakistan, we have two systems. Although English is
recommended for some certain subject. But there are two mediums to
study, English medium and Urdu medium. There are Urdu medium class
that children can choose to study all the subjects in Urdu, and there’s
English medium as well, and there are semi mediums as well, that some
subjects can be taught in English and some subjects taught in Urdu. But
even I was in English medium. But I cannot say it was fully English
medium because some courses are in Urdu.” [S3H]
Countries implementing multilingual policies above reflect the importance of
spoken English. However, in other countries, most courses are taught in the native
language. English is taught as one of the school subjects. It would appear that
teachers attach more importance to the development of other English skills,
especially reading and writing, compared to verbal skills. Therefore, students
from these educational backgrounds showed a lower level of spoken English. The
lack of emphasis on English and failure to use English to communicate in their
daily lives were the primary reasons for low English proficiency.
“During the master's degree, we have a course that is taught in English.
There are foreign teachers in class. Basically, attend to pass the exam,
course is taught in English fully in English, and among many courses,
only this one is taught in English.” [S5H]
“Unfortunately, English is not very important in my country education
system. Until when you want to get a Ph.D., none of any universities or
institutions want you to study in English or want you to get English
certificate. It’s up to you, whether you want or not. But it would be better
if it was composed before I study for Ph.D.” [S5E]
4.3.2 Willingness to Communicate
The respondents stated that some do not communicate much in English due to
lack of English proficiency, while others are less willing to communicate.
Although universities in Malaysia provide more opportunities for students to
speak in English, much depends on the student’s willingness to communicate and
their personalities. Some students admit they are unwilling to communicate in
English, and some choose to use their native language to communicate with
international students from the same country. In Malaysia, the Chinese language
is also commonly used at the university level since some lecturers and Malaysian
students also speak Chinese. On the other hand, some students are shy and
introverted. They are not talkative, even in their native language. Generally,
students from Asian countries, influenced by their Confucius culture, believe that
asking questions or speaking too much in class is a sign of disrespect to the
teacher. Traditionally, students are only allowed to speak when the teacher calls
their names.
“But in general, there are more opportunities for English exchange in
Malaysia than in China. But I may still avoid it (communication in
English).” [S5H]
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“At present… because usually I’m surrounded by Chinese, so there are
less chance for me to have to speak English, I have a lot of Chinese
classmates, when I … There is no need to communicate in English.”
[S3A]
“This depends on their own willingness. If you are active to
communicate, you can meet foreigners (who speak English) everywhere.
But if someone who lacks motivation like me might just want to get the
job done and pass the exam.” [S5E]
“This is depending on personality. I am sociable. So, I like to talk to
people. But some people didn’t like to communicate. They don’t want to
speak. I have many Chinese friend in ESL, they always complain English
is difficult, but they are silent like a statue.” [S3E]
“Sometimes, it's not that I don't want to answer a question, but I'm used
to the teacher naming you and asking you to answer, so I'm always
hesitant. I might be about to answer when a student from another
country has already spoken. Maybe we all think differently, but I always
feel that I should wait until the teacher agrees before answering.
Otherwise, I'm not respecting him (or her).” [S1L]
There is also a minority of students who consider English speaking skills a burden
because their careers do not require extensive use of spoken English. Learning
about matters related to their area of expertise and scientific research methods is
much more critical than practicing spoken English. English speaking skills are
only necessary to pursue a Ph.D., not a practical tool they would need in the
future. As such, they are reluctant to communicate in English and lack the
motivation to practice spoken English. It is acceptable not to waste time and
energy on a skill they would not need in their home country.
“In terms of language, I prefer Chinese teaching, or we can also combine
the two languages. But I still want to be native-speaking because I intend
to return home after finished my study, and I don't need to speak English
often in my country.” [S1L]
“I feel that I can just accomplish something academically, and I don't
think about practicing well in English language. To be honest, I prefer
Chinese medium. My future work on the requirements of English is not
very high. It rarely require me to use English.” [S4A]
However, most people think English speaking skills are indispensable for doctoral
students. It is commonly believed that mastering English-speaking skills will be
an added advantage for future job applications and career development.
“The urban citizen would prefer to choose English (medium) because they
want to get good job. If you know English more, you can get a better job.”
[S3H]
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“You will become competitive because you have international skills,
because like when writing emails, everything in computer is English.”
[S2A]
“I think that English is a proof of your personal ability. For example, it
will be very helpful when educating children and going out on a trip.”
[S5H]
“It depends on whether the parents in a family have instilled in the idea
of learning English and persuading children to learn English.” [S1L]
In summary, the English-speaking ability of international students in Malaysia
varies depending on their previous experiences. Some international students
come from countries where English is the first or most common language. Others
come from countries where English is a second language or do not converse in
English before coming to Malaysia for further studies. However, the respondents
agreed that English as the medium of instruction was one of the key reasons why
they chose to study in Malaysia compared to other countries. They were all
motivated to master English and achieve excellence in their academic pursuits.
They faced different challenges in the Malaysian EMI context, such as lack of
English vocabulary and willingness to communicate, difficulties in understanding
utterances due to different accents, and feeling like an outsider when locals in the
classroom communicate in their native language. International students who do
not meet tertiary level language requirements, e.g., IELTS 6 or above, had to enroll
in language classes to improve their academic English for doctoral studies. These
language classes helped them improve their English language skills at a high cost.
In this regard, international students require financial aid from the university
management.
5. Conclusion and Implications
Three main conclusions were derived from the study. First, the practices of
academic English are diverse and complicated because of different backgrounds
and experiences in using English. Hence, the international students in the same
class may have very different academic English-speaking abilities that pose a
challenge for educators. Students who are not very good at academic English due
to past learning experiences have difficulties expressing themselves effectively in
English compared to their counterparts who have been using English for
academic purposes since primary school. Therefore, this is another obstacle for
EMI classes with international students from different countries. Thus, lack of
proficiency significantly influences learners’ academic speaking. Data for the
study were collected by interviewing six Ph.D. students and two master’s
students in European countries. These findings support Yildiz's (2021) qualitative
study, which investigated the factors influencing non-English major students’
English speaking ability in the EMI context.
Secondly, the EMI adopted and applied in non-native English-speaking contexts
is still a developing phenomenon. The findings show that almost every
international student cited accents and mixed spoken languages, mainly Malay,
posed a significant challenge. They had to get used to many accents and work
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hard to improve their English. However, combining the Malay language and
English adversely affects international students’ comprehension of the lesson
content and makes them feel excluded. It is vital to ensure that international
students do not feel like outsiders. Therefore, future research should address the
issue of translanguaging in an EMI context.
Thirdly, students from different cultural backgrounds are unwilling to
communicate in English. Such attitudes are viewed as ostentatious and
undesirable. In order to complement the English academic needs of these
students, instructors need to understand the reasons behind their rejection of
English communication. The primary reasons include family influence and
personality. While Confucian-influenced international students tend to
communicate among their groups, they also show higher respect for the teachers’
authority. Therefore, they will follow their teachers' arrangements without
questions. Instructors may use this knowledge to design their relevant classroom
speaking activities. For example, a good mix of international students from
different countries and local students enables better communication in English.
There are many issues related to EMI in the higher education of international
doctoral students. This study shows that EMI has a significant impact on doctoral
students. Studying the practices of such students enhances the process and
practices in EMI contexts. In conclusion, this study provides practical value for
doctoral-level education in the EMI context.
6. Limitations
This study has certain limitations. Due to the nature of the study and the small
sample size, the results cannot be generalized to the population of international
doctoral students in Malaysian universities. However, it serves to inform
stakeholders in their effort to create a better academic learning environment for
international students in Malaysia. This study mainly focused on students’ views
of academic English speaking in an EMI context for EFL doctoral students. It is
suggested that future studies explore this issue from the perspective of lecturers
and university management.
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©Authors
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0
International License (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0).
International Journal of Learning, Teaching and Educational Research
Vol. 21, No. 9, pp. 17-34, September 2022
https://doi.org/10.26803/ijlter.21.9.2
Received Jun 2, 2022; Revised Aug 18, 2022; Accepted Sep 6, 2022
Promoting Self-Directed Learning as Learning
Presence through Cooperative Blended Learning
Chantelle Bosch
Research Unit Self-Directed Learning, Faculty of Education,
North-West University, Potchefstroom, South Africa
Dorothy J Laubscher
Research Unit Self-Directed Learning, Faculty of Education,
North-West University, Potchefstroom, South Africa
Abstract. Students often feel isolated when they do blended learning
courses and they do not always have the necessary skills to work on their
own. Blended learning courses need to be thoughtfully planned to
actively involve students in the learning processes. Cooperative learning
is an active teaching strategy that can assist students to engage in online
and blended courses and is known to promote self-directed learning. The
communities of inquiry framework is often used as a framework to design
blended learning. In this study, we focused on an additional dimension
of the communities of inquiry framework, namely courses learning
presence, which is closely linked with self-directed learning skills. In this
basic qualitative study, semi-structured interviews were conducted with
post-graduate Mathematics Education students (n = 8) to establish their
experience of the cooperative blended learning course. Data were coded
and analysed using a deductive approach. The aim of this article is to
describe how self-directed learning as learning presence can be enhanced
through a cooperative blended learning course. The findings showed that
the use of cooperative learning was a useful strategy to promote self-
directed learning as learning presence. Furthermore, matters relating to
motivation as a component of self-directed learning were incorporated
into the design of the course, such as allowing students to manage their
own learning, making the learning experience enjoyable, and providing
encouraging feedback. Aspects of the course design that assisted in
promoting self-directed learning as learning presence included the use of
authentic tasks, allowing students to develop and apply their own
learning strategies, and providing students with the opportunity to
socially construct knowledge.
Keywords: blended learning; communities of inquiry; cooperative
learning; learning presence; self-directed learning
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1. Introduction and Problem Statement
The rapidly changing educational landscape and the use of educational
technologies have increased the need for effective online and blended learning
(BL). However, some educators still embrace old learning paradigms, such as John
Locke’s theory of titularity, when turning to BL (Cunningham & Bergstrom, 2020).
The transition is often undertaken without realising the importance of a paradigm
shift in the process of planning and designing the new blended approach to the
course (Chandler et al., 2020). It is not only educators who have difficulty
adapting, as this shift is new to many students as well. It is, therefore, even more
important to plan BL courses thoughtfully so that meaningful learning will occur
and the use of the technology will add value to the course instead of hindering
the learning process (Bizami et al., 2022; Mishra et al., 2020).
Actively involving students in BL courses is a difficult task. Students are removed
in time and space and often tend to struggle on their own. We believe that learning
happens in a social-constructive setting and, consequently, we tried to find an
alternative to the isolated learning environment that students often experience in
online courses. Cooperative learning (CL) involves the use of small groups of
students working together on shared experiences and successes (Johnson &
Johnson, 2018). In face-to-face environments, CL is a well-researched active
teaching strategy, known to enhance self-directed learning (SDL) and student
engagement and motivation (Bosch, 2017). According to Knowles (1975:18), “in its
broadest meaning self-directed learning describes a process by which individuals
take the initiative, with or without the assistance of others, in diagnosing their
learning needs, formulating learning goals, identifying human and material
resources for learning, choosing and implementing appropriate learning
strategies, and evaluating learning outcomes” (p. 18). By implementing CL
strategies, students become more engaged in their own learning by taking
responsibility to teach and assist their fellow group members in a more engaged
and social manner, which are key characteristics of SDL (Bhandari et al., 2022; Van
Zyl & Mentz, 2022).
We redesigned our online Mathematics Education course by adapting CL
strategies for a BL environment and used Google Docs as the main collaboration
platform. Students were divided into CL groups, and each student was assigned
a specific role. The communities of inquiry (CoI) framework was used as a
theoretical model in this qualitative study. Although the CoI framework
originally focused on three presences, namely teacher presence, social presence,
and cognitive presence (Garrison, 2018), researchers have also identified other
presences that are visible in online and blended environments. One of these
alternative presences is the learning presence that was introduced by Shea and
Bidjerano (2010) and has been studied by researchers since then (Ryu et al., 2022;
Wertz, 2022). According to Shea and Bidjerano (2010), “learning presence
represents elements such as self-efficacy as well as other cognitive, behavioral,
and motivational constructs supportive of online learner self-regulation” (p. 1).
Much research has been done on the constructs of BL, CL, SDL, and the CoI
framework, not only in isolation but also in combination with one another.
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However, this paper highlights the particular relationship between SDL and
learning presence, where CL is used as a teaching strategy in a BL environment.
This study specifically focuses on enhancing the learning presence in the BL
course. In this paper, we aim to describe how SDL as learning presence can be
enhanced through a cooperative BL course. Two questions drove this research,
namely:
• How does SDL relate to learning presence?
• What aspects of SDL as learning presence were promoted through a
cooperative BL course?
2. Literature Review
From a social constructive perspective, learning is seen as an interactive social
phenomenon between teachers and students (Perdana & Atmojo, 2019). This
study shares the view of Vygotsky’s cognitive developmental theory in that
knowledge is a societal product that is constructed from cooperative efforts to
learn, understand, and solve problems (Picciano, 2017). This process entails
collaborating and reflecting with others, which lead to the co-construction of
knowledge (Bozkurt, 2017). CL refers to a teaching strategy that makes use of
small groups to complete tasks (Johnson & Johnson, 2018). It requires students to
take responsibility for their own learning while coordinating with their peers in
the process of achieving common goals (Delgado-García et al., 2021).
Previous studies have suggested that CL is one of the key teaching and learning
strategies to equip students with 21st-century competencies by promoting active
learning and SDL (Bosch, 2017; Loh & Ang, 2020). For successful implementation
of CL, the facilitator should foster the willingness and skills of students to work
together (Loh & Ang, 2020). Johnson and Johnson (2018) stress that five elements
are essential to implementing genuine CL. These are positive interdependence,
face-to-face interaction, interpersonal and small-group skills, individual and
group accountability, and group processing (Johnson & Johnson, 2018). When
these elements are consciously planned for, students are more likely to benefit
from active, deep-level learning (Munir et al., 2018).
Johnson and Johnson (2018) assert that through the discussions in which students
engage, conceptual understanding is constructed and mental models of the
phenomena they deal with are formed. It is through group discussions and
interaction that students acquire attitudes, values, and a need for continuous
improvement (Duran et al., 2019; Johnson et al., 2007). Unlike other methodologies
that support group work, CL stresses the notion of group members being assigned
specific roles to perform during the CL task (Ortuzar, 2016). Facilitators can create
role interdependence among students when they assign them complementary
roles such as reader, recorder, checker of understanding, encourager of
participation, and elaborator of knowledge. These roles will differ according to
the teaching strategies and CL techniques used and are vital to high-quality
learning (Bosch, 2017).
When incorporating CL in online and blended environments, the process of
socially constructing knowledge is used to guide students to take responsibility
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for their own learning and become more self-directed (Bosch, 2017). As with CL,
BL also offers opportunities where these skills can be facilitated (Garrison &
Kanuka, 2004). In BL environments, classroom interaction is extended to a space
where students who might have difficulties meeting in person can effortlessly
work together (Fan & Woodrich, 2017). In web-based collaborative platforms,
such as Google Docs, students do not only focus on their own perspectives but
also learn through social interaction and joint activities in groups (Hsu & Shiue,
2018; Widodo, 2017). Furthermore, Hsu and Shiue (2018) stress that with “the
support of effective collaborative technologies, knowledge can be transferred not
only from the teacher to students, but also the students can effectively construct
knowledge through collaboration in the learning process” (p. 936). The fact
remains that in a CL-BL environment, Google Docs, like numerous other online
collaboration platforms, can only enhance learning if the learning tasks are
carefully planned (in terms of the CL elements and BL principles) and consist of
real-world problems (authentic learning tasks), and students know exactly what
is expected of them (division of roles). To ensure that no aspect is left behind, a
framework such as the CoI framework is often used when planning collaborative
constructivist learning environments.
The CoI framework consists of three core dimensions, namely cognitive presence,
teaching presence, and social presence (Fiock, 2020). These dimensions need to
interact dynamically so that a meaningful online learning environment, which
supports purposeful inquiry and meaningful collaboration, can be established
(Hsu & Shiue, 2018). The teaching presence focuses on the visibility of the
facilitator and what they do to structure and facilitate the learning process. The
teaching presence interacts with the cognitive presence when the resources that
assist with completing the tasks are selected, while the social presence has to do
with the engagement of the students and the climate of the learning community
(Nolan-Grant, 2019).
In a review of a number of CoI studies, Dempsey and Zhang (2019) report that
social presence has been shown to be the mediating factor between cognitive
presence and teaching presence, while cognitive presence is most indicative of
student satisfaction and success. They further assert that teaching presence is
understood to be of the greatest value to students and the most critical in
establishing purposeful CoI (Dempsey & Zhang, 2019). This may raise some
concerns, as it may indicate that students feel the need for facilitators to give them
the information and knowledge needed to succeed in their learning. This again
highlights the importance for educators to rethink their teaching role and to plan
for the promotion of SDL skills when designing their BL courses. In addition to
the three presences that the original CoI framework explored, several other
presences have been identified in research, such as a learning presence, an agency
presence, and an emotional presence (Bosch et al., 2020).
To answer the first research question, namely “How does SDL relate to learning
presence?”, we explore the literature relating to the CoI framework further. As we
value the need for student self-direction, we also recognise the learning presence,
as originally conceptualised by Shea and Bidjerano (2010) and Shea et al. (2012).
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As discussed above, learning in blended environments requires students to be
more self-regulated (Bosch et al., 2020). Shea and Bidjerano (2010) have examined
student self- and co-regulation in online environments. They believe that these
skills relate to desired outcomes such as higher levels of cognitive presence as
described in the CoI framework. Shea et al. (2012) further assert that student
motivation and engagement are crucial in the learning process. The aspects
included in Shea and colleagues’ (2012) discussion on learning presence, such as
self-efficacy and self-regulation, are clearly recognisable in the SDL framework
presented by Fisher et al. (2001). They categorise SDL into three main concepts,
namely self-management, self-control, and the desire for learning (Fisher et al.,
2001). These concepts are key to other SDL conceptual frameworks as well
(Brockett & Hiemstra, 2018; Candy, 1991; Garrison, 1997). Learning presence,
therefore, features within the conceptual framework of SDL (Bosch et al., 2020);
subsequently, we will use the term “SDL as learning presence” as an
amalgamated concept.
In this paper, we aim to describe how SDL as learning presence can be enhanced
through a cooperative BL course. To answer the second research question, “What
aspects of SDL as learning presence were promoted through a cooperative BL
course?”, we followed a set of guidelines presented by Laubscher and Bosch
(2021) on how to design a self-directed, BL environment. This systematic review
scrutinised the literature to create guidelines for facilitators to use when designing
BL environments. The focus is specifically on the promotion of SDL in these
environments. Their recommendations include four SDL categories, namely SDL
skills, strategies to promote SDL, motivation as an aspect of SDL, and designing
for SDL (Laubscher & Bosch, 2021). Under each of these categories, a number of
recommendations are presented that guide the facilitator in designing a self-
directed BL environment. In this paper, in order to explore aspects of SDL as
learning presence, these recommendations serve as a suitable guide to use when
designing for learning presence.
3. Course DesignIn this paper, we aim to describe how SDL as learning presence
can be enhanced through a cooperative BL courseIn this paper, we aim to describe
how SDL as learning presence can be enhanced through a cooperative BL courseIn
this paper, we aim to describe how SDL as learning presence can be enhanced
through a cooperative BL courseIn this paper, we aim to describe how SDL as
learning presence can be enhanced through a cooperative BL course
The course was designed by using the CoI framework, where learning presence is
included. This was done because of the importance of enhancing SDL skills in
students, especially in a distance environment. The course formed part of a post-
graduate degree in Mathematics Education, offered through the distance mode.
The student group comprised students who resided in various regions of South
Africa. It was a diverse group of students in terms of age, race, background,
culture, and educational background. They were all studying part-time and had
the challenge of balancing their careers, studies, home life, and personal
relationships. The module focused on students’ ability to engage critically with
content relating to mathematics teaching and learning, where effective
mathematics teaching is placed under theoretical and practical scrutiny. The
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focus, therefore, is mainly on the coherence between the teaching and the learning
of mathematics, as viewed from the perspective of not only a researcher or theorist
but also a practitioner (the mathematics teacher). In the course, students are
expected to engage with these aspects independently and collaboratively.
Throughout the presentation of the course and the design of the assessments, as
suggested by the recommendations of Laubscher and Bosch (2021), we wanted to
provide students with the opportunity to engage with the content and provide
them with sufficient opportunity to take responsibility for their own learning,
plan, find and use resources (including human resources), process information,
and think critically, which are all key components of a self-directed student. The
recommendations suggest CL as a teaching strategy, which was implemented in
the learning tasks. CL is a teaching-learning strategy that is known to promote
SDL (Mentz & Van Zyl, 2018). As the students were distance students and were
physically removed from one another, they communicated through a Google Doc
that served as a platform for students to interact and engage with one another. It
also formed the basis from which we could stimulate the five elements of CL that
are known to assist in enhancing students’ SDL. Each member of the group was
assigned a specific role that needed to be fulfilled in the group to ensure even
work distribution. In addition, by allocating a specific responsibility to each
member, the elements of CL were enhanced. There were other tasks too that
needed to be completed to ensure the smooth functioning of the group and the
successful completion of the assignment.
4. Research Method
In this paper, we aim to describe how SDL as learning presence can be enhanced
through a cooperative BL course. To answer the second research question, “What
aspects of SDL as learning presence were promoted through a cooperative BL
course?”, an interpretive qualitative research study was done. In this study, semi-
structured interviews were conducted to understand the students’ experiences of
the course. The interviews were conducted and analysed at the end of the
academic year after the students had completed the module (for ethical reasons).
The students, therefore, participated in the interviews knowing that it could not
influence their course marks.
In this basic qualitative study, the target population consisted of the students
enrolled for the post-graduate degree course in Mathematics Education (n = 12).
Of the population, eight students agreed to participate in semi-structured
interviews. These students participated voluntarily, and they all signed an
informed consent form. The interview questions were related to the participants’
experiences of the CL tasks and aspects relating to SDL. The transcripts of the
interviews were analysed in ATLAS.ti™. The data were analysed using a
deductive approach where the participants’ statements were coded through a
thematic, step-by-step analysing method (Braun & Clarke, 2013; Karlsen et al.,
2017). In qualitative research, validity and reliability are concerned with the issue
of trustworthiness (Coleman, 2021). To ensure validity, we made use of member
checking and respondent validation by confirming the accuracy of our
understanding by the participants during the data collection. Multiple coding was
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used to ensure reliability and minimise bias. The two researchers independently
coded the data and identified the main themes of the study. Where discrepancies
arose, revisions were made, and the data analysis was done using the codes and
themes that were agreed upon. The study and its associated research procedures
were approved by the research ethics committee of the faculty.
5. Discussion of Findings
Since we have already established the close connection between learning presence
and SDL by answering the first research question, the data will be discussed
according to the main themes proposed by Laubscher and Bosch (2021) in their
guidelines to create a self-directed blended environment. However, where
suitable, we will use the amalgamated concept of “SDL as learning presence”
where they referred to “SDL”. Figure 1 illustrates the identified themes in this
study in the form of a diagram.
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Figure 1: Network of Identified Themes
Source: Author’s own creation
5.1 Strategies to promote SDL as learning presence
Laubscher and Bosch (2021) suggest CL as a strategy to enhance SDL. Various
studies confirm that CL is a suitable strategy to promote SDL (e.g. Bhandari et al.,
2022; Van Zyl & Mentz, 2022). Sekano and colleagues (2020) confirm the
significance of enhancing SDL in the mathematics classroom. To evaluate the
success of CL environments, it is important to measure it against the five
principles identified by Johnson and Johnson (2018), namely positive
interdependence, face-to-face interaction, interpersonal and small-group skills,
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individual and group accountability, and group processing. In the data, there
were clear references to the elements of CL. In addition, the group sizes and role
division were identified. With regard to positive interdependence, most of the
students conceded that in their groups, they were working towards the same goal.
One student said: “What I can take away from the experience is that both parties need to
be focused on the same goal” [3:3]1. Another student added: “We complimented each
other by each doing our part to reach the final goal” [7:5]. Another one said: “The tasks
helped me to realise that I have to make deadlines for myself and to keep them. Because if I
don’t, not only I but also my group will suffer” [1:10].
This goes hand in hand with the principle of individual accountability, where they
also acknowledged that not only were they responsible for their own work, but
the success of their group member also depended on their individual
contribution. The sharing of responsibilities is evident from the following
response: “[The group work was] making my work much easier because, if the assignment
could have been assigned to one person only – you can only imagine how much reading
one person is expected to do” [2:4]. Another student noted: “Because you are working
together, it also helping [your group partner] to prepare for the exam. You have to check
the other person’s work because you are going to use that person’s work to prepare for the
exam. So, you are killing two birds with one stone. One person is helping you to prepare
for the exam, and you are also helping the other person.” [3:9]. Another student
confessed: “If the CL was not there, I would not have much energy and I would be a bit
lazy to google a lot of articles, and I would only rely on the ones that are on [the learning
management system]” [2:11].
The students also mentioned interpersonal and small-group skills. One of them
revealed: “I learned so much about myself. I usually do not like group tasks … but I
learned how to work [together] … this is a new way to approach a group task” [5:3].
Another student concurred: “I learned that … sharing ideas and [collaborating] just
makes it much easier” [2:1]. A similar response provided was: “It helped a lot – getting
feedback from someone who is going through the same thing that I am going” [3:5].
Another student added to that by saying that “it was nice to share knowledge and
also to get another’s perspective” [8:4].
The fourth principle relating to CL that could be found in the interviews was group
processing. This specifically relates to reflecting on one’s own learning, as well as
reflecting on the group goals. There was not much evidence of the aspect of group
reflection, since the group as a whole reflected on the goals they set for themselves
(as a group). There was, however, enough evidence with regard to the role that
the group played in personal reflection. One student mentioned: “… positive in the
sense that I could get feedback from my partner. It helped a lot – getting feedback from
someone who is going through the same thing that I am going” [3:1]. Another said: “Two
is better than one. If you work collaboratively, you can correct each other’s mistakes. The
results is [sic], therefore, more valid and reliable” [6:2]. One student mentioned that,
in distance education, one is often isolated. The fact that they then had the
opportunity to have interaction regularly and reflect together with other people
1 [a:b] is an identifier for the participant, where “a” refers to the participant number and
“b” to the quotation number in ATLAS.ti™.
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made for a good experience. Another participant asserted that “it was nice to hear
from someone else from time to time… we did not only talk about the work, but also about
our experiences in the course in general” [8:4].
The principle of face-to-face interaction was not mentioned often, which is
understandable when one takes into account that it was a distance course. One
student remarked: “When you are studying in distance courses, you don’t get much
interaction with lecturers and other students. [This task] was really nice because you got
the opportunity to talk to other people and work with them” [8:2].
The final two aspects regarding CL were the group sizes and the roles that the
group members fulfilled. When asked whether they were happy with the group
size, all the students agreed that they were. One student elaborated as follows:
“The bigger the group gets, the more difficult it is to manage. Two is the perfect group size
for me. It worked well” [1:15]. The same goes for the roles of the group members.
The students were asked whether they felt it was necessary to have specific roles
in the group and if it contributed to the effectiveness of the group. All the students
agreed on both accounts, and they elaborated on the importance of specific roles.
One student stated: “Yes, it did help. Especially like when you are doing the group
assignments, having the roles clearly defined that, okay, the technical person must insert
this, this, and this. It helped a lot” [3:6].
5.2. SDL skills
Laubscher and Bosch (2021) assert that when designing a BL environment,
educators should plan the tasks in a manner that will encourage SDL skills. The
importance of SDL skills cannot be denied. According to Yulianti et al. (2021), self-
directed students can use their knowledge and abilities in various contexts and
continue to improve their learning capabilities throughout their lives. They
further state that by giving students the freedom to learn what is essential from
their perception, learning motivation is increased and the students are motivated
to develop their SDL abilities. When the data were analysed, responses relating to
SDL skills yielded aspects of time management, finding relevant resources,
socially constructing knowledge, and communication. These are in line with SDL
skills identified by Garcia (2021). The students’ responses revealed that the
designed tasks required them to plan their time well in advance in order to
accommodate the group members and spend sufficient time on the sections they
were responsible for.
Thus, the students were responsible to manage and plan their own learning
processes. The skill of time management was of the utmost importance and is
evident from the following student’s response: “[The course] helped me to make
myself deadlines and forced me keep to them. I think now I will make better deadlines in
future, even if you don’t work in a group” [1:10]. Another student added that the
communication between the group partners was crucial when it came to time
management and provided the following example: “My partner would say that [he
is] going to [the] rural areas and [he] won’t be online for the next couple of days. I would
understand and not put messages and things there in that time that he will not be there.
So, it helped me also to relax and not feeling that he is not just going off the grid, and I am
worried that he has dropped out or things like that. So, at the end (especially when we did
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assignment 2) I was more relaxed, knowing that if he’s got any issues, he does
communicate” [3:18]. While most students agreed on the importance of their
personal time management, one student pointed out that they decided on
“smaller” deadlines in their group to complete specific sections of the task. They
were then responsible for adhering to not only the module deadlines but also
those of the group. The student stated that “keeping to those [group] deadlines
actually helped me to plan my own time better and I know if I keep to the group’s deadlines
I don’t have to stress about the timeframes of the module” [7:5].
With regard to finding relevant resources, one student said: “We had to get more
articles [than what was given to us] to answer the questions … The more you read, the
more you try to construct your own meaning and the more you understand” [2:8]. One
student was of the opinion that the group setting helped them to collect more
information and declared as follows: “[Working in a group] just makes it easier for
me. I just go straight to [the resources that other group members found] and read the
[relevant] information found there. It also helped me … when I was studying for the exam,
because I [now have] more articles and understand more information [than when I work
alone]” [2:7]. Another student stated: “We had to find our own resources. I went to the
library, used the internet to find information on the topics. It gave me better insight [into
the topic] because I now have information from different people with different perspectives
and not just the two or three sources that the [lecturer] gave us” [8:8].
Most of the students found that working in a group helped them to construct new
knowledge and improve the quality of their work. One of the students remarked:
“I think because we had different sections to deal with … you are working on your own,
but you are getting feedback from the other person, so the individual work is still the same,
and you are doing it as if you are doing it alone, but you are taking the other person’s
input to adjust your work” [3:10]. Another one added: “[Your group partner] will then
help you to plan much better and write the perfect assignment that you need to write”
[2:12]. Another student agreed as follows: “Sometimes you have to figure out some
information and you are not 100% sure. But I could always talk to [my group partner]
and ask him if I understand correctly and if he agrees” [7:2]. This student concluded
with the following statement: “I sometimes feel that in a normal setting, students feel
in a sense that they are competing with each other. But [with these tasks] the whole point
is to work together and that was really nice for me” [7.2].
With regard to the use of social and other web technologies, Google Docs and the
learning management system were the main platforms for interaction during the
course. The participants indicated that they used other communication platforms
too, such as WhatsApp and SMS. One student explained: “I feel it is important that
we have that start communication that when the person is not responding, you can just
check on them via WhatsApp and SMS to say” [3:16]. Another one said that you “type
something and then you put it on Google Doc and then that would give a chance for your
partner to comment” [2:11]. Furthermore, one student asserted: “I enjoyed the fact
that we used Google Docs; it was new to me. I learned a lot” [1:14].
5.3 Motivation as an aspect of SDL as learning presence
According to Laubscher and Bosch (2021) and Zhu et al. (2022), motivation in SDL
can be increased through lecturer involvement and feedback, scaffolding,
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incorporating a variety of learning tasks, and creating a feeling of enjoyment
among the students. In the interviews, the students mentioned that they enjoyed
the tasks, and some of them also mentioned that their group partners contributed
to their motivation. One student said: “Because we are all working and studying part-
time, it gets difficult, and you are not always motivated. It was so nice to have someone
who help motivated me and help keep me on track … I really enjoyed these group tasks”
[1:5]. Another one mentioned: “I was lucky that my partner was also working hard on
their part. I want to also pull my weight so that they do not do all the work alone” [3:8].
In addition, the following explanation was provided: “I sometimes feel that in a
normal setting, students feel, in a sense, that they are competing with each other. But [with
these tasks] the whole point is to work together and I, that was really nice for me” [7:2].
With regard to lecturer involvement, the students mentioned that the active
involvement of the lecturer was visible in the course, especially in Google Docs
where she gave weekly feedback on the students’ work and progress. One student
remarked that “the fact that the lecturer monitored our progress and motivated us on a
regular basis was really nice” [1:2]. They also mentioned that they valued the
support from the lecturer, and one student said: “I like how supportive the lecturer
has been, how informative the assignments have been, and I like the fact that they make me
explore new methods of teaching the subject [mathematics] in class” [5:1].
When analysing the data, various aspects relating to the design of the course were
evident. A few students commented on the structure of the tasks. One of them
said: “There were very good instructions that showed us how to do the task and what is
expected from us in terms of communication … I enjoyed the tasks – they were practical
and doable. It also gave us perspectives on how other people think and reason” [8:6].
Another student declared: “I think this was one of my better university experiences …
at first I was concerned because I did not know what was required of me, but as soon as I
figured it out, I enjoyed it very much” [7:1]. The task structure did not only contribute
to the cognitive development of the students – “[The structure of the task] helped me
understand the content much better” [2:11] – but also played an important role in the
application thereof in their teaching practice. One student stated that “[the fact that
we worked together] made the task seem easier than working alone” [1:3] and continued
as follows: “A lot of the topics that we researched were relevant in our own teaching and
classrooms” [1:16]. Another student remarked: “I believe that people learn better when
they learn from each other and when they learn from their peers. So, I have tried to
incorporate that in my lessons” [3:7].
Table 1 gives a summary of the SDL aspects evident in the findings in relation to
the recommendations made by Laubscher and Bosch (2021, p. 162). The table
presents the four categories with specific recommendations relating to the
category. For this study, we added a third column in which we provide evidence
of how the aspects were promoted or if they were not evident in the study.
Table 1: A summary of the SDL aspects evident in the findings in relation to the
recommendations made by Laubscher and Bosch
Category Recommendations Aspects promoted
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1 Strategies
to promote
SDL as
learning
presence
The varied use of social and
web technologies can create
interest, independence, and
creativity
Google Docs was the main platform for
social and academic collaboration, and the
students communicated with one another
on WhatsApp [1:14; 2:11; 3:16]
The following strategies can
promote SDL:
Problem-based learning
Collaborative learning
CL (cooperative learning)
Project-based learning
CL was chosen as the strategy to promote
SDL as learning presence. The findings
referred to all five elements of CL:
Positive interdependence [3:3; 7:5; 1:10]
Individual accountability [2:4; 3:9; 2:11]
Interpersonal and small-group skills [2:1;
3:5; 8:4]
Group processing [3:1; 6:2; 8:4]
Face-to-face interaction [8:2]
The findings also revealed the importance
of group sizes and the role division that
was implemented [1:15; 3:6]
2 SDL skills Institutional policy should
support SDL
Not evident in the findings; however, SDL is a
strategic priority at the institution and forms
part of the teaching-learning plan in the faculty
Facilitators should enrol for
professional development
in SDL
Not evident in the findings; however, the
facilitators are actively involved in SDL
research and training
The learning design should
encourage the use of SDL
skills (e.g. planning, goal
setting, task analysis, and
self-assessment)
The findings revealed that students took
responsibility for their own learning, and a
number of SDL skills were promoted:
Time management [1:10; 3:18; 7:5]
Finding relevant resources [2:8; 8:8; 2:7]
Social construction of knowledge [3:10;
2:12; 7:2]
Encourage critical thinking
and reflection
This aspect is linked to the CL principles of
interpersonal and small-group skills [2:1;
3:5; 8:4] and group processing [3:1; 6:2; 8:4]
3 Motivation
as an
aspect of
SDL as
learning
presence
To increase motivation,
students should be allowed
to manage, choose, and
evaluate their own learning
This aspect correlates with time
management [1:10; 3:18; 7:5]
Scaffolding and coaching
sessions can increase
motivation
Not evident in the findings
Facilitators should provide
encouraging feedback
The students recognised the valuable input
of the lecturer [1:2; 5:1]
Incorporate a variety of
learning tasks and resources
No mention was made of this aspect in the data
Make learning fun The aspect of enjoyment was evident in the
findings [1:5; 3:8; 7:2]
4 Designing
for SDL as
learning
presence
Authentic tasks and
learning environments can
promote SDL
The findings yielded aspects of authentic
learning that are linked with real-world
contexts [8:6; 2:11; 1:16; 3:7]
A BL environment should
be user-focused
No mention was made of this aspect in the data;
however, the CL tasks were planned to address
this aspect
Incorporate learning
analytics
This aspect was not implemented in this study
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Encourage sharing This corresponds with positive
interdependence [3:3; 7:5; 1:10] and the
social construction of knowledge [3:10;
2:12; 7:2]
Make students aware of
their learning needs
The students indicated that they knew
what was expected of them [7:1; 8:6]
Encourage self-assessment This aspect was not implemented in this study
Allow students to plan,
develop, and apply their
own learning strategies
This was evident from the SDL skills that
were promoted [1:10; 3:18; 7:5; 2:8; 8:8; 2:7]
Source: Adapted from Laubscher and Bosch (2021, p. 162)
6. Conclusion
In order to address the research question “What aspects of SDL as learning
presence were promoted through a cooperative BL course?”, we reflect on the
findings above. SDL is a 21st-century skill that is important to be a successful
lifelong learner (Beckers et al., 2016). With regard to the SDL categories in the
recommendations suggested by Laubscher and Bosch (2021), all four categories
were evident in the findings of this study. Various aspects of SDL as learning
presence were promoted in the cooperative BL course. As mentioned in the
literature review, CL is a key strategy to promote SDL and 21st-century skills (Hsu
& Shiue, 2018; Loh & Ang, 2020). In order to achieve this, the CL tasks need to be
based on the five key elements that are essential to implementing genuine CL
(Johnson & Johnson, 2018). From the data, it is evident that all five elements were
woven into the course design, which resulted in the students acknowledging the
use of SDL skills. These elements were time management skills, improved
resource management, critical reflection, critical thinking, and the ability to
construct knowledge socially. Mishra et al. (2020) and Ortuzar (2016) also
acknowledge the importance of motivation as an aspect of SDL. In line with this,
the findings revealed that the following aspects contributed to the participants’
motivation: the active involvement of the lecturer; the benefits of sharing
responsibilities and successes; and the fact that they enjoyed the group tasks. With
regard to design, the CoI framework (see Fiock, 2020; Shea et al., 2012) was used
as the main design framework. Our focus was on SDL as learning presence, and
the findings explored these aspects. It was evident that the use of authentic tasks
was of value to the participants, not only in their studies but also in the application
thereof in their teaching practice. They also indicated that the instructions were
clear and they knew what was expected of them in the course. Furthermore, they
emphasised the value of shared reasoning and the perspectives of their peers and
the lecturer. Based on the data, we conclude that the cooperative BL environment
enhanced SDL as learning presence in this course.
7. Limitations and Future Research
Since only 12 students were enrolled for the course, and eight agreed to
participate, a small sample was used, which could be viewed as a limitation of the
study. For future research in the field, we suggest incorporating more scaffolding
in the course with the aim of increasing motivation. Furthermore, in the course,
only two comprehensive tasks, which were similar in nature, were implemented.
We, therefore, suggest exploring the use of a variety of smaller and different tasks,
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IJLTER.ORG Vol 21 No 9 September 2022

  • 1. International Journal of Learning, Teaching And Educational Research p-ISSN: 1694-2493 e-ISSN: 1694-2116 IJLTER.ORG Vol.21 No.9
  • 2. International Journal of Learning, Teaching and Educational Research (IJLTER) Vol. 21, No. 9 (September 2022) Print version: 1694-2493 Online version: 1694-2116 IJLTER International Journal of Learning, Teaching and Educational Research (IJLTER) Vol. 21, No. 9 This work is subject to copyright. All rights are reserved by the Publisher, whether the whole or part of the material is concerned, specifically those of translation, reprinting, re-use of illustrations, broadcasting, reproduction by photocopying machines or similar means, and storage in data banks. Society for Research and Knowledge Management
  • 3. International Journal of Learning, Teaching and Educational Research The International Journal of Learning, Teaching and Educational Research is a peer-reviewed open-access journal which has been established for the dissemination of state-of-the-art knowledge in the fields of learning, teaching and educational research. Aims and Objectives The main objective of this journal is to provide a platform for educators, teachers, trainers, academicians, scientists and researchers from over the world to present the results of their research activities in the following fields: innovative methodologies in learning, teaching and assessment; multimedia in digital learning; e-learning; m-learning; e-education; knowledge management; infrastructure support for online learning; virtual learning environments; open education; ICT and education; digital classrooms; blended learning; social networks and education; e- tutoring: learning management systems; educational portals, classroom management issues, educational case studies, etc. Indexing and Abstracting The International Journal of Learning, Teaching and Educational Research is indexed in Scopus since 2018. The Journal is also indexed in Google Scholar and CNKI. All articles published in IJLTER are assigned a unique DOI number.
  • 4. Foreword We are very happy to publish this issue of the International Journal of Learning, Teaching and Educational Research. The International Journal of Learning, Teaching and Educational Research is a peer-reviewed open-access journal committed to publishing high-quality articles in the field of education. Submissions may include full-length articles, case studies and innovative solutions to problems faced by students, educators and directors of educational organisations. To learn more about this journal, please visit the website http://www.ijlter.org. We are grateful to the editor-in-chief, members of the Editorial Board and the reviewers for accepting only high quality articles in this issue. We seize this opportunity to thank them for their great collaboration. The Editorial Board is composed of renowned people from across the world. Each paper is reviewed by at least two blind reviewers. We will endeavour to ensure the reputation and quality of this journal with this issue. Editors of the September 2022 Issue
  • 5. VOLUME 21 NUMBER 9 September 2022 Table of Contents Exploring International Post-Graduate Students’ Speaking Experiences in an English as a Medium of Instruction (EMI) Context..........................................................................................................................................................................1 Ma Huiling, Lilliati Ismail Promoting Self-Directed Learning as Learning Presence through Cooperative Blended Learning .......................... 17 Chantelle Bosch, Dorothy J Laubscher Academic Satisfaction of Pedagogy Students Regarding Learning in Virtual Mode .................................................. 35 Fabián Muñoz, Juan Carlos Beltrán, Regina Alves, Fabián Rodríguez Socio-Cognitive Awareness of Inmates through an Encrypted Innovative Educational Platform............................ 52 Hera Antonopoulou, Athanasios Giannoulis, Leonidas Theodorakopoulos, Constantinos Halkiopoulos Mapping the Efficacy of Artificial Intelligence-based Online Proctored Examination (OPE) in Higher Education during COVID-19: Evidence from Assam, India.............................................................................................................. 76 Afzalur Rahman The Roles of Mediators and Moderators in the Adoption of Madrasati (M) LMS among Teachers in Riyadh .......95 Hamad Alharbi, Habibah Ab Jalil, Muhd Khaizer Omar, Mohd Hazwan Mohd Puad Economic and Management Sciences as the Ground Rule for Grades 10 to 12 Accounting Learners in South Africa .................................................................................................................................................................................... 120 Motalenyane Alfred Modise, Nombulelo Dorah Jonda Opportunities to Stimulate the Critical Thinking Performance of Preservice Science Teachers Through the Ethno- Inquiry Model in an E Learning Platform ....................................................................................................................... 134 Saiful Prayogi, Sukainil Ahzan, Indriaturrahmi Indriaturrahmi, Joni Rokhmat Reliability and Construct Validity of Computational Thinking Scale for Junior High School Students: Thai Adaptation........................................................................................................................................................................... 154 Meechai Junpho, Alisa Songsriwittaya, Puthyrom Tep Impact of a Digital Repository on Producing e-Courses for Mathematics Teachers ................................................. 174 Essa A. Alibraheim, Hassan F. Hassan, Mohamed W. Soliman Factors Affecting Teachers’ Pragmatic Knowledge Incorporation into Thai EFL Classrooms.................................197 Somboon Pojprasat, Somchai Watcharapunyawong The Smartboard in Chemistry Classrooms: What is Its Effect on Chemistry Teaching and Learning in Selected Topics in Grade 11? ............................................................................................................................................................ 217 Abdou L. J. Jammeh, Claude Karegeya, Savita Ladage Inquiry-Creative Learning Integrated with Ethnoscience: Efforts to Encourage Prospective Science Teachers’ Critical Thinking in Indonesia........................................................................................................................................... 232
  • 6. Ni Nyoman Sri Putu Verawati, Ahmad Harjono, Wahyudi Wahyudi, Syifa’ul Gummah An Investigation on the Speaking Constraints and Strategies Used by College Students Studying English as EFL Learners................................................................................................................................................................................ 232 Like Raskova Octaberlina, Afif Ikhwanul Muslimin, Imam Rofiki Spicing up Undergraduate Collaborative Writing Course through Feedback Dialogues ........................................ 250 Abdulrahman Nasser Alqefari The Development of a Guideline in Assessing Students’ Creation Video-Based Project in Programming Subject ............................................................................................................................................................................................... 274 Jamilah Hamid, Haslinda Hashim, Saira Banu Omar Khan, Nor Hasbiah Ubaidullah Teachers’ Perceptions of School Readiness Among Grade 1 Learners in Lesotho Schools: The Case of Roma Valley.................................................................................................................................................................................... 291 Julia Chere-Masopha Instructors and Students’ Practices and Behaviours during a Quantum Physics class at the University of Rwanda: Exploring the Usage of Multimedia .................................................................................................................................309 Pascasie Nyirahabimana, Evariste Minani, Mathias Nduwingoma, Imelda Kemeza Effectiveness of Learning and Teaching the Appreciation of Ethics and Civilization Course from the Perspective of the Educators and Students in the University of Malaysia Kelantan (UMK)......................................................... 327 Ateerah Abdul Razak, Siti Fathihah Abd Latif, Fairuz A'dilah Rusdi, Amanina Abdul Razak @ Mohamed, Yohan Kurniawan, Lukman, Z. M., Ruzaini Ijon, Nur Azuki Yusuff, Asma Lailee Mohd Noor Ergonomic Perceptions and Practices among Students in E-learning during COVID-19......................................... 348 Huny Bakry, Noha A. Alrasheed, Shahad M. Alqahtani, Reem M. Alshahri, Ghada S. Alburaidi, Fatmah Almoayad Correlation of Self-regulated Learning on Blackboard and Academic Achievement of Islamic Studies Students 370 Ibrahim Al-Dawood The Effects of Connected Speech Instruction on Second or Foreign Language Learners’ Perceptive Skills and Connected Speech Production: A Systematic Review of the Literature (2000-2021).................................................. 389 Najma Momen Omar, Zahariah Pilus The Influence of Lighting, Noise, and Temperature on the Academic Performance of Students amid Covid-19 Pandemic.............................................................................................................................................................................. 415 Phuong Nguyen Hoang, Maisoon Samara, Sami Shannawi, Johnry P Dayupay, Hani Jarrah, Cheryl F Olvida, Eddiebel P Layco, Alfe M Solina, Sanny S Maglente, Alson Rae F Luna, Leonilo B Capulso, Cinder Dianne L Tabiolo, Sixto N Ras Investigating the Role of Digital Learning in Enhancing Educational Values: Online Socialization and Its Effect on Peer Learning, Collaborative Skills and Knowledge Construction.............................................................................. 441 Rohaila Yusof, Khoo Yin Yin, Norlia Mat Norwani, Noor Lela Ahmad, Zuriadah Ismail EFL Students’ Perceptions of Online Flipped Classrooms during the Covid-19 Pandemic and Beyond ............... 460 Luu Nguyen Quoc Hung The Influence of English Literacy on High School Students’ Academic Achievement ............................................. 477 Xiaoxia Tian, Guangchao Zhang, Kyung Hee Park
  • 7. 1 ©Authors This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0). International Journal of Learning, Teaching and Educational Research Vol. 21, No. 9, pp. 1-16, September 2022 https://doi.org/10.26803/ijlter.21.9.1 Received Jul 3, 2022; Revised Sep 20, 2022; Accepted Sep 24, 2022 Exploring International Post-Graduate Students’ Speaking Experiences in an English as a Medium of Instruction (EMI) Context Ma Huiling Universiti Putra Malaysia, Selangor, Malaysia Lilliati Ismail Universiti Putra Malaysia, Selangor, Malaysia Abstract. This study aims to explore the practice of English as a medium of instruction (EMI) in Malaysia by investigating the experiences of international students enrolled in doctoral programs at the university level. In addition, the study provides an in-depth insight into the students’ attitudes, the challenges they face, and the factors that influence academic English speaking. The authors also examine the implications of enhancing English as a Foreign Language (EFL) within the international post-graduate students’ academic English-speaking experience in the Malaysian EMI context. This study adopted a qualitative approach. Data were collected using semi-structured interviews with 16 international doctoral students enrolled in various doctoral programs at a university in Malaysia. Data were coded and categorized according to themes using the NVIVO 12 software. The results show that there is a variety of challenges faced by the students in academic English speaking in an EMI context. Factors influencing their academic speaking include their past experiences and willingness to communicate. The study also suggests that lecturers should know that code-switching between English and Malay may impact international students’ understanding and involvement in class. Keywords: doctoral students; Academic English speaking; EMI; Malaysia 1. Introduction The English language is widely used around the world. It is a medium of instruction in universities where English is a foreign language (EFL), as in the Malaysian context. However, some students with inadequate English proficiency struggle where English is used exclusively at the tertiary level. Thus, studying the practices, challenges, and factors related to academic English-speaking is fundamental to ensuring academic progress.
  • 8. 2 http://ijlter.org/index.php/ijlter High English language proficiency gives students a significant advantage in communication and research. Therefore, there has been an increase in English medium courses in universities in many EFL countries. University programs and courses in English as the medium of instruction capture international students’ attention and align with the university’s mission to be world-class. As an international medium of instruction, many journal articles, textbooks, resource books, and other resource materials are also written in English. Thus, universities adopting EMI is a growing phenomenon in all phases of education and educational contexts (Dearden, 2014). Therefore, there is a growing need to understand EFL students’ experiences and practices in using academic English in the EMI context. In particular, doctoral studies require extensive and intensive reading, academic discussions, attending lectures, presenting at conferences, and thesis writing. As such, there is a strong need for doctoral students to study in an EMI context to achieve high proficiency in English, including academic speaking. In this era of globalization, English is an essential language for professional, educational and personal growth. As the medium of instruction, English usage increases the opportunity for EFL students to study abroad and obtain employment. Dearden (2014) mapped the increasing number of EMI on a global scale and found a rapid expansion of EMI provision in 54 countries with prospects of higher growth in the future. As one of the countries using EMI, this is a common phenomenon in Malaysia as the preferred education destination among international students. Currently, 170,000 international students are enrolled in Malaysian universities from 162 countries. Further, Malaysia aims to attract 250,000 international students by 2025 (Education Malaysia Global Services, 2021). The internationalization of universities has resulted in a growing interest in investigating post-graduate students’ experiences in EMI contexts, including in Malaysia, the US, Singapore, and Pakistan (e.g., Bolton et al., 2017; Gu & Lee, 2019; Kaur, J., 2020; Owen et al., 2021). Previous studies predominantly focused on local students or both local and international students. However, this paper attempts to gain valuable insight into international students’ experiences in the Malaysian EMI context. The number of international doctoral students has increased and constitutes the majority of students in many universities in Malaysia. However, there is a lack of understanding regarding Ph.D. international students’ experiences in the Malaysian EMI context. Rahman et al. (2022) claimed that EMI had been implemented in the context of higher education in non-native English- speaking countries for internationalization purposes. Therefore, there is a strong need to understand the academic English-speaking experiences, practices, and needs of international students in Malaysia. This study examines three research questions as follows: 1. What are international doctoral students’ English-speaking practices, perceptions, and attitudes in the EMI context in Malaysia? 2. What challenges do international students face in academic English- speaking practices within the EMI context in Malaysia? 3. What factors affect the academic speaking of international students in the EMI context in Malaysia?
  • 9. 3 http://ijlter.org/index.php/ijlter 2. Literature Review Higher education requires students to display their strength in academic English speaking for world-class education and better employment opportunities. Accordingly, the global use of EMI in higher education is the most significant current trend in internationalizing higher education for the global visibility of national education systems (Parr, 2014). Student engagement in the academic language is the specialized language, both oral and written, of academic contexts that facilitate communication and understanding of academic content (Nagy & Townsend, 2012). As the number of English learners in higher education programs increases, lecturers must ensure that students meet specific academic standards. In other words, students must be proficient in English for educational and career growth. In order to enhance English learners’ academic speaking ability, higher learning institutions will have to provide a conducive learning environment for learners to improve their speaking ability. The measures that can be implemented include: (1) more opportunities to speak while lowering anxiety; (2) emphasizing the importance of academic speaking; and (3) specific courses on teaching academic and content vocabulary. Many higher education institutions worldwide are committed to international recognition. English-medium instruction is mainstream in countries where English is not the native language (Bradford, 2016; Chang et al., 2017; Clegg & Simpson, 2016; Dafouz & Camacho-Miñano, 2016). Dearden (2014) also defined EMI as the use of the English language to teach academic subjects in countries or jurisdictions where most of the population’s first language (L1) is not English. Past related studies have mainly been conducted in Europe, focusing on the impact of EMI on learning outcomes. There is also an increase in studies on EMI in Asia as practices and challenges in implementing EMI vary depending on local conditions and contexts. Byun et al. (2011) studied students’ beliefs about EMI in Korean higher learning institutions. They pointed out that EMI improved English proficiency. Yeh (2014) also carried out a similar study and found that 75% of students in Taiwan claimed that EMI benefited their English, mainly in listening. Song (2019) conducted in- depth interviews with 51 Chinese students from EMI programs and concluded that EMI guarantees employability and career growth. Universities can also benefit from EMI by attracting and increasing international students' mobility and raising university rankings (Chang et al., 2017). Similarly, in their study involving graduate students from China studying at a university in South Korea, Yong-Jik, Davis, & Yue (2021) found that the EMI environment helped the graduate students improve their English ability and learn content. Corrales, Rey & Escamilla (2016) found that implementing EMI can be beneficial but also poses challenges. Generally, they were concerned whether the challenges of implementing EMI have been neglected with the accelerated expansion of EMI. They found three categories of challenges: linguistic challenges, including
  • 10. 4 http://ijlter.org/index.php/ijlter students’ inability to take academic notes and lecturers’ use of a less accessible language in the classroom, cultural challenges related to different cultural backgrounds, and structural challenges related to management. Due to the reason that there is no systematic guide for EMI, different countries have adopted different methods and standards. Thus, further studies will determine the specific patterns of EMI in higher learning institutions in different countries and contexts. 3. Research Methodology This study aims to develop a deeper understanding of students’ academic English-speaking experiences and practices among students with different English proficiency levels. The study utilizes a qualitative case study approach, which is an in-depth exploration from multiple perspectives of the richness and complexity of a bounded social phenomenon (Bloomberg, L. D., & Volpe, M. 2018). A qualitative approach helps generate deep insights to inform international students’ practices and challenges in the EMI context when studying in Malaysia. 3.1 Research Design The sample group in the study consisted of 16 international doctoral students currently studying in an EMI context in a public university in Malaysia. Data were collected through individual face-to-face, in-depth interviews with 16 international doctoral students from different countries who share the same experience of studying in a public university in Malaysia. In order to encourage the interviewee to share detailed descriptions of their experience (DiCicco-Bloom & Crabtree, 2006), semi-structured interviews were used to explore the experiences of international doctoral students and seek patterns using the NVivo software version 12. The interview questions were designed to guide the interview and enable the researchers to cover the main topic of the present study (Mason, 2004). 3.2 Sampling This study collected qualitative data through purposive sampling. The respondents were international doctoral students in Malaysia. Since the respondents were a small group, the snowball sampling technique was used. The respondent identified their friends or colleagues so the data could be enriched like rolling snow (Haque, 2010). Table 1 shows the respondents’ profiles. Table 1: Profile of respondents No. Age Gender Nationality First language S1L 26 Female China Chinese S3H 26 Male Pakistan Urdu S5H 27 Female China Chinese S2A 35 Male Nigeria Hausa S4E 49 Male Nigeria Hausa S5E 32 Female Iran Persian S4L 41 Female China Chinese
  • 11. 5 http://ijlter.org/index.php/ijlter S2H 35 Female Pakistan Urdu S3L 28 Male China Chinese S2M 33 Female Iran Persian S2E 35 Male Iran Persian S1E 45 Female Iraq Arabic S1A 25 Female Iran Persian S3A 27 Female China Chinese S3E 39 Male Iran Persian S4A 29 Female China Chinese 3.3 Data Collection and Analysis The researchers conducted semi-structured interviews for data collection. The objective of the interviews was to understand the independent thoughts of international students in Malaysia on their English-speaking experience within the EMI context. The semi-structured interview guide was constructed based on the research objectives and questions. The researcher mainly asked probing, open- ended questions, such as “How do you feel about the EMI education in Malaysia?” and “What are the academic English-speaking challenges you are facing now?”. Before the actual interview, the guideline was sent to several researchers for proofreading. Meanwhile, a pilot study was conducted to gather participants’ feedback regarding the research questions to ensure trustworthiness. The interviews were conducted on a one-to-one basis. Each interview took approximately 30 minutes on average. During the interview, the researchers took notes and recorded the audio. At the end of the interview, the researchers transcribed the interview verbatim. Next, the researchers employed a thematic analysis to analyze the transcripts. Thematic analysis is a method for identifying, analyzing, and reporting themes within data (Braun & Clarke, 2006) with the aid of NVivo qualitative data analysis software. Participants signed a consent form. Pseudonyms were used to protect their identities through a coding scheme. The researchers also asked the students to assess and rate their English proficiency level. 4. Results and Discussion 4.1 International Doctoral Students’ English-speaking Practices, Perceptions, and Attitudes in an EMI Context The answers varied when respondents were asked about their former education in English. The results reveal a significant disparity in the English proficiency of international doctoral students due to different education policies on the English language. Some countries use English as the official language, while others adopt English as a medium of instruction in the classroom. Some students have been using English since primary school and perceive that they have mastered the English language. On the contrary, some students studied English only as one subject or never used English as a medium of instruction because their official L2 is another language (e.g., French). The data findings fell within three groups as follows: (1) good performance in academic English speaking; (2) lack English language proficiency; and
  • 12. 6 http://ijlter.org/index.php/ijlter (3) low English language proficiency. The self-assessment and categories depend on former English education experience. Those who have been using English as an official language or as a medium of instruction, such as students from Nigeria, perceive that they tend to perform well in academic English speaking. For example, two respondents reported that: “Because I think previously in my institution, for my master, undergraduate, and even my high school, I was a good English user, so that’s why I didn’t face any difficulty when I got here.” [S3H] “I have so many experiences regarding to this, so I feel less difficulties. I don’t face any stress when doing presentations because in my university, All the presentations, all the discussions, everything was in English. I can even speak without preparation.” [S2A] However, those who had less opportunity to use English in school or daily life found it challenging to express themselves in English. They had to overcome difficulties when studying for the courses they were taking. Otherwise, they will not understand the content of the courses. Inevitably, their academic research becomes more complex, distracting them from their research focus by spending extra time studying the English language. Some students felt they did not have sufficient vocabulary to express themselves, while others found it hard to find the right words to express their thoughts. Communicating in English was strange and new, as doctoral students were required to present their studies to their classmates and discuss their research. Their limited academic English-speaking skills also hindered them from being understood. The concerns of doctoral students to communicate effectively are shown in the following excerpts: “I can only understand a little when I first came here… after often communicate with classmates and ask them, like if there is something I do not understand, I will let them write it down on a piece of paper. It's the only way to understand what the teacher's questions was. Now, I'm used to it. If I preview in advance, I may understand sixty or seventy percent. If I don't, I'll probably have a hard time. If there were something beyond the course he was talking about, some extra knowledge, I probably wouldn't understand it too well.” [S1L] “My vocabulary is limited, I can't express it well, but I can use simple words to express it.” [S5H] “It’s just my English is not good enough; I wouldn’t understand what they were saying until they repeat two or three times.” [S4L] “I feel that my words are not satisfactory. I feel that I am not accurate enough to express their ideas. Maybe it's because I use less English on a daily basis.” [S5E] “I remember one time I did a presentation, and someone asked a question, I knew what he meant and I knew what I thought, but I just couldn't express it. People may not understand what I was trying to say.” [S1L]
  • 13. 7 http://ijlter.org/index.php/ijlter The respondents indicated that EMI is one of the crucial reasons why international students prefer furthering their studies in Malaysia. The international students took the language of instruction and the language dominantly used in the country into account when deciding to study abroad. They went online to research university websites or learned from friends and teachers that university lectures would be conducted in English. EMI is essential to international doctoral students because it is beneficial for them to read scholarly work in English and understand progressive ideas. English can also help them present their research to people from different countries. These findings are reflected in the responses given by the respondents below: “I choose to study in Malaysia because the cultures are near and the language is English. It’s not like other countries, for example. Russia, you have to speak Russian. Or, like Germany and other countries. So, I can improve my English.” [S3H] “Malaysia is an English-speaking country with a similar academic system as British universities.” [S1L] “Yes, I considered… English is very popular recently, and I wouldn't come to Malaysia if they are teaching in Malay.” [S4E] “Actually, one of my teachers told me that whenever you choose University for Ph.D. study, you better choose those using English as first language. But I heard from my friend in Malaysia, their first language is Malay, but the courses are taught in English. So, it’s all the same to me, come here or go to the L1 Countries. Because here people can speak English. And teachers also speak English. That’s why I don’t face any problems.” [S2H] The doctoral students also believe that EMI provides more opportunities for students to practice speaking in English. Malaysia is a multicultural country, with Malay, Chinese, and Indian ethnicities making up most of the population. Therefore, people have to be proficient in more than one language. Besides the Malay language, Malaysians often use English in their daily activities. Therefore, international students have the opportunity to talk to others in English. They made remarkable improvements in their academic English-speaking abilities by talking to their classmates and practicing during academic activities, as shown in the following excerpts: “I can communicate with friends from different countries. … Because I’m in this situation, situation is very important because if I’m in Iran. In my country. Maybe I couldn’t be like now, because now I can communicate with others in this situation. So, … it’s very good for me, especially good for my English.” [S5E] “After all, there is no language situation (in China). We do not need to always use English to communicate with the teacher. But here you have to communicate with him in English. It's a challenge for me. It forces me to speak English.” [S1L]
  • 14. 8 http://ijlter.org/index.php/ijlter “In the past, English was not like everyday language tools, but just a knowledge to learn, you rarely use it. Here it is your daily communication tool. You have to go and use it. Malaysia's classroom activities are more diverse, students are more willing to directly ask questions and interact with lecturers. The Chinese classroom form is relatively single. Most of the teacher is doing all the speaking, so the interaction is less. I think the Malaysian classroom activities are very good for my English.” [S3L] 4.2 Challenges in Academic Speaking Practices among the International Doctoral Students in Malaysia 4.2.1 Malaysian English Accent and L1 Use during Lectures Since Malaysia is a multicultural country, there are people from many ethnic groups. There are also international students from different countries with different accents. Based on the findings, respondents had a difficult time, especially when they first encountered people speaking in different accents. Most of them found it very hard to understand each other when speaking. In return, this contributed to adverse effects on their academic journey due to miscommunication with supervisors or lack of understanding of the course content, research discussions, and various academic activities. Even some students confident in their academic English-speaking abilities face problems when talking with their supervisors. One respondent claimed that his supervisor did not know how to express certain words in English. Therefore, the information conveyed was incomplete, and that caused some misunderstandings when he was submitting his thesis draft. However, this problem can be solved by frequently communicating in English with supervisors, lecturers, or classmates. According to respondents, they got used to the different accents after a while. They also often asked for clarification from their supervisors. It took approximately two months to one semester to adapt to the situation and learn to manage communication with their supervisors in English. “Language is one part, but there are some accents, you know? There is something that the lecturers said I can't understand. As usual communication, teacher might say a very simple word, but I cannot recognize. I don't know what he said. In fact, I know the word, maybe they have accents, maybe I have some misconceptions about the pronunciation of words myself, so it leads to some difficulties in communication.” [S5H] “The first time I got here is very hard for me to understand what are people saying. For every sentence, I have to say; please repeat again. But after a while, I got used to the accent.” [S5E] “When I first started talking to my advisor, I felt a little bit of a problem. He has a strong accent and speaks fast. I understood 60% of the first communication with him. Then the second time I spoke to him was two months later. I found that I could almost understand what he was saying, about 85%. There's another class teacher. I don't understand what he's
  • 15. 9 http://ijlter.org/index.php/ijlter saying. Because his accent is too heavy. And he's always mixed with Malay. Some of the teachers have a heavy accent.” [S2A] One problem commonly raised by international students is that lecturers mix both languages, Malay and English. International students get confused because they have difficulty understanding different accents besides the Malay language. They feel like an outsider in class when the lecturer makes a joke in the Malay language, and everyone laughs except the international students. When teaching local students, it was common practice to build rapport and understanding by explaining certain things in the native language. However, with the rapid internationalization of universities in Malaysia, the composition of students has changed with more international students, especially in doctoral courses. It is crucial to consider the needs of international students from both educational and psychological perspectives. Language use can affect these facets, as highlighted by some of the respondents: “Unfortunately, our lectures during class also speak Malay. This is not good for international student. This is a big problem.” [S2M] “Because I even don’t understand what he saying in English, can you imagine he speaks Malay, one time after the first class, I went to the lecturer, and I said please, we are from different countries. Please speak English. He said, of course, yes. He said yes, but next time he forgot. This is a very big problem. I heard this from many international students.” [S2E] “This brought very bad feeling It seems like they were talking about us or even laughing at us, I know they are not, of course, but it’s just feelings.” [S1E] 4.2.2 Lack of Proficiency Several international students from countries where English is the official language considered themselves fluent in the language. However, most students with problems in academic speaking include those who consider themselves familiar with academic English use. Generally, they believe that their academic vocabulary is inadequate and that they cannot find the right words when discussing academic issues. Many expressed that they spend a lot of time reading and thinking deeply about their research and use rigorous research methods. However, they cannot adequately describe and discuss their research plans or results due to a lack of academic speaking ability and language proficiency. As a result, many students feel nervous during a presentation and fear making a negative impression on lecturers and other students. “My vocabulary is limited, I can't express it well, but I can translate it into other words to express. So, I chose to use simple words to reorganize and express it.” [S5H] “The language I use is very low-level language. I have not used very academic vocabulary. I might think deeply, but the words and ways in which I express something is very simple. The vocabulary presented is not professional enough.” [S5H]
  • 16. 10 http://ijlter.org/index.php/ijlter 4.2.3 Administrative and Managerial Challenges Most universities provide English language courses for international students who do not have the minimum English language requirement to pursue doctoral programs. These courses are beneficial for enhancing English language proficiency. However, it can be time-consuming and distract students from their research work. Further, the respondents claimed that the fees could be high. Despite the importance of being proficient in English for a doctoral program in an EMI environment, they hope for less time-consuming and more economical English courses. “When I first got here… (I) spent six months studying English. I spent 700 dollars for each English courses.” [S5E] “If you have a certification, I didn’t want to take language courses to study English. But because I didn’t have. And I didn’t have time. I didn’t want to spend a lot of time. If my country force us to get certificates for bachelor or master. I must have certificates that I didn’t need to go to English language center.” [S1A] “We have English language center, but it’s expensive.” [S2M] “If they make it cheaper, it would be much better for us. This is good for the students, maybe some reasons they haven’t studied English in their own countries. So, they would decide to come here and study English. It is very good opportunity and very good time. But only if they are cheaper.” [S3L] 4.3 Factors Influencing Academic Speaking of International Students in an EMI Context in Malaysia 4.3.1 Former Education Experience Previous learning experiences have significantly influenced the English academic standards of international students. Some of these experiences include the age they started learning English, the length of time spent learning English, and whether they have experienced authentic English communication situations. Students who claimed to be fluent in spoken English stated that English is the most familiar language. They have also been communicating with others in English since a young age, and English is their official language. Several respondents also reported that they have been neglecting their native language, as English is the language of instruction and official language. “Since I was a child. My tutors have been using English. But we have one subject called native language subject. In that subject, we use our native language to teach. So, you can recognize it, but all the other subjects are taught in English.” [S4E] “We use both our native language and English in our daily life, but English is the official language. To communicate in all the school and universities in Nigeria. Right from kindergarten to university.” [S2A]
  • 17. 11 http://ijlter.org/index.php/ijlter In response to this phenomenon, some countries have adopted multilingual mediums for education. Students or parents can choose between native language or English medium schools. “Actually, in Pakistan, we have two systems. Although English is recommended for some certain subject. But there are two mediums to study, English medium and Urdu medium. There are Urdu medium class that children can choose to study all the subjects in Urdu, and there’s English medium as well, and there are semi mediums as well, that some subjects can be taught in English and some subjects taught in Urdu. But even I was in English medium. But I cannot say it was fully English medium because some courses are in Urdu.” [S3H] Countries implementing multilingual policies above reflect the importance of spoken English. However, in other countries, most courses are taught in the native language. English is taught as one of the school subjects. It would appear that teachers attach more importance to the development of other English skills, especially reading and writing, compared to verbal skills. Therefore, students from these educational backgrounds showed a lower level of spoken English. The lack of emphasis on English and failure to use English to communicate in their daily lives were the primary reasons for low English proficiency. “During the master's degree, we have a course that is taught in English. There are foreign teachers in class. Basically, attend to pass the exam, course is taught in English fully in English, and among many courses, only this one is taught in English.” [S5H] “Unfortunately, English is not very important in my country education system. Until when you want to get a Ph.D., none of any universities or institutions want you to study in English or want you to get English certificate. It’s up to you, whether you want or not. But it would be better if it was composed before I study for Ph.D.” [S5E] 4.3.2 Willingness to Communicate The respondents stated that some do not communicate much in English due to lack of English proficiency, while others are less willing to communicate. Although universities in Malaysia provide more opportunities for students to speak in English, much depends on the student’s willingness to communicate and their personalities. Some students admit they are unwilling to communicate in English, and some choose to use their native language to communicate with international students from the same country. In Malaysia, the Chinese language is also commonly used at the university level since some lecturers and Malaysian students also speak Chinese. On the other hand, some students are shy and introverted. They are not talkative, even in their native language. Generally, students from Asian countries, influenced by their Confucius culture, believe that asking questions or speaking too much in class is a sign of disrespect to the teacher. Traditionally, students are only allowed to speak when the teacher calls their names. “But in general, there are more opportunities for English exchange in Malaysia than in China. But I may still avoid it (communication in English).” [S5H]
  • 18. 12 http://ijlter.org/index.php/ijlter “At present… because usually I’m surrounded by Chinese, so there are less chance for me to have to speak English, I have a lot of Chinese classmates, when I … There is no need to communicate in English.” [S3A] “This depends on their own willingness. If you are active to communicate, you can meet foreigners (who speak English) everywhere. But if someone who lacks motivation like me might just want to get the job done and pass the exam.” [S5E] “This is depending on personality. I am sociable. So, I like to talk to people. But some people didn’t like to communicate. They don’t want to speak. I have many Chinese friend in ESL, they always complain English is difficult, but they are silent like a statue.” [S3E] “Sometimes, it's not that I don't want to answer a question, but I'm used to the teacher naming you and asking you to answer, so I'm always hesitant. I might be about to answer when a student from another country has already spoken. Maybe we all think differently, but I always feel that I should wait until the teacher agrees before answering. Otherwise, I'm not respecting him (or her).” [S1L] There is also a minority of students who consider English speaking skills a burden because their careers do not require extensive use of spoken English. Learning about matters related to their area of expertise and scientific research methods is much more critical than practicing spoken English. English speaking skills are only necessary to pursue a Ph.D., not a practical tool they would need in the future. As such, they are reluctant to communicate in English and lack the motivation to practice spoken English. It is acceptable not to waste time and energy on a skill they would not need in their home country. “In terms of language, I prefer Chinese teaching, or we can also combine the two languages. But I still want to be native-speaking because I intend to return home after finished my study, and I don't need to speak English often in my country.” [S1L] “I feel that I can just accomplish something academically, and I don't think about practicing well in English language. To be honest, I prefer Chinese medium. My future work on the requirements of English is not very high. It rarely require me to use English.” [S4A] However, most people think English speaking skills are indispensable for doctoral students. It is commonly believed that mastering English-speaking skills will be an added advantage for future job applications and career development. “The urban citizen would prefer to choose English (medium) because they want to get good job. If you know English more, you can get a better job.” [S3H]
  • 19. 13 http://ijlter.org/index.php/ijlter “You will become competitive because you have international skills, because like when writing emails, everything in computer is English.” [S2A] “I think that English is a proof of your personal ability. For example, it will be very helpful when educating children and going out on a trip.” [S5H] “It depends on whether the parents in a family have instilled in the idea of learning English and persuading children to learn English.” [S1L] In summary, the English-speaking ability of international students in Malaysia varies depending on their previous experiences. Some international students come from countries where English is the first or most common language. Others come from countries where English is a second language or do not converse in English before coming to Malaysia for further studies. However, the respondents agreed that English as the medium of instruction was one of the key reasons why they chose to study in Malaysia compared to other countries. They were all motivated to master English and achieve excellence in their academic pursuits. They faced different challenges in the Malaysian EMI context, such as lack of English vocabulary and willingness to communicate, difficulties in understanding utterances due to different accents, and feeling like an outsider when locals in the classroom communicate in their native language. International students who do not meet tertiary level language requirements, e.g., IELTS 6 or above, had to enroll in language classes to improve their academic English for doctoral studies. These language classes helped them improve their English language skills at a high cost. In this regard, international students require financial aid from the university management. 5. Conclusion and Implications Three main conclusions were derived from the study. First, the practices of academic English are diverse and complicated because of different backgrounds and experiences in using English. Hence, the international students in the same class may have very different academic English-speaking abilities that pose a challenge for educators. Students who are not very good at academic English due to past learning experiences have difficulties expressing themselves effectively in English compared to their counterparts who have been using English for academic purposes since primary school. Therefore, this is another obstacle for EMI classes with international students from different countries. Thus, lack of proficiency significantly influences learners’ academic speaking. Data for the study were collected by interviewing six Ph.D. students and two master’s students in European countries. These findings support Yildiz's (2021) qualitative study, which investigated the factors influencing non-English major students’ English speaking ability in the EMI context. Secondly, the EMI adopted and applied in non-native English-speaking contexts is still a developing phenomenon. The findings show that almost every international student cited accents and mixed spoken languages, mainly Malay, posed a significant challenge. They had to get used to many accents and work
  • 20. 14 http://ijlter.org/index.php/ijlter hard to improve their English. However, combining the Malay language and English adversely affects international students’ comprehension of the lesson content and makes them feel excluded. It is vital to ensure that international students do not feel like outsiders. Therefore, future research should address the issue of translanguaging in an EMI context. Thirdly, students from different cultural backgrounds are unwilling to communicate in English. Such attitudes are viewed as ostentatious and undesirable. In order to complement the English academic needs of these students, instructors need to understand the reasons behind their rejection of English communication. The primary reasons include family influence and personality. While Confucian-influenced international students tend to communicate among their groups, they also show higher respect for the teachers’ authority. Therefore, they will follow their teachers' arrangements without questions. Instructors may use this knowledge to design their relevant classroom speaking activities. For example, a good mix of international students from different countries and local students enables better communication in English. There are many issues related to EMI in the higher education of international doctoral students. This study shows that EMI has a significant impact on doctoral students. Studying the practices of such students enhances the process and practices in EMI contexts. In conclusion, this study provides practical value for doctoral-level education in the EMI context. 6. Limitations This study has certain limitations. Due to the nature of the study and the small sample size, the results cannot be generalized to the population of international doctoral students in Malaysian universities. However, it serves to inform stakeholders in their effort to create a better academic learning environment for international students in Malaysia. This study mainly focused on students’ views of academic English speaking in an EMI context for EFL doctoral students. It is suggested that future studies explore this issue from the perspective of lecturers and university management. 7. References Bolton, K., Botha, W., & Bacon-Shone, J. (2017). English-medium instruction in Singapore higher education: Policy, realities, and challenges. Journal of Multilingual and Multicultural Development, 38(10), 913-930. https://doi.org/10.1080/01434632.2017.1304396 Bloomberg, L. D., & Volpe, M. (2018). Completing your qualitative dissertation: A road map from beginning to end. SAGE Publications. Bradford, A. (2016). Toward a typology of implementation challenges facing English- medium instruction in higher education: Evidence from Japan. Journal of Studies in International Education, 20(4), 339–356. https://doi.org/10.1177/1028315316647165 Braun, V., & Clarke, V. (2006). Using thematic analysis in psychology. Qualitative research in psychology, 3(2), 77-101. https://doi.org/10.1191/1478088706qp063oa Byun, K., Chu, H., Kim, M., Park, I., Kim, S., & Jung, J. (2011). English-medium teaching in Korean higher education: Policy debates and reality. Higher Education, 62(4), 431- 449. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10734-010-9397-4
  • 21. 15 http://ijlter.org/index.php/ijlter Corrales, K. A., Rey, L. A. P., & Escamilla, N. S. (2016). Is EMI enough? Perceptions from university professors and students. Latin American Journal of Content & Language Integrated Learning, 9(2). https://doi.org/10.5294/laclil.2016.9.2.4 Chang, J. Y., Kim, W., & Lee, H. (2017). A language support program for English-medium instruction courses: Its development and evaluation in an EFL setting. International Journal of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism, 20(5), 510–528. https://doi.org/10.1080/13670050.2015.1080658 Clegg, J., & Simpson, J. (2016). Improving the effectiveness of English as a medium of instruction in sub-Saharan Africa. Comparative Education, 52(3), 359–374. https://doi.org/10.1080/03050068.2016.1185268 Dafouz, E., & Camacho-Miñano, M. M. (2016). Exploring the impact of English-medium instruction on university student academic achievement: The case of accounting. English for Specific Purposes, 44, 57–67. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.esp.2016.06.001 Dearden, J. (2014). English as a medium of instruction-A growing global phenomenon. British Council. https://www.teachingenglish.org.uk/article/english-medium- instruction-growing-global-phenomenon DiCicco-Bloom, B., & Crabtree, B. F. (2006). The qualitative research interview. Medical Education, 40(4), 314–321. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1365-2929.2006.02418.x Education Malaysia Global Services (2021, December 31). New international student applications to study in Malaysia exceed the target. https://educationmalaysia.gov.my/media_release/new-international-student- applications-to-study-in-malaysia-exceed-the-target/ Gu, L., & So, Y. (2015). Voices from stakeholders: What makes an academic English test ‘international’? Journal of English for Academic Purposes, 18, 9-24. https://doi.org/ 10.1016/j.jeap.2014.10.002 Gu, M. M., & Lee, J. C. K. (2019). “They lost internationalization in pursuit of internationalization”: Students’ language practices and identity construction in a cross-disciplinary EMI program in a university in China. Higher Education, 78(3), 389-405. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10734-018-0342-2 Haque, M. (2010). Sampling methods in social research. Global Research Methodology. Kaur, J. (2020). Using English for interaction in the EMI classroom: Experiences and challenges at a Malaysian public university. In English-medium instruction and the internationalization of universities (pp. 129-154). Palgrave Macmillan, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-47860-5_6 Mason, J. (2004). Semi structured interview. In M.S. Lewis-Beck, A. Bryman & L. Futin (Eds.), The SAGE Encyclopaedia of Social Science Research Methods (pp. 1021-1022). SAGE. Nagy, W., & Townsend, D. (2012). Words as tools: Learning academic vocabulary as language acquisition. Reading Research Quarterly, 47(1), 91-108. https://doi.org/ 10.1002/RRQ.011 Owen, N., Shrestha, P. N., & Hultgren, A. K. (2021). Researching academic reading in two contrasting English as a medium of instruction contexts at a university level. ETS Research Report Series, 2021(1), 1-28. https://doi.org/10.1002/ets2.12317 Parr, C. (2014, April 30). English language use ‘most significant internationalisation trend for HE’. Times Higher Education. http://www.timeshighereducation.com Rahman, M. M., & Singh, M. K. M. (2022). The ideology towards English as a medium of instruction (EMI) adoption in higher education in Malaysia: A case study. 3L: Southeast Asian Journal of English Language Studies, 28(2). https://doi.org/10.17576/3l-2022-2802-08 Song, Y. (2019). English language ideologies and students’ perception of international English-medium-instruction (EMI) Master's programmes: A Chinese case study. English Today, 35(3), 22-28. https://doi.org/ 10.1017/S0266078418000408
  • 22. 16 http://ijlter.org/index.php/ijlter Wilson, J., Fang, C., Rollins, J., & Valadez, D. (2016). An urgent challenge: Enhancing academic speaking opportunities for English learners. Multicultural Education, 23(2), 52–54. https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/EJ1097857.pdf Yeh, C. C. (2014). Taiwanese students’ experiences and attitudes towards English-medium courses in tertiary education. RELC Journal, 45(3), 305-319. https://doi.org/ 10.1177/0033688214555358 Yildiz, M. (2021). The factors causing English speaking anxiety on non-English major academics while using English as a medium of instruction. TEFLIN Journal, 32(2), 389-412. https://doi.org/10.1093/elt/40.4.306 Yong-Jik, L., Davis, R.O., & Yue, L. (2021). International graduate students’ experiences of English as a medium of instruction (EMI) courses in a Korean university. International Journal of Learning, Teaching and Educational Research, 20(9), 38-51. https://doi.org/10.26803/ijlter.20.9.3
  • 23. 17 ©Authors This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0). International Journal of Learning, Teaching and Educational Research Vol. 21, No. 9, pp. 17-34, September 2022 https://doi.org/10.26803/ijlter.21.9.2 Received Jun 2, 2022; Revised Aug 18, 2022; Accepted Sep 6, 2022 Promoting Self-Directed Learning as Learning Presence through Cooperative Blended Learning Chantelle Bosch Research Unit Self-Directed Learning, Faculty of Education, North-West University, Potchefstroom, South Africa Dorothy J Laubscher Research Unit Self-Directed Learning, Faculty of Education, North-West University, Potchefstroom, South Africa Abstract. Students often feel isolated when they do blended learning courses and they do not always have the necessary skills to work on their own. Blended learning courses need to be thoughtfully planned to actively involve students in the learning processes. Cooperative learning is an active teaching strategy that can assist students to engage in online and blended courses and is known to promote self-directed learning. The communities of inquiry framework is often used as a framework to design blended learning. In this study, we focused on an additional dimension of the communities of inquiry framework, namely courses learning presence, which is closely linked with self-directed learning skills. In this basic qualitative study, semi-structured interviews were conducted with post-graduate Mathematics Education students (n = 8) to establish their experience of the cooperative blended learning course. Data were coded and analysed using a deductive approach. The aim of this article is to describe how self-directed learning as learning presence can be enhanced through a cooperative blended learning course. The findings showed that the use of cooperative learning was a useful strategy to promote self- directed learning as learning presence. Furthermore, matters relating to motivation as a component of self-directed learning were incorporated into the design of the course, such as allowing students to manage their own learning, making the learning experience enjoyable, and providing encouraging feedback. Aspects of the course design that assisted in promoting self-directed learning as learning presence included the use of authentic tasks, allowing students to develop and apply their own learning strategies, and providing students with the opportunity to socially construct knowledge. Keywords: blended learning; communities of inquiry; cooperative learning; learning presence; self-directed learning
  • 24. 18 http://ijlter.org/index.php/ijlter 1. Introduction and Problem Statement The rapidly changing educational landscape and the use of educational technologies have increased the need for effective online and blended learning (BL). However, some educators still embrace old learning paradigms, such as John Locke’s theory of titularity, when turning to BL (Cunningham & Bergstrom, 2020). The transition is often undertaken without realising the importance of a paradigm shift in the process of planning and designing the new blended approach to the course (Chandler et al., 2020). It is not only educators who have difficulty adapting, as this shift is new to many students as well. It is, therefore, even more important to plan BL courses thoughtfully so that meaningful learning will occur and the use of the technology will add value to the course instead of hindering the learning process (Bizami et al., 2022; Mishra et al., 2020). Actively involving students in BL courses is a difficult task. Students are removed in time and space and often tend to struggle on their own. We believe that learning happens in a social-constructive setting and, consequently, we tried to find an alternative to the isolated learning environment that students often experience in online courses. Cooperative learning (CL) involves the use of small groups of students working together on shared experiences and successes (Johnson & Johnson, 2018). In face-to-face environments, CL is a well-researched active teaching strategy, known to enhance self-directed learning (SDL) and student engagement and motivation (Bosch, 2017). According to Knowles (1975:18), “in its broadest meaning self-directed learning describes a process by which individuals take the initiative, with or without the assistance of others, in diagnosing their learning needs, formulating learning goals, identifying human and material resources for learning, choosing and implementing appropriate learning strategies, and evaluating learning outcomes” (p. 18). By implementing CL strategies, students become more engaged in their own learning by taking responsibility to teach and assist their fellow group members in a more engaged and social manner, which are key characteristics of SDL (Bhandari et al., 2022; Van Zyl & Mentz, 2022). We redesigned our online Mathematics Education course by adapting CL strategies for a BL environment and used Google Docs as the main collaboration platform. Students were divided into CL groups, and each student was assigned a specific role. The communities of inquiry (CoI) framework was used as a theoretical model in this qualitative study. Although the CoI framework originally focused on three presences, namely teacher presence, social presence, and cognitive presence (Garrison, 2018), researchers have also identified other presences that are visible in online and blended environments. One of these alternative presences is the learning presence that was introduced by Shea and Bidjerano (2010) and has been studied by researchers since then (Ryu et al., 2022; Wertz, 2022). According to Shea and Bidjerano (2010), “learning presence represents elements such as self-efficacy as well as other cognitive, behavioral, and motivational constructs supportive of online learner self-regulation” (p. 1). Much research has been done on the constructs of BL, CL, SDL, and the CoI framework, not only in isolation but also in combination with one another.
  • 25. 19 http://ijlter.org/index.php/ijlter However, this paper highlights the particular relationship between SDL and learning presence, where CL is used as a teaching strategy in a BL environment. This study specifically focuses on enhancing the learning presence in the BL course. In this paper, we aim to describe how SDL as learning presence can be enhanced through a cooperative BL course. Two questions drove this research, namely: • How does SDL relate to learning presence? • What aspects of SDL as learning presence were promoted through a cooperative BL course? 2. Literature Review From a social constructive perspective, learning is seen as an interactive social phenomenon between teachers and students (Perdana & Atmojo, 2019). This study shares the view of Vygotsky’s cognitive developmental theory in that knowledge is a societal product that is constructed from cooperative efforts to learn, understand, and solve problems (Picciano, 2017). This process entails collaborating and reflecting with others, which lead to the co-construction of knowledge (Bozkurt, 2017). CL refers to a teaching strategy that makes use of small groups to complete tasks (Johnson & Johnson, 2018). It requires students to take responsibility for their own learning while coordinating with their peers in the process of achieving common goals (Delgado-García et al., 2021). Previous studies have suggested that CL is one of the key teaching and learning strategies to equip students with 21st-century competencies by promoting active learning and SDL (Bosch, 2017; Loh & Ang, 2020). For successful implementation of CL, the facilitator should foster the willingness and skills of students to work together (Loh & Ang, 2020). Johnson and Johnson (2018) stress that five elements are essential to implementing genuine CL. These are positive interdependence, face-to-face interaction, interpersonal and small-group skills, individual and group accountability, and group processing (Johnson & Johnson, 2018). When these elements are consciously planned for, students are more likely to benefit from active, deep-level learning (Munir et al., 2018). Johnson and Johnson (2018) assert that through the discussions in which students engage, conceptual understanding is constructed and mental models of the phenomena they deal with are formed. It is through group discussions and interaction that students acquire attitudes, values, and a need for continuous improvement (Duran et al., 2019; Johnson et al., 2007). Unlike other methodologies that support group work, CL stresses the notion of group members being assigned specific roles to perform during the CL task (Ortuzar, 2016). Facilitators can create role interdependence among students when they assign them complementary roles such as reader, recorder, checker of understanding, encourager of participation, and elaborator of knowledge. These roles will differ according to the teaching strategies and CL techniques used and are vital to high-quality learning (Bosch, 2017). When incorporating CL in online and blended environments, the process of socially constructing knowledge is used to guide students to take responsibility
  • 26. 20 http://ijlter.org/index.php/ijlter for their own learning and become more self-directed (Bosch, 2017). As with CL, BL also offers opportunities where these skills can be facilitated (Garrison & Kanuka, 2004). In BL environments, classroom interaction is extended to a space where students who might have difficulties meeting in person can effortlessly work together (Fan & Woodrich, 2017). In web-based collaborative platforms, such as Google Docs, students do not only focus on their own perspectives but also learn through social interaction and joint activities in groups (Hsu & Shiue, 2018; Widodo, 2017). Furthermore, Hsu and Shiue (2018) stress that with “the support of effective collaborative technologies, knowledge can be transferred not only from the teacher to students, but also the students can effectively construct knowledge through collaboration in the learning process” (p. 936). The fact remains that in a CL-BL environment, Google Docs, like numerous other online collaboration platforms, can only enhance learning if the learning tasks are carefully planned (in terms of the CL elements and BL principles) and consist of real-world problems (authentic learning tasks), and students know exactly what is expected of them (division of roles). To ensure that no aspect is left behind, a framework such as the CoI framework is often used when planning collaborative constructivist learning environments. The CoI framework consists of three core dimensions, namely cognitive presence, teaching presence, and social presence (Fiock, 2020). These dimensions need to interact dynamically so that a meaningful online learning environment, which supports purposeful inquiry and meaningful collaboration, can be established (Hsu & Shiue, 2018). The teaching presence focuses on the visibility of the facilitator and what they do to structure and facilitate the learning process. The teaching presence interacts with the cognitive presence when the resources that assist with completing the tasks are selected, while the social presence has to do with the engagement of the students and the climate of the learning community (Nolan-Grant, 2019). In a review of a number of CoI studies, Dempsey and Zhang (2019) report that social presence has been shown to be the mediating factor between cognitive presence and teaching presence, while cognitive presence is most indicative of student satisfaction and success. They further assert that teaching presence is understood to be of the greatest value to students and the most critical in establishing purposeful CoI (Dempsey & Zhang, 2019). This may raise some concerns, as it may indicate that students feel the need for facilitators to give them the information and knowledge needed to succeed in their learning. This again highlights the importance for educators to rethink their teaching role and to plan for the promotion of SDL skills when designing their BL courses. In addition to the three presences that the original CoI framework explored, several other presences have been identified in research, such as a learning presence, an agency presence, and an emotional presence (Bosch et al., 2020). To answer the first research question, namely “How does SDL relate to learning presence?”, we explore the literature relating to the CoI framework further. As we value the need for student self-direction, we also recognise the learning presence, as originally conceptualised by Shea and Bidjerano (2010) and Shea et al. (2012).
  • 27. 21 http://ijlter.org/index.php/ijlter As discussed above, learning in blended environments requires students to be more self-regulated (Bosch et al., 2020). Shea and Bidjerano (2010) have examined student self- and co-regulation in online environments. They believe that these skills relate to desired outcomes such as higher levels of cognitive presence as described in the CoI framework. Shea et al. (2012) further assert that student motivation and engagement are crucial in the learning process. The aspects included in Shea and colleagues’ (2012) discussion on learning presence, such as self-efficacy and self-regulation, are clearly recognisable in the SDL framework presented by Fisher et al. (2001). They categorise SDL into three main concepts, namely self-management, self-control, and the desire for learning (Fisher et al., 2001). These concepts are key to other SDL conceptual frameworks as well (Brockett & Hiemstra, 2018; Candy, 1991; Garrison, 1997). Learning presence, therefore, features within the conceptual framework of SDL (Bosch et al., 2020); subsequently, we will use the term “SDL as learning presence” as an amalgamated concept. In this paper, we aim to describe how SDL as learning presence can be enhanced through a cooperative BL course. To answer the second research question, “What aspects of SDL as learning presence were promoted through a cooperative BL course?”, we followed a set of guidelines presented by Laubscher and Bosch (2021) on how to design a self-directed, BL environment. This systematic review scrutinised the literature to create guidelines for facilitators to use when designing BL environments. The focus is specifically on the promotion of SDL in these environments. Their recommendations include four SDL categories, namely SDL skills, strategies to promote SDL, motivation as an aspect of SDL, and designing for SDL (Laubscher & Bosch, 2021). Under each of these categories, a number of recommendations are presented that guide the facilitator in designing a self- directed BL environment. In this paper, in order to explore aspects of SDL as learning presence, these recommendations serve as a suitable guide to use when designing for learning presence. 3. Course DesignIn this paper, we aim to describe how SDL as learning presence can be enhanced through a cooperative BL courseIn this paper, we aim to describe how SDL as learning presence can be enhanced through a cooperative BL courseIn this paper, we aim to describe how SDL as learning presence can be enhanced through a cooperative BL courseIn this paper, we aim to describe how SDL as learning presence can be enhanced through a cooperative BL course The course was designed by using the CoI framework, where learning presence is included. This was done because of the importance of enhancing SDL skills in students, especially in a distance environment. The course formed part of a post- graduate degree in Mathematics Education, offered through the distance mode. The student group comprised students who resided in various regions of South Africa. It was a diverse group of students in terms of age, race, background, culture, and educational background. They were all studying part-time and had the challenge of balancing their careers, studies, home life, and personal relationships. The module focused on students’ ability to engage critically with content relating to mathematics teaching and learning, where effective mathematics teaching is placed under theoretical and practical scrutiny. The
  • 28. 22 http://ijlter.org/index.php/ijlter focus, therefore, is mainly on the coherence between the teaching and the learning of mathematics, as viewed from the perspective of not only a researcher or theorist but also a practitioner (the mathematics teacher). In the course, students are expected to engage with these aspects independently and collaboratively. Throughout the presentation of the course and the design of the assessments, as suggested by the recommendations of Laubscher and Bosch (2021), we wanted to provide students with the opportunity to engage with the content and provide them with sufficient opportunity to take responsibility for their own learning, plan, find and use resources (including human resources), process information, and think critically, which are all key components of a self-directed student. The recommendations suggest CL as a teaching strategy, which was implemented in the learning tasks. CL is a teaching-learning strategy that is known to promote SDL (Mentz & Van Zyl, 2018). As the students were distance students and were physically removed from one another, they communicated through a Google Doc that served as a platform for students to interact and engage with one another. It also formed the basis from which we could stimulate the five elements of CL that are known to assist in enhancing students’ SDL. Each member of the group was assigned a specific role that needed to be fulfilled in the group to ensure even work distribution. In addition, by allocating a specific responsibility to each member, the elements of CL were enhanced. There were other tasks too that needed to be completed to ensure the smooth functioning of the group and the successful completion of the assignment. 4. Research Method In this paper, we aim to describe how SDL as learning presence can be enhanced through a cooperative BL course. To answer the second research question, “What aspects of SDL as learning presence were promoted through a cooperative BL course?”, an interpretive qualitative research study was done. In this study, semi- structured interviews were conducted to understand the students’ experiences of the course. The interviews were conducted and analysed at the end of the academic year after the students had completed the module (for ethical reasons). The students, therefore, participated in the interviews knowing that it could not influence their course marks. In this basic qualitative study, the target population consisted of the students enrolled for the post-graduate degree course in Mathematics Education (n = 12). Of the population, eight students agreed to participate in semi-structured interviews. These students participated voluntarily, and they all signed an informed consent form. The interview questions were related to the participants’ experiences of the CL tasks and aspects relating to SDL. The transcripts of the interviews were analysed in ATLAS.ti™. The data were analysed using a deductive approach where the participants’ statements were coded through a thematic, step-by-step analysing method (Braun & Clarke, 2013; Karlsen et al., 2017). In qualitative research, validity and reliability are concerned with the issue of trustworthiness (Coleman, 2021). To ensure validity, we made use of member checking and respondent validation by confirming the accuracy of our understanding by the participants during the data collection. Multiple coding was
  • 29. 23 http://ijlter.org/index.php/ijlter used to ensure reliability and minimise bias. The two researchers independently coded the data and identified the main themes of the study. Where discrepancies arose, revisions were made, and the data analysis was done using the codes and themes that were agreed upon. The study and its associated research procedures were approved by the research ethics committee of the faculty. 5. Discussion of Findings Since we have already established the close connection between learning presence and SDL by answering the first research question, the data will be discussed according to the main themes proposed by Laubscher and Bosch (2021) in their guidelines to create a self-directed blended environment. However, where suitable, we will use the amalgamated concept of “SDL as learning presence” where they referred to “SDL”. Figure 1 illustrates the identified themes in this study in the form of a diagram.
  • 30. 24 http://ijlter.org/index.php/ijlter Figure 1: Network of Identified Themes Source: Author’s own creation 5.1 Strategies to promote SDL as learning presence Laubscher and Bosch (2021) suggest CL as a strategy to enhance SDL. Various studies confirm that CL is a suitable strategy to promote SDL (e.g. Bhandari et al., 2022; Van Zyl & Mentz, 2022). Sekano and colleagues (2020) confirm the significance of enhancing SDL in the mathematics classroom. To evaluate the success of CL environments, it is important to measure it against the five principles identified by Johnson and Johnson (2018), namely positive interdependence, face-to-face interaction, interpersonal and small-group skills,
  • 31. 25 http://ijlter.org/index.php/ijlter individual and group accountability, and group processing. In the data, there were clear references to the elements of CL. In addition, the group sizes and role division were identified. With regard to positive interdependence, most of the students conceded that in their groups, they were working towards the same goal. One student said: “What I can take away from the experience is that both parties need to be focused on the same goal” [3:3]1. Another student added: “We complimented each other by each doing our part to reach the final goal” [7:5]. Another one said: “The tasks helped me to realise that I have to make deadlines for myself and to keep them. Because if I don’t, not only I but also my group will suffer” [1:10]. This goes hand in hand with the principle of individual accountability, where they also acknowledged that not only were they responsible for their own work, but the success of their group member also depended on their individual contribution. The sharing of responsibilities is evident from the following response: “[The group work was] making my work much easier because, if the assignment could have been assigned to one person only – you can only imagine how much reading one person is expected to do” [2:4]. Another student noted: “Because you are working together, it also helping [your group partner] to prepare for the exam. You have to check the other person’s work because you are going to use that person’s work to prepare for the exam. So, you are killing two birds with one stone. One person is helping you to prepare for the exam, and you are also helping the other person.” [3:9]. Another student confessed: “If the CL was not there, I would not have much energy and I would be a bit lazy to google a lot of articles, and I would only rely on the ones that are on [the learning management system]” [2:11]. The students also mentioned interpersonal and small-group skills. One of them revealed: “I learned so much about myself. I usually do not like group tasks … but I learned how to work [together] … this is a new way to approach a group task” [5:3]. Another student concurred: “I learned that … sharing ideas and [collaborating] just makes it much easier” [2:1]. A similar response provided was: “It helped a lot – getting feedback from someone who is going through the same thing that I am going” [3:5]. Another student added to that by saying that “it was nice to share knowledge and also to get another’s perspective” [8:4]. The fourth principle relating to CL that could be found in the interviews was group processing. This specifically relates to reflecting on one’s own learning, as well as reflecting on the group goals. There was not much evidence of the aspect of group reflection, since the group as a whole reflected on the goals they set for themselves (as a group). There was, however, enough evidence with regard to the role that the group played in personal reflection. One student mentioned: “… positive in the sense that I could get feedback from my partner. It helped a lot – getting feedback from someone who is going through the same thing that I am going” [3:1]. Another said: “Two is better than one. If you work collaboratively, you can correct each other’s mistakes. The results is [sic], therefore, more valid and reliable” [6:2]. One student mentioned that, in distance education, one is often isolated. The fact that they then had the opportunity to have interaction regularly and reflect together with other people 1 [a:b] is an identifier for the participant, where “a” refers to the participant number and “b” to the quotation number in ATLAS.ti™.
  • 32. 26 http://ijlter.org/index.php/ijlter made for a good experience. Another participant asserted that “it was nice to hear from someone else from time to time… we did not only talk about the work, but also about our experiences in the course in general” [8:4]. The principle of face-to-face interaction was not mentioned often, which is understandable when one takes into account that it was a distance course. One student remarked: “When you are studying in distance courses, you don’t get much interaction with lecturers and other students. [This task] was really nice because you got the opportunity to talk to other people and work with them” [8:2]. The final two aspects regarding CL were the group sizes and the roles that the group members fulfilled. When asked whether they were happy with the group size, all the students agreed that they were. One student elaborated as follows: “The bigger the group gets, the more difficult it is to manage. Two is the perfect group size for me. It worked well” [1:15]. The same goes for the roles of the group members. The students were asked whether they felt it was necessary to have specific roles in the group and if it contributed to the effectiveness of the group. All the students agreed on both accounts, and they elaborated on the importance of specific roles. One student stated: “Yes, it did help. Especially like when you are doing the group assignments, having the roles clearly defined that, okay, the technical person must insert this, this, and this. It helped a lot” [3:6]. 5.2. SDL skills Laubscher and Bosch (2021) assert that when designing a BL environment, educators should plan the tasks in a manner that will encourage SDL skills. The importance of SDL skills cannot be denied. According to Yulianti et al. (2021), self- directed students can use their knowledge and abilities in various contexts and continue to improve their learning capabilities throughout their lives. They further state that by giving students the freedom to learn what is essential from their perception, learning motivation is increased and the students are motivated to develop their SDL abilities. When the data were analysed, responses relating to SDL skills yielded aspects of time management, finding relevant resources, socially constructing knowledge, and communication. These are in line with SDL skills identified by Garcia (2021). The students’ responses revealed that the designed tasks required them to plan their time well in advance in order to accommodate the group members and spend sufficient time on the sections they were responsible for. Thus, the students were responsible to manage and plan their own learning processes. The skill of time management was of the utmost importance and is evident from the following student’s response: “[The course] helped me to make myself deadlines and forced me keep to them. I think now I will make better deadlines in future, even if you don’t work in a group” [1:10]. Another student added that the communication between the group partners was crucial when it came to time management and provided the following example: “My partner would say that [he is] going to [the] rural areas and [he] won’t be online for the next couple of days. I would understand and not put messages and things there in that time that he will not be there. So, it helped me also to relax and not feeling that he is not just going off the grid, and I am worried that he has dropped out or things like that. So, at the end (especially when we did
  • 33. 27 http://ijlter.org/index.php/ijlter assignment 2) I was more relaxed, knowing that if he’s got any issues, he does communicate” [3:18]. While most students agreed on the importance of their personal time management, one student pointed out that they decided on “smaller” deadlines in their group to complete specific sections of the task. They were then responsible for adhering to not only the module deadlines but also those of the group. The student stated that “keeping to those [group] deadlines actually helped me to plan my own time better and I know if I keep to the group’s deadlines I don’t have to stress about the timeframes of the module” [7:5]. With regard to finding relevant resources, one student said: “We had to get more articles [than what was given to us] to answer the questions … The more you read, the more you try to construct your own meaning and the more you understand” [2:8]. One student was of the opinion that the group setting helped them to collect more information and declared as follows: “[Working in a group] just makes it easier for me. I just go straight to [the resources that other group members found] and read the [relevant] information found there. It also helped me … when I was studying for the exam, because I [now have] more articles and understand more information [than when I work alone]” [2:7]. Another student stated: “We had to find our own resources. I went to the library, used the internet to find information on the topics. It gave me better insight [into the topic] because I now have information from different people with different perspectives and not just the two or three sources that the [lecturer] gave us” [8:8]. Most of the students found that working in a group helped them to construct new knowledge and improve the quality of their work. One of the students remarked: “I think because we had different sections to deal with … you are working on your own, but you are getting feedback from the other person, so the individual work is still the same, and you are doing it as if you are doing it alone, but you are taking the other person’s input to adjust your work” [3:10]. Another one added: “[Your group partner] will then help you to plan much better and write the perfect assignment that you need to write” [2:12]. Another student agreed as follows: “Sometimes you have to figure out some information and you are not 100% sure. But I could always talk to [my group partner] and ask him if I understand correctly and if he agrees” [7:2]. This student concluded with the following statement: “I sometimes feel that in a normal setting, students feel in a sense that they are competing with each other. But [with these tasks] the whole point is to work together and that was really nice for me” [7.2]. With regard to the use of social and other web technologies, Google Docs and the learning management system were the main platforms for interaction during the course. The participants indicated that they used other communication platforms too, such as WhatsApp and SMS. One student explained: “I feel it is important that we have that start communication that when the person is not responding, you can just check on them via WhatsApp and SMS to say” [3:16]. Another one said that you “type something and then you put it on Google Doc and then that would give a chance for your partner to comment” [2:11]. Furthermore, one student asserted: “I enjoyed the fact that we used Google Docs; it was new to me. I learned a lot” [1:14]. 5.3 Motivation as an aspect of SDL as learning presence According to Laubscher and Bosch (2021) and Zhu et al. (2022), motivation in SDL can be increased through lecturer involvement and feedback, scaffolding,
  • 34. 28 http://ijlter.org/index.php/ijlter incorporating a variety of learning tasks, and creating a feeling of enjoyment among the students. In the interviews, the students mentioned that they enjoyed the tasks, and some of them also mentioned that their group partners contributed to their motivation. One student said: “Because we are all working and studying part- time, it gets difficult, and you are not always motivated. It was so nice to have someone who help motivated me and help keep me on track … I really enjoyed these group tasks” [1:5]. Another one mentioned: “I was lucky that my partner was also working hard on their part. I want to also pull my weight so that they do not do all the work alone” [3:8]. In addition, the following explanation was provided: “I sometimes feel that in a normal setting, students feel, in a sense, that they are competing with each other. But [with these tasks] the whole point is to work together and I, that was really nice for me” [7:2]. With regard to lecturer involvement, the students mentioned that the active involvement of the lecturer was visible in the course, especially in Google Docs where she gave weekly feedback on the students’ work and progress. One student remarked that “the fact that the lecturer monitored our progress and motivated us on a regular basis was really nice” [1:2]. They also mentioned that they valued the support from the lecturer, and one student said: “I like how supportive the lecturer has been, how informative the assignments have been, and I like the fact that they make me explore new methods of teaching the subject [mathematics] in class” [5:1]. When analysing the data, various aspects relating to the design of the course were evident. A few students commented on the structure of the tasks. One of them said: “There were very good instructions that showed us how to do the task and what is expected from us in terms of communication … I enjoyed the tasks – they were practical and doable. It also gave us perspectives on how other people think and reason” [8:6]. Another student declared: “I think this was one of my better university experiences … at first I was concerned because I did not know what was required of me, but as soon as I figured it out, I enjoyed it very much” [7:1]. The task structure did not only contribute to the cognitive development of the students – “[The structure of the task] helped me understand the content much better” [2:11] – but also played an important role in the application thereof in their teaching practice. One student stated that “[the fact that we worked together] made the task seem easier than working alone” [1:3] and continued as follows: “A lot of the topics that we researched were relevant in our own teaching and classrooms” [1:16]. Another student remarked: “I believe that people learn better when they learn from each other and when they learn from their peers. So, I have tried to incorporate that in my lessons” [3:7]. Table 1 gives a summary of the SDL aspects evident in the findings in relation to the recommendations made by Laubscher and Bosch (2021, p. 162). The table presents the four categories with specific recommendations relating to the category. For this study, we added a third column in which we provide evidence of how the aspects were promoted or if they were not evident in the study. Table 1: A summary of the SDL aspects evident in the findings in relation to the recommendations made by Laubscher and Bosch Category Recommendations Aspects promoted
  • 35. 29 http://ijlter.org/index.php/ijlter 1 Strategies to promote SDL as learning presence The varied use of social and web technologies can create interest, independence, and creativity Google Docs was the main platform for social and academic collaboration, and the students communicated with one another on WhatsApp [1:14; 2:11; 3:16] The following strategies can promote SDL: Problem-based learning Collaborative learning CL (cooperative learning) Project-based learning CL was chosen as the strategy to promote SDL as learning presence. The findings referred to all five elements of CL: Positive interdependence [3:3; 7:5; 1:10] Individual accountability [2:4; 3:9; 2:11] Interpersonal and small-group skills [2:1; 3:5; 8:4] Group processing [3:1; 6:2; 8:4] Face-to-face interaction [8:2] The findings also revealed the importance of group sizes and the role division that was implemented [1:15; 3:6] 2 SDL skills Institutional policy should support SDL Not evident in the findings; however, SDL is a strategic priority at the institution and forms part of the teaching-learning plan in the faculty Facilitators should enrol for professional development in SDL Not evident in the findings; however, the facilitators are actively involved in SDL research and training The learning design should encourage the use of SDL skills (e.g. planning, goal setting, task analysis, and self-assessment) The findings revealed that students took responsibility for their own learning, and a number of SDL skills were promoted: Time management [1:10; 3:18; 7:5] Finding relevant resources [2:8; 8:8; 2:7] Social construction of knowledge [3:10; 2:12; 7:2] Encourage critical thinking and reflection This aspect is linked to the CL principles of interpersonal and small-group skills [2:1; 3:5; 8:4] and group processing [3:1; 6:2; 8:4] 3 Motivation as an aspect of SDL as learning presence To increase motivation, students should be allowed to manage, choose, and evaluate their own learning This aspect correlates with time management [1:10; 3:18; 7:5] Scaffolding and coaching sessions can increase motivation Not evident in the findings Facilitators should provide encouraging feedback The students recognised the valuable input of the lecturer [1:2; 5:1] Incorporate a variety of learning tasks and resources No mention was made of this aspect in the data Make learning fun The aspect of enjoyment was evident in the findings [1:5; 3:8; 7:2] 4 Designing for SDL as learning presence Authentic tasks and learning environments can promote SDL The findings yielded aspects of authentic learning that are linked with real-world contexts [8:6; 2:11; 1:16; 3:7] A BL environment should be user-focused No mention was made of this aspect in the data; however, the CL tasks were planned to address this aspect Incorporate learning analytics This aspect was not implemented in this study
  • 36. 30 http://ijlter.org/index.php/ijlter Encourage sharing This corresponds with positive interdependence [3:3; 7:5; 1:10] and the social construction of knowledge [3:10; 2:12; 7:2] Make students aware of their learning needs The students indicated that they knew what was expected of them [7:1; 8:6] Encourage self-assessment This aspect was not implemented in this study Allow students to plan, develop, and apply their own learning strategies This was evident from the SDL skills that were promoted [1:10; 3:18; 7:5; 2:8; 8:8; 2:7] Source: Adapted from Laubscher and Bosch (2021, p. 162) 6. Conclusion In order to address the research question “What aspects of SDL as learning presence were promoted through a cooperative BL course?”, we reflect on the findings above. SDL is a 21st-century skill that is important to be a successful lifelong learner (Beckers et al., 2016). With regard to the SDL categories in the recommendations suggested by Laubscher and Bosch (2021), all four categories were evident in the findings of this study. Various aspects of SDL as learning presence were promoted in the cooperative BL course. As mentioned in the literature review, CL is a key strategy to promote SDL and 21st-century skills (Hsu & Shiue, 2018; Loh & Ang, 2020). In order to achieve this, the CL tasks need to be based on the five key elements that are essential to implementing genuine CL (Johnson & Johnson, 2018). From the data, it is evident that all five elements were woven into the course design, which resulted in the students acknowledging the use of SDL skills. These elements were time management skills, improved resource management, critical reflection, critical thinking, and the ability to construct knowledge socially. Mishra et al. (2020) and Ortuzar (2016) also acknowledge the importance of motivation as an aspect of SDL. In line with this, the findings revealed that the following aspects contributed to the participants’ motivation: the active involvement of the lecturer; the benefits of sharing responsibilities and successes; and the fact that they enjoyed the group tasks. With regard to design, the CoI framework (see Fiock, 2020; Shea et al., 2012) was used as the main design framework. Our focus was on SDL as learning presence, and the findings explored these aspects. It was evident that the use of authentic tasks was of value to the participants, not only in their studies but also in the application thereof in their teaching practice. They also indicated that the instructions were clear and they knew what was expected of them in the course. Furthermore, they emphasised the value of shared reasoning and the perspectives of their peers and the lecturer. Based on the data, we conclude that the cooperative BL environment enhanced SDL as learning presence in this course. 7. Limitations and Future Research Since only 12 students were enrolled for the course, and eight agreed to participate, a small sample was used, which could be viewed as a limitation of the study. For future research in the field, we suggest incorporating more scaffolding in the course with the aim of increasing motivation. Furthermore, in the course, only two comprehensive tasks, which were similar in nature, were implemented. We, therefore, suggest exploring the use of a variety of smaller and different tasks,