Blended learning has been gaining popularity in higher education worldwide because its instructional design allows students to review theoretical concepts at their own pace before class and frees up time for application, thereby enhances deep learning. Previous blended learning research in physical therapy education mainly explored the effectiveness of skill-supplementation materials such as videos in improving skills, reasoning or clinical preparation in a western educational context. This mixed-method research examines students’ perceptions of learning and their experiences with a well-designed blended learning course in a rehabilitation program in Hong Kong where teacher-directed education is the tradition.
The Research Methods and Statistics course in the Department of Rehabilitation Sciences at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University was revamped from a complete face-to-face course to a blended approach where online learning consisted of 50% of learning activities (lectures, quizzes and discussion forums). Students attended face-to-face review sessions and activity-based tutorials to consolidate and integrate their knowledge. Post-class and post-course surveys on a 5-point Likert scale were done to assess students’ time and effort spent on online materials, perceived usefulness, quality and appropriateness of the course. Focus group interviews using purposive sampling were conducted before and after the course to gather students’ perception on learning and blended experience. Each interview lasted for about an hour and was audio recorded, transcribed verbatim and analyzed using a 6-step thematic analysis. Ethics approval was obtained from the Departmental Research Committee.
The response rate for each post-class survey varies but overall 22% of enrolled students (n=42) responded to the post-course survey. While 86% of students rated the face-to-face components enhanced their learning; only 69% of respondents ascribed online lectures as useful. Twenty-three students in total participated in the pre-course and post-course focus group interviews respectively. The themes emerged from the qualitative data were multi-dimensions of learning, important roles of teachers, peer interaction in learning, and assessment drive learning. Results also revealed the rooted teacher-directed learning style of Hong Kong students where self-discipline necessary for online learning is challenging.
Conclusions/Relevance to the conference theme: The Pursuit of Excellence in Physical Therapy Education
This study reflected on students’ perception of learning and prominent features that facilitate valuable learning in a blended environment. While findings suggested the importance of socialization in students’ learning, this benefit in an online environment should not be assumed but evaluated in each context. Future adoption of blended approach should address peer-teacher interaction online and foster the role of peers and self-instruction in the learning process.
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