The Analysis of the Blogs Created in a Blended Course through the Reflective Thinking Perspective*

Article excerpt

Abstract

Blogs have evolved from simple online diaries to communication tools with the capacity to engage people in collaboration, knowledge sharing, reflection and debate. Blog archives can be a source of information about student learning, providing a basis for ongoing feedback and redesign of learning activities. Previous studies show that blogs can enhance reflective thinking, provide deeper learning and construct the knowledge. The aim of this study was to analyze the content of the student's blogs to achieve the reflections and the reflections level of the students. The study was conducted at a second year undergraduate level course called "Instructional Technologies and Material Design". The course was redesigned for blended learning model. The researchers used the Drupal web development software to create blogs and integrated them to the course website. They used content analysis method and reflective writing framework to analyze postings in the blogs. The purpose of data analysis was to explore participants' reflections and blog entries within the educational settings. Findings suggest that students mostly wrote descriptive writing at the descriptive reflection level in three main themes, including the course, learning and personal thoughts. By focusing on this authentic blogging practice, this study contributes to an understanding of how to harness blogging the in higher education settings.

Key Words

Blended Learning, Blogging, Online Learning, Reflective Writing.

The widespread use of ICT in education has significantly changed teaching methods and materials as well as the learning environment. E-learning includes all the learning and teachings methods assisted by ICT systems in order to transfer knowledge and skills acquisition. Due to the continuous development of ICT, and as a result of the accelerated evolution in the software applications designed for the educational domain, definitions of the renovated learning are constantly changing and new concepts are emerging such as online, ubiquitous, blended, web-based learning (Mihai, Stanciu, & Aleca, 2011). Online and blended learning environments grew dramatically in K-12 and higher education settings. The Sloan Foundation report confidently estimates that 3 million students are registered for fully online courses in colleges and universities in United States of America (Picciano & Seaman, 2007). There is some confusion related to definitions fully online course and blended course. An online course was defined "as 80 percent of the course which is delivered online" and online learning is becoming a "critical" part of the educational policy makers in their long-term planning strategies (Picciano & Seaman). According to a report published by the Sloan Foundation in 2011, in the USA, over 6.1 million students were taking at least one online course during the fall 2010 term; an increase of 560,000 students over the number reported the previous year. Thirty-one percent of all higher education students now take at least one course online. In the same report sixty-five percent of all reporting institutions said that online learning was a critical part of their long-term strategy. For-profit institutions include online learning as part of their strategic plan (Allen & Seaman, 2011). However, various limitations of e-learning as a teaching method have led many to try blending various delivery methods. Thus, blended learning, which typically combines face-to-face learning with online learning, emerged in many educational settings (Boyle, Bradley, Chalk, Jones, & Pickard, 2003; Duhaney, 2004). According to Allen and Seaman (2011) if 30% to 79% of a course is given online it can be called blended learning. So, in blended learning the instructor does not necessarily deliver all the course material online; but just the necessary and appropriate parts. Blended learning combines strengths of two delivery methods, face-to-face and online instruction. …