Academic journal article Higher Learning Research Communications

Blended Learning as an Effective Pedagogical Paradigm for Biomedical Science

Academic journal article Higher Learning Research Communications

Blended Learning as an Effective Pedagogical Paradigm for Biomedical Science

Article excerpt

Abstract

Blended learning combines face-to-face class based and online teaching and learning delivery in order to increase flexibility in how, when, and where students study and learn. The development, integration, and promotion of blended learning in frameworks of curriculum design can optimize the opportunities afforded by information and communication technologies and, concomitantly, accommodate a broad range of student learning styles. This study critically reviews the potential benefits of blended learning as a progressive educative paradigm for the teaching of biomedical science and evaluates the opportunities that blended learning offers for the delivery of accessible, flexible and sustainable teaching and learning experiences. A central tenet of biomedical science education at the tertiary level is the development of comprehensive hands-on practical competencies and technical skills (many of which require laboratory-based learning environments), and it is advanced that a blended learning model, which combines face-to-face synchronous teaching and learning activities with asynchronous online teaching and learning activities, effectively creates an authentic, enriching, and student-centred learning environment for biomedical science. Lastly, a blending learning design for introductory biochemistry will be described as an effective example of integrating face- to-face and online teaching, learning and assessment activities within the teaching domain of biomedical science.

Keywords: blended learning, biomedical science, biochemistry, laboratory skills, asynchronous learning, synchronous learning, constructive alignment, authentic assessment, engagement, feedback.

Background

The internet and the use of information and communication technologies (ICT) are central facts of life for the current generation that has grown up using these tools. Students today - raised with online technology - demand the use of online technologies in their learning environments and they make use of search engines and online referencing to research topics that they are interested in on a daily basis. Indeed, it is important to recognize that the integration of online technologies into 21st century education, at all levels, should fundamentally reinforce current students' innate cognitive processes.

The pace and spread of advances in ICT and online learning in tertiary education is challenging assumptions, preconceptions, and expectations of instructional and learning paradigms. Student engagement can be supported both inside and outside the classroom by constructivist electronic pedagogies (eLearning and ICT), which may afford educative opportunities that utilize student-directed computer-supported collaborative learning through podcasts, blogs, discussion forums, online collaborative activities, and wikis. The expectations of students as learners are being transformed because the learning tools and technologies available are changing. It is evident that contemporary tertiary students have learning and teaching preferences, and a range of learning styles, that have been developed through technology-supported instruction. Consequently, students have a degree of expectation that their tertiary studies will utilize and integrate ICT tools to support their learning. Educators, with institutional support, need to acknowledge, embrace, and incorporate these expectations and preferences into their effective teaching practices. It has been suggested (Hart, 2008) that current learners have the following learning preferences:

* web-based information coming from multiple sources;

* multitasking - working with multiple inputs simultaneously;

* visual learning - pictures, audio, video, rather than text;

* short attention spans - bite size chunks of learning;

* experiential learners who learn through discovery;

* social learners - enjoy working in collaborative teams, sharing learning opportunities, operating within learning communities;

* demand immediate feedback - they are used to instant gratification;

* independent learners who consider that they can teach themselves with guidance; and

* prefer to construct their own learning - assembling tools and resources from different sources to synthesize learning outcomes. …

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