Students’ Attitudes towards Face-to-Face and Blended Learning Instructions in English Class

Students’ Attitudes towards Face-to-Face and Blended Learning Instructions in English Class

Situjuh Nazara

c7nazara@gmail.com

El. Febriana Fita Wardaningsih

Universitas Kristen Indonesia

Abstract

Due to ICT accelerating penetration into the educational sector, the use of blended learning in almost all disciplines, including EFL, keep on growing. In relation to this, studies concerning students’ attitudes toward face-to-face and blended learning instructions are important in order to get a more solid basis for ICT use in learning. This study aimed at exploring students’ attitudes towards face-to-face and blended learning instructions in English class and their preference towards these two learning instructions. Employing the mixed methods design, quantitative and qualitative data were collected from 42 students of the English Education Department of Universitas Kristen Indonesia Jakarta using a questionnaire and interview. The finding indicated that the students’ attitudes were moderate towards face-to-face instruction and positive toward blended learning. Although they viewed face-to-face instruction interesting, they thought blended learning is more effective, efficient, convenient and useful in learning the subject being taken. They also agreed that blended learning could develop their critical thinking, creativity computer skills and internet skills. It also encouraged them to be independent learners. Based on the finding, it is suggested to have blended learning implemented in English class.

Keywords: face-to-face instruction, blended learning, EFL

Introduction

The application of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) in the educational field has opened the way for new and innovative methods of teaching and learning. One of the most popular methods is blended learning (BL), which has been attracting many researchers and educators due to its great potential to maximize the best aspects of face-to-face instruction and ICT to convey learning. BL is now developing the main trend of training in the company, government, military, and universities all over the world. In the context of EFL, it has been evolving as one of the most popular educational conceptions (Halverson et al, 2014). It is also even considered as one of the most important educational advances of this century (Thorne, 2003) and is predicted to be the “new traditional model” or the “new normal” in course delivery (Graham, Woodfield & Harrison, 2011) since it helps address students’ diverse need and learning style (Eduviews, 2009), advances students’ learning experience by developing their engagement, motivation, and capacity for reflection (Hughes, 2007; Cooner, 2010; Lopez-Perez et al.,2012), and provides learners with direct experience with technology-supported skills essential for 21st century success style (Eduviews, 2009).

Despite these various potentials of BL to enhance students’ learning, current studies comparing BL and face-to-face (or conventional) instruction shown varied results and conclusion. Some of the studies revealed that students in BL environments performed better, while other studies revealed similar outcomes. Riffell & Sibley (2005)’s study focusing on evaluating the effectiveness of BL in an introductory environmental biology course for non-science majors revealed that the students attending the BL course format performed better or equivalent to those in the face-to-face course. A meta-analysis of 176 studies on distance and conventional learning, revealed that students attending the BL approaches performed only slightly better than their face-to-face peers (US Department of Education, 2010). Echavez-Solano’s (2003) study which compared the performance, motivation, aptitude, and proficiency of 160 undergraduates at a large Midwestern university taking the face-to-face and BL sections of introductory Spanish showed there were no statistically significant differences in performance or effective factors between both groups. Murday, Ushida and Chenoweth’s (2006, 2008) study indicated that although the results suggest that the BL courses were successful and had an increasing level of satisfaction over time, students’ learning achievement in both BL and face-to-face contexts was similar. Another study carried out by O’Malley & McCraw, 1999) revealed students with BL were more satisfied than their peers in the face-to-face environment. Students taking BL were also reported to view their learning more positively (Richardson & Swan, 2003). Pardede’s (2011) study on student teachers’ interest and perception on the use blogs as an additional component in writing class revealed that a majority of the students viewed the use of blogs interesting and effective. However, Noble’s (2002) study indicated that students preferred face-to-face instruction and even resented technology-mediated learning.

Realizing these inconsistent research results, and since blended learning is still relatively new in EFL education, especially in Indonesia, there is a need for more research in this field. This study aimed to explore a comparison of students’ attitudes concerning face-to-face and BL two instruction in EFL classrooms and the students’ preference towards the two learning instructions.

LITERATURE REVIEW

Face-to-Face Instruction

Face-to-face instruction refers to the traditional or conventional classroom in which the instructor and the students are in a place devoted to instruction, and teaching and learning, therefore, take place at the same time. In this setting, all performances and displays of a work are allowed (Face-to-Face Instruction, 2009). It means all the things of teaching and learning is conducting synchronously in the classroom among teacher-student-peer. Face-to-face learning includes classes, workshops, conferences, and seminars because in such forum all participants meet together in the same facility.

One of the main advantages of face-to-face instruction is that it can strengthen the teachers-students-peer relationship. The dynamic relationship shared among student, peers, and the teacher is a vital component in every learning process. Face-to-face learning nurtures these relationships. The relationship can also grow stronger and form long-lasting friendships since they can meet directly, which cannot attain in an online setting in which direct in-person-contact is unavailable. Thus, in a face-to-face instruction students can gain a better understanding of course material taught because of they can exchange rich information and experiences through body language, gestures, tone, volume and modulation of voice in addition to hands-on materials given and more frequently cooperation with others. Since face to face learning is held in a specific place, time, and date, students taking the conventional classrooms also get the benefit of getting organized with their studies.

Another benefit is that a student does not feel that she/he is obligated to be solely responsible for achieving coursework because participation and group discussions in the classroom can help with comprehending information, especially if it is difficult or complex. Wong and Victoria’s (2014) study investigating 323 students’ attitudes towards traditional and online methods of delivery in over four consecutive semesters showed there were no significant differences between face-to-face or online learning options and preference for online learning technology between male and female students. Both groups on average were found the face-to-face learning mode effective and were quite motivated by traditional mode especially for the delivery indicator. Both male and female had high importance to opportunities for social interactions in their learning.

Nevertheless, face-to-face instruction has some disadvantages. According to Theresa (2014), the students attending face-to-face instruction can feel inconvenient because teachers tend to focus on reading a book and explaining the lesson. Some students may also feel intimidated by their teachers and the material. As a result, students feel shy away from getting help from teachers. Some students also do not feel comfortable about discussing the lesson in class and withhold opinions that could add new insights to the class. In addition, students do not get a lot of information about the programs that are suitable in ELT.

Blended Learning

Blended learning is simply a combination of face-to-face and online instructions. Mason and Rennie (2006) extended this definition by including other combinations of technologies, locations or pedagogical approaches, while  Garrison and Vaughan (2008) defined it as “the thoughtful fusion of face-to-face  and  online  learning  experiences” (p.5)  emphasizing  the  need  for reflection on traditional approaches and for redesigning learning and teaching in this new environment. Graham (2006) posited that BL joins “face-to-face settings which are characterized by synchronous and human interaction with ICT based settings, which are asynchronous, and text-based where humans operate independently.”

BL, which integrates face-to-face instruction and online instruction denotes the newest evolution in distance learning course delivery, from the days of the correspondence course of to video courses and real-time two-way video, and recently now to more convenient and efficient online. According to Watson (2008), “the spread of the internet has greatly increased the quality of digital classroom resources and has spurred the creation of district-level programs that blend online learning and face-to-face instruction”. In addition, the web offers significant new functionality in conveying information to the student and providing forums for discussion. In short, online education is the approach to teaching and learning which employs internet technologies to communicate and collaborate in an educational context.

The use of blended learning in education has advantages and disadvantages. The first advantage of blended learning is its ability to endorse students centered learning and deep learning through the development of critical thinking skills involving the active and skillful analysis, synthesis, and application of information to unique situations (Scriven & Paul, 2004). Secondly, BL also makes it possible for learners to learn in anytime and anywhere (Gulc, 2006). Third, as the study of Sharpe, et.al. (2006) revealed,  BL offers universities the opportunity to support operating in a global context and at greater efficiencies—especially with increased student numbers/group sizes—and professional/work-based skills development. In addition to these, Pardede’s (2012) literature review identified three notable advantages of BL: (1) it allows teaching to continue when school time is over (Riel & Paul, 2009); (2) students become active learners as they can communicate their needs and interests to their teachers to be more successful (Pape, 2006), and (3) BL can lessen the negative effect of poorly designed online programs with high-quality instructor-led sessions (Mackay and Stockport, 2006).

On the other hand, there are also some potential disadvantages of BL. Before a BL scenario considered ready for use, the teachers/institutions have to do long detailed and extensive work. Preparation for a startup is consuming much time. In addition, it includes a sense of learner isolation (Brown, 1996); learner frustration, anxiety, and confusion (Piccoli, Ahmad, & Ives, 2001); higher student attrition rates (Laine, 2003); the need for greater discipline, writing skills, and self- motivation; and the need for online users to make a time commitment to learning (Serwatka, 2003).

Some Current Studies on EFL Blended Learning

In the literature, various current studies evaluated the effectiveness in general or with respect to specific variables, i.e. achievement, satisfaction, behavior, critical thinking skills, learner support, participation, interaction, affect and retention. Overall, the findings indicated that BL and traditional learning have no significant difference on students’ achievements, but on the other variables like satisfaction, motivation, the drop-out rate for at-risk students, attitude and knowledge retention BL is observed as superior (Guzer, & Caner, 2013). In her study, Hughes (2007) measured the effectiveness of BL on learner support and retention by conducting an action research in which face-to-face contact time was decreased and tutor support especially for ‘at risk’ students was increased. The results showed that a mixture of well-prepared blended learning with proactive help and encouragement for ‘at-risk’ learners improves coursework submission and module retention without extra effort. Deliagaoglu and Yıldırım’s (2008) study comparing the effectiveness of BL with traditional learning showed that students learning in BL and traditional environments had similar achievement levels and knowledge retention, but satisfaction from the blended environment was higher.

In addition to effectiveness, students’ attitude is considered a very important factor to consider in BL quality investigation. Ong and Lai (2006) accentuated that the learners’ motivation and attitudes in using ICT may affect the level of BL use. Basioudis, et.al. (2012) acknowledged that learners’ perceptions of the BL management system and its online materials may affect their level of engagement. This is confirmed by Sanders and Morrison-Shetlar’s (2002) study revealed that student attitudes toward technology are influential in determining the educational benefits of online learning resources and experiences.

Several studies focusing on the attitudinal aspect revealed that students viewed the online elements of BL positive. Ginns and Ellis’ (2007) results of meta-analysis study, showed a positive correlation between student perceptions of BL with comparatively higher grades. They concluded that teachers using BL must understand student perceptions of online learning and how it supports learning across a whole course. Pardede’s (2015) study focusing on the perception of pre-service EFL teachers of Edmodo use as a complementary learning tool to face-to-face EFL learning involving 54 students of the English Education Department of Universitas Kristen Indonesia Jakarta revealed that the majority of the participants are ready to use Edmodo as a complementary learning tool, considered the use of Edmodo is a beneficial learning tool to supplement traditional face-to-face classroom settings, and had a positive view on their experiences in using Edmodo.

In addition to the students’ positive view towards the online factors of BL, the results of other studies accentuated that the face-to-face components are also of high importance. Akkoyunlu and Soylu’s (2008) study focusing on students’ views on blended learning with respect to their learning styles showed that BL was viewed positively with a level of 8.44 in a range of 1 to 10 (1 being the lowest and 10 being the highest). Yet, the highest grade of students’ perceptions was given to the face-to-face environment. This is in line with Chandra and Fisher (2009) study which showed that students evaluated web-based learning environment as convenient, accessible, promoted autonomy of learning, promoted positive interactions between peers during web-based lessons, enhanced enjoyment and regarded as clear, easy to follow and understandable. But students preferred asking questions to the teacher as face to face instead of asking through the online channel. In short, face-to- face-instruction is regarded as one of the very important parts of education.

Based on the discussions above, it seems that both of face-to-face and BL English classroom instructions are appropriate method to improve integrated linguistics skills of students. Students favored learning using ICT as effective but they did not want to give up from face to face component of the course. This is one of the rationales of blended learning approach that advocates benefiting from advantages of both online and face to face learning environments. Developing web-based learning, therefore, should be considered to get more improvement in education as Gynn (2001) accentuated the use of ICT tools should appropriate to the needs of the learning experience.

Since students’ attitude is a crucial factor to succeed BL quality and the implementation of BL is still relatively new in EFL education, especially in Indonesia, there is a need for more research in this field. This study aimed to explore a comparison of students’ attitudes concerning face-to-face and BL instruction in EFL classrooms.  To be more specific, this study was conducted to seek the answers to the following questions: (1) What are students’ attitudes toward face-to-face instruction in English class? (2) What are students’ attitudes towards blended learning instruction in English class? (3) What is students’ preference towards face-to-face or blended learning instructions?

METHOD

This study employed a mixed methods design which combines both quantitative and qualitative data collection and analysis in order to gain a comprehensive insight into the research. In this study, the quantitative was collected using a questionnaire and the qualitative data were obtained through an interview. The population in this study was the whole students of the English Education Department of Universitas Kristen Indonesia Jakarta in 2014/2015 academic year when this study was conducted (March-August 2015). Participants were taken using the quota sampling technique.

The questionnaire in this study was developed by adapting the instruments developed by Garrison and Vaughan (2008), Rotich (2013), Shawish and Shaath (2012) and Zumor, et.al. (2013). Some modifications were made in order to address the research questions. The questionnaire was a 5-point Likert scale survey questionnaire consisting of five parts: (1) the participants’ demographic variables, (2) attitudes towards face-to-face instruction in English class, (3) attitudes towards blended learning instructions in English class, (4) preference towards face-to-face or blended learning instructions in English class, and (5) open-ended questions concerning the attitudes and preferences towards face-to-face and blended learning instructions in English class.   To gauge the data, the participants were asked to indicate their agreement or disagreement to each statement on a 5-point Likert scale that ranged from strongly disagree, score 1, to strongly agree, score 5. To examine the questionnaire’s reliability, it was tested using the Cronbach’s Alpha Test. The result showed that the overall Cronbach Alpha Coefficient of the questionnaire is (r=0.82) indicating the instrument is reliable.

The interview conducted to gather qualitative input was aimed to explore the students’ attitudes and preferences in details.  It was conducted with six volunteers who were also participated in filling the questionnaire administered. The themes that emerged during the interview sessions were coded in accordance with the quantitative dimensions of the questionnaire. The rationale for using focused semi-structured open-ended interviews is to understand the respondents’ point of view rather than make generalizations.

To analyze the quantitative data obtained through the questionnaire the researcher analyzed using descriptive statistical operation in terms of means and percentages.  

FINDING AND DISCUSSION

Demographic Data

The participants of this study were 42 students belonging to the non-regular class (i.e., those who attend college and work at the same time). Their demographic data are presented in Table 1. The findings indicated that the participants were born after 1985. Thus, all of them belonged to the millennial generation, i.e. those who were born after 1980.

Attitudes towards Face-to-Face Instruction in English class

The data obtained concerning students’ attitudes toward face-to-face instruction in English class were shown in Table 2. As many as 60% participants strongly agreed and agreed to the importance of direct contact with the lecturers in a face-to-face classroom. As shown by the mean score, hey valued this the highest. However, only 46.8% of them were more interested in having classes with face-to-face mode only, and only 26.2% strongly agreed and agreed to have all classes use the face-to-face classroom. This finding indicated that the participants valued direct contact in face-to-face interaction very important, but they were also interested to have the online learning environment.

As indicated by the overall mean (3.16), the students’ attitudes toward face-to-face instruction were moderate. This supported the finding that although viewed some elements of face-to-face interaction, important, they were also interested to have the online learning environment. The qualitative data obtained from the interview clarified this finding, as indicated in the following excerpts.

“For me, some learning activities are effective to do through the online media. However, face-to-face instruction is highly crucial for other activities, especially for getting immediate feedback from the lecturer” (Respondent 1)  

“Face-to-face instruction is very important because when I got difficulty, I can ask my lecturer” (Respondent 3)

“I think the face-to-face instruction is very useful for me … because of the opportunity to meet my lecturer and classmates … I can ask questions and if I have a something to say or discuss I can discuss it directly.”(Interviewee 4)

Attitudes towards Blended Learning in English class

The data obtained concerning students’ attitudes towards blended learning in English class were using 16 items questionnaire (see Table 3). In general, the majority of the students agreed with the idea that blended learning is more efficient in using time and develops computer, internet skills.

As presented in the finding, the majority of the students had positive attitudes towards blended learning with a mean score of 3.54. They felt happy to learn the subject discussed through blended learning. For them, BL was more efficient and more convenient. They also agreed that blended learning could develop critical thinking made them responsible learners.  This finding is in line with Yeen-Ju, Mai, and Selvaretnam’s (2015) finding that BL developed students’ critical thinking.

Besides the preferences to do assignments and to take tests via online mode, they also thought that blended learning could encourage them to be an independent learner. Most of them also thought that by applying blended learning, they could develop their computer and internet skills as well as develop their creativity.   Moreover, they thought that BL was interesting and useful.

Students’ Preference towards Face-to-Face or BL Instruction in English Class

The data concerning students’ preference towards face-to-face or BL instructions in English class were obtained through twelve statements, two using Likert’s’ scale and the others using two options (F2F or BL). As shown in Table 4 the proportion of the participant preferring to read printed journal is almost the same with those preferring to read e-journal students, and those who preferred to read printed books were a bit lower than those preferring e-books (see table 4). Seeing from the mean scores, the students, preference to read printed books (3.2) was higher than to read the printed journal articles (2.98). To a higher extent, this was due to the number of pages of both texts. A textbook is generally far longer than a journal. Thus, reading long e-text requires more energy and endurance. That’s why the students’ preference to read printed textbooks was higher than to read printed journals.

Table 5 shows the students preferences toward face-to-face or blended learning instructions. The components are discussion, course material, content, and presentation, doing assignments, taking tests, working on a group project, interacting with other students, interacting with the lecturer, feedback from the lecturer, the overall quality of the learning process, and getting help and support.

As shown by Table 5, among the ten learning activities they were asked, the majority of participants stated that they preferred to submitting assignments and taking a test through online mode. Conversely, they preferred to conduct discussion, work on a group project, interact with peers and teachers, get feedback, help, and support through face-to-face interaction.

In terms of getting course material, content and presentation, the participants showed equal preference between face-to-face and online modes. Since blended learning is a combination of face-to-face and online learning, this finding indicated that they expected have blended learning for this matter. This is clarified by the qualitative data obtained through the interview, as indicated in the following excerpts.

”I prefer BL to get the course material and any other information for it makes me possible to have them although I am outside of the class.  prepare it and present during the face-to-face session. So, I save my time” (Interviewee 6)

“I find submitting an assignment and doing a test using the online media practical and convenient. But to discuss, do a group project, and to get feedback is more appropriate to do in face-to-face interaction.” (Interviewee 2)

It is a good idea to combine face-to-face learning and online learning. As we know, Jakarta is busy and so many traffic jam everywhere. To get the course materials, to do tests and to submit assignment are effective through online media. But to discuss, communicate and exchange idea should be done in face-to-face interactions.” (Interviewee 3)

“I prefer blended learning because it develops my creativity and encourages me to be an independent learner. …” (Interviewee 1)

CONCLUSIONS AND SUGGESTIONS

Based on the research finding and discussion in the previous section, this research could be concluded. Some conclusions were drawn. First, In general, the students’ attitudes toward face-to-face instruction were moderate. However, they were also interested to have the online learning environment. Second, the majority of the students had positive attitudes towards BL, which combines the good aspects of face-to-face and online interactions. Third, the variables the students like most in face-to-face interaction cover: doing discussion, working on group project, interacting with other  students,  interacting  with  the  lecturer,  having  feedback  from  lecturer,  and getting help and support; while the variables of online learning they would like to have are:  doing assignments and taking test. Fourth, most of the students did not agree if all subjects are taught through face-to-face instruction or online learning only.

This study involved only 42 university-level students of the same major. Future studies are recommended to involve a larger number of participants of various majors.

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Note: This article was presented UKI English Education Department Collegiate Forum held on Friday, April 8, 2016

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