This paper examines the factors in Victoria University that led to decisions on determining the balance between online and face-to-face teaching in a large first- year business subject. One of Victoria University's key policies has been to use make use of technology, along with traditional face-to-face approaches, in the teaching and learning process in an effort to enhance the quality of the learning experienced by its students. This policy is not unique and the trend toward blended learning is emerging as a prominent method of delivery in higher education (Bonk & Graham, 2006). This paper describes a research project which documents and examines the introduction of online resources into an introductory core accounting subject.
Victoria University's first-year core accounting subject, BAO-1101: Accounting for Decision Making, is compulsory for all students undertaking a Bachelor of Business degree. With around 1,000 students enrolled in this subject each semester, this is a very diverse group comprising accounting and non-accounting students from a broad spectrum of business degrees, which range from music industry management through to marketing and information systems.
This cohort of students have had very different experiences in studying accounting, if they have previously studied it at all, and their perceptions about this subject are quite varied. Negative attitudes towards accounting are not unusual among introductory accounting students (Mladenovic, 2000) and earlier studies suggest that changes in accounting education should begin with the very first subject in accounting, as it not only sets the tone, but also provides the foundation for further interest in accounting studies (Mintz & Cherry, 1993; Wong & Tatnall, 2009). It is therefore very important that the teaching material used in this subject is designed and developed with an understanding of these differences so that it meets the varying needs of its students.
The learning technology introduced was Blackboard (previously known as WebCT), an online learning platform provided by Blackboard Learning Systems. This educational technology was initially introduced into the first-year accounting subject in 2006, with a basic level of online teaching resources provided to students. Over the following semesters, additional resources have been developed, including video, audio-visual, text, images, and animations to support student learning. As most readers will know, Blackboard offers a number of facilities for the management of e-learning, including: discussion boards, an e-mail system, live chat, and the support of content including documents, spreadsheets, and links to web pages. In the first semester of 2009, recorded lectures were made available to students via Blackboard and online tutorials will be introduced in 2010. Blackboard's communication tools, which include discussion boards and a chat function, enable students to regularly interact with each other, as well as their tutor or lecturer. Various assessment tasks can also be undertaken online and statistical details provided by this learning system enable the monitoring of student performance (Wong & Tatnall, 2009).
Garrison and Vaughan (2008, pp. 144-145) have identified three major changes that have recently occurred in higher education:
* Unprecedented advances in communication technology
* New challenges within institutions resulting in less contact time with academic staff
* Recognition that traditional methods are unable to address the need for higher-order learning experiences and outcomes demanded by a changing knowledge and communication-based society.
These changes have led to the emergence of blended learning, which according to Bonk and Graham (2006, p. 5) "is part of the ongoing convergence of two archetypal learning environments:" the traditional face-to-face and the computer-mediated learning environment. …