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Universal Journal of Educational Research 8(12A): 7694-7701, 2020 http://www.hrpub.org
Improvement of English Writing Skills through Blended
Learning among University Students in Malaysia
Ayuni Madarina Abdul Rahman, Mohd Nazri Latiff Azmi, Isyaku Hassan*
Faculty of Languages and Communication, Universiti Sultan Zainal Abidin, 21300 Kuala Terengganu, Malaysia
Received October 11 , 2020; Revised November 20, 2020; Accepted December 11, 2020
Cite This Paper in the following Citation Styles
(a):  Ayuni Madarina Abdul Rahman, Mohd Nazri Latiff Azmi, Isyaku Hassan , "Improvement of English Writing Skills
through Blended Learning among University Students in Malaysia," Universal Journal of Educational Research, Vol. 8,
No. 12A, pp. 7694 - 7701, 2020. DOI: 10.13189/ujer.2020.082556.
(b): Ayuni Madarina Abdul Rahman, Mohd Nazri Latiff Azmi, Isyaku Hassan (2020). Improvement of English Writing
Skills through Blended Learning among University Students in Malaysia. Universal Journal of Educational Research,
8(12A), 7694 - 7701. DOI: 10.13189/ujer.2020.082556.
Copyright©2020 by authors, all rights reserved. Authors agree that this article remains permanently open access under
the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License 4.0 International License
Abstract The teaching and learning of writing involve
developing the linguistic and communicative competence
of students. Blended learning is described as a strategic and
systematic approach that integrates the best aspects of
face-to-face and online interactions using appropriate
communication technology. This approach engages
students in a tremendous learning experience through
verbal and written communication. Therefore, this study
aims to explore the benefits of blended learning in learning
writing among university students using focus group
interviews. The respondents consist of a purposively
selected sample of six second-year students from
Universiti Sultan Zainal Abidin (UniSZA), Malaysia. The
interview data were analyzed using inductive thematic
analysis. The findings show that the blended learning
approach helps students to develop written communication
skills, self-esteem, and interest in learning writing. The
students viewed that this approach has provided them with
the opportunity to learn in a flexible and conducive
learning environment that has positive impacts on their
writing. It is envisaged that this study would be beneficial
to language instructors and education authorities by
providing information that could be useful in the process of
curriculum development, particularly for higher learning
Keywords Blended Approach, Communication,
Interaction, Learning Outcome, Learning, Second
Writing is a necessary skill in mastering the English
language [1, 2]. It is particularly critical in learning
English as a Second Language (ESL) [3-7]. For ESL
learners, writing is much more difficult, complex, and
challenging to master than speaking, as it involves
handwriting, spelling, flow, and punctuations, as well as
the need to generate and organize ideas into
comprehensible texts [8-11]. Students lack an
understanding of the compositional aspect of English
writing and do not view their English written texts as a
means of communication .
Furthermore, studies revealed that students generally
face difficulties while composing English writing [13, 14].
These problems occur because students are not
satisfactorily acquainted with the English language and do
not have adequate writing exercises. The major concerns
in students’ writing include grammatical, punctuation, and
spelling problems . As a result of these problems,
researchers focus on how to improve students’ English
writing [16, 17]. The integration of traditional learning
approaches and technology to enhance students’ writing
skills is crucial [18, 19, 20]. Sarfo and Yidana 
mentioned that “a combination of face-to-face and online
instruction is termed as blended learning” (p. 145)
Blended learning is described as a strategic and
systematic approach that integrates the best aspects of
face-to-face and online interactions using appropriate
communication technology [22, 23]. Hence, utilizing the
blended learning approach in the educational environment
Universal Journal of Educational Research 8(12A): 7694-7701, 2020 7695
could be useful . Recent studies have focused on the
blended approach to address difficulties in language
learning [25-27] due to its various advantages. Regardless
of some motivational and technology-related constraints,
utilizing communication technology as a part of the
classroom develops students’ interest and trust in
composing and upgrading their mechanical and social
aptitudes. According to Mabuan and Ebron , the
blended learning approach helps students to develop
writing skills. As such, learners may acquire
self-governance and enhance their dispositions toward
English language learning.
Blended learning is required to help students fulfill the
requirements of the working world . This is because
utilizing blended learning in the educational context can
help students to develop positive learning outcomes [26,
28]. The blended learning approach is also useful in the
area of English writing as it improves students’
communication with their teachers, reduces
communication anxiety, and motivates self-directed
learners to improve their academic writing abilities .
Besides, blended learning engages students in a significant
learning experience that suits their personal and academic
interests [30, 31]. The blended learning approach
supplements the traditional teaching method to ensure a
learning environment that is appropriate to students’ lives
[32, 33]. Despite the importance of blended learning in
achieving positive learning outcomes, very few studies
were conducted to explore its benefits, focusing on the
Malaysian context from teachers' perspectives .
Therefore, this study aims to explore the perceived
benefits of blended learning in learning writing among
university students in Malaysia.
2. Literature Review
Research shows that blended learning is significantly
related to students’ satisfaction with the effectiveness of
learning [35. 36]. In reality, communications technology
is extensively utilized to meet various societal needs,
including the need to address students’ writing problems
at different levels of learning . For example, the
Learning Management System (LMS) has become an
important tool in the blended learning environment ,
especially for educational content delivery and
management . Several studies examined students
writing in the ESL classroom using blended learning. For
instance, Sahin  conducted research to investigate
learners’ perceptions of blended learning in tertiary
institutions. The findings showed that effective learning
tends to be achieved when face-to-face interactions are
combined with Moodle interventions. Moodle was found
to be effective in improving students’ grammar and
reading comprehension 
Blended learning is viewed as a new method of
teaching that does not solely focus on teachers as
information providers; it includes students as well. This
mode of learning provides students with autonomy to
progress while their achievements are supervised [25, 42].
To provide students with more appropriate access to
quality learning experiences, educators need to discover
effective and flexible delivery models instead of utilizing
traditional learning methods alone [43, 44]. Supporting
this point, Lloyd-Smith  mentioned that blended
learning provides institutions with the opportunity to
maximize classroom space and resources. Besides,
blended learning offers flexibility for adult students who
often have various commitments outside of the school
environment. Through the blended learning approach,
students could also improve their language skills and
self-confidence [46, 47].
To achieve positive learning outcomes in the ESL
classroom, students’ English writing needs to be improved
[13-14]. The blended learning approach could play a
crucial role in this regard [26, 34]. According to
Thirusanku and Yunus , blended learning is needed to
enhance English language proficiency, especially among
university students. Akkoyunlu and Soylu  found that
students who developed positive perceptions of blended
learning are likely to increase their engagement and
become more active in the blended learning environment.
Emelyanova and Voronina  believed that the blended
approach is effective in developing self-directed learning
and students’ motivation intrinsically.
Furthermore, Yamin and Ishak  found that, in
tertiary institutions, students have positive perceptions of
blended learning, particularly LMS. The study confirmed
the usefulness of blended learning in enhancing students’
performance by supporting document sharing, which
helps them to accomplish their tasks more quickly. In sum,
previous studies affirmed that blended learning is utilized
to improve learning outcomes [35, 40] due to its several
advantages [26, 42, 44, 45]. Besides, the blended learning
approach is proven to be more effective compared with the
traditional methods as it is proven as more effective than
the traditional methods [27, 40]. Annamalai  asserted
that blended learning “shows greater effectiveness in
learning outcomes compared to traditional classroom
teaching” (p. 148). Therefore, the present study focuses on
perceived benefits of blended learning in developing
English writing skills among ESL students at a public
university in Malaysia. The findings of this study could be
useful in addressing students’ difficulties, specifically in
2.1. Blended Learning Tools
The blended learning tools could be generally classified
into three groups: LMS tools, social networking tools, and
synchronized tools. LMS refers to web-based technologies
such as Moodle and Blackboard that support the
7696 Improvement of English Writing Skills through Blended Learning among University Students in Malaysia
development, delivery, and assessment of particular
learning material . Social networking tools consist of
Facebook, WhatsApp, Twitter, Skype, and Facebook used
for discussion and sharing of educational content. The
third category consists of the synchronized tools that are
openly accessible, such as Dropbox, Google Apps, and
Zoho Apps [50-52]. Nedeva and Dineva  stated that
these online resources “have allowed people with
common interests to meet, share ideas, and collaborate in
innovative ways” (p. 471).
According to Wang , the implementation of
blended learning tools in higher learning institutions
promotes engagement and interaction among students and
thus creates “a more learner-centered learning
environment” (p. 842). Nedeva and Dineva  also
mentioned that the blended learning approach utilizes
flexible and collaborative communication tools to develop
a content-specific platform. Besides, a study  shows
that blended learning tools “are particularly used to
support group members in editing online documents,
along with exchanging thoughts and insights related to the
subject matter” [p. 6]. Thus, instructors are encouraged to
inspire their students to employ blended learning tools for
formal learning activities and support them to possess
online learning competencies [53, 55].
Most of the commonly used LMS have facilities that
offer different forms of communication for collaborative
knowledge construction [51, 54]. Students could access
online materials and track their progress irrespective of
where they reside . Facebook, Twitter, Skype, and
WhatsApp were found to be the most commonly used
tools for collaborative learning purposes . Besides,
blended learning tools such as multimedia and
web-platforms were found to be effective in improving
teaching and learning experience . Specifically, a
study found that various blended learning tools, such as
podcast and videocast, are successfully used to improve
students’ grammatical competence and communication
According to Sarfo and Yidana , blended learning
tools are used to enhance critical thinking, communication,
and collaborative skills. Moreover, a study  shows
that most of “the tools used in blended learning are the
same as those used in e-learning (p. 298). Various
learning tools are combined to support learning activities
to face the challenges of today's higher education .
Today, blended learning has evolved to encompass a
much richer set of learning strategies such as live events,
online content, collaboration, assessment, and reference
This study employed a qualitative approach in which
focus group interviews were used to explore the perceived
benefits of blended learning in developing ESL students’
writing skills. Qualitative research is considered as this
study aims to capture the students' actual believes .
This method enables researchers to provide in-depth
insights into a problem and generate new ideas [62-64].
Focus group interviews are chosen as they enable
researchers to gather more information in a relatively
shorter time than could be gathered through individual
interviews . The study focuses on a case study of a
public university in the State of Terengganu, Malaysia. A
case could refer to an easily identified individual, group,
situation, event, or ongoing process [61, 65]. According to
Baxter and Jack , a case study mostly focuses on
ongoing contextual phenomena.
3.1. Data Collection
A group of six ESL students from the chosen institution
participated in this study. A sample of six to ten
respondents is generally recommended for focus group
interviews [67, 68]. All of the participants were
second-year ESL students who have taken English writing
courses for two semesters through blended learning. These
English writing courses integrate the traditional teaching
approach with blended learning tools such as podcast,
videocast, and online forum. The participants were
purposively selected based on their experience of learning
writing through the blended learning approach for at least
one year. Purposive sampling involves selecting certain
units based on a specific purpose . In purposive
sampling, researchers use their judgment to select a
sample that could suit the research purpose . A
semi-structured interview was conducted with
predetermined questions  on the blended learning
approach. This kind of interview is useful in decreasing
bias when different responses are compared . Besides,
semi-structured interviews could generate detailed
information from the participants [63, 72]. The
respondents were allowed to respond freely while specific
questions were asked to clarify information that could
arise during the interviews.
3.2. Data Analysis
Qualitative data analysis is practically interpretive as it
is less a completely accurate representation as in the
numerical tradition [63, 72]. In this study, the interview
data were analyzed using inductive thematic analysis
based on the generalized four steps suggested by Cohen et
al. . These steps involve; 1) generating natural units of
meaning; 2) classifying, categorizing, and ordering these
units; 3) structuring narratives to describe the interview
contents; 4) interpreting the interview themes. Only
relevant responses obtained through the interviews were
systematically deduced. The responses were analyzed
based on their original connotations expressed by the
Universal Journal of Educational Research 8(12A): 7694-7701, 2020 7697
respondents. The respondents were coded as R1, R2, R3,
R4, R5, and R6 throughout the analysis.
The purpose of this study was to explore the benefits of
blended learning in learning writing as perceived by a
group of six ESL students at a public university in
Malaysia. All the participants were between 18-21 years
of age. Four of the participants were females while two of
them were males. Also, the group represents the three
major languages in Malaysia (Malay, Mandarin, and
Tamil); two participants from each language background
respectively. The students were asked to explain the
perceived benefits of blended learning and how it helps
them to develop English writing skills. The emerging
themes from the students’ responses are represented in
As presented in Table 1, the dominant view of the
respondents suggests that blended learning improves
students’ written communication skills (R1, R3, R5, R6)
as well as their self-esteem in learning writing (R2, R3,
R5, R6). The students believe that the blended learning
approach enables them to organize their own pace of
study and impacts their learning positively as they use
podcasts, videocasts, and online forums to explore
abundant writing potential. These perceptions are
consistent with the findings reported by Sahin  that
blended learning helps students to improve their
communication and self-confidence. Furthermore, the
respondents believe that their self-confidence in writing
has improved after learning through the blended learning
approach. In a similar context, Hall and Villareal 
found that blended learning improves the level of students’
motivation and self-confidence. Students develop
self-confidence by engaging in online learning activities
[35, 52]. Nevertheless, the blended learning approach
requires support from educators and the provision of
learning materials based on the students’ needs.
Moreover, the method of content delivery plays a vital
role in regulating learning experiences . In this regard,
the respondents expressed that blended learning has
increased their familiarity with writing using modern
communication technology. These findings confirm that
blended learning is positively associated with e-learning
competence as pointed out by Mwakyusa and Mwalyagile
. When chosen appropriately, blended learning tools
play a crucial role in developing students’ interest and
writing skills . Similarly, Annamalai  found that
students show their involvement in blended learning
activities and improve their tech-savvy which resulted in
positive learning behavior.
Table 1. Benefits of Blended Learning Approach
Predetermined questions Emerging themes Exemplary quotes
Based on your blended learning
experience, what are the benefits of
blended learning in learning
It helps me to improve my English…R1
It is so good for me that it improves my English skills…R5
It helps me to improve my English learning…R6
it improves my English learning and writing skills…R3
…because it creates a learning experience through interaction
between students and lecturers and among students themselves…R6
How does blended learning help you
to develop communication skills?
by helping me to develop self-esteem and self-confidence in
by giving me the confidence to communicate…R3
…by increasing my self-confidence to communicate in English…R6
…as it makes me more confident when writing to other people…R5
… and make me brave enough to give an opinion…R5
It gives me more confidence to communicate with other people…R2
Improvement in writing
…our class quiz and test are conducted online, so I become more
conversant with writing using online platforms…R1
…I learn how to access resources on the internet to write and conduct
… access to internet resources help me to improve my writing…R6
I become more interested, focused, and excited about the writing
It allows students to write at my own pace…R6
Flexibility in learning
… provides ultimate flexibility in presenting content…R5
…reduces classroom teaching time, then focuses on written
It offers a multitude of real-world writing skills…R6
7698 Improvement of English Writing Skills through Blended Learning among University Students in Malaysia
Another theme that emerged from the interview data
indicates that the blended learning approach makes
learning writing flexible. This flexibility gives students
the freedom to choose how and where they learn, thereby
making learning a dynamic process . Students’
perceptions of blended learning are positive regarding its
usefulness in terms of quality of writing instructions,
course content, and flexibility. The blended learning
approach has provided the students with better learning
achievements, a higher level of enthusiasm, and more
positive attitudes toward learning writing. According to
Nedeva and Dineva , blended learning tools are
convenient and easy to use as they have the flexibility of
time and place. However, some students prefer having
two-way communications with their classmates and
lecturers while utilizing a blended learning approach for
their writing skills. R1 stressed that “when we are divided
into groups, we have so much fun to work together and
share our experience to get good marks and support each
other”. According to Ghahari and Ameri-Golestan ,
the integration of technology with the traditional approach
is effective in enhancing students’ learning performance,
especially in learning writing.
The blended learning approach has broadened the
opportunities for students to exchange written ideas due to
its varied learning activities. Eshreteh and Siraj 
described that online lectures can enhance classroom
collaboration between instructors and learners. Students
tend to perform some writing activities to provide
feedback to the wall post which encourages interactivity
through writing . During the interview session, R6
states “blended learning can help me to improve my
interactions through writing feedbacks using emails,
discussion boards and, chatroom”. The use of online
communication tools, such as Wikis, podcasts, and
videocasts enhances individual and group involvement in
the learning process which promotes communication and
supports the dynamic teaching and learning process .
Thus, minimizing the teacher’s role in the classroom has
widened students’ opportunity to interact through writing.
Bataineh and Mayyas  found that students were
actively involved in blended learning activities provided
on the Moodle online learning platform. Students can
identify their strengths and weaknesses in writing and
develop English communication skills . They perceive
interaction through blended learning positively. R6
explicated that “blended learning makes it easier for me to
communicate with my colleagues and lecturers by
composing my written messages freely”. The findings of
Andreeva and Ostroverkhaia  revealed the blended
learning approach provides a non-threatening environment
that enables students to prepare for the learning task.
Similarly, Abu Bakar et al.  found that most students
creatively expressed their written ideas using blogs.
In sum, the findings of this study showed that students
of higher institutions perceive the blended learning
approach positively as it helps them to develop their
written communication skills and self-confidence. These
findings agree with many previous studies that most
students favored the blended learning approach [38, 46,
48]. However, some studies indicate that students’
preference toward the traditional learning approach is still
high [27, 32]. Thus, a balanced application between the
traditional and blended learning approaches could be used
to achieve better learning outcomes .
This study explored the perceived benefits of blended
learning in improving English writing skills among ESL
students in Malaysia. The findings revealed that the ESL
students believe that blended learning helps them to
develop their written communication skills, self-esteem,
and interest in learning English writing. These findings
indicate that blended learning could develop ESL students’
writing skills through exchange of written information and
access to various online reading materials. The students
viewed the blended learning approach as an interactive
and creative way of learning writing. According to them,
the blended learning approach is a promising, creative,
and feasible innovation in developing their learning
experience by enriching support, activities, sources, and
materials with a clear set of guidance and planning.
Through blended learning, students learn how to
exchange written information, explain, clarify feedbacks
on their learning task. However, the notion of blended
learning does not aim to replace but rather supplement the
teacher’s role in the learning process. Thus, the integrated
approach can produce positive learning outcomes in
learning English writing. The findings of this study
advance our understanding of the benefits of blended
learning in improving English writing skills. This
qualitative study is limited to a limited sample of six ESL
students. Thus, the outcome of this study cannot be
generalized. Further research may adopt a quantitative
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