Academic journal article Business Education & Accreditation

First Year Accounting Students' Perceptions of Blended Learning

Academic journal article Business Education & Accreditation

First Year Accounting Students' Perceptions of Blended Learning

Article excerpt

INTRODUCTION

Over the past three decades, debates have focused on what sort of teaching environment encourages effective learning (Prosser and Trigwell, 1999; Trigwell et al., 2000; Ramsden, 2003; Devlin and Samarawickrema, 2010; Apostolou et al., 2013). Today, many educators are faced with the challenge of delivering a quality learning experience to increasing student numbers with limited resources (Nunan et al., 2000; Dowling et al., 2003). In response to this, a blended learning approach has been proposed as an alternative learning model into tertiary courses (Tinker, 2002). A blended learning environment integrates traditional face-to-face delivery with digital and online facilities (Garrison and Kanuka, 2004). It is assumed that students learning outcomes would improve as this approach involves some form of student control over time (Singh and Reed, 2001; Bath and Bourke, 2010).

Despite calls for the adoption of blended learning by higher education institutions, there has been little empirical evidence to show that this kind of learning environment is beneficial to students who undertake the first year introductory accounting subject as part of their Commerce degree. In a UK study, Basioudis and de Lange (2009) found that the use of a web-based learning environment (Blackboard) motivated student participations in the Introduction to Financial Accounting course. However, Palm and Bisman (2010) concluded that Australian universities still predominantly adopt the traditional face-to-face approach to teaching introductory accounting courses, with limited adoptions of innovative delivery modes. On the other hand, studies comparing traditional and blended learning approaches on teaching accounting courses have shown mixed results in terms of student outcomes (Dowling, et al., 2003; Jones and Chen, 2008; Keller, et al., 2009; Du, 2011). In the field of non-accounting studies, an increasing body of research has focused on university students' experience of blended learning in such areas as engineering (e.g., Ellis et al., 2008), political science (e.g., Bliuc, et al., 2010), social work (e.g., Ellis et al., 2006), and a foreign policy course of an Australian university (Bliuc, et al., 2010). Using both qualitative and quantitative analyses, Bliuc, et al. (2010) examined students' perceptions on the integration of face-to-face and blended learning experience and found that the quality of perceived integration (i.e., integrated perceptions versus less integrated perceptions) affected students' academic performance (i.e., final exam results).

However, prior literature has not considered the important factor of student-related variables that may influence students' perceptions on the integration of face-to-face and blended learning experience and their academic performance. These variables include prior computing experience and prior accounting knowledge. Stoner (1999) found that students' information technology (IT) skills on entry to an UK university were rising but urged accounting educators not to assume that all students are comfortable and familiar with IT. In a more recent analysis of UK students' IT application skills on entry to university, Stoner (2009) found that overall their skills had continued to improve between 1996 and 2006, however there were major differences within cohorts. In an Australian study, Kennedy et al., (2008) found that first year students' use of IT was not universal. Therefore, it is important to consider the effect of this variable on students' learning experience in a blended learning environment.

In terms of prior accounting knowledge, researchers (e.g., Alexander et al., 1994, Halabi, 2009) have argued that it is one of the most important factors in determining the extent that learning occurs in individuals. However, research studies to date have shown inconsistent findings in accounting studies, with Eskew and Faley (1988), Rankin et al., (2003), Byrne and Flood (2008), and Halabi (2009) found a positive relationship between prior study of accounting and performance in the first year accounting subject, while no significant association is reported in Bergin (1983), Keef (1992), and Koh and Koh (1999). …

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