This research is about university teachers’ experiences of teaching in blended learning environments. In recent years, this type of environments has become increasingly common. Universities have realised the value of the incorporation of eLearning, making teaching more professional and offering higher quality learning experiences. At the same time, pressures from students, who use online resources for many of their everyday activities, and employers, who want future professionals to be skilled information technology users, have also promoted the up-take of eLearning. In this context, the present research took a relational approach to investigate what university teachers think eLearning is good for in their teaching, how they approach teaching when eLearning is involved, and how their perception of the teaching situation affects the use of eLearning. Associations between these elements were also explored.
The research had a qualitative and a quantitative stage. In the qualitative stage, 18 university teachers, coming from two research-intensive Australian universities were interviewed. This stage focused on conceptions, approaches and perceptions of the teaching situation; both considering teaching in face-to-face settings and using eLearning. In the quantitative stage, 86 university teachers answered a web-based survey. Three questionnaires were used to explore associations between approaches and perceptions: the ‘approaches to teaching’ inventory, the ‘perception of the teaching situation’ questionnaire, and the ‘approaches to teaching using eLearning’ questionnaire. The last one was developed from the results of the qualitative stage of this research.
Results showed that conceptions of teaching ranged from being focused on content and information to being focused on learning and the student. Conceptions of teaching using eLearning showed variation from being focused on information to being focused on communication and collaboration. Conceptions of blended teaching were proposed to emerge from associations between conceptions of teaching and conceptions of teaching using eLearning. In relation to approaches, results showed that approaches to teaching ranged from being focused on content and the teacher to being focused on learning and the student. Approaches to teaching using eLearning varied from being focused on transmission of information to being focused on communication and collaboration. As in the case of conceptions, approaches to blended teaching were also claimed to emerge from associations between approaches to teaching and approaches to teaching using eLearning. Regarding elements influencing teaching, seven factors emerged in relation to approaches to teaching using eLearning: ‘control of teaching’, ‘institutional strategy’, ‘technical support’, ‘pedagogical support’, ‘amount of time needed’, ‘teacher’s skills for eLearning’ and ‘students’ ability and willingness to using eLearning’. Factors influencing teachers’ general perception of their teaching situation were ‘control of teaching’, ‘institutional support’ and ‘students’ characteristics’. Associations between conceptions, approaches and perceptions were explored through ‘teaching profiles’ and ‘orchestrations’ Teaching profiles referred to systematic associations between conceptions and approaches to teaching in face-to-face and online teaching. Three blended teaching profiles emerged: ‘systematically information focused’, ‘dissonant’ (with 5 variations) and ‘systematically learning focused’. Blended teaching profiles associated with perceptions of the teaching situation and teachers’ characteristics led to ‘teaching orchestrations’. Three orchestrations emerged: ‘consonant (information focused) and coherent’, ‘dissonant and coherent’ and ‘consonant (learning focused) and coherent’. Results of the quantitative stage tended to support prior qualitative findings, and also identified ‘incoherent’ associations between approaches to teaching and perceptions of the teaching situation, which had not emerged in the qualitative study.
Results of this research were claimed to have practical implications in terms of academic development, the management of teaching and eLearning, and the practice of teaching. In relation to academic development, it was proposed that programs focused on expanding university teachers’ awareness about ways of incorporating eLearning into on-campus education rather than only providing ‘technical’ skills are generated. In relation to management of teaching and eLearning, it was proposed that favourable conditions should be set up for the teachers to perceive they are supported for the incorporation of eLearning into their teaching. Finally, in relation to the practice of teaching, it was proposed that teachers incorporate learning tasks aligned with the communication-collaboration focused approaches to teaching using eLearning, such as blended discussions or knowledge building tasks.