作品標題: A Proposed Innovative Teaching Model: Blended Course
A Proposed Innovative Teaching Model: Blended Course
An ever-growing number of online learning programs are being offered by higher education institutions throughout the world in response to the rise in popularity of online learning. A recent survey on higher education in the United States reports that over 5.8 million students nationwide were enrolled in at least one online course for the Spring semester of 2016 . The era of e-learning has ultimately prompted change in the dynamics of higher education, pressuring institutions to integrate online educational resources with in-class instructions, or acknowledge online credits in order to enhance students' academic experiences. While such robust and diverse methods have gradually been practiced by some international top universities, higher education institutions in Taiwan seem hesitant to embrace online education, a phenomenon probably resulting from some restrictions in the national education policies. Hence, it is in best interest of Taiwan to seek breakthroughs in online learning and teaching within the nation.
The obstacles resulting from the restrictions may be discussed from two different dimensions: the limitations imposed by the government and those generated from the courses themselves. First, the University Act and Enforcement Rules equate one credit with eighteen teaching hours . However, the term "teaching" is not clearly defined, thus raising a critical question: can online instruction be regarded as a form of formal teaching? Currently, some Taiwanese universities grant credits for online courses from Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) platforms like Coursera. For example, Feng Chia University (FCU) allows students to take general education courses from Coursera, edX, Future Learn, and UDACITY with the help of "digital learning mentors" provided by FCU itself . National Chiao Tung University (NCTU) provides online credit-granted advanced placement programs for basic courses, including calculus, physics and chemistry during the summer terms . In National Taiwan University, OpenCourseWare (OCW) has been well-established with hundreds of courses, yet they are only available for personal enrichment and provide no credit certification. Although the attempt of providing credit-granted online Coursera courses has recently been initiated at NTU, the practice remains in its infancy, considering its immaturity in evaluation and course-support. To urge the universities to take online learning more seriously, the abovementioned problems need urgent attention—a result that can only be obtained when the relevant educational policies are reconsidered.
Second, one major problem challenging online learning is the lack of intellectual and social interactions connected to it. Without hands-on practice in class, it may be difficult for students to fully grasp the content and achieve higher cognitive cultivation, the learning outcomes commonly found in guided instruction . In addition, one primary educational objective of formal schooling is to develop students' interpersonal skills, and this can only be reinforced and mastered through the process of discussing, negotiating and compromising—most of which take place during face-to-face interactions. To strive for a more promising future for online education, the shortcoming of the lack of actual interactions needs to be readdressed.
To investigate the necessity of bettering online courses, a survey was distributed to 130 NTU students in 2016. The results showed that approximately 65% of those surveyed had taken online courses. While many confirmed their interest in taking online courses, only about 20% of the individuals indicated that online learning was satisfying. One crucial comment made by the majority of the respondents was that "some forms of communication and interaction are in need". Therefore, the high ratio of online course-takers may confirm the value of this educational method, yet the large number of dissatisfied learners may have delivered the explicit message that online learning by itself is insufficient for fulfilling students' learning needs.
To overcome the first problem, the difficulty in earning credits for online courses, it would be a reasonable step to review what has been done on the same issue internationally. Many highly-developed countries have recognized the benefits of online learning and sought to further reinforce the trend by granting students credits for the online courses. In contrast to Taiwan, the American government explicitly states that the definition of a credit hour neither requires nor implies any minimum amount of seat time (even for classroom-delivered courses) . Therefore, students are able to earn credits by taking online courses through platforms like "edX", "Coursera", and "Udemy". Prestigious universities like Oxford University in England and Boston University in the U.S., also offer students various online learning programs with the flexibility of when and where to complete their coursework. Due to these two merits, the online-integrated learning methods have been considered to be more effective than the traditional face-to-face courses in terms of learning outcomes . Thus, in order for Taiwan to benefit from similar results, it is clear that Taiwan's University Act and Enforcement Rules are in need of revisions.
In addition, to meet students' needs for online learning and face-to-face interactions, a new form of educational teaching model—Blended Course—is proposed in this present project. The Blended Course (BC) model, through which students can gain access to online materials, conduct their own self-study practices, have personal contacts with their online learning tutors and receive face-to-face interactions in class, contributes to greater success than current teaching models in four ways. To begin with, BC enables team collaboration and individual attention. Also, college students in Taiwan have often found it difficult to take courses in which they are interested due to the limited seating. BC allows bigger class sizes. Moreover, BC not only encourages students to learn fundamental knowledge and skills at different paces but also allows them to develop higher cognitive skills by participating in more challenging and demanding in-class guided group tasks. Last but not least, BC provides a maximum efficacy of learning-monitoring at a minimal cost. Most online learning platforms provide the functions of teacher-student, student-student, and self- learning monitoring operations. Resources are more accessible for sharing with the participants at a much lower cost, making learning more obtainable, regardless of the constraints in finance, geography and time.
To examine the feasibility of the BC model, a brief description of the BC model was included in the same survey conducted by the team members of this proposal in 2016 and the respondents' opinions regarding the proposed BC model were investigated. More than half of the respondents (approximately 57%) demonstrated their positive attitude toward the potential values of the model. There were 39 positive written comments made in the survey. While the comments have suggested that the BC could fulfill the abovementioned four successes (i.e., cost-friendly, more learning-effective, flexible and accessible), the majority held a positive stance about the BC achieving the advantages of both the new and the conventional teaching models (Illustration 1). Additionally, 41 written responses were also given to express the participants' uncertainties. About half of them were concerned with failing to follow the learning schedule and not receiving instant feedback from both teachers and peers. In brief, the results have shown the potential positive effect of the BC model application at National Taiwan University. While some concerns were shared, they were either already-existing problems in teaching, meaning non-specific to online learning, or generated by observing the current learning platforms, which are very likely to be solvable with a little more technical effort.
The promotion of Blended Course is just the beginning of a new era in which students hold the compass in the ocean of knowledge. There will be obstacles to overcome and barriers to break. Complementary measures need to be taken to ensure teaching and learning quality. Laws and regulations should be amended to allow for credits being granted. Even though this may not be an easy task, this change would be a significant, worthwhile educational endeavor. This new educational revolution will be upon us.
The Respondents' Positive Written Comments about the BC Model