Instructors and Students Perceptions of Blended Live Transmission of Instructor Input and Face-to-face Teaching: Case study of Saudi Electronic University

 
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ABSTRACT

Blended Learning (BL) has emerged as a popular alternative to a purely online teaching approach. BL is a hybrid form of teaching which seeks to incorporate best practices from online and traditional classroom learning to improve education delivery. Given the many advantages associated with BL, many institutions in the world are embracing this learning approach to inform education delivery in institutions of high learning. Many researchers have focused their attention on the benefits and drawbacks of this emerging learning system but few research studies have addressed the perceptions of this teaching approach by the major stakeholders, namely the students and teachers or instructors. Saudi Electronic University (SEU) has taken the lead to introduce BL in the Saudi Arabian higher education system. This research seeks to explore the instructors’ and students’ perceptions of different forms of teaching offered by SEU.

This study will be conducted at SEU with students drawn from its main campus and instructors from the ‘seam’ campus. A mixed method approach or research design will be adopted to inform data collection. Questionnaire surveys and focus groups with students and interviews with instructors will be utilized as tools for data collection. In addition, a summary of the problem of the study is provided in the appendix section. The findings from this study will be used to inform SEU management on the best forms of teaching to introduce in the Saudi education market. Above all, the study findings will add to the existing literature on BL and will form a foundation for further research in BL.

 

 

TABLE OF CONTENTS

 

ABSTRACT…………………………………………………………………………….. …2

CHAPTER ONE:

A Brief Overview of the Research and Saudi Arabia………………………………………5

1.1Introduction __________________________________________________________ 5

1.2 Problem statement  _____________________________________________________6

1.3 Aim of the study _____________________________________________________ 10

1.4Study questions _______________________________________________________11

1.5 Significance of the study  _______________________________________________12

1.6 BL in the Saudi context  ________________________________________________13

1.7 Culture and religion in Saudi Arabia ______________________________________ 16

CHAPTER TWO: LITERATURE REVIEW                                                                   18

2.1 Introduction  _________________________________________________________18

2.2 The concept of Blended Learning  _______________________________________ 19

2.3 Defining “perception” in BL  ___________________________________________ 23

2.4 Teachers’ role in a blended context _______________________________________ 25

2.5 Cultural differences in online learning ____________________________________ 27

2.6 Advantages of BL ____________________________________________________ 30

2.7 Disadvantages of BL  _________________________________________________ 32

2.8 Theoretical framework ________________________________________________ 35

 

2.9 Summary___________________________________________________________ 41

CHAPTER THREE: Research Design and Methods                                                        43

3.1 Research methodology and paradigms ____________________________________ 43

3.2 Ontological basis of the study  __________________________________________ 47

3.3 Epistemology in research ______________________________________________ 48

3.4 Approaches in the study _______________________________________________ 48

3.5 The study in three phases ______________________________________________ 49

3.6 Data collection _______________________________________________________ 52

3.6.1 Questionnaires  _____________________________________________________ 52

3.6.2 Focus group interviews ______________________________________________ 54

3.6.3 The semi-structured interviews ________________________________________ 56

3.7Sampling ___________________________________________________________ 58

3.7.1 Target group  ______________________________________________________ 58

3.7.2 Sampling methods __________________________________________________ 59

3.8 Data analysis and presentation __________________________________________ 62

3.9 Conclusion  _________________________________________________________ 68

REFERENCES………………………………………………………………………….. 69

APPENDIX ………………………………………………………………………………90

 

 

 

 

CHAPTER ONE:

A Brief Overview of the Research and Saudi Arabia

1.1 Introduction

The demand for higher education has continued to surpass its supply especially in developing and semi-developed nations. To address the increasing demand for higher education, different modes of education delivery have been proposed and adopted including online delivery of education. However, these approaches have failed to adequately address the problem and deliver to the expectation of the education’s stakeholders. It is in this regard, that Saudi Electronic University (SEU) hopes to be the market leader in the education sectors in terms of the application of modern technology in education delivery by adopting Blended Learning in education delivery. This paper seeks to explore how best to design and deliver learning instructions under Blended Learning BL by assessing the perception of students, instructors and other stakeholders on (BL) with SEU as the case study. Exploration of the different modes of teaching to be applied by SEU in the quest to enhance efficiency, accessibility and inclusivity in higher education in Saudi Arabia will aid in the understanding of BL as a tool to foster inclusivity and increasing access to higher education. The study aims also to explore students’ and instructors’ perceptions of the usefulness and challenges of this approach.

Many adjustments and advancements are currently being identified in various areas of Saudi Arabian education. The Saudi government is also seen to have a full focus on the advancement of the education system; for instance, the educational system, where teaching, as well as learning practices, has been developed through the introduction of programs and projects by the Ministry of Education (MOE). The said advancements are the implementation of successful methods to teaching and learning; the development of new curricula; the adjustments of teachers, students, and university roles; and the incorporation of numerous improved educational technologies to attract the expected student numbers along with the availability to students at all times (MOE, 2012; MOE website, 2013; Tatweer Project, 2013). A National Plan for Information Technology, which supports (BL) and distance learning (DL) in higher education, has been developed

by the MOE (Alebaikan and Troudi, 2010). A national center termed as the National E- learning and Distance Learning Centre (NELC) was identified by the National Plan for Information Technology in 2006.

1.2 Problem statement

The educational policy of Saudi Arabia has been influenced by the upgrading issue, whereby the huge challenge of advancing education quality is being experienced by universities as they seek to give students better education and guarantee sustenance or increase of enrollment rates per year (Albalawi, 2007). All high school graduates, as announced in 2003 by the Saudi Minister for Higher Education, Dr. Khalid Al-Anqari, would be enrolled at any university within Saudi Arabia (Albalawi, 2007).  According to the Central Department of Statistics and Information (2014), however, the population of Saudi Arabia was nearly 30 million in 2010 with a growth rate 2.7% in 2013. AlKhazim (2003) and Alshehri (2005) mentioned that consequently the capacity of Saudi Universities is very limited and cannot include all learners as full-time students. Furthermore, only 86% of students enrolled at universities in 2008 since there was a huge increase in the number of high school graduates at that particular time (Alshammri, 2008). Thus, public universities in Saudi are not sufficient to manage such large numbers even though their increase was realized in 2013 (MOHE, 2014).

The number of secondary-school graduate students who want to enter universities and complete their college degrees has thus outstripped the supply of university places available to them (Alsharg, 2013). This is despite the fact that several universities reported

. Later on, when I worked as a lecturer in the same college, I discovered that only a few colleges and academic staff used technology with their students to avoid the high numbers of students in the classroom.

It is not easy to project any effectiveness of traditional educational methods in handling the needs of the fast increasing student population even if the number of colleges and universities in Saudi is constantly increasing. Therefore, effective education policies and programs must be effected by the Kingdom, to handle the developing demand for public education.

Increasing allocation of funds from the MOE to develop the education system was adopted as a strategy for dealing with the increasing demand of higher education in the Kingdom to meet the increase in the numbers of applicants to higher education. Many universities then began developing and improving their ICT infrastructure, such as DL and E-Learning (AlMegren, 2011).   According to Mirza and Al-Abdulkareem (2011) online learning presents an opportunity of solving the challenge of increasing capacity for universities to enroll more students. In this regard, implementing online learning in Saudi Arabia became one of the major objectives of the Saudi national project (the Future Plan for University Education in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia) (Mirza and Al-Abdulkareem, 2011).

The number of students that joined DL programs at Saudi universities increased quickly; for example, 50,000 students in Imam university studied only through DL in 2015 (Almadinah, 2015) Moreover, King Faisal University (KFU) had 82,000 distance learners in different locations within the kingdom in 2015. The increase in student numbers in online courses prompted launching new online programs at several universities, such that by 2013 15 out of 25 public Saudi universities were offering DL programs (Alkhalifa, 2013).

It has been reported, however, that student who graduated from DL programs suffered from the degrees not being accepted as valid in some private sector companies or for teaching in schools with the Arab countries in the Middle East. Studies have shown that many employers cast doubts on the quality of online learning programs (Chua and Lam, 2007). Al-Sharidah (2011) found out that employers in Saudi Arabia, in particular, were not willing to accept such degrees and gave preference to applicants with conventional taught (i.e. face-to-face) degrees. The issue of online degrees accreditation has become problematic in many Arabic nations whereby, the Ministries of Education in these nations perceive D-L degrees with suspicion, casting doubts on the competencies of the degree holders regardless of the prominence or status of the institution. In addition, some of the DL graduated could not study at postgraduate level, even from the universities they graduated from and despite the accredited certificate received from the MOE (MOH,

This challenge was one of the reasons for establishing SEU as BL was seen as an innovative solution. The intention is that by 2017 SEU will be the only provider in the education sector for online learning and it intends to launch E-learning centers all over Saudi Arabia.  Other universities have been instructed not to accept any more students who want to study through DL or EL.

A study conducted by Alenezi, (2014) in five universities in Saudi Arabia found, however, that majority of the academic staff members and students resisted using ICT as they did not wish to change from traditional teaching methods. He indicates that students also were not ready to use the ICT facilities because they had not yet realized the importance of ICT in the education environment.  The researcher stated that;

adapt to the new learning environment (Alsathri 2014, p. 26). (Also see Chapter 2.

Meanwhile, studies have been conducted to understand BL from the perceptions and attitudes of learners and instructors and to explore different aspects of such provision in Saudi Arabia (e.g. see Alebaikan, 2010; Almalki 2011, Alqahtani, 2010; Alshahrani,2015).   Equally other studies were conducted to compare the effect on the learning achievements and outcomes of using such a learning approach (Alqahtani, 2010). However,  these  studies  have  yet  to  provide  a  comprehensive  picture  of  how  the universities could organize their teaching through online services. Having taken account of the student and instructor feedback emerging from these studies, SEU intends to launch interactive teaching where live transmission of instructors input and face to face (F2F) teaching will be enhanced to promote learning outcomes and increase access to higher education.  Fundamentally, therefore, SEU is reconfiguring its approach to teaching in order to facilitate maximum productivity, inclusion and access to Saudi higher education without losing the direct F2F component that was deemed to be essential by students and instructors. It is to this effect, therefore, that this study seeks to explore the perception of students, instructors and other stakeholders on BL with SEU as the case study. This understanding will aid in the preparations for the launch of the new teaching mode by SEU to ensure efficiency, acceptability, and productivity. Moreover, the findings of the research study will go a long way in expanding the available literature on the concept of BL with a particular focus on the practical applicability of BL in the delivery of education in institutions of higher learning.

1.3 Aim of the study

The main aim of this study is to explore how best to design and deliver learning instructions under BL. Evaluation of the perceptions of students and instructors on BL is expected to give insight on how to design BL to meet the learning and teaching needs of students and instructors respectively.

The following objectives will inform the study:

  • To explore the design of learning and teaching programs to be  adopted in the delivery of learning instructions at SEU under BL
  • To assess participant perceptions of the proposed different forms of teaching (BL) at SEU with a focus on the end users’ experiences and expectations of the teaching and learning approaches;
  • To evaluate the perceived advantages and disadvantages of different forms of teaching proposed at SEU;
  •  To investigate measures to address the issues emerging from the different forms of teaching proposed at SEU

 

1.4 Study questions

To address the study question and ensure the achievements of the study objectives, the following questions will inform the research:

  • What learning approaches do SEU instructors propose to use to deliver learning instructions under BL?
  • How do participants perceive the different forms of teaching and learning at SEU in regards to effectiveness, efficiency, ease of delivery, inclusivism and capacity building?
  • What are the perceived and actual advantages and disadvantages of the teaching approach and how do they shape the students’ and instructors’ perception of BL?
  • What measures can be put in place to address the disadvantages of the teaching approach identified to ensure its effectiveness and efficiency?

1.5 Significance of the study

Research is conducted with the aim of addressing identified societal problems or the extension of the understanding of a given phenomenon. It has been determined that there is a problem in the supply of Saudi higher education as the current demand surpasses supply. Moreover, the problem of shortage in the supply of higher education is a phenomenon common in developing nations. Whilst advancements in technology have the ability to solve many life challenges, such technologies have the potential of creating other problems, or worsening the problem it was meant to solve if it is not applied well. In this regard, findings from this research will be vital in shedding light on the proposed adoption of BL in Saudi institutions of higher learning. The following contributions will be made by this study:

  • This research inquiry will foster further theoretical developments of the concept of BL and perception enhancing the understanding of perception and the role it plays in the acceptance of BL. Moreover, the study will provide further development of the Multimodal Model by exploring and incorporating emerging practices, procedures, and methods that have come strongly to inform the development and delivery of education and instructions under the BL context.
  • The study findings will enhance the knowledge of the perception of participants regarding teaching through BL. Currently, there is a scarcity of literature on instructor and student perceptions of the BL and findings of this study will go a long way to enrich the available literature on the topic offering a foundation for further inquiry.
  • This research aligns with the Saudi MOE initiative to provide greater access to higher education to its nationals and, therefore, the finding will be a major catalyst for decision making. Equally, the results will provide a vital foundation for further research in the area.

1.6 BL in the Saudi context

King Saudi University, the oldest university in KSA, was the first institution to implement courses using BL. Subsequently, King Khalid University adopted and rapidly developed BL in 2009 followed by NCEL which started providing a Certificate in BL teaching to lecturers in 2009 (Alebaikan, 2010).  In 2011, the government of Saudi set up its first electronic institution of higher learning (SEU). It was also the first in the whole of the Arab world and offers specific prerequisite courses as demanded by the labor market. (Al-Arabiya, 2012).

An efficient and high quality unified educational style has been followed as SEU’s using of BL. A quarter (25%) of the total course time is meant for F2F classroom while the remaining 75% is online whereby students interact with virtual classroom-book contents, participate in educational forums or make use of the Learning Management System. Teaching and learning in the foundation or preparatory year at SEU is in English in order to build and enhance skills in the English language (Almousa, 2013; SEU,

2012a). A Learning Management System encompassing Education First and Blackboard is used by the SEU community to enable courses to be flexibly managed and delivered on the web. Students in the preparatory year use Education First, an online system for learning English (SEU, 2012a). Many video tutorials, available on the SEU website, explain to the academic staff the usage of various features of Blackboard. For example, they can use it in building content for courses, grade center, and assignment, operating under the course environment and application of journals, discussion board and blogs (Almousa, 2013, SEU, 2012a).

According to the university’s website, its programs are structured to blend sophisticated techniques into the student’s learning with the aim that they will become skilled enough to practically solve specific workforce needs up to the international level (MOCIT, 2012). For undergraduate degree students, there is normally one class every week while the Master’s degree students have a class every three weeks. The students normally agree on these classes and virtual classes are attended through the internet as scheduled by the  same  students.  Additionally, these students schedule interactive classes on a weekly basis, where they meet their lecturers physically or online (SEU, 2012b).

According to SEU’s chancellor, Abdullah Al-Mossa, the institution offers regular certificates recognized by the country’s Civil Service Ministry, since it is a public institution just like any other in the Kingdom. Al-Mossa further stated that Master’s degree students in the university require at least 500 points in ‘Test of English as a foreign language’ (TOEFL) and in ‘International English Language Testing System’ (IELTS) score of 5.5 or a similar qualification from the National Centre for Assessment in Higher Education. An executive meeting attended by officials from 25 public institutions of higher learning was held on Saturday 22nd December 2012 in SEU headquarters to deliberate on methods of implementing the Ministry’s decisions. According to the SEU website (2013) the Deputy Minister for Education Affairs, Muhammad Al-Ouhali, was in attendance and he decided that for the academic year of 2017, universities were advised by Al-Ouhali not to accept any further students in DL and E-learning courses. Instead, SEU will utilize this period to develop centers for E-learning throughout the Kingdom with the assistance of Saudi universities. The outcome of the meeting was a policy decision in order to ensure coherence of future provision. [Which I will be exploring more fully in the future].

Al-Moussa announced a five-phase program to be followed by SEU for the intake of students. The first stage will monitor the trends of students along with the requirements of the job market. A compatible learning atmosphere will be developed in the second stage and thereafter admission of students will be started. The following stages will concentrate mainly on reviewing and modification. Al-Moussa emphasized the role of the university in the development of the economy in the Kingdom based on knowledge. He has further asserted that the needs and requirements of the labour market and the development of Kingdom will be satisfied by SEU. According to him, the university will be able to increase its student intake with the help of the Ministry’s decision on E-learning courses which many Saudi students now want to join. Al- Moussa has further stated that the aim of the decision is to unify the national policies concerning E-learning and to improve the service quality of E-learning and various academic fields of specialization in Saudi universities (SEU, 2012b). The Minister of Education in Riyadh opened SEU in 2011 and three branches were opened in Jeddah, Dammam, and Madinah in 2012. Initially, the institution offered undergraduate studies to about 7000 students of both genders and an MBA (Masters in Business Administration) to about 100 male learners. Currently, it has 9 branches. The future plan of the institution is that by 2016, it should have opened 20 branches across the KSA and serve up to 100,000 students (SEU, 2012b).

1.7 Culture and religion in Saudi Arabia

Islamic culture is highly embraced in Saudi Arabia and uses the Holy Quran as its constitution with Arabic as the national language. Hence, all social and cultural aspects are governed by the Muslim religious identity (Oyaid, 2009). Saudi Arabia contains the globally holiest cities of Islam: Maldtah and Al- Madina (Alzahrani, 2011). Therefore, a combination of historical, social and religious standards, in reference to Saudi culture’s nature, affects the conducts, relations, practices, and universe perceptions of Saudi people

(Alaqeel, 2005; Alissa, 2009). As indicated by most authors, by Sharia, or Islamic law, strong religious and social beliefs drive the culture of Saudi, identity as well as education (Alaqeel, 2005; Alebaikan, 2010; Al-lssa, 2009; Alzahrani, 2011; Bingimlas, 2010; Krieger, 2007; Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 2013; Oyaid, 2009). Islam focuses on the culture and therefore plays a very important role in establishing the society’s social norms, patterns, traditions, commitments, honors, and practices (Alsaggaf, 2004). For example, unneeded conversations should not be held by unconnected men and women.

Thus, the modern Saudi society is seen to continue with various traditions. Amongst the noticeable aspects of Saudi Arabian life is the separation between men and women in education, business as well as social circumstance, including restaurants and public transport (Alhazmi, 2010; Alqahtani, 2012). Communications between men and women are prohibited and in particular for those who are not married or related, where this is usually influenced by various legal and religious laws (Almalki, 2011). Additionally, prohibited interaction may influence online interactions (A1saggaf, 2004). Thus, for the above reason, only male students from SEU will be invited to participate in the current research.

Nevertheless, various places including educational institutions and working environments separate men and women even though both sexes have the right to be educated and employed (Alsulaimani, 2010). The faculty members and teaching staff are separated from each other as well as other school buildings and universities in Saudi Arabia. Though, Saudi women are seen to be interested in working in education instead of places with fewer restrictions, including the hospitals. Nonetheless, education, in accordance with the perception of Islam, is regarded as a religious duty in Saudi Arabia. Thus, learning is a must for each Muslim man or woman, marking education a foundation in the Saudi Arabia Kingdom. This foundation is given educational duties by the nation, based on the performance of the individual that is seen to benefit himself, the community and the religion at large. Hence, Islamic religion position on the importance education that grounded in the in the mosque is seen as the foundation of education in Saudi Arabia (Al- Salloom, l989, p. 37). Since culture and religion are critical components shaping education delivery, understanding the cultural and religious context of the SEU as the center for the research is critical to inform the researcher on the ethical issues to observe in the course of data collection.

 

 

 

CHAPTER TWO:  LITERATURE REVIEW

2.1 Introduction

The literature concerning BL touches on some elements which build on the research question. This review begins with a critical examination of the concept of BL followed by the theoretical framework informing the study. Thereafter, the meaning of the word ‘perception’ will be explored followed by the review of literature exploring the advantages and disadvantages of teaching through different forms or mediums. The literature to be reviewed in this section was selected on the basis of relevancy on the topic of teaching through BL.

2.2 The concept of Blended Learning

Industrial and work-based training are the source of the primary references to BL (Macdonald, 2006). Various institutions of higher learning including Ruskin College in Oxford started the original account of the usage of BL. In this case, as shown by Moore and Bryant (1989), the term BL was applied to indicate a combination of F2F and DL. A model for reconsidering university teaching caused by embedding technology that started the application of BL in higher education is initially provided by Laurillard (2002). Nevertheless, the term “learning” was indirectly used by them since the term was unclearly defined at that particular period. Furthermore, the application of the term “Blended” was unclear and thus was not regarded as academic or scientific (Macdonald,

2006). Though, there is constancy in the usage of BL as it became popularly known in the modern society (Jones, et al., 2009), where its origin was is highly supported by the early work.

Presently, there are several names for BL such as hybrid learning, combined learning, multi-method learning, technology-mediated instruction, web-enhanced instruction, computer-assisted learning, educational technology and mixed-mode instruction. Various definitions for BL have been discussed in the literature. The most commonly quoted definitions are documented by Graham, et al (2003) include: (a) a combination  of  instructional  modalities  or  delivery  media;  (b)  a  combination  of instructional methods; or (c) a combination of online and F2F instruction (Graham, 2006). The original and most common definition of BL refers to a combination of F2F and online forms of teaching and learning (Colis and Moonen, 2001; Devon, 2004; Graham, 2006; Mason and Renni, 2006; Sharma and Barrett, 2007).   Colis and Moonen (2001), for example, argue that BL refers to the incorporation of both on-line learning methods and physical classroom methods in the learning process. Similarly, Devon (2004) described BL as the use of synchronous or asynchronous technologies and traditional F2F instruction, in different forms or combinations, so as to facilitate teaching and learning (Devon, 2004, p. 35). Sharma and Barrett (2007) defined BL as a course that combines an (F2F) classroom component with an appropriate use of technology (Sharma and Barrett,2007). According to Littlejohn and Pegler (2007), BL refers to teaching a course or program using a mixture of traditional teaching styles and E-learning. BL is thus seen as the combination of online learning and the traditional F2F interaction in the teaching and learning process. It is a type of hybrid system that brings together components of DL and traditional classroom learning to enhance flexibility and efficiency in the learning and teaching process (Hilliard, 2015).

Moreover, BL is a form of an education program that has much student control and involves the delivery of learning materials in part through both a digital platform and traditional classroom mode (Erdem, 2014). BL came in as a remedy to the e-learning drawbacks specifically the lack of the socialization brought by the e-learning. BL is thus tailored to reap the benefits of e-learning while rectifying the drawbacks of e- learning by incorporating F2F interactions between student and instructors to produce a holistic learner (Florian, 2015).  According to Graham (2006) blending in the learning process exists at four levels: course level, activity level, institutional level, and program level. Graham (2006) argues that a predominant feature on all the levels of blending is the mixing of face-to-face with web-based tools in the achievement of education outcomes.

According to Oliver and Trigwell (2005), however, the term BL is inconsistently used or ill-defined. For them, a correct approach to the concept of BL regards the application of the variation theory in designing BL. According to Oliver and Trigwell, the concept of BL does not only involve the mixing of traditional learning with e-learning but also involves the mixing of contexts, media, learning objectives and learning theories. Some of the major theories informing BL involve cognitivism, behaviorism, and constructivism. The various literature on the BL perceive it as an approach to teaching and learning that mixes an online system with a more traditional method of learning (Alebaikan, 2010). However, such a conception is ambiguous since there is no clarity in defining what traditional teaching methods consists of (Oliver and Trigwell, 2005). As more technology finds its application in institutions of learning, what constitutes traditional learning and teaching methods becomes blurred. For instance, a young instructor, who is starting lecturing students in an institution of higher learning and having been schooled in an environment where technology was used to aid learning, will have a different perception of traditional teaching and learning methods as compared to a retiring lecturer whose environment of schooling was completely different. Since BL involves mixing approaches, pedagogies, media and context, BL has therefore been in existence (Alebaikan, 2010).

Many researchers perceive BL as a mere concept which has application in higher education but in essence, BL is a process of delivering training. In addition, although BL existed, it was popularized to remedy the shortfalls of purely online learning programs which failed to deliver to their expectation. In this regard, BL is a process of teaching that harmonizes the classroom teaching approaches with the online teaching to foster a cost- effective teaching approach that meets the instruction needs of the end users (Erdem,

2014). Oliver and Trigwell, (2005) argue against the concept of BL pointing out that BL does not emphasise learning from the learners’ perspective and therefore the concept needs reconstruction in the form of redeeming it to fit through theoretical refinement to make the application of the concept in education coherent, informative and philosophically defensible (Oliver and Trigwell, 2005). According to the authors, BL should be approached from the experiences and perceptions of the learner rather than the instructional designers.

McLaughlin et al (2015) argue, however, that BL is an approach to learning that is learner-centred and integrates computer-mediated and face-to-face learning environments to produce improved student outcomes. McLaughlin and others argued that BL should be perceived as an approach of delivering instructions in the learning environment. On the other hand, Oliver and Trigwell (2005) argue that variation theory offers redemption of BL. According to variation theory, learning only takes place when variations are perceived by the learner. If variations are not experienced, there can be no discernment and therefore no learning (Oliver and Trigwell, 2005). In this respect, therefore, it is imperative for learners to experience patterns of variation for them to develop new ways of perception. In this regard, what is being blended is the entire process of instructional delivery and cannot, therefore, be spoken or addressed in the singularity (Oliver and Trigwell, 2005). Application of new technologies in education help to support and enhance learning, not because they are new, but because they bring about new patterns of variation which enhance the ability of students to discern and therefore learn. BL has its shortfalls, but policy makers and education researchers advocate the adoption of BL due to its potential for improving learning outcomes (Vaughan, 2014). However, implementing BL needs to be done with caution and in a well-founded infrastructure to ensure the model only adopts the preferable teaching practices from the face-to-face and online learning environments (Jason, 2015).

In order to describe the concept of BL in the context of this study, I use the definition provided by the SEU:

BL is the incorporation of the physical world with the digital domain via a grouping of differing kinds of resources and activities with a variety of learning technology in and out of the old-fashioned classroom to help learners interact and create ideas through a combination of synchronous and asynchronous instruction in terms of the Internet and computer technology for students (SEU, 2012). Although there are a number of definitions of BL advanced by various researchers, this study has adopted the SEU definition of BL so as to align it with the research questions. SEU will be used as the study centre for this study and therefore, it is imperative to align the study with the centre’s approaches to enhance the collection of collect and relevant data. From the literatures analysed regarding the definition and the conception of BL a common theme: incorporation of classroom mode of learning and use of information technology and the internet to facilitate online learning is evident. The various authors have expressed the identified theme in their discussion which guides the direction of thought and conception of BL in the modern society. The adopted SEU version of the definition of BL contains the theme identified in the other literatures. Given that SEU will be the study site, the definition adopting the definition of BL adopted by the institution id imperative to align the study with the study site for the purposes of collecting correct data.

2.3 Defining “perception” in BL

Students’ and teachers’ perceptions about BL are a major success factor in the implementation of BL in institutions of higher learning (Baba, 2012). According to Darly Bem (1972), people develop attitudes through observation of their behaviour and develop conclusions on the causes of such attitudes. He further claims that people induce attitudes without analysing their mood states and internal cognitions. In this regard therefore, perceptions emanate from internal constructs that individuals create regarding the environment. Perception can be seen, therefore, as a process by which people interact with their environment by interpreting information and responding to such information (Potter& Wetherell, 1987). Attitudes determine behaviour and, therefore, the students’ and instructors’ perceived benefits and challenges to be accrued from BL will determine the behaviour of students and teachers regarding BL. In this regard, therefore, accessing the students and instructors’ expectations as well as feelings regarding the implementation of BL is critical in the design stage of BL. Such analysis would provide the education policy makers and designers with the vital information that can be used to streamline the design of BL to avert major strains and resistance.

Much research has been conducted to gauge the perception of students and instructors regarding BL. Several positions on this issue have been advanced with most of the research tending to converge on positive attitudes and inclination advanced by both the students and teachers. Gyamfi (2015) using formal and informal interviews, conducted a study in Kumasi campus-Ghana to ascertain the student perception of BL in regard to level of engagement, content quality, communication, and learning. The results indicated that many students associated BL with improved learning outcomes, enhanced communication and interactions between students and teachers and among students, and enhanced student cognitive development. However, the study noted that some students expressed fears regarding BL as the problem of low internet connection was common is some parts of the country.

Erdem (2014) studied students’ opinions on BL and its implementation by analyzingsix key areas; content, F2F environment, BL environment, online environment and ease of web use. Using a rating score of 1-10, whereby, 1-5 signalled low expectation, 5.01-7: medium, and 7.01-10 high expectation, all the categories measured scored above 7.01. In this regard, therefore, students exhibited positive attitudes and behaviour toward BL and its implementation. Many students interviewed expressed high expectations of BL as a learning tool to foster interaction between students and teachers while easing access to education (Erdem, 2014). The instructors who took part in the survey equally expressed similar opinions and expectation praising BL as a revolution in the education sector that has the capacity to enhance justice in education provision and increase access to education.

2.4 Teachers’ role in a blended context

One of the main challenges in the conceptualization of BL regards to the full comprehension and definition of the new role of instructors.  BL involves the mixing of learning and teaching approaches with emphasis on the student autonomy in the learning process (Bland, 2009). Many researchers over emphasise changes on the learning and teaching pedagogies with a shift from a teacher-centred  to student-centred form of learning as the central tenet (Boitshwarelo, 2009). In this regard, the student is central in the process of knowledge generation and the instructors’ role is seen to be reduced to facilitatory (Ross et al., 2014).   However, although some research contributions have investigated the change in the role of instructors in BL context, Ross et al., (2014) argue that there has been over simplification of the new role of instructors in BL courses. There is a complexity of instructors’ identity and experiences in regard to teaching in BL (Ross et al., 2014). This complexity arises as a result of over emphasis on the student and the technology in BL, leaving the instructors to blend in the new system by inventing teaching approaches that meet the students’ needs in the new environment (Ross et al., 2014). The BL context emphasises the students taking a greater role in the learning process by being heavily involved in knowledge generation, and greater self-control as the role of instructors to control and monitor the learning process is reduced (Harper, 2011). The role of instructors in BL not only involves facilitating and coordinating learning in the BL environment but also empowering students to take charge of the learning process.

Instructors in the BL context need to facilitate the shift of the learning process to a student-centred learning through capacity building (Ross et al., 2014). Much literature on the role of instructors in BL often overlooks their role in enhancing the success of the BL through student capacity building by oversimplifying the role in this context.  As the BL context continues to expand, there is need for instructors constantly to discover their new roles in the BL environment in order to facilitate efficiency and effective learning (Jackson, 2014). The major role of instructors in BL pertains to the adoption of strategies that foster online and F2F interaction among students and between students and instructors (Alebaikan, 2010). Moreover, the instructors have the responsibility to facilitate smooth and effective communication between students and instructors and to provide timely feedback to students (Alebaikan, 2010).

Much literature on this topic has reduced the role of instructors to just facilitators whereby the lecturer delivers teaching materials using various media and coordinates students’ interactions (Ross et al., 2014). However, the major role of instructors in a BLcontext involves developing critical thinking and self-control skills in students to facilitate effective learning in this context (Ross et al., 2014). BL presents a paradigm shift from a teacher-centred to student-student learning and therefore the main role of instructors is to facilitate this shift (Boitshwarelo, 2009). Such a paradigm shift can only be achieved through student empowerment to take charge of not only of the learning process, but also the knowledge generation process. Embracing online discussion between instructor and student can facilitate identification of the particular need of each student which the instructor can address through coordinated and constant feedback (Alebaikan, 2010). In this regard a student’s capacity to take charge of the learning process is enhanced facilitating the paradigm shift to student-centred learning.

The role of instructors in BL continues to change to align with the education needs of students and the peculiarities of the technology used in the teaching process. Unlike online course where the role of instructors is limited to facilitating the learning process by delivering learning materials in various media, the role of instructors in BL extends to capacity building where the instructors devise ways and strategies to build and foster self- control in students. An instructor in the BL context has a crucial role of facilitating a paradigm shift from teacher-centred to student-centred learning through student capacity building.

2.5 Cultural differences in online learning

Culture is the collective programming of the mind that distinguishes the members of one group or category of people from another (Hofstede, 2001). Through his theory of cultural dimension, Hofstede originally argued that culture can be analysed through four dimensions; power distance, individualism-collectivism, masculinity-femininity and uncertainty avoidance. The individualism – collectivism index explores the level of individual integration into a group. In individualist societies, ties are loose and people mainly with the immediate family while in collectivism, society’s ties are tightly integrated into the extended families. On the other hand, uncertainty avoidance index defines a society degree of tolerance to conflicting ideas ambiguity. Masculinity- femininity index explores the society’s values and general outlook.  Masculinity brings a notion of assertiveness and heroism in a society while femininity represents inclination to values such as caring, cooperation, and modesty in a society. Finally, power distance dimension refers to the level of acceptance of the existence of power inequality in the society by the less powerful in the society. In this regards, the dimensions of culture play a critical role in individual socializations and integration within a society with a bearing on productivity and cooperation. The way in which student learning is affected in an online learning environment by differing cultural dimensions is discussed in this section.

The experiences of students in online courses as well as how these experiences connect to the cultures of the students’ own societies was investigated by Al-Harthi (2005). The study involved Six Arab students from Arab Gulf States were whereby, two participants were from Saudi Arabia and the remaining four from other Arab countries with the Gulf States. These participants were registered in an American-based online course for distance learning. Also, they had the same cultures and languages (Arabic), religion, history, values and customs, to an extent of sharing the same political structures and socio-economic settings.  It was discovered that the comprehension and conducts of students in online learning environments were affected by their Arabic cultural background (Al-harthi, 2005). The majority of the participants indicated that learning was challenging and anonymous as they missed the physical contact with the teacher and rest of the students (Al Harthi (2005) found that students were less likely to contribute and communicate during the course activities.

A study conducted by Alenezi, (2014) in five universities in Saudi Arabia found that several academic resisted using ICT as they did not wish to change from traditional teaching methods. The study indicated that policy makers reported that students are not ready to use the ICT facilities because they have not yet realised the importance of ICT in the education environment. The university had equipped and provided students with emails and passwords as well as Blackboard services, but students were still reluctant to use such services. Moreover, the study found that universities provide students with Blackboard services but they prefer not to use such a service. The university also provides training courses on how to use Blackboard for both students and teachers. It is worth mentioning that the Blackboard services were translated into Arabic to facilitate the understanding of the contents. The training manual was written in Arabic. Alenezi, (2014) revealed that Saudi students expected lecturers/instructors to initiate all communications, as they prefer to engage in one way communication.

Indeed, a culturally diverse online learning environment needs to create a learning context that respects and responds to cultural differences and sensitivities (Nieto and Bode, 2012; McLoughlin, 2001). It also needs Instructors teachers’ engagement that is respectful of the cultural context.

Every society has a specific culture which shapes different aspects of life in the society. The education process is subject to the cultural dispositions of a given a society, and understanding the culture of such a society is vital in the framing and designing the teaching and learning approaches to be adopted in the society. This study will be conducted in SEU which is situated in a society whose ideals, beliefs, and policies are heavily influenced by the Islamic religion. Understanding the cultural background of students in SEU is vital to determine the limitations of the generalizability of the study findings. The literatures reviewed pertaining to culture and online studies, the studies indicated that culture has a significant on how students perceive online learning which has an implication of the acceptability and effectiveness of the online programs. Therefore, the culture of the study participants will be a major consideration in this study in the process of exploring the  students’ and instructors’ perception of BL.

2.6 Advantages of BL

BL emerged as a remedy to online learning by providing greater student-teacher interaction by equipping and guiding the learner trough the online platform. BL has been linked with enhancing various potentials in the education sector. Such potentials include; fostering reflective thinking, enhancing collaboration, increasing flexibility in the education sector and providing various opportunities to engage student and instructors to produce holistic students. According to Fleck (2012), BL has the potential to improve the effectiveness of learning and teaching by making use of innovative pedagogic principles and novel practices. BL presents the opportunity of extending the deployment of technology to education thereby fostering flexibility in education provision. Education flexibility associated with BL accords access to education to marginalized students whose access to education under the traditional teaching approach is severely constrained. According to Quraishi (2013), BL allows students coming from distant places and attending the university to have a better access approach to higher education. It can turn out to be helpful for the students coming from rural areas of the region. The shift in the direction of the implementation of BL can handle the growing number of students who want to approach higher education (Ersoy, 2003).

According to Hrastinski (2008), the enhancement of socialization provided to students by synchronous online learning as teachers and peers offer response at similar duration makes it the main advantage of this type of learning. Thus, the relationship between students and teachers is enhanced as this environment offers the student confidence to ask or answer without the fear of being frustrated (Hrastinski, 2008, p. 52). Instead, students are flexible as they are capable of posting messages, reviewing the work of others and relating with the teachers and peers, where this is enhanced by asynchronous online learning. More chances to arrange ideas, read, and send replies are also given to students by this learning environment. As a result, student reflection is strengthened and capacity to build knowledge is advanced (Hrastinski, 2008; Rubin, 2002; Tsai, Lin & Yuan, 2002; Wen & Tsai, 2006).

Higher education is being observed to be transformed by BL (Haythorthwaite and Andrews, 2011). This is facilitated by mixture of asynchronous writing including discussion forums and blogs, and one on one discussion. The student is then enabled to improve on deep learning, and reflective thinking skills (Garrison and Kanuka, 2004).

BL further provides the opportunity to foster knowledge co-production by creating a platform upon which, students, practitioners and instructors can engage each other to enhance knowledge production (Vaughan, 2014).  Similar opinions on the benefits of BL have been advanced by a number of experts in teaching and learning. Much research has been carried out in this regard from primary to university level with many analyses demonstrating the benefits and positive outcomes of BL (e.g. Garnham and Kaleta 2002; Cohen et al., 2013; Almegran 2008). A study conducted by Wingard (2005), for example, showed that such learning provides the students with greater opportunities for interacting with each other. Moreover, it increases the understanding between a teacher and a student and enhances the level of learning of a student. BL offers students and instructors sufficient F2F interaction during the class sessions which enhances knowledge creation and sharing and fosters flexibility in the learning and teaching sessions through the online platform (Eryilmaz, 2015). Moreover BL has the potential to integrate and arrange the electronic content relevant to various subjects that means the students do not have to carry heavy textbooks from the classroom or library as they have easy access to online materials (Colin, 2005). The suppleness and approachability proposed by BL have been recognized as channels for offering Higher Education to a wide-ranging population, irrespective of terrestrial circumstances and culture. For instance, in the opinion of Mulhem (2013), BL can offer approachability and flexibility and be a channel of extending higher education to a widespread population, regardless of geography, culture or state of affairs.

It should be noted that like every other approach, however, BL has drawbacks as well which will be discussed below.

2.7 Disadvantages of BL

BL has been linked with several drawbacks that might threaten its applicability in the education delivery in HEIs.   Fleck (2015) indicates that the applicability and effectiveness of BL in HEIs is hindered by the customs and practices of conventional universities. Fleck claims that BL has the potential to disrupt the overall working of an institution by altering the arrangements, therein regarding governance and academic autonomy.

BL relies heavily on internet connectivity for efficient workability. In this case therefore, the availability and strength of internet connection is a key determinant of the success of BL (Chew, 2009). Many institutions of higher learning in Saudi Arabia have installed reliable and fast internet connection. However, since BL entails students accessing learning materials and instruction from all the corners of the country, students from regions with unreliable or unstable internet connect will have problems accessing the learning content, thereby lagging behind. Strong technology dependency is a major challenge to BL. The tools and resources used in BL need to be up to date and the teachers and student have sufficient technological knowhow for BL to work effectively (Gawande,

2015).

Lack of sufficient information technology knowledge and skills in using online discussion tools can be major hindrance to the success of the BL approach (Smith, 2005; Hobgood, 2007; Cheong & Cheung, 2008; Baba, 2012).  Other problems that are related to the lack of knowledge and skills may include lack of computer skills, including Internet use, and activities and managing participation, planning and designing lessons, (Conklin,

2005; English, 2007; Yeo & Quek, 2011). The aspect of student watching lecture video materials can make students fall behind due to lack of sufficient explanation on the content of the video. Student self-discipline is a critical success component in BL (Amiza Mohamed Noor, 2014). In this regard, proper motivation mechanisms are required to instil a sense of high self-discipline in students to facilitate the working of BL. Therefore, students with undesirable study habits and low motivation levels may fall behind the learning schedule resulting in inefficiencies. The whole goal of the learning process is identified to be hindered by several challenges that are related to the application of BL in higher education (Hijazi et al., 2006). The arrangement of the BL environment with the teaching needs with the aim of guaranteeing actual working of the new teaching approach was the main challenge of blended environment. Many education players observed that there would be a failure in the new teaching technique based on delivering its purpose as the alignment of the blended environment does not effectively correspond with the learning requirements of both the students and institution. Furthermore, inadequate training for teachers regarding IT skills and insufficient capacity computer available to students were observed the research as a hindrance to BL success.

A research study conducted by Alebaikan and Troudi (2010) revealed that culture and finding the right design and environment were the major challenges facing students in the BL context. Culture acted as a major barrier against BL since students in Saudi are used to didactic lecture-based learning, yet students going through BL need high levels of responsiveness and discipline.

Finally, while BL environments offer the promise of the “best of both worlds” (Young, 2002, p. A32), Graham (2006) notes that the challenge for the future is determining blends that comprise the strengths of each environment while avoiding the weaknesses. In other words, how do we properly teach through face-to-face and online learning to maximize the potential for learning in higher education? Illustrating the importance of discerning the strengths and weaknesses of each environment prior to engaging in blended activity, he offers a consideration of the strengths and weakness of face-to-face and computer-mediated environments with regard to classroom discussions. The strengths of discussion in computer-mediated environments include flexibility and depth of reflection; the weaknesses include lack of spontaneity and lack of human connection. In contrast, the strengths of discussion in face-to-face contexts include human connection and spontaneity; the weaknesses include participation (not everyone can always participate) and flexibility (due to limited time). The integration of the two different types of interaction may provide a way in which to capitalize on the strengths of each environment, while deemphasizing the weaknesses.

The evaluation of the available literatures regarding the benefits and drawbacks of BL outlines a myriad of advantages and disadvantages of adoption of BL in the delivery of education. Although numerous benefits have been accredited to BL such as enhancement of accessibility to education, the study identifies that, some groups of students and instructors such as those lacking adequate IT knowledge stand to lose from BL. In this regard, although BL offers an alternative to education delivery, the education mode should be analyzed in terms of the net benefits since such adoption brings a cost to some group. Every nation has a distinct culture and the interaction of BL with the given culture should be considered to determine the overall benefit or cost of adopting the teaching and learning mode.

2.8 Theoretical framework

To place this study in a theoretical framework, the study adopts the following definition of the concept of BL;

BL is the incorporation of the physical world with the digital domain via a grouping of differing kinds of resources and activities with a variety of learning technology in and out of the old-fashioned classroom to help learners interact and create ideas through a combination of synchronous and asynchronous instruction in terms of the Internet and computer technology for students. (SEU, 2012)

This definition offers uniqueness to this study and places it in line with the research question. The uniqueness of the study as conferred by the definition of BL adopted is realised as result of adopting a different approach from the one adopted by various literature on this topic. Most literature on this topic has approached the concept of BL as a product of substitution of the traditional classroom learning with online learning (Attwell and Hughes, 2010). However, BL involves blending the best teaching and learning practices from the traditional classroom and online learning (Kenny, 2010). Although online learning platforms have numerous benefits, they have shortfalls which can only be addressed by the classroom form of learning. Equally, the traditional classroom form of learning has several advantages such as fostering F2F interactions between students and instructors, the approach too suffers severe drawbacks which can addressed by the online platform. In this regard, the two teaching approaches (classroom and online) supplement each other under the umbrella of BL enhancing learning outcomes (Jackson, 2014). However, the blending of online and traditional classroom learning requires sufficient understanding of theories underpinning the two approaches of learning. Cognitivism, connectivism, constructivism and behaviourism are the major learning theories underpinning BL (Alebaikan, 2010). According to the uniqueness of this study, constructivism and connectivism theories, and the ‘Blending with Purpose: The Multimodal Model’ will be explored to inform the study’s theoretical framework.

According to Driscoll (2000), learning is a change in human potential and performance that is persistent and which results from the learner’s experiences and interactions with their world.  In the digital age the approach to education has changed heavily due to the connectedness of the world through the web and interdependence through globalization (Hill, 2008). In this regard therefore, connectivism theory offers a good foundation for the designing of BL by making use of the web tools to foster collaborative learning through a large number of students. Connectivism theory was advanced by Siemens in 2004 with the purpose of addressing the needs of the current and future digital generation. Under this theoretical framework, learning takes place when knowledge is actuated when a learner connects and passes information into a learning community (Siemens, 2005). A community in this case is a common area of interest, which allows and facilitates information sharing, dialogue and interactions (Siemens,

2005). This community is seen as a node which is part of a larger network. Knowledge is passed on across an information network which has the potential of being stored in various digital formats. Under this framework the process of learning is cyclical. The learner makes a connection to a network and shares knowledge while at the same finds new knowledge which transforms their beliefs (Kenny, 2010). This process of sharing and discovering new information is continued, enhancing learning. According to Siemens, knowledge is spread across networks and learning is enhanced through the connectives with the networks. BL involves mixing F2F with online learning. In this regard, the connectivism theory of learning provides an insight into how to utilize the web tools to foster smooth online interactions between students and instructors.   However, this theoretical framework cannot sufficiently guide the design of BL teaching and learning, therefore, combining this theoretical frame with constructivism theory will work to inform the design of BL.

Connectivism advocates for a learning society and seeks to explore methods of knowledge acquisition in the modern digital world.  As the society advances in technology, such technological advancements find their way into the education sector for the purposes of improving the efficiency and effectiveness of learning and teaching. The modern system of learning is collaborative unlike the past competitive and paternalistic form of learning. With the growing level of global collaboration and partnership under globalization, learners need to collaborate with other learners in information sharing and knowledge generation. The connectivism theory of education offers a framework for enhanced understanding of learning in the 21st century. In this regard, the learning model is effective in guiding the process of designing the learning process and education programs to be delivered under BL platform. The model regards learning as a process where a learner connects to nodes on a network. This implies that knowledge is cannot be found on one location but comes about as information generated by multiple users seeking similar information.  The success of BL lays on the ability of learners to collaborate with instructors and other learners on the online platform to create and exchange knowledge in addition to constant feedbacks from the instructors.

The constructivist theory of learning is also suited to inform BL learning as it emphasizes equipping learners with strategies which enable them to communicate, collaborate, reflect and explore avenues of knowledge resulting in not only knowledge consumption, but also knowledge creation (Attwell and Hughes, 2010). Constructivists believe  that  the  learner’s experiences  and  perceptions  are  crucial  in  the  process  of knowledge construction. However, as BL incorporates aspects of online and class-based learning, Vygotsky’s social constructivism theory is best suited to inform the process of knowledge generation and sharing in the BL context (Alebaikan, 2010). In the BL context, a learner interacts with people and learning materials online and face-to-face. In this regard culture and language play a crucial part in the learning process. Culture and language are emphasized in the social constructivism theory as informative of the learning process (Hill, 2008). Proponents of social constructivism argue that the theory is best suited to address the development of a collaborative learning approach that integrates aspects of online and F2F interactions. Constructivism theory provides a shift of focus from teachers to interactive student learning (Jonassen, et al,, 2003; Anderson, et al,,

2005).

Social constructivism and connectivism theories provides frameworks upon which online can be mixed with traditional F2F learning to inform BL. The two theories provide an insight on how knowledge is developed and passed on through online platforms and how language and culture plays a role in in the learning process. Education in Saudi Arabia is sensitive to cultural dispositions informed by the Islamic religion and therefore, so it is imperative for the designers of BL to take into account various cultural aspects to ensure smooth introduction and learning of BL in the country.  Since BL relies on mixing of online and F2F learning, the connectivism theory sheds light on the manner of connecting these two teaching and learning approaches harmoniously to inform successful BL. In addition, since the objective of SEU is to introduce BL in Saudi Arabia, it follows that constant improvements in the design of BL will be adopted to address various challenges and needs in the Saudi education market as they evolve. Therefore, the ‘Blending with

 

Purpose: The Multimodal Model’ will further be analysed to inform the theoretical framework of this study as it offers guidelines on the design and effective delivery of learning content under BL context.

The Blending with Purpose: The Multimodal Model was developed by Anthony Picciano in 2009 as a framework to inform the development of BL programmes and courses and the integration of such learning to education infrastructures. The model recognizes that each student has unique needs and therefore teaching instructions should be developed in such a way to address myriad students’ needs (Bland, 2009).  Hoof and Bland (2009) argued that the multimodal model is effective in the designing of BL to ensure the varying student needs are addressed. In this regard therefore, the model argues that instructors and education policy makers should devise and develop facilities, methods and strategies of delivering to the diverse needs of the students which are brought about by the differences in learning styles and personalities. The model is shown in Figure 2.1

The Blending with Purpose: The Multimodal Model

 

 

 

(Hoof and Bland, 2009)

For effectiveness in the delivery of the BL courses and programmes, the model advances six pedagogical aims that are key to coalescing F2F with web-based learning, namely: content, the emotional/social context, the evaluation/synthesis tools, the questioning/dialectic activities, the reflection opportunities, and the collaboration/student created content (Bland, 2009). In this regard therefore, the model emphasises the need for instructors to understand adequately the learning needs of their students, and effectively apply technologies to address the identified need in the students. In this regard, the model offers guidelines on the adoption of effective pedagogical approach to make BL a success.

From the analysis of the various literatures, it is evident that there exists a gap in the informing the effective and efficient way of designing BL programs to address the various needs and perception of education stakeholders especially, students and instructors. Exploring the students’ and instructors’ perception of BL will enrich the available literature not only on stakeholder’s perception of BL, but also on the design and pedagogical approaches under the BL context. Constructivism and connectivism theories, and the ‘Blending with Purpose: The Multimodal Model’ have guided the research inquiry. Critics of connectivism and constructivism theory have claimed that theories are not suited to address the learning needs of the current generation since they were advanced at a time the learning process had not become technologically intensive. Finding from this study therefore will be significant in the debate of the suitability of the two education theories in informing the teaching and learning process in the modern digital age. The two theories and the model are used in this study or pedagogical purposes to guide the process of designing the delivery of education instructions and exchange of information among student and instructors under the BL context. In addition to contributing to the debate on the suitability of the two education theories on their applicability and suitability in the modern society to inform education delivery, the stud will further build on the multimodal model as an effective guidance in curriculum designing to enhance teaching under BL context.

 

 

2.9 Summary

Therefore, it can be seen that there is a shortage of studies that investigate student and instructor opinions and experiences of different forms of teaching. The studies that examined in this chapter suggest that the strategies, the perceptions and the effects of teaching with different forms of teaching have been under investigation and still need more research. Bonk et al. (2006) indicate the need for further research on the respect for and acceptance of BL courses and related degree programmes. According to Garrison and Vaughan (2008):

When BL is well understood and implemented, higher education will be transformed in a way not seen since the expansion of higher education in the late 1940s. The challenge now is to gain a deep understanding of the need, potential, and strategies of BL to approach the ideals of higher education. (p. x)

Many studies in Saudi Arabia have been conducted to investigate the effect of the Internet on higher education or E-learning and DL studies. However, teaching with different forms or modes of pedagogy in Saudi Arabia are still very rare.  Consequently, it is hoped that this research will make a contribution to understanding the value of Saudi students’ and instructors’ learning experiences in BL. This study hopes to research the issues that affect Saudi students and their instructors experience of BL which will assist in identifying the issues impacting upon the quality of the learning experience. Moreover, this study will adopt a mixed method approach whereby the research main questions will

 

be addressed both quantitatively and qualitatively. Further description of the research methodology will be presented in the following chapter.

 

CHAPTER THREE:

Research Design and Methods

3.1 Research methodology and paradigms

Methodology relates to the strategy, the plan of action adopted, the process undertaken and the overall design which determines why we consider a specific approach towards concluding the obtained results (Crotty, 2005). It therefore relates to describing, evaluating and justifying the particular methodologies adopted (Wellington, 2000).

It is important, when carrying out a research, to determine the position of the researcher regarding the way of viewing the world and people at large. The basic belief/system or global view that leads the investigation is referred to as a research paradigm (Cuba and Lincoln, 1994). However, the term is given a different definition by Bryman (2004) through expanding its concept to reach the outcomes of the performed research. He stated that it is a collection of beliefs and dictates that, for scientists in a specific discipline, affects what is supposed to be studied, how the research should be conducted, and the interpretation of result should be carried out. This means that the continuation of the research, in terms of philosophical considerations and expectations in nature and knowledge of individuals, is the main focus of this submission (Collis and Hussey, 2003). Positionality in research thus refers to the researcher’s world view and the position adopted by a researcher in relation to the given research task (Bartel and Foote  2001).    Research positionality is seen  in  terms  of  the  epistemological  and

 

ontological assumptions adopted by the researcher (Rom Harré, (1998). Positionality is mainly concerned with the construction of the outsider/insider position of the researcher in respect to gender, race, religion, culture and education. Positionality enables a narrative placement of the researcher’s subjectivity and objectivity in the research inquiry (Figueras, 2015). Being a Muslim and an Arab, I am well placed to conduct this research study within the Islamic culture and the education system. Moreover, my academic level gives me an advantage in terms of familiarity of the Islamic education systems and culture which adds impetus to the research inquiry.

Positivism and interpretivism are the major research paradigms in present day social science and educational research. Other main paradigms that are used to inform the course of a research work includes; the critical theory paradigm, feminist paradigm, and the subtle realistic paradigm (Popkewitz, 2012). The research paradigm aims at guiding the researcher to perform the research and illustrate how the connections found in the parts happens (Denzin and Lincoln, 2005).

The identification and measurement of the objective actuality that is ‘out there’

globally forms the basis of knowledge that underpins a positivist paradigm (Creswell,

2003). Thus, a positivist is highly enhanced by numeric scales for assessing observations and studying people’s conduct (Creswell, 2003). The positivist belief includes laws or theories, which govern the universe and thus, testing or confirming and refining for understanding purposes are required. Hence, data, which either supports or disproves the theory and makes vital changes before the performance of further research, is usually collected by the researcher in the scientific approach, that is, the approved method to research through positivists (Creswell, 2003).

A philosophical method that defines the reality and the meaning of behaviour of individuals is the second paradigm called interpretivism (Remenyi et al. 1998). The world is considered by interpretivism as a social place that is understood by individuals and it is not an objective reality as it would be for the positivist, who tends to view the world more like a natural scientist (Husserl, 1965, cited by Kelliher, 2005). The interpretivist researcher, based on this method, discovers the interpretations of individuals and implements the experiences to search for the influence on the research problem. This means the subjectivity of researcher to build understanding using interpretations through interaction with others is the determinant. To comprehend the reality as socially built instead of looking for an objective opinion, the interpretive method is related to qualitative approaches. Thus, expectations to comprehend phenomena experienced by individuals involved in the said situations are set out by the researcher.

The significance of concentrating on the research problem, then implementing pluralistic methods to advance knowledge and understanding of the problem is stressed by Tashakkori and Teddlie (1998). One or more methods can be reflected on by any study as there is expanded debate and no agreement of the exclusivity of method in research (Cohen, et al, 2011). Hence, researchers must clearly select the problem, procedures, and paradigm choice (Creswell, 2003). That is the research design should reflect the most appropriate way to address the research questions. This study provides the method used by instructors at SEU to arrange the balance of teaching while raising student numbers with different cultural insights of the credibility of different teaching methods. The said method is referred to as a mixed approach study, where its adoption is to give a comprehensive understanding. The pragmatism stance reinforces it for various reasons and they are as follows:

  • Firstly, in accordance with Creswell (2003) pragmatism is not dedicated to any single framework of philosophy and reality, and this applies to mixed methods research, since it requires drawing liberally from qualitative and quantitative assumptions when engaging in the research process.
  • Secondly, researchers are free to choose the techniques, methods, and procedures of research that best meet their needs and purposes (Creswell, 2003).
  • Thirdly, with reference to Cresswell (2003) pragmatists do not see the world as an

 

absolute unity. Similarly, researchers intend to using the mixed methods approach adopt many approaches for collecting and analysing data rather than using one way (e.g. qualitative or quantitative).

  • Fourthly, the ‘what’ and ‘how’ of research are highly regarded by pragmatists

based on its possible consequences and where they intend to go with it (Creswell,

2003). Mixed method researchers likely to develop purpose for their ‘mixing’, a rationale for the reasons why qualitative and quantitative data need to be mixed in the first place.

  • Finally, this study is underpinned by pragmatism viewed as Creswell (2003, p. 12)

suggested that:

For the mixed methods researcher, pragmatism opens the door to multiple methods, different worldviews, and different assumptions, as well as to different forms of data collection and analysis in the mixed methods study.

3.2 Ontological basis of the study

Ontology regards the norm of reality and what are the things that can be understood from it. According to Miller and Brewer (2003), the focus of ontology is discovering the nature of social reality and of the present things as well as how they happened to be. This study holds that the Saudi national culture, which is mainly informed by the Islamic doctrines, will not only influence the student-instructor interactions in the new learning environment, but also will influence this research in the process of data collection. Thus,

 

questionnaires and focus group and semi-structured in-depth interviews are included by current study with an aim of involving the identities implemented in this pragmatism paradigm and also to understand the perceptions of students and instructors concerning the situation. This is because differing perceptions of the notion would be acquired by each of them.

3.3 Epistemology in research

How we know and the effective method to be applied in attainment of knowledge is addressed by epistemology (Bryman, 2012). This philosophical concept concentrates on the nature of knowledge and the method of acquiring it. It is significant to comprehend that the researcher needs to have a good relationship with the participants and take time to study the field to achieve enough knowledge by epistemological consideration (Creswell, 2007). Epistemologists recognize the existence of at least four sources of knowledge: authoritative, intuitive, logical and empirical knowledge. This research intends to make use of the four sources of knowledge to inform the research inquiry.

3.4   Approaches in the study

There are three main research designs; qualitative, quantitative, and mixed approaches. The research question and the philosophical assumptions adopted by the researchers inform the selection of the study design.  Qualitative research involves the exploration and the furtherance of understanding of a social problem through the investigation of the ascribed meaning perceptions of people to the particular issue (Bryman, 2012). Data collected using various instruments such interviews and focus groups. The collected data is analysed inductively by identifying themes from the data collected which the researcher groups according to similarities and interpretation of the themes informs the study findings. On the other hand, quantitative research design explores the relationship between or among variables. Data is collected using questionnaires and statistical software is used to analyse the data to confirm or rule out the relationship (Bryman, 2012). Usually, a quantitative research is guided by a hypothesis which indicates the position of the researcher regarding the study question. The researcher goes out to collect and analyse data to confirm or disapprove the hypothesis. Mixed research approach combines both quantitative and qualitative research designs to guide the process of data collection and analysis. According to Creswell & Plano (2007) mixed approach to research entails the use of quantitative and qualitative research designs in tandem such that the strength of the study is greater than either quantitative or qualitative research. This method of research is advocated by the pragmatic worldview. Pragmatism as a worldview lays emphasize on the consequence, situation, and action instead of focusing on antecedent conditions. In this regard, the philosophy encourages a researcher to focus on the research problem rather than the method of research, and to use the most appropriate approaches to aid the understanding of the problem. Pragmatism philosophy does not commit to any methodology or philosophy but advocates for the adoption of the best approaches to address the problem. This philosophical stance works well with the mixed approach by adopting qualitative and quantitative design to engage with the study question for the purposes of achieved optimal results. Under pragmatism philosophy, researchers are free to choose the method or approach that works best in the given situation and this works well with the mixed approach design. In this regard, pragmatism extends opportunities to mixed method research to adopt a variety of world views and different methods of data collection for the purposes of adequately addressing the study question. In this regard, quantitative and qualitative approaches to data collection will be adopted. In addition, given the peculiarity of the research question, case study approach will further be adopted to aid the process of data collection.

Case Study research methodology

Case studies mainly involve the in-depth analysis of single event, community or a group. This method of research has its origin in clinical medicine and enables a researcher to conduct a more detailed in-depth investigation of the participant. Case study method puts emphasize on in-depth contextual analysis on a small number of conditions or events (Tashakkori, 2009). Case study approach is a qualitative research approach which is mainly used in clinical medicines but has found increased application in psychology and education research in recent days. Numerous advantages are associated with this research method, which has led to wide application of the method of research in recent days across disciplines. The major strength of the research method regards its ability to use multiple techniques and sources of data (Obaydat et al. 2011). Case study approach to research has been vital in the gathering of data that has been used to build or dispute theories, offering explanation to situations, and providing the basis for the application of solutions to identified problems. Given that the SEU seeks to the market leader in the Saudi Arabian education in terms of application of BL in institutions of higher learning, this method of suited is suited to offer in-depth analysis of the stakeholders’ perception of the proposed introduction of BL by the institution. The flexibility of data collection offered by the approach will facilitate the adoption of quantitative and qualitative methods of data collection.

An exploratory sequential design will be employed in this research thesis. Hence, comparing the results and findings obtained or data derived using both quantitative and qualitative methods would portray a more comprehensive picture of the research problem. For this research, the questions raised will be best answered through questionnaires for students followed by focus group and finally in-depth interviews with the instructors.

 

3.5 The study in three phases

As Creswell and Clark (2010) indicate, there will be adoption of a sequential mixed- methods design because of the exploratory nature of the research. This is where the different methods will supplement or complement each other not only because they address different aspects of the study (or different layers of the phenomenon) (Teddlie

 

and Tashakkori, 2009, p.151), but to yield understanding of the complex reality of the study problem or research question.

The sequential mixed-methods design encompassed three phases as presented in

Figure

3.1 Below: The study is in three phases:

Phases of data collection

 

 

 

 

Phase A
Questionnaires will be presented to Students

 

 

 

Phase B
Focus-Group interviews as a follow-up study

 

 

 

 

Phase C

 

Semi-structured interview with instructors

 

Students’ information will help to understand their perceptions towards the teaching process and thus they will complete the questionnaires on their own. This will be followed by focus group discussions. The focus group discussions or group interviews will follow the analysis of the questionnaire responses to explain implementation of the study. Additionally, the information on the questionnaire will be triangulated by the focus group interview through investigation of the responses as to whether they will be similar or not. As a result, the questionnaire’s validity would be enhanced as well as the understanding and knowledge of the problem of the study.

The challenging factor of quantitative research is that the nature of questions should be easily measurable and direct, along with explicit assumption. The other challenge lies in research procedure, as in some cases the information is not always relevant and in sufficient depth relating to the research topic (Key, 1997; Huysamen,

1997; Cohen et al., 2013; Bryman, 2012; Alassaf, 2010; Obaydat et al. 2011).

In contrast, the presence of the researcher is necessary in qualitative research, which is a major challenge of this method as the way the researcher interprets and describes the outcomes determines the research conclusion. In most cases, qualitative research does not attempt to manipulate or control variables (Key, 1997; Obaydat et al,

2011). However, a positive aspect of qualitative method is that rich and deep information may be provided by it, sometimes unexpectedly. Moreover, a smaller sample can be used in a qualitative research (Key, 1997; Huysamen, 1997; Cohen et al. 2013; Bryman, 2012;

 

Male, 2016a)

Neither method is wholly wrong nor correct for all purposes; therefore, combining both may provide better results. The study methods for combining qualitative and quantitative methods will be addressed in the next section. Given the peculiarity of the study site and the underpinning culture and religion, a mixed method approach is best suited to foster collection of accurate and reliable data for the study.

3.6 Data collection

Structured methods like questionnaires offer information in a quantitative form, while partly structured methods like the focus group and interview give qualitative information.  Subsequently,  it is  correct  to  say  that  the  research  will  be  considered successful if the questionnaire selected or the interviews scheduled are appropriate for the research purpose (Walonic, 1997). Nevertheless, there are other important factors to be considered  when  selecting  with research  instruments,  such as  the  time  required  for preparation and the costs to be incurred. Questionnaires, focus group, and interview will be used as tools of data collection and are discussed in the section below.

3.61 Survey Questionnaire

A survey is a method of data collection that is utilized to collect the required data from the study sample in a quantitative study. A survey, as explained by Denscombe (2003: 6), is a method through which a phenomenon can be viewed or investigated comprehensively and exhaustively. Surveys are used to map out  social phenomena and bring issues up to date. According to Denscombe (2003), the survey method of research is primarily meant for studies that require collection of data from a large number of respondents at a particular time. A survey methodology is mainly guided by statistical principles which guide the process of data collection and the analysis of the data collected. There are mainly two broad categories of surveys whose categorization is based on the instrument of data collection (questionnaires, and interview) used or time span of the study (cross-section, or longitudinal survey) (Sincero, 2012).  A cross-sectional survey seeks to collect specific data from the study participants at a single period of time while a longitudinal survey seeks to correct over a period of time. This study will adopt a cross section survey approach and questionnaires as the instruments of data collection. The survey questionnaire is considered as a flexible method in collecting data on individuals’ attitudes, beliefs and opinions and can target a large range or number of people who can take part in the study (Dornyei, 2003). At the same time, research studies can ask a large number of questions using sections within a questionnaire. Using questionnaires is cheap in terms of cost and time for researchers (Russ-Eft and Preskiu,

2009). Furthermore, the main advantages of using questionnaires are that the results are represented in a simple form. Moreover, questionnaires enable researchers to use various statistical packages and statistical methods for analysis. However, the benefits of the use of questionnaire are well realised when the response rate is high. (Oppenheim, 1992). Although in every survey there is a challenge of non-response, this study aims at solving this challenge by making use of a large sample (750) whereby the non-response rates will be negligible effect on the process of data collection. Moreover, the sample will be drawn from one campus and therefore, response rates are expected to be high.

This study will firstly employ the survey method of research to collect data pertaining to the perception of teaching BL among students in SEU. The replies are designed as either projecting a certain attitude in the pattern of multiple choices or feeling or yes/no pattern (Gray, 2005). Closed questions can be answered very quickly and easily in comparison to open-ended questions as they require no descriptive writing (Oppenheim, 1992). Thus, more questions can be asked in the same time. Due to the pre- designed structure of the closed questions, they can also be pre-coded and accordingly generate very quick and easy analysis (Oppenheim, 1992; Neuman, 2006). However, closed questions can lead to researcher bias, because the fixed categories of responses can restrict respondents’ freedom (Oppenheim, 1992). Neuman (2006) adds that, when closed questions are used, there is a possibility of receiving answers that respondents are not sure about.

The questionnaires will take the form of ‘attitudinal scales’ questions wherein the “students will be required to choose one choice provided that best describes their perceptions and most commonly this will be a five point scale presenting a choice, for example, of: Strongly Agree – Agree – Neither Agree nor Disagree – Disagree – Strongly Disagree” (Male, 2016b) . There will also be some questions that not follow the Likert scale model, such as those concerned with demographic characteristics of students (Clason and Thomas, 1995). The questionnaires will also contain some open-ended questions where the respondents will be given the chance to comment and give more details about their perceptions.  The choice of questionnaires to aid in the collection of data on student perception on BL has been informed by the familiarity of the methods by the students and the researcher which will speed up the process of data collection saving on the cost of the study. However, there is risk of obtaining incorrect information as it will be difficult to gauge how thoughtful and truthful the respondents are in answering the questions. However, this challenge will be solved by the use other tools of data collection (focus group, and interview), whose data will reinforce the data collected by the questionnaires.

The design of a questionnaire is guided by the research objectives, the study question and the theoretical framework. In this regard, the questions on the questionnaire should be able to elicit responses from the participants, which will address the study objectives and the study question. The design of the questionnaire to be used by this study is equally guided by the study questions and the objectives of the study. The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) and the Kolb’s Learning Style Inventory (LSI) are the two main theories which will guide the design of the study questionnaire.  Kolb’s Learning Style Inventory (LSI) was developed in 1981 by the education theorist David Kolb. The learning style deals with how leaners take in and process information.  The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) was developed by Katherine and Isabel Briggs and explores how people relate with the world (extrovert and introvert).  The method explores how the personality of the students informs the choice of their learning style and their preferred method of teaching. Since the study seek to explore the perception of students and instructors on BL, the two pedagogical theories will guide the design of the questionnaires to elicit the desired responses from the participants.

The study variables

This study seeks to explore the perception of student and instructors on BL. In this case therefore, the independent variable (IV) is student and instructors’ perception on BL and the depended variable (DV) is acceptability of Blended Learning (BL).

3.6.2 Focus group interviews

Focus group interviews refer to a sort of group interview based on the interaction in the group that discusses a given topic raised by the researcher. It thus does not rely on the view of a conversation between interviewer and group (Cohen et al., 2013, p. 376). Another description is offered by Breakwell et al. (2006) and states that a focus group is an interview that is based on a discussion, where a specific type of qualitative data produced through group interaction is generated (p.276). Richard and Caseys (2000, p.4) identify it as a special kind of group based on purpose, size, procedures, and composition. The focus group interview has various characteristics, which include: spoken communication that offers the interviewees the freedom of answering questions; a systematic approach that is in terms of a collection of steps and procedures that govern the meeting and the possibility it offers to carry out the dialogue based on research objectives.

In accordance with Parker and Tritter (2006), academic researchers have greatly benefited from the focus group as observed in current years.   Basically, the purpose of a focus group is to listen to individuals and learn from them. Focus groups are identified to be cost-effective and fast and more effective if moderators are professional and expert (Morgan, 1998). Parker and Tritter (2006) also stated another important feature of focus groups, stating that this type of research is seen as more cost efficient in contrast to traditional approaches and thus marks its popularity. Additionally, they adapt to a range of research methods and designs as it can either be applied to establish research hypotheses or for their validation. Nevertheless, it is suggested by various scholars that they should be applied in smaller follow-up studies to help with the validation of the outcome resulting from the study of the preliminary quantitative data (Grossinckle and Raskin, 2000).

The following are other reasons as to why the focus groups are a significant research method:

  1. It will be used in a smaller percentage of respondents in comparison to a questionnaire.

This number of the respondents is a main figure in my research field.

  1. Interviewees are offered an opportunity to show their deep insights, beliefs, and research opinions.
  2. To gain more confidence in the collected data through data triangulation fostering validity of the study findings.
  3. The researcher will achieve direct information that is relevant to the study question

However, there are various disadvantages that need to be considered. Evidently, this does not mean that the researcher is always needed to rely on the focus group to collect data. The number of components that require consideration as well as moderation of the groups such as choosing the applicable respondents, making sure they will participate and that they will be effective are among the disadvantages of focus groups (Morgan, 1998). Thus, a professional who understands moderation of a group discussion and how to engage all contributors effectively, is needed for a focus group.

3.6.3 The semi-structured interviews

The results of the interviews are expected to complement the outcomes of the questionnaire and focus group. In qualitative research, interviews are widely used as

 

instruments of data collection (Gray 2004). By definition, a research interview is a conversation between two people, initiated by the interviewer in order to get the necessary information as guided by the researcher objectives of sequential description, explanation or prediction (Cohen et al. 2013). Arksey and Knight (1999) argue that interviews are strong instruments that help people to clearly understand feelings, perceptions and emotions that were previously unclear. Cohen et al. (2013) agree with this, saying they are necessary when trying to obtain information about people’s values, knowledge, attitudes, and preferences. In some cases, interviews meet a high response rate compared to questionnaires (Adams and Schvaneveldt, 1985). Compared to other means of collecting data, interviews give the deepest information (Cohen et al. 2013). Nevertheless, there are several drawbacks associated with interviews. These include biases introduced by the interviewer, interviewees refusing to answer some questions and lack of anonymity (Cohen et al. 2013).

There are three major types of interviews: the fully structured interview, the semi- structured interview and the unstructured interview (Robson, 2007). Structured and semi- structured interviews are similar in nature, as they  have pre-determined questions. Nonetheless, the semi-structured interview is more flexible due to the fact that the researcher is given some degree of flexibility to modify questions based on their views on what is most important. This study will apply semi-structured interviews so that there is some flexibility. The most important advantage of this method is that it will enable respondents to answer, while allowing the researcher to lead the discussion between the

 

parties and remain on the topic as much as possible. In summary, this type of interview will allow participants to express themselves freely and provide adequate information backed by any necessary details (Burns, 2000).

The interview method will be applied in this research for various reasons. It will provide deeper and comprehensive data on the impact and perceptions toward the teaching by BL in SEU. The main purpose of the interview is to give a deeper understanding on the matters surrounding the BL in teaching systems at SEU from the point of view of members of staff. The participants will be able to express themselves freely. The interview sessions also will allow both parties to interact through discussions. For example, new questions may arise during the sessions. This interview method also will allow the behaviour, body language and expressions of the interviewee to be observed. When conducting the interviews care will be taken to explain the questions to participants if they find it difficult to comprehend them, thereby dispelling any doubts among them. Later, I will be able to document the answers from the interviews since I will record them either by writing them as notes or preferably by using a digital recorder with the participant’s permission.

3.7 Sampling

3.7.1 Target group

According to Creswel (2014) a survey design is the blueprint of the research inquiry and defines the opinions, attitudes, and the numeric description of the study sample that is used to study a given population. Burgess (2001) defined a study sample as a sub-set of the population that is chosen to study the population since studying the population in its entirety is inhibitory in terms of financial resources and time. Moreover, he defined a study population as all the members within a group that the study has interest on. Therefore, it is imperative to choose a sample size that is representative of the population and to use appropriates techniques and tools of data collection and analysis to ensure the success of the study inquiry.

Since the study will be investigating the perceptions of teaching through BL at the SEU, a number of groups will be targeted. These include students and instructors. These groups will be selected since they are all involved in the education system, although there are some questions that one group may not be able to answer, hence the need to involve the other groups.

3.7.2 Sampling methods

Two major approaches for choosing a sampling frame, that is, the recording of every unit in the population from where a sample originated from have been identified (Bryman, 2012). They are probability sampling (random) and non-probability sampling (convenience sampling). Probability sampling includes for instance, simple random sample and stratified sample whilst non-probability sample involves, for example, convenience sample and snowball sample (Cohen, et al,, 2011; De Vaus, 2002; Bryman,

2012).

Every research involving surveys needs a sampling frame. Thus, all researchers should select effective sampling strategy (Cohen et al., 2013; Onwuegbuzie and Leech, 2007). This study will employ two types of sampling: probability “random strategy” for questionnaire data and non-probability collection “convenience sampling”. Convenience sampling pertains to the selection of a sample in a manner that increases the researcher’s efficiency and convenience. In this regard, the convenience sampling will be adopted in the identification of the focus group participants. Availability and willingness to participate in the study will be the inclusion criteria in the convenience sampling.

Larson-Hall describes the sample size as the real individuals who contribute to the experiment (2010, p.401). Generally, a sample should be a representation of the population and therefore, it should be large enough to advance the survey’s  validity and probability of being able to apply them to the entire population (Aldridge and Levine, 2001; Gay and Airasian, 2003; Cohen et al., 2013; Bryman, 2012). However, though, care should be taken when selecting samples, it is not a necessity to have a huge sample (Crowl, 1996). This is because it is effective to gain a quality response from smaller samples than low quality response from larger samples (Crowl, 1996 and Bryman, 2012). The margin of error and the degree of confidence adopted in a study determines the actual size of a sample to be used to represent the population in a study. Although a small sample is desirable in conducting a research due to efficiency and cost effectiveness, a very small sample cannot provide correct representation of the population and therefore can result to wrong generation of the population. In light of this consideration, this study will adopt a sample which is 25% of the student population in SEU. From the 3000 total population of male students in SEU, a sample of 750 students will be chosen for the purposes of data collection. In the meantime, significance of validity is highlighted in research design instead of the sample (Bryman, 2012). In this study all the survey participants will be male students ranging from 21-30 years, native speakers of Arabic who share similar Saudi nationality and culture. However, these participants are not required to have the same background knowledge. The type and purpose of the research, its nature, population number and data collection methods affects the sample size (Cohen et al., 2013; Gay and Airasian,

2003). Gay and Airasian, (2003) suggested the number and percentages that apply to decide on sample quantity. This suggestion is of between 10% and 20% of the population.

The selection of this sample of students will be from the faculties in SEU. Alternatively, the non-probability sampling strategy will be established by convenience sampling. This sampling method will apply as the participants are available and thus makes work easier for the researcher (Given, 2008). Researchers chose information that is  understandable,  based on  the  phenomenon  under  investigation,  to  improve  the comprehension of the particular participants. One of the main goals of sampling is finding the contributors who can deepen and simplify the tackled phenomenon. This is necessary to improve the understanding of phenomena. The questionnaire will effectively prepare the participants of this study. Any student who completes the questionnaire, gives full answers to the open-ended questions as well as volunteers to be interviewed will be potentially included in focus group. A focus group should have six to eight participants as this is the best size (Krueger and Casey, 2000; Bloor et al., 2001). Though, three to 14 participants are also applicable (Pugsley, 1996) and Greenbaum, 1998). Hence, I will choose 7 students for the focus group. Additionally, it is important to seek informed staff members to act as representatives of teaching through BL. 15 staff members from the main campus will be recruited, selectedfrom four colleges the selection will include, skilled personnel and recently employed lecturers. The selection will be done using convenience sampling. The  researcher’s  knowledge  on  the  sampled  population  will  also  contribute  to  the effectiveness of the research.

Staff members will be selected from four colleges based on their characteristics. The interview questions will be structured to take between 30 to 60 minutes. The interviews will be conducted according to the scheduled time one-to-one in participants’ offices. No interview will be conducted through Skype or telephone. In the case of non-respondents, I will try to call them again to request them to complete the survey, as Male (2016b) indicates “a few non-respondents could be contacted to determine whether their responses differ substantially from those of respondents. The procedure constitutes a respondent/non-respondent check for response bias.

3.8 Data analysis and presentation

The objective of conducting research is to provide solutions to societal problems and the furtherance of knowledge of given phenomena. Arriving at such a solution requires first the identification of the problem to be researched and then adopting the correct methods of research inquiry to ensure the correct and relevant data to the problem is collected (Castellan, 2010). However, examining the collected data to reveal the findings of the research and presenting the findings to stakeholders and the scientific community is the critical function of the data analysis and presentation. Data analysis refers to the process of providing answers to the research by examining and interpreting the data collected (Anderson, 2010).

This research study seeks to explore the students’ and instructors’ perception of blended live transmission of instructors input and face to face teaching at SEU. The research adopts a mixed research method where qualitative and quantitative research methods will be utilized. In this regard, qualitative and quantitative tools of data collection, analysis and presentation will be adopted by this study.

Descriptive statistics will be used to provide the analysis of the questionnaire results in the study. Descriptive statistics offers a description of the features of data collected in a study and the technique is a fundamentally used in the analysis of quantitative data (Wetcher-Hendricks, 2014). Unlike inferential statics which aim to generalize the population from the study sample results, descriptive statistics is mainly concerned with providing the description of the quantitative data in the study that is informing the study question with no focus on generalizability. Given that this study aims at establishing the student and instructors perceptions on blended live transmission of instructor input and face to face teaching at SEU, a univariate analysis of the data from the questionnaires will be adopted.

In univariate analysis, a single variable is examined in depth across cases (Castellan, 2010). Therefore, perceptions of BL will be the single variable that will be explored across cases. Univariate analysis has three main characteristics that informs the analysis process which includes; distribution, dispersion, and the central tendency.  The distribution offers a frequency summary of the particular value or values. Frequency distribution tables and charts will aid in the analysis of the data by making pictorial presentation of the data. Once the data has been analysed various methods of data presentation will be adopted to ensure accurate and unbiased reporting of the study findings. Graphs and charts will be utilized to provide the summary of the findings from the quantitative data analysis.

Equally, analysis of the qualitative data will be conducted by first explaining the coding process and then explaining and summarizing the patterns and themes discovered from the analysis of the coded data.  Deductive and inductive approaches are the main approaches used in the analysis of qualitative data (Anderson, 2010). A deductive approach makes use of a predetermined framework to aid the process of data analysis where a researcher imposes his/her structure on the data collected and then analyses the interview transcripts. In this approach, a researcher has a prior knowledge on the probable outcomes of the participants’ responses and the researcher uses the knowledge held as a benchmark to check on the responses. On the other hand, an inductive approach regards to the analysis of the data with little or no prior knowledge on the probable outcome of the participants responses.

This study will make use of both inductive and deductive approaches to analyze data from the interview and the focus group transcripts. Thematic content analysis and recursive construction techniques will be used to aid in the analysis of the qualitative data in the study. Thematic content analysis involves the examination of the qualitative data to identify patterns (themes) (Castellan, 2010). Coding technique will be adopted to facilitate the identification of the patterns in the data. First the researcher familiarizes with the data collected and then generates the initial codes which involve demarcation of data based on similarities. The codes are then analyzed for the identification of themes which then informs the final finding from the data. Recursive construction on the other hand involves the analyses of qualitative data without coding by summarizing the datasets based on the observable similarities and patterns of relationship (Willis, 2005).

3.9 Ethical considerations

Ethics in research mainly seeks to stipulate the accepted behaviour of researchers in the course of conducting the research. A set of guidelines exist to direct a researcher through the research process. The research is supposed to be principled in each and every study phase (Bryman and Bell, 2004). This study will follow ethical aspects that are shown below:

  1. Approval of contributors to contribute to the study

The consent of the participants to take part in the study is a critical requirement in research. Mainly, a researcher prepares a form of the participant consent, which is signed by the participants indicating their approval to be part of the study. This strategy is important as it decreases the legal responsibility of researcher as well as that of contributors (Nachmias and Nachmias, 2000). However, no consent forms will be prepared in this study, as the participants in surveys act willingly with no room for coercion. All the participants will contribute according to their own will and they will be free to withdraw.

  1. Anonymity

This means that data collection, manipulation, and writing up will be done in a discrete and private way. Names of the participants will not be included during this study or even the schedule used during their interview (Jordi and Herran, 2010). Anonymity will be assured to students and instructors. I will eliminate names and addresses from the questionnaires and interview schedule to ensure the security of the collected data. An elaboration of the techniques used in maintaining anonymity of the response will be outlined when completing the ethics form.

  1. Researcher’s Positionality

Ethics in research calls upon the researcher to uphold objectivity in the process of conducting research and correctly report the study findings (Figueras, 2015). In addition, the researcher’s position may interfere with the accuracy of the data collected and therefore, the researcher’s positionality should be explored to mitigate biases (Bartel and Foote  2001). My position as university lecture may be a challenge to the maintaining objectivity in the study as my many years of experiences with students and education systems may make me to have a preconceived line of respondents’. However, I will be aided by my research assistance to collect data and all participants will be assured to be free to respond according to their knowledge.

  1. Privacy and confidentiality

Confidentiality  refers  to  the  act  where  scholars  are  not  required  to  reveal information of contributors (Porter, 1998). Confidentiality in this study means:

(1) Avoidance of any discussion of information given by a person with others. Every participant should ensure that the data gathered would not be disclosed no matter the situation and that it would be applied for the purpose of its collection only. Students and academic staff privacy will be ensured throughout the study. (2) Disclosure of any identity of a respondent will only be done when authorised for protection purposes (Wiles, Rose, et al, 2008).

(3) The identity of the respondents may be disclosed when delivering the study findings (Wiles and Rose, et al., 2008). Therefore, caution will be taken to prevent the revelation of the identity of respondents, which is an unwanted outcome.

 

Confidentiality might be ensured through ways that cannot lead to the identification of the participants. Though, there can be discloser of information if the individual has allowed (Curtis, et al, 2009). A researcher has the obligation to protect the research participants against any form of harm and to be objective and honest in reporting the research findings. In this regard a cover letter will be attached to the questionnaire which will inform the participant the objectives of the study and the expected time needed to complete the questionnaire. It will also emphasize the confidentially of the data collected. The respondents will be assured that the data collected will not be used for any other objectives apart from those of this study. After being fully informed about the scope and intentions of the  study, the respondents will be provided with a consent form to sign to show that they  have voluntarily agreed to take part in the study. Respondent anonymity will be adopted at all times to ensure the safety of the participant. Moreover, the participants will not be required to indicate their name or position in the questionnaires.

The language that will be used in the design of the survey questionnaires is English.  However,  since the  collection  of  data  will  be  done  in Saudi  Arabia,  the questionnaire will be translated and piloted by a professional translator into Arabic. The researcher will request the participants fill in a questionnaire copy by logging onto the website. A surveying company named Survey Monkey will host this website as it is available in Arabic.

 

3.9 Conclusion

BL presents great potential for the enhancement of education delivery and the promotion of inclusivity. However, challenges, such as lack of preparedness and varying perception of the teaching approach threaten the success of BL. This research seeks to analyse students’ and instructors’ perception of BL in SEU.   Using a mixed method approach, this study seeks to explore the perceptions held by students and instructors on the proposed teaching methods put forward by SEU. Findings from this study will be vital to the management of SEU in the restructuring of the teaching approaches that the institution wishes to introduce. A research study seeks to address the societal problems and labours to offer further explanation to phenomena. In addition to the practical contributions of this study in addressing the challenge of perception of BL that threatens the success of offering higher education through BL context, this study will provide theoretical contributions to the influence of perception and culture on the success of BL. The findings from this study will form a foundation for further research in the relationship between perception and the success use of BL in education delivery.

 

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APPENDIX

 

 

Summary of the problem of the study

 

 

 

 

 

Record of research training

 

Table A: Professional Presentations:

 

 

Type of Presentation Date Brief Details and Comments
Education  Organisations  and

 

Learning in a Digital Age

 

 

 

 

 

 

.

25/06/2015 The 11th Annual Conference of the British Education

 

Studies Association (BESA) .

October 8-9, 2014, The 5th International  Conference  on Distance Learning and Education (ICDLE 2014)    in Geneva, Switzerland
February 1-2, 2014 7th Saudi Students Conference-UK in Edinburgh
February 1-2 , 2015 8th Saudi Students Conference-UK in London
February 1-2, 2016 9th Saudi Students Conference-UK in Birmingham
November 28th 2015 The   14th   annual   School   of  Education   Doctoral

 

Research Conference at Birmingham university.

March 3 – 2016 UCL    Institute    of    Education    Doctoral    Poster

 

Conference

November 28th 2015 The   14th   annual   School   of  Education   Doctoral

 

Research Conference at Birmingham university.

March 3- 2016 UCL Doctoral School Research Poster Competition

 

 

91

 

March 1-2, 2015           The  annual  Doctoral  Research  Conference  at  Hull

 

university.

 

 

 

 

 

Table B: Researcher Development

 

 

 

Researcher Development

Activities

Dates Attended Brief Details and Comments
 

 

 

 

 

Departmental/Faculty researcher development training workshops (core module), courses, etc.

23 Febr – 16 Marc

2015

 

12 Janu – 16 Mar

2015

                           

5 Janu 2015

 

 

 

29 Oct 2015

Information and Literature Searching (Info & Lit) at

IOE.

Collecting and Analysing Data (CAD) at IOE. Working  with  your  Supervisor  and  Preparing  for

Upgrade (WWSPU) at IOE.

 

 

Introduction     to    qualitative     research:     in-depth interviewing at IOE.

 

 

 

Statement ofProgress

Since May 2014, I have made a lot of progress toward the completion  of my research. I have received many comments and suggestions from my supervisor.  The core modules seminars and lectures that I took this year and last year will be valuable in helping in my research. The feedback I got from my supervisor was helpful, and I will use it to improve my research, my writing style, and my methods for analysis.

Until now I able to complete the structure of the thesis and my research design for example the Significance  of the  Research,  the  Purpose  of the  Research  the  Research  Questions.  Some important  part of the background  of my studies  was  discuss  for example  the background  of Blended learning in Saudi Arabia Saudi higher education I also was able to write some important

 

part of my literature review such as The concept of blended learning and advantages and disadvantages of blended learning and some important part of my research methodology. So far, I have also been assisting with a few other side events to help build my skills. I have participated in preparation and organization the graduates of King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Scholarship Program for the year 2014 in Australia  and also in New Zealand,  which helped me to build skills in In Management  and Administration  and met with PhD Saudi students  who graduate  from there. Finally, I have attended and participate at a conference in (Geneva, London, Cardiff, Hull, Birmingham).  I am looking forward to continue along this trajectory and work toward my thesis.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

PhD TIMELINE

 

Month

 

2014

 

2015

 

2016

 

2017

 

Notes

 

 

May

Scholarship starting (preparing)  

 

Research design

 

 

P G T S

 

Questionnaire

 

 

Writing up

 

June

Holiday (KSA)  

Research design

Saudi Data  

Writing up

 

 

July

Shaping (title, research questions and objectives)  

 

Research design

 

Saudi Data

 

 

Writing up

 

Augus t

Shaping (title, research questions and objectives)  

 

Research methodology

 

 

Data Analysis

 

 

Writing up

 

 

Sept

Prepping for First review meeting at CCCU  

 

Research methodology

 

 

Data Analysis

Writing up
 

 

 

 

Oct

Prepare  for First review meeting at CCCU which take place

on 27th of October

 

 

 

First Draft of Literature

 

+ Methodology

 

 

 

 

Holiday (KSA)

Writing up
 

 

Nov

Working with supervisors panel comments  

Draft For upgrade meeting

 

 

Analysing

Writing up
 

 

Dec

Working with supervisors panel comments  

Prepare  for first upgrade meeting.

 

 

Analysing

 

 

( First Draft )

 

Jan

Literature  

 

 

P G T S

 

 

 

 

 

Prepare  for post upgrade meeting.

 

Analysing

 

Feb

Literature  

Analysing

 

Mar

Literature  

Writing up

Apr Literature Writing up

 

94

 

 

 

 

 

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