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Blended learning model in mechanical manufacturing training

Blended learning model in mechanical manufacturing training

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Published by Hamdy Ragb
Blended learning model in mechanical manufacturing
Blended learning model in mechanical manufacturing

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Published by: Hamdy Ragb on Dec 10, 2010
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African Journal of Business Management Vol. 4(12), pp. 2520-2526, 18 September, 2010Available online at http://www.academicjournals.org/AJBMISSN 1993-8233 ©2010 Academic Journals
Full Length Research Paper 
Blended learning model in mechanical manufacturingtraining
Mehmet Sahin
Technical Science College, Selcuk University, Konya, Turkey. E-mail: mesahin@selcuk.edu.tr.Tel: +90 332 2232353. Fax: +90 332 2418105.
Accepted 13 August, 2010
Blended learning is increasingly prevalent and it is vital for higher education and corporate trainers tocreate strategic plans focusing on blended learning techniques to benefit from this teaching andtraining model. A qualitative study was carried out using an interview technique with a trainer whoapplied a blended training model in a vocational organisation. The aim was to determine whetherblended learning is effective in mechanical manufacturing training. The results indicate that blendedlearning can play a vital role in vocational training settings in educational organisations andworkplaces. The approach can be used for vocational training based on skill development formanufacturing and production areas at any level. Implementation of a blended learning model in a veryspecific vocational education field (mechanical manufacturing) has demonstrated that the approach isvery useful if designed well.Key words:
Blended learning, blended model, mechanical manufacturing, vocational training.
Blended learning is gaining widespread acceptance on aglobal basis, but a generally accepted definition has notemerged yet. Scholars outside of education haveapproached the meaning of blended learning from ascientific angle, drawing on connections of the term tobiology and botany. Sands (2002), for example, notedthat since the word hybrid refers to the offspring of twodifferent, genetically dissimilar parents, teaching andlearning in this framework must also involve the success-ful joining of opposing parts – online and face-to-facemethodology. Building upon this metaphor, Osguthorpeand Graham (2003, 227) described blended models as‘pedagogies that change according to the unique needsof learners. Those who use blended learning environ-ments are trying to maximize the benefits of both face-to-face and online methods – using the web for what it doesbest and using class time for what it does best.’ There-fore, according to the definition adopted here, blendedlearning is a hybrid that integrates traditional in-classsessions and e-learning elements (Reay, 2001; Rooney,2003) in an attempt to combine the benefits of bothlearning forms. Graham (2006: 5) summarized threedefinitions of blended learning: (a) a combination ofinstructional delivery media; (b) a combination ofinstructional methods; and (c) a combination of onlineand face-to-face instruction. The third definition is the oneadopted here since this is a more accurate reflection ofthe actual development of blended learning. The criticismthat online teaching and learning environments lack manyof the advantages of face-to-face environments has led tothe notion of blended learning.Blended learning has been described as integratedlearning, hybrid learning and multi-method learning. How-ever, the term blended learning is increasingly used inboth academic and corporate circles. According to someauthors, written language is the first example of ablended concept since it is a combination of languageand paper. In this context, the printing press is the nextstage. However, what we regard as blended learninghere is the definition of the Flexible Learning AdvisoryGroup (2004): blended learning comprises learningmethods that combine e-learning with other forms offlexible learning and more traditional forms of learning,such as classroom training (Stockley, 2005). Bersin(2004) outlined the evolution of learning from thetraditional classrooms of the 1950s through to the current
blended learning environment. The last stage isintegrated blended learning, which includes web, video,audio, simulation and information and learning techno-logy approaches. Blended learning in this sense is arecent online innovation resulting from the integration oftechnology in education. Advances in technology andchanges in teaching and learning approaches (fromteacher- to student-centred) facilitates the emergence ofnew models such as blended learning to come out.Watson (2008) suggested that blended learning involvesa shift in strategy in three areas: from teacher-centred tostudent-centred learning, from limited to high-frequencyinteractions between students and resources and fromintermittent to deliberate integration of formative andsummative assessments.In fact, educators have been preoccupied withintegrating technology into the classroom for decades(Dziuban et al., 2004). Rapid changes in technology inthis century have revealed that students have an enor-mous capacity for change, so educators should embrace‘the new digital reality of the online, computerized world’(Jukes, 2008: 6). According to Young (2002), ‘Within fiveyears, there will be lots of blended models such asstudents going to school two days a week and working athome three days a week. Another blended model iswhere a student takes five face-to-face courses at schooland two virtual courses’ (cited in Picciano and Seaman,2009: 5). In 2002, Prof. Bourne stated: ‘within five years,you will see a very significant number of classes that areavailable in a hybrid fashion …. somewhere in the 80 – 90% range’ (cited in Young, 2002). Buckley (2002) andBarr and Tagg (1995) noted a paradigm shift in highereducation leading to new models of teaching andlearning. We are currently embracing rapid changes inInternet technologies that in turn suggest that blendedlearning should become an integral component ofeducation (King, 2002).
Blended learning can occur at different levels ofinstruction: (a) at the activity level, when a learningactivity contains both face-to-face and computer-mediated elements; (b) at the course level, which is themost common, where both face-to-face and computer-mediated activities are included as part of a course; (c) atthe program level, when participants take both online andface-to-face courses in a program; and (d) at theinstitutional level, with organizational commitment toblending of face-to-face and computer-mediated instruct-tion (Graham, 2006). When designing a blended learningenvironment, the first stage is allocation of some of theblended subject matter as face-to-face and some asonline. The more common blending technique usuallycomprises 50% face-to-face activities in a classroomenvironment and 50% activities performed in an onlineSahin 2521environment (Osguthorpe and Graham, 2003). Accordingto Rossett and Frazee (2003), instruction tools andplanning approaches are crucial components forsuccessful blending, and all components of a particularinstruction method must be appropriately combined. Ablended model includes certain educational components.However, teachers have a wide range of options forblending and are not only limited to applications andactivities previously known and used. Education might bea combination of formal and informal approaches,technology- and human-based activities, independentand enjoyable activities, or direct and exploratorymaterials. According to Reay (2001), blended learning isnot just the addition of online materials to a conventionaltraining environment; blended learning must be relevantand requires a holistic strategy that utilizes the bestcharacteristics of all learning interventions. The methodsand techniques selected should be appropriate for thesubject. Successful implementation and use of blendedlearning requires an understanding of the strengths ofdifferent media, how learners engage in this type oflearning process, how they use information from eachdifferent medium, and how they can handle online andtraditional (face-to-face) teaching methods in a combinedform (Mortera-Gutierrez, 2006). Three major componentsof blended learning that can be blended or mixed in face-to-face and online environments are learning activities,students, and the teacher. As reported by Osguthorpeand Graham (2003, 229): ‘If balance and harmony arethe qualities that are sought for in blended environment,one must first identify precisely what is to be mixedtogether.’Garrison and Kanuka (2004: 97) noted that trueblended learning lessons do not involve supplementationwith the Internet two or three times a week, merelylayering repetitive online content on top of face-to-faceinstruction, or dressing up old content in new clothes. Intheir estimation, blended learning is a ‘reorganization andreconceptualisation of the teaching–learning dynamic’.Elements from e-learning or in-class sessions should notbe included arbitrarily, nor should one form of learningsimply accompany the other. There is no rule of thumbdetermining the percentage of online and in-class phasesin the concept (Reimer, 2004). Some fields are bettersuited to in-class methods, whereas others clearly benefitfrom the use of new media (Lang, 2002). The decisivefactor in developing blended learning concepts is tocombine in-class and e-learning methods in a way that isappropriate to both pedagogy and current concepts oflearning (Lang, 2002). Based on the practical question ofhow to blend, three categories for blended learningsystems exist:1. Enabling blends, which focus on addressing issues ofaccess and convenience.2. Enhancing blends, which incorporate incrementalchanges to existing pedagogy such as offering resources
2522 Afr. J. Bus. Manage.and supplementary materials online while in a traditionalface-to-face learning environment; and3. Transforming blends, which facilitate radical trans-formation of pedagogy by taking full advantage of thecapacity offered by technology (Graham, 2006).According to Zukowski (2006), five emerging ingredientsare important elements of a blended learning process:live events, self-paced learning, collaboration,assessment and performance support materials. Painter(2006) listed eight key steps to blended learning:1. Prepare learners with essential skills and overallunderstanding to ensure success.2. Inform learners about objectives, facts, and keyconcepts of the skills they are going to learn and explainthe value of learning them.3. Demonstrate procedures, principles, concepts, andprocesses so learners can apply the skills.4. Provide learners with opportunities to practice newlylearned skills and build long-term retention.5. Evaluate learners’ application of new skills and providefeedback.6. Assist learners’ transfer of learning.7. Provide tacit support of peers, mentors, or experts.8. Allow learners to work collaboratively as a communityto solve problems.Singh and Reed (2001: 2) characterized blended learningas ‘optimizing achievement of learning objectives byapplying the “right” blended learning technique to matchthe “right” personal learning style to transfer the “right”skills to the “right” person at the “right” time.’ Each ofthese workplace definitions has the following features: (a)a focus on learning objectives rather than on the mode ofdelivery; (b) a respect for learning styles that can reach abroad corporate audience; (c) a desire to ease the overallcompetitiveness of the business organization and build asense of community; (d) an attempt to make work andlearning inseparable operations; and (e) embedding oflearning in all aspects of the business from hiring to salesto product development. Although, it is essential forblended learning teachers to articulate their teachingphilosophies, Kanuka (2008) argued that hybridinstructors must also be cognisant of three competingpsychological impressions of technology and their impacton the field of blended learning: user determinism, socialdeterminism and technological determinism.
 The aim of the study was to elicit the opinions of trainers ofmechanical manufacturing students regarding training on ComputerNumerical Control (CNC) turning by blending face-to-face class-room and workshop activities with an Internet-based virtual trainingenvironment. Blended learning has been applied in highereducation and workplace learning settings on a global basis andcan lead to improved pedagogy, increased access and flexibility,and better cost-effectiveness (Graham, 2006). Mechanical manu-facturing requires extensive use of technology, and training in thisfield should be based on the use of educational technology.Blended learning can be used to ‘foster learning communities,extend training events, offer follow-up resources in a community ofpractice, access guest experts, provide timely mentoring orcoaching, present online lab or simulation activities and deliverprework or supplemental course materials’ (Bonk et al. 2006, 560).In the business world, the most important reasons for developingblended solutions include the ability to match learning styles, tocreate individually tailored solutions, to reduce class time; toimprove the learning rate; and to exploit investments already madein re-usable training resources (Sparrow, 2003). In academia, theinitial cost-saving argument for e-learning (Gayeski, 1998; Wilson,1999) has recently been replaced with a more refined under-standing of how to integrate technology into an overall learningstrategy. The present study relates the technology used inmanufacturing with the educational technology used for training in ablended environment. In this case, the role and function of a trainerin such an environment are of importance from the trainer’sperspective. Rather than the opinions of the trainees (who areexposed to blended learning), the opinions of the trainer aresignificant in assessing the place of blended learning in a technicaltraining lesson such as on CNC turning for mechanicalmanufacturing. This model can be regarded as a novel training andlearning design. The opinions of a trainer who has used this modelcan help educators to determine what they should focus on andwhat they should omit.
This study is based on a case at the Department of MechanicalEngineering, Technical Science College, Selcuk University, Konya,Turkey. In 2009, the college developed a virtual training centre forCNC (http://www.vtcforcnc.com) as part of an LdV Development ofInnovation Project. The training centre was set up on the Internetfor CNC training based on virtual aids. The author was involved inthis project as coordinator and researcher. After the project wascompleted, the training tool developed was applied in thedepartment as part of a blended learning model for CNC turning ina course on mechanical manufacturing delivered by a trainer whoalso worked on the project. The trainer had PhD qualification andwas teaching mechanical manufacturing department for more thansix years. The trainer was also involved in the mentioned project astrainer who helped the development process getting the feedbackof trainees to form a well-balanced curriculum of CNC training. Untilthe time of the project, he was experienced in mechanicalmanufacturing training using face-to-face teaching in the classenvironment and workshop. The Turkish version of the CNC virtualtraining centre was added to training sessions, along withclassroom and workshop techniques, for two semesters during the2009–2010 academic years.Qualitative research was then based on face-to-face in-depthinterviews after the trainer had used blended learning for twosemesters. According to Kvale (1983: 174), a qualitative researchinterview is ‘an interview whose purpose is to gather descriptions ofthe life-world of the interviewee with respect to interpretation of themeaning of the described phenomena.’ Data were collected duringface-to-face interviews. The meeting room was quiet, comfortable,and free from outside distractions, which provided a good interviewambience. The author asked a series of open-ended questionsranging from general to specific points to obtain the interviewee’sopinions, experiences and suggestions. Interviews were conductedby the author and were tape-recorded for accuracy after permissionwas obtained from the interviewee. Notes were also taken during

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