The impact of socio-cultural factors on blended learning in the development of academic literacy in a tertiary vocational context
Gutteridge, Robert Geoffrey
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This study investigated key factors impacting on blended learning delivery with particular focus on socio-cultural and human-computer-interface issues, in the hope that the outcome of this enquiry might contribute positively towards the empowerment of learners and facilitators alike. The study involved a group of first year students enrolled in a Communications Skills Course offered by the (then) Department of English and Communication at the Durban University of Technology. The PRINTS Project, a webquest around which the course activities were based, provided an example of a blended delivery course in practice. While the teaching paradigm used in the course was constructivist, the research orientation employed in this project was critical realist. Critical realism focuses on transformation through praxis and also lends itself to modelling, which provides a way to understand the factors at play within a social system. In the preliminary stages of the research, an exploratory empirical (i.e. applied) model of blended learning delivery was formulated from a theoretical model of course delivery in order to assess which factors in blended learning were systemic and which were variables. The investigation then sought to uncover key factors impacting on the blended delivery system, utilising both quantitative and qualitative methodologies. The findings were analysed in terms of the empirical model to gain an understanding of any factors that might be seen to either enhance or inhibit learning in blended delivery mode. The result was that certain core issues in blended learning and teaching could be clarified, including the use, advantages and disadvantages of information and communication technologies (ICTs) in a learning environment. The notion of the digital divide could also be reconceptualised, and the relationship between literacy (be it academic, professional or social), power and culture could be further elucidated, drawing specific attention to the South African educational environment. The notion of iv culture and its relevance in a blended delivery environment was also further clarified, since the findings of this research project suggested how and why certain key socio-cultural factors might impact, as both enhancers and inhibitors, on the blended learning delivery system.
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