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Effectiveness of Enriched Virtual Model in Higher Education: A Mixed Methods Approach

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Abstract

In recent times there has been a keen interest in the use of blended models in higher education. Despite various models of blended learning there is a dearth of research on enriched virtual model. This paper focuses on the efficacy of this model in a low resource class room to part time learners. Test achievement scores, focus group interviews and feedback questionnaires were used to evaluate the effectiveness of the model. The findings suggest that the Blended learning mode allow the facilitators to design, organize learning materials and achieve the learning outcomes. The implementation of the model also leads to increased learner engagement. Interesting caveats for further research such as developing prototype models and integrated models of blended learning are suggested.
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Effectiveness of Enriched Virtual Model in Higher
Education: A Mixed Methods Approach.
Vijayakumar.S, Tamilarasan.P, Harshini.P
Assistant Professor, Assistant Professor, Associate Professor
B.S.Abdur Rahman Crescent Institute of Science &Technology
SRM Institute of Science & Technology
Dr.MGR Educational and Research Institute University
Abstract
In recent times there has been a keen interest in the use of blended models in higher education. Despite various
models of blended learning there is a dearth of research on enriched virtual model. This paper focuses on the efficacy
of this model in a low resource class room to part time learners. Test achievement scores, focus group interviews
and feedback questionnaires were used to evaluate the effectiveness of the model. The findings suggest that the
Blended learning mode allow the facilitators to design, organize learning materials and achieve the learning
outcomes. The implementation of the model also leads to increased learner engagement. Interesting caveats for
further research such as developing prototype models and integrated models of blended learning are suggested.
Key words- Self-paced learning, learner engagement, connectivism, blended learning, enhanced virtual model.
Introduction
Blended learning is increasing used in higher education for leveraging instruction. It is clear from the previous
studies on blended learning that it is more effective than face to face learning. Some of the seminal studies on blended
learning are Anderson, & Henderson (2004), Lin, & Wang, (2012) and Graham (2006). Despite the growing body
of research on blended learning, studies on the application of blended models for achieving pedagogical goals are
scarce. Chen, Wang& Chen, (2014) carried out an empirical research on flipped model. Their studies prove that
flipped model is efficacious for achieving the learning goals. Staker, Heather, and Michael have classified the
different models of blended learning namely station rotation model, lab rotation model, flipped model and individual
rotation model. Although there is sporadic research on the implementation of blended models the use of enriched
virtual model is not documented in international literature. Hence this study was undertaken.
Review of literature
In this section previous study on blended learning in the language teaching context is reviewed. Yamazaki, (2018)
investigated the acquisition of Japanese language in a blended environment using a mixed methods approach. The
study revealed that the participants acquire communicative competence and achieve their learning goals in
technology enabled classrooms. He has reported on the learner’s discernible improvement in vocabulary acquisition,
persuasive skills and collaboration. The major limitation in his study is that the sample size is restricted to 11
students. Melchor-Couto (2018) carried out a similar study. He investigated the effectiveness of multimedia
environments for language learning. Again this study was limited to 18 students. Arnold‘s study (2007) has revealed
that call environments has reduced the anxiety levels and increased the language learning capability of the target
learners. Hammick and Lee (2014) have reported that blended environments have reduced communication
apprehension among learners. Roed claims that the students exhibit a positive language learning attitude in CALL
environments. Sparks and Ganschow (2007) have investigated on the acquisition of language skills in a blended
environment .They found that it leads to reduced anxiety levels , better learning and retention. Although these recent
studies have reported on the effectiveness of blended environments for language learning none of these studies have
investigated on the effectiveness of enriched virtual model for language learning.
Theoretical background: Connectivism
Technology has become indispensable in our everyday life. In this context, the theory of Connectivism provides a
solid base for design and delivery of content. The proponent of this theory is Siemens, (2004). His theory is based
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on the principles of self-learning. According to him learning does not take place at the control of individual. The
theory essentially deals with how multimedia technologies have created opportunities for sharing and knowledge
expansion. The key principles associated with Connectivism are sharing of content and creating knowledge
collaboratively. The epistemology associated with Connectivism is maintaining connections to facilitate continual
learning. Siemens eight principles of Connectivism are enlisted below.
1.
Learning rests in the diversity of opinions
2.
Learning is a process of connecting nodes of information sources
3.
Learning may reside in non-human applications
4.
Capacity to know more is critical than what is currently known
5.
Nurturing and maintaining connections is needed to facilitate continual learning.
6.
Ability to see connections between fields, ideas and concepts is a core skill.
7.
Currency (Accurate up to date knowledge) is the essence of all learning
8.
Decision making is a learning process
Research Questions
1.
How does the enriched virtual model enhance the language skills acquisition of part-time learners in a low
resource classroom?
2.
How do the principles of Connectivism help the part time learners in enhancing the language learning
process?
Methodology
The participants in the study were 15 students who were enrolled as part-time candidates in bachelor of technology
in Mechanical Engineering at B.S.Abdur Rahman Crescent Institute of science and technology. The mean age of the
participants was 28.2. They were employees of a multinational company (Apollo tyres) .They were sponsored by
their company for the Bachelor of Technology Programme in Mechanical Engineering. A diagnostic test revealed
that they were at a lower intermediate level. As a part of the curriculum the students were supposed to pass an exam
in Technical English.
An intermediate B-1 diagnostic test was given to them. According to the common European framework of reference
B1 is called as threshold level. At this level the learners are expected to express their ideas in a limited way in
familiar situations. The diagnostic test is offered online by Crescent University of Science & Technology. The test
is available at http://www.englishtag.com/tests/level_test_intermediate_B1.asp.The test was also designed for the
mobile version as well. The link for the mobile version is
http://www.englishtag.com/tests/level_test_intermediate_B1_mobile.asp. The test was conducted for 100 marks.
The students had a strong motivation to complete the course as they were regular and showed a great deal of
enthusiasm.
The Teaching Strategy
The course was delivered using the enhanced virtual learning model. The principle applied was blended learning
which is a combination of online and face to face instruction. The online materials were a combination of video
lectures, Prezi presentations, podcasts, and electronic books. Edmodo was used as a virtual learning platform for
archiving the learning materials. The online materials were used to reinforce face to face learning. This strategy was
used for a period of 12 weeks. The principles of Connectivism were applied in the present study.
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Fig-1. The enriched virtual model
As the figure-1 indicates the learning was self-paced. The students had the option to revisit the materials uploaded
in the learning management system (LMS). The learning was a combination of online and off line learning. After
face to face instruction the video lectures and supporting materials were uploaded in the learning management
system as reinforcement to learning. A sample video lecture along with the web link is presented below,
Fig-2 Screen Shot of the instructors Video Lecture
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RKSWZtbi_A4&feature=youtu.be
In the flipped model the students are given the learning videos before the lesson whereas in the enriched virtual
model the students were given take home tasks after the classroom instruction. The teacher acted as a moderator.
Online discussions and diversity of opinions were encouraged in the class. Various information in the form of web-
links were provided to the learners to foster effective learning. A combination of both machine and human learning
was encouraged. The students were encouraged to research on the topics discussed in the class share the information
& opinions with other members in the discussion board. The discussion threads of the students were tracked and
accordingly one to one feedback was given. The learners were credited for their novelty of ideas. The lessons were
delivered using the free learning platform Edmodo.
Rationale for using Edmodo as a learning management system
McGill, & Klobas, (2009) claim that, although learning Management Systems (LMSs) are used in higher education
the focus is on technological aspects and not pedagogical aspects. In this study the researcher has used Edmodo as
a (LMSs) to leverage instruction and achieve the pedagogical goals. The instructor used Edmodo to upload his
worksheets, video lectures power point presentations and for peer feedback. This platform is easy to share,
collaborate and to connect with learners.
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Pretest and posttest comparison
80
70
60
50
40
30
20
10
0
No of students
Posttest Linear (Posttest)
Fig-3 screen shot of the instructor’s Edmodo classroom.
The Assessment procedure
The diagnostic test marks conducted for 100 was considered as a pre-test .In order to evaluate the improvement in
learning two continuous assessments were administered during the instruction phase. The first continuous
assessment test (CAT-1) was conducted after five weeks and the second (CAT) was conducted after 10 weeks. After
the end of twelve weeks a summative assessment was conducted. 50% of the scores was taken from CAT-1 and-2
and 50% were taken from the summative assessment. An overall score of 100 was taken as the post test. The 100 %
of the pre-test and the 100 points of the post- test were compared and the improvement in scores was evaluated.
The test scripts of the post-test performance were evaluated by two raters who were assistant professors at Crescent
institute of science and technology. The agreement between the two raters were analysed using Cohen’s Kappa. The
Kappa analysis was carried out using SPSS. The alpha value of the interrater reliability coding was 0.95 for CAT-
1, 0.92 for CAT-2 and 0.87 for the summative assessment. This indicated a higher concordance between the two
raters in all the assessments. Following the achievement test a student’s feedback questionnaire and focus group
were conducted which are presented in the following sections.
Analysis
A comparative analysis of pre-test and post-test marks is illustrated in figure-4. It is clear that the post test scores
are significantly higher than the pre-test. The minimum mark in pre-test in 18 and the maximum mark being 44.The
minimum mark in post-test is 32 and the maximum mark is 71.The maximum difference between pre-test and post-
test is found in candidate no 6. The difference is 33 marks. The minimum difference between pre-test and post-test
is found in candidate 2. The difference is 14 marks.
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
Pretest
44
34
22
28
18
23
41
33
29
31
30
34
44
30
29
Posttest
71
56
47
59
44
56
69
57
56
52
59
66
52
32
41
Marks
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Fig-4 Performance analysis of pre-test and post-test.
It is clear from the figure.4 that the intervention has resulted in better performance among the target learners.
However descriptive statistics alone cannot give a clear indication of test reliability. Hence a paired sample t test
was run using SPSS .The objective of this test was to compare the means of the pre-test and post-test. The researcher
wanted to evaluate the efficacy of the intervention. Hence this was considered to be an appropriate statistical
procedure. In this case the dependent variable was the test performance. It was measured at two different times. The
pre-test was conducted before the intervention phase and the post-test after the instruction phase.
The following hypothesis was formulated to assess the effectiveness of the intervention. “There will be a statistically
significant difference between the pre-test and post-test”.
Table-1 Paired Samples Statistics
Mean
N
Std.
Deviation
Std. Error
Mean
Pair 1 Pretest
Posttest
31.33
54.47
15
15
7.518
10.474
1.941
2.704
The table-1 shows the paired sample statistics .The mean for the pre-test was 31.33 and it was 54.77 in the post
test. The mean difference between the pre-test and post-test is distinct. N represents the number of the candidates
who have appeared for the test. The Std. Deviation for the pre-test is 7.51 and it is 10.47 in the post test.
Table-2 Paired Samples Correlations
N
Correlation
Sig.
Pair 1 Pretest & Posttest
15
.537
.039
Table 2 shows the paired Samples Correlations .It represents the bivariate Pearson correlation coefficient for
the variables pre-test and post-test. The Pearson’s correlation is .537 with a significance of .039
Table-3 Paired Differences
Paired Differences
t
df
Sig. (2-
tailed)
Mea
n
Std.
Deviat
ion
Std.
Error
Mean
95% Confidence
Interval of the
Difference
Lower
Upper
Pretest
Posttest
-
23.13
3
9.039
2.334
-28.139
-
18.128
-
9.91
3
14
.000
Table -3 represents the results of the t test. The alpha level of the t-test was set at a value of less than 0.05 as it the
benchmark in experimental research related to social sciences. The first column in the left represents the variables.
The second refers to the mean average between the pre-test and the post-test. The next column refers to the standard
deviation. The forth column is the SD error mean which is used in computing the upper and lower limits of the
confidence interval. The fifth and sixth refer to the lower and upper confidence intervals. The next column-t
represents the paired t test statistics, df stands for degrees of freedom and the final column represents the significance
of the study. Since the 2-tailed value is less than 0.5 the test is considered to be statistically significant. From the
results we can conclude that the significant difference between the pre-test and post test scores.
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Feedback questionnaire
The student perception about the effectiveness of the enriched virtual model and the application of the principles
of Connectivism was measured at the end of the course with a questionnaire that contained 10 items:
S.NO
Questions
Strongly
Disagree Disagree Neutral Agree
Strongly
Agreee
1
2
3
4
5
1 The online platform enabled us to exchange our opinions .
0%
0%
6.60%
53.30%
40%
2 Every lesson had weblinks to relevant information sources.
0%
0%
13.3
40%
46.60%
3 We learnt effectively through the internet applications
0%
0%
0%
60%
40%
4 The internet gave us more information than the text books
0%
0%
13.3
53.30%
46.60%
5
Our learning took place beyond the classroom as we had online discussions
0%
0%
6.60%
53.30%
40%
6 We were able to connect our concept to real life situations
0%
0%
0%
60%
40%
7 Internet resources halped us to gather up to date information
6.60%
6.60%
20
40%
26.60%
8 We were able to choose the information required for us.
13%
20%
26.60%
20%
20%
Fig.5 Results of student feedback
This Likert scale questionnaire had five variables. They are 1. Strongly disagree 2.disagree 3.neutral 4.agree and
5.strongly agree. The first variable in the scale is represented in light blue, the second in orange, the third in grey the
forth in yellow and the fifth in dark blue. The graph indicates that the strongly disagree and disagree category were
negligible. The neutral responses were at a maximum level of 26.60%. A higher percentage of the responses were
either in the agree or strongly agree category which indicated that the students prefer the enhanced virtual model.
Although the feedback of the students supported the research questions focus group interviews were conducted for
in-depth analysis.
Focus group interviews
Basch, (1987) claims that although focus group interview is an effective research technique it is underutilized in
health education. (p.1). Focus group techniques are underutilized not only in health education but in second language
research as well. Based on the principles of Krueger, & Casey, (2002) focus group interviews were conducted. There
were two focus groups with ten members each. One course instructor acted as a moderator and a research scholar
acted as an assistant moderator. Seven questions were asked to each group. The set of questions were the same for
both the groups. The questions and the extracts of the answers are presented below the screen shot.
PERCENTAGE
Strongly Disagree Disagree Neutral Agree Strongly Agreee
100%
80%
60%
40%
20%
0%
10
9
8
7
6
5
4
3
2
1
Student Feedback
QUESTIONS
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Fig-2 Screen shot of the focus group interview.
The focus group interviews were pertaining to the research objectives. Some of these questions and the select extracts
from the transcript is given below.
Q.1.
In what way did the video lectures help you to understand the concepts?
It helped us to a great extent. As part time learners we tend to miss our classes sometimes. Despite missing classes
we did not lose much because we were able to view the video lectures, prezi and power point presentations.
Q.2.
In what way was the blended learning classroom different from your other classes?
Yes this kind of learning was new and different to us. It was very interesting and we were very eager to attend the
English classes.
Q.3.
Did you find the web links useful to learn?
Yes the web -links were very useful. But at times we found the information was too much for us.
Q.4.
How did the online discussion with our fellow mates in the learning management (LMS) help?
We thoroughly enjoyed the discussions we had with our friends. In fact, this helped us to learn from each other.
Q.5.
Did you spent ample time to learn beyond the classroom walls?
Yes we spent more time learning outside the classrooms than inside.
Q.6.
Would you prefer the enhanced virtual model to the other forms of learning?
Yes I would certainly prefer this model as it created an interest in learning.
Q.7.
To what extent did this method help you in language acquisition?
I feel that it has helped us improve our language skills. It also helped us to score more marks in the achievement
tests.
Discussion & Conclusion
The study investigated the efficacy of the enriched virtual model in a B.Tech partime classroom. The test
performance, student feedback and focus group interviews revealed that the new approach was very effective in
enhancing the language skills acquisition. It also improved learning experience and provided personalized support.
Application of the principles of connectivism gave the instructor a clear framework for course delivery. The
principles of connectivism further enrich our understanding on effective course delivery in a technology oriented
classrooms. It is necessary to mention that the study was conducted with a very small size of 15 students. It would
have been possible for the researcher to have implemented such rigorous research design with a large sample size.
Pedagogically this study may offer insights on course delivery using blended models. Further comparative studies
on flipped and enhanced virtual model could be carried out.
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Considering the economic contingencies associated with multimedia infrastructure in the Indian context a no
investment option in software upgradation and optimizing existing technologies would be effective. All higher
educational institutions have a language laboratory with internet connectivity. This would suffice for enhancing
language skills acquisition and for constructing an indigenous learning ecosystem.
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How to cite this article
Vijayakumar.S, Tamilarasan.P , Harshini.P, "Effectiveness of ‘Enriched Virtual Model’ in Higher Education: A
Mixed Methods Approach.", IJRAR - International Journal of Research and Analytical Reviews (IJRAR), E-ISSN
2348-1269, P- ISSN 2349-5138, Volume.7, Issue 2, Page No pp.89-96, June 2020, Available at :
http://www.ijrar.org/IJRAR19W1150.pdf
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