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What is the relationship between hybrid flexible delivery and the level of critical engagement in tertiary education?

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Adams, CA (2012) What is the relationship between hybrid flexible delivery and the level of critical engagement in tertiary education? Research Master thesis, University of Tasmania.

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Abstract

Today many educators in the tertiary education environment face the dilemma of having to provide learning richness and a quality learning experience to growing numbers of students in an environment of reducing resources (Broad et al., 2000; Nunan et al., 2000; Bonk & Graham, 2006). These challenges are influenced a number of factors. Where resources are scarce tertiary education providers need to learn to use what is available to its full potential and to make wise investments by paying closer attention to how technology is used, introduced and managed (Buchan, 2008; Broad et al., 2000; Nunan et al., 2000; Bonk & Graham, 2006). The changes to funding arrangements; a decrease in government subsidies and the trends towards user-pays; pressures on universities to generate other sources of income; a rapid growth in the higher education export markets and changing student expectations are also seen as key factors impacting on the tertiary education environment (Scott et al. 2008). Further, ‘the massification and internationalisation of Australian tertiary education’ has meant that student diversity has increased, and therefore effective teaching requires the ability to manage diversity (Devlin & Samarawickrema, 2010).
In order to engage students, teachers must have appropriate pedagogical responses to accommodate a variety of student learning styles and cultural and educational backgrounds (Devlin, 2007c). While flexible course delivery methods have been in use for some time, increasingly we are seeing a move away from sole reliance on either traditional face-to-face or flexible teaching and assessment methods, towards an increase in the number of courses offered by hybrid flexible delivery which is a blend of face-to-face and flexible delivery methods (Selim, 2010; Vaughan, 2010).
As stated, effective teaching in tertiary education is linked to technological changes (Devlin, 2007a). Teachers must continually learn new skills and familiarise themselves with new ways of interacting and communicating with students and be capable of teaching in ‘blended’ environments employing technologies and pedagogies suited to the context and student cohort (Benson & Samarawickrema, 2009). Garrison and Vaughan (2008) point out however, that research into many of these significant technological innovations and changes in delivery have been confined to addressing the issues of access and convenience, such as the relevance and suitability of the method, yet the quality of the learning experience has yet to be properly examined.
Given the changes to the tertiary education environment this research aims to identify what is the relationship between hybrid flexible delivery and the level of critical engagement in tertiary education. There are many definitions of critical engagement but it is generally seen to be concerned with the extent students are engaging in a range of educational activities that research has shown as likely to lead to high quality outcomes (Coates, 2005). For the purpose of this research students’ perception of their learning engagement is being measured; that is their success in achieving ‘critical engagement’ as the learning outcome embedded in the unit design and required to achieve the specified unit learning outcomes. Student’s perception of their learning engagement is also measured by changes in their confidence levels in achieving the unit learning outcomes at pre-unit and post-unit. Students’ perception is also measured by the change in their level of agreement, at pre-unit and post-unit, regarding the degree the teaching and assessment methods used contribute to learning. Also students’ perception regarding the degree of change regarding whether the unit teaching and assessment methods assist in developing high level academic, critical reasoning skills and useful practical work-related skills is also measured. In summary this research focus is to explore:
To what extent are students critically engaged by hybrid flexible delivery?
What aspects of hybrid flexible delivery most affect the level of critical engagement?
Does the level of critical engagement differ according to age, gender, first language, year of enrolment or the level of student prior achievement?
This research involved a mixed-method longitudinal study of predominately international Master of Business Administration students enrolled in a Strategic Management unit. Respondents completed two questionnaires: one pre-unit and one post-unit.
From this research it can be concluded that hybrid flexible delivery methods can facilitate critical engagement but any unit offered by this method should include both practical and theoretical elements in its design. Teachers need to ensure that theory is relevant and useful to students and is used to challenge and extend ways of thinking. By embedding each level of Bloom’s Taxonomy a scaffolding approach to learning, within the learning outcomes can facilitate critical engagement in hybrid flexible delivery.
It can be concluded from this research that the difference in confidence levels and the performance of students seems to impact on the level of critical engagement. The results suggest that the teacher’s presence, in developing a community of inquiry, and the use of case study workshops, provided support to construct meaning and confirm understanding of the key issues in this unit (Garrison et al., 2004). It appears important for the teacher to consider the whole unit and ‘weave through’ rather than ‘tack on’ hybrid flexible delivery approaches and adopt the constructivist approach to learning. It could also be concluded that there is a 8
relationship between the level of critical engagement and the teacher-student relationship. Generally need the opportunity to build a relationship with the teacher early in the learning experience to achieve critical engagement.
The age of students is not a significant factor associated with the level of critical engagement in hybrid flexible delivery with the exception of older students who were more critically engaged than younger students. This study also found there was no significant difference in performance and the level of critical engagement by gender when hybrid flexible delivery methods are used. Males had a higher level of confidence in achieving the learning outcomes than females, but this was not statistically significant. It could be concluded that although there are no significant differences to the level of critical engagement by gender, males may prefer learning experiences that require less collaboration and interaction. It is suggested that a mix of learning strategies to satisfy both males and female learning styles may assist critical engagement in hybrid flexible delivery (Biggs & Tang, 2007). The number of respondents limited reliable assessment of the role of language and prior student level of achievement in critical engagement.
In a tertiary education environment which includes combinations of traditional face-to-face, flexible and hybrid flexible delivery methods, this research provides some reassurance that well designed hybrid flexible delivery programs can facilitate critical engagement. If teachers provide a greater emphasis on the correlations between learning outcomes, teaching and assessment methods and the levels of cognitive development, this can produce high levels of critical engagement.

Item Type: Thesis (Research Master)
Keywords: Hybrid Flexible Delivery, Critical Engagement
Copyright Information:

Copyright 2012 the Author

Date Deposited: 11 Jan 2013 04:55
Last Modified: 31 Mar 2017 00:52
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