A PHENOMENOLOGICAL EXAMINATION OF THE BLENDED LEARNING EXPERIENCES OF ANGLOPHONE CARIBBEAN COMMUNITY COLLEGE STUDENTS: AN INTERPRETATION THROUGH THE COMMUNITY OF INQUIRY FRAMEWORK By BHUVANESWARI GUDAPATI A DISSERTATION PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE SCHOOL OF THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF DOCTOR OF EDUCATION UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA 2018
2018 Bhuvaneswari Gudapati
To my parents who are not only my support but my inspiration to always reach higher and work harder for the things I want and to remember family and friends are more important than the material things in life This is your degree!
4 ACKNOWLEDGMENTS As a teacher I tell my students to always remember the people who helped them on their journey to success and all they have achieved or will achieve So, at this point it is only right that I do the same and acknowledge the all the wonderful people who hav e made this journey a success I want to start first by thanking my parents No one in my life has had more impact than my parents, who from childhood have always encouraged and supported all my choices and been with me every step of the way through good and bad At this late stage in my life when I decided to pursue my doctorate, there was no hesitation in their support and they proudly announced to all and sundry that I was back in school Without their love and support I would not be here. To my two won derful sisters, Tara and Usha, who despite telling me They showed their love and made my li fe easier by listening and by making me laugh at times when I was down and feeling like I could not go on encouraged me in their own ways and goaded me into getting wor k done or else I would look (wink) eventually I want to thank my wonderful brothers in law, Ashok and Murthy for their support. A special thanks especially t o Murthy for his encouragement and support. Also a big shout out to my uncle who always encouraged and checked in to see how it was going and my cousin and his family for welcoming me those first few months in Gainesville.
5 Hanson and her wonderful husband Charles. 28 years and some ailments later and we are still sharing our lives and growing in our friendship. Thank you for driving all the way to Florida from North Carolina to come pick me up where I was having class, just so we could spend time together (wink). I would like at this point to thank several groups of people and a few special individuals without whom I could not have gotten through this program. When you take a jou rney of discovery such as that of the doctoral kind, you have a lot of helping hands along the way These people help make the journey easier and push you to reach your goals. First, I would like to thank Dr. Zaria Malcolm, who gave me the brochure for thi s program and has supported and encouraged me all the way from application to dissertation I would not even be here without her help (all your fault not sure I should thank you) Second, I want to thank my Committee Chair and my dissertation committee. A special Justin Ortagus and my Committee members, Dr. Rose Pringle, Dr. Cliff Haynes and Dr. Pavlo Antonenko. Each of these professors supported and helped me get to this final phase of my journey, reaching out to offer advice, and asking if I needed anything I could not have asked for a more caring and generous group of individuals. At this point, that I have to say an especially big thanks to my Chair, Dr. Ortagus, who believed in me and stuck with me through all my crazy, so THANK and what a difference your advice has made to me not only as a student but as a researcher. To this roster of great professors, I wan t to send a special thanks to Dr. Dale Campbell for being a true educational leader by encouraging and inspiring me throughout this program,
6 teaching me how to network better, and finally to helping me grow as an educator despite any ambiguities that life may throw of years less stressful and who always kept in touch to see how I was getting on. A special thanks to Dr. Dennis Kramer who also encouraged and brought new insight to the ways I look ed at things and to let him know that the cohort trip to JA will happen Be on the lookout! To my dear friend, Howard Spittle, who kept at me and encouraged me to finish, and who reminded me of how worthwhile an endeavour it is to pursue a higher education thank you mi fren, for tea and talk! A big thank you to my friends Natalie and James Ransome, who helped me laugh and made sure I got out to relax and enjoy some of life and not be all about school and work. They kept me sane. There are two big groups o f people who were my lifelines in different ways that cannot be forgotten, my colleagues at work especially those fr rom the ECC School of THEM and my 2014 Cohort These folks made this journey easier and there are few words to express my heartfelt gratit ude for each and every member of the two groups I am richer because they gave me something more precious than my degree their friendship I have made lifelong friends in you both and cannot wait to explore the many years of friendship to come. I want to thank my ECC family, and especially my THEM colleagues who supported me when I set out on this crazy ride. They encouraged and helped ease my burden while I struggled through classes I could not in any way have done this program without their love and su pport. A my THEM frens Alla, Duane, Rayanne, Sharon, Paulette, Claudia P, Claudia B, Colleen, Doyley, Marsha S, Marsha G, Ms. G, Nigel and Karlene
7 for always asking how it was going, and for encouraging me to keep at it. They helped me by covering classes when I had papers to write or projects to complete Lawd bless unnu! To my 2014 Cohort, I love each and every one of you Ansa, April E, April R, Cris, Evan, Holly, Jazmin, Joe, Kayla, Kendall, Kiffani, Olu, Miwa Terolyn and Will. Though I may point out a few people below, each and every one at one point or another has made me feel so welcomed and loved with your generosity and friendship that I know we will always have that special bond forged in the fires of am biguity (lol) Look out for that reunion invite for our first Cohort Reunion in JA! Thank you Hamiltons, Will, Gabriella, Sebastian, and Maya. You opened your home and hearts and took in a complete stranger (what were you thinking!) and made me part of you r family. I especially want to thank Will for his endless patience and advice, book recommendations, and wicked sense of humour, and for telling me when my stuff was crap. And while Will was my inspiration, Gabriella was my co conspirator and friend, who s hared freely of her time, wonderful food and culture, all while teaching ridiculous hours and taking care of the kids A special shout out to Terolyn Lay and Christine Lloyd, two wonderful and special ladies and their equally wonderful husbands for the ch ats, laughter, support and love. You two have a special place in my heart and I look forward to many more years of friendship. To my friend, April Raneri, who no matter what life threw at her, including having a baby our very first semester, always came t hrough with a smile and a positive attitude. She kept me on my toes with her very organized self even if she refuses to come out of her comfort zone (lol)
8 Jazmin Caton and Oluwumi Ariyo, thank you both for your friendship, love and encouragement, especia lly during those last months and for checking in on me to see how the struggle was going and being part of my mock proposal team to get me through that hurdle. Even with all you were going through, you found the time to reach out to me and I how much that meant to me. Ansa Reams Johnson (Roomie!), thank you for making life easier with late night conversations, our love of chocolate, and singing carols at Christmas (and almost getting kicked out of our hotel room) What would I do without our meme wars on FB messenger?! Best Roommate ever! Thank you Holly Oosterhoudt McGlashan, the very first person during my interview for the doctoral program to take a complete stranger around town and offer your friendship Your generosity has never been forgotten Thank you to Kiffani Browning for offering your home and Yours, too, was a generosity and friendship I have not forgotten. my toes, keep me in experiences. I hope we can make things that muc h more interesting and better for you and those who come after you.
9 TABLE OF CONTENTS page ACKNOWLEDGMENTS ................................ ................................ ................................ ............... 4 LIST OF TABLES ................................ ................................ ................................ ......................... 12 LIST OF FIGURES ................................ ................................ ................................ ....................... 13 LIST OF ABBR EVIATIONS ................................ ................................ ................................ ........ 14 ABSTRACT ................................ ................................ ................................ ................................ ... 15 CHAPTER 1 INTRODUCTION ................................ ................................ ................................ .................. 17 Statement of the Problem ................................ ................................ ................................ ........ 19 Purp ose of Study ................................ ................................ ................................ ..................... 22 Research Questions ................................ ................................ ................................ ................. 23 Theoretical Context ................................ ................................ ................................ ......... 23 Central Question ................................ ................................ ................................ .............. 24 Sub Questions ................................ ................................ ................................ .................. 24 Significance of Study ................................ ................................ ................................ .............. 25 Assump tions ................................ ................................ ................................ ........................... 26 Models of Experiential Learning ................................ ................................ ............................ 27 Digital Divide and Digital Inequality Theories ................................ ................................ ...... 30 Limitations ................................ ................................ ................................ .............................. 33 Summary and Organization ................................ ................................ ................................ .... 33 2 REVIEW OF LITERATURE ................................ ................................ ................................ 34 Overview ................................ ................................ ................................ ................................ 34 Background of Distance Education ................................ ................................ ........................ 34 Evolution of Online Education/Learning ................................ ................................ ................ 36 Development of Learning Management Systems and Impacts ................................ ....... 36 New Tools of Engagement ................................ ................................ .............................. 37 Current Status of Online Education in the U.S. ................................ ............................... 38 Online Education in the Caribbean ................................ ................................ .................. 39 Community Colleges History and Growth ................................ ................................ .......... 41 Community College Students in the U.S. Today ................................ ................................ .... 42 Higher Education in the Anglophone Caribbean ................................ ................................ .... 43 Development of Caribbean Community Colleges ................................ ........................... 44 Community College Students in the Caribbean ................................ .............................. 46 Globalization and the Caribbean Community College ................................ .................... 46 Overview of Blended Learning ................................ ................................ ............................... 47 Defining Blended Learning ................................ ................................ ................................ .... 47 Blended Learning Research ................................ ................................ ................................ .... 49
10 Blended Learning Research Internationally ................................ ................................ .... 50 Blended Learning Courses Versus Traditional Face to Face Courses ............................. 51 Blended Learning in Community Colleges ................................ ................................ ..... 52 Caribbean Community College Research ................................ ................................ ............... 53 Research Gaps ................................ ................................ ................................ ........................ 55 Summary ................................ ................................ ................................ ................................ 56 Theoretical Framework ................................ ................................ ................................ ........... 56 Overview of the Community of Inquiry Model ................................ .............................. 57 Research Using CoI ................................ ................................ ................................ ......... 58 Criticism of CoI ................................ ................................ ................................ ............... 60 CoI vs. Traditional Learning Theories ................................ ................................ ............ 62 CoI and Blended Learning ................................ ................................ ............................... 64 Summary of CoI ................................ ................................ ................................ .............. 65 3 METHODOLOGY ................................ ................................ ................................ ................. 67 Conceptual Framework ................................ ................................ ................................ ........... 67 Phenomenology ................................ ................................ ................................ ............... 67 Research Design ................................ ................................ ................................ .............. 69 Setting for the Study Institutional Setting ................................ ................................ .... 72 Research Participants and Course Structure ................................ ................................ ........... 74 Data Collection ................................ ................................ ................................ ....................... 77 Role of Researcher and Methodological Rigor ................................ ................................ ....... 79 Strategies for Credibility ................................ ................................ ................................ ......... 79 Da ta Analysis ................................ ................................ ................................ .......................... 81 Data Explicitation ................................ ................................ ................................ ................... 82 Step 1: Transcription ................................ ................................ ................................ ....... 83 Step 2: Bracketing and Phenomenological Reduction ................................ .................... 83 Step 3: Delineating Units of Meaning ................................ ................................ ............. 83 Step 4: Clustering of Units of Meaning to Form Themes ................................ ............... 84 Step 5: Summarising, Validating and Modifying Interviews ................................ .......... 85 Step 6: Extracting General and Unique Themes ................................ ............................. 85 Positionality Statement ................................ ................................ ................................ ........... 86 Summary ................................ ................................ ................................ ................................ 87 4 F INDI N G S ................................ ................................ ................................ .............................. 89 Blended Learning Challenges ................................ ................................ ................................ 90 T ec hnol o g y Access ................................ ................................ ................................ .......... 94 ................................ .................... 95 S tud e nts Shared Blended L e a rni n g E x p e ri e n c es ................................ ................................ .... 99 Cognitive Presence ................................ ................................ ................................ ........ 101 Meaningf ul Learning ................................ ................................ ................................ ..... 104 Social Ele m e nts of the L e a rning E x p e ri e n ce ................................ ................................ ........ 108 Social Presence ................................ ................................ ................................ .............. 109 Social Media Usage ................................ ................................ ................................ ....... 113 Teacher Preparedness and Use of Technology for Instruction ................................ ............. 114
11 Teaching Presence ................................ ................................ ................................ ......... 114 Students E xpectations of Lecturer ................................ ................................ ................. 115 Lecturers' Use of Technology ................................ ................................ ........................ 115 Lecturers ccessibility and Availability ................................ ................................ ...... 118 Additional Findings ................................ ................................ ................................ .............. 118 Triangulation of Qualitative Interviews ................................ ................................ ........ 118 Online Course Analytics and CoI ................................ ................................ .................. 119 Chapter Summ a r y ................................ ................................ ................................ ................. 125 5 DISCUSSION, IMPLICATIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS ................................ ..... 126 Su m m a r y ................................ ................................ ................................ ............................... 126 Significance of Findings ................................ ................................ ................................ ....... 126 Patterns Observed ................................ ................................ ................................ .......... 126 Blended Learning Challenges ................................ ................................ ........................ 129 Students Shared Blended Learning Experiences ................................ ........................... 130 Social Elements of the Learning Experience ................................ ................................ 132 Teacher Preparedness and Use of Technology for Instruction ................................ ...... 133 Social, Cognitive, and Teaching Presence ................................ ................................ .... 134 Implications of Blended Learning in Caribbean Community Colleges ................................ 137 Implications for Students ................................ ................................ ............................... 137 Implications for Faculty ................................ ................................ ................................ 138 Implications for Course Designers ................................ ................................ ................ 138 Implications for Institutional Decision/Policy Makers ................................ .................. 139 Infrastructure and Implementation Cost Implications ................................ ................... 140 R ec om m e nd a t i ons for Future Research ................................ ................................ ................ 141 Contributions to Literature ................................ ................................ ................................ ... 144 Conclusions ................................ ................................ ................................ ........................... 145 APPENDIX A RECRU ITMENT EMAIL ................................ ................................ ................................ .... 148 B I NF O R M ED CONSENT ................................ ................................ ................................ ...... 149 C SAMPLE FIRST ROUND INTERVIEW PROTOCOL ................................ .................... 151 D SAMPLE INTERVIEW PROTOCOL SECOND ROUND INTERVIEW ......................... 154 REFERENCES ................................ ................................ ................................ ............................ 155 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH ................................ ................................ ................................ ....... 170
12 LIST OF TABLES Table page 4 1 .......... 92 4 2 Community of Inquiry Coding Template adopted for research from Garrison et al., (2001, p. 3) with examples from this research. ................................ ................................ .. 93 4 3 .......... 123
13 LIST OF FIGURES Figure page 1 1 Community of Inquiry Model ................................ ................................ ............................ 57 4 1 ............................... 96 4 2 Examples of students Unit 1 discussion posts on Global Warming. ............................... 110 4 3 Examples of discussion post by students with technology ambivalence but who both had lengthy contributions ................................ ................................ ................................ 123 4 4 WhatsApp scree nshots of student and teacher communication showing (from left to right): 1) teacher exchange with students; 2) peer exchanges motivating each other and socializing; 3) peer exchange with student asking for help on understanding assignment. ................................ ................................ ................................ ....................... 124
14 LIST OF ABBREVIATIONS CCCJ Council o f Community Colleges of Jamaica The representative body of the community colleges of Jamaica CoI Community of Inquiry that describes the way various components of cognitive, social, and teaching presences interact to create a unique educational experience. e LJam The e Learning Jamaica Project developed to utiliz e Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) to improve the quality of education in Jamaican MOEY I T he Ministry of Education Youth and Information is the governmental organization with responsibility for the management and administration of public education in Jamaica. SIDS These are a special group of deve loping countries faced with unique economic, social, and environmental issues. UCJ University Council of Jamaica the main External Quality Assurance and Accreditation body fo r tertiary education in Jamaica and comes under the portfolio of the Ministry of Education Youth and Information (MOEY) UWI University of the West Indies is an internationally recognized higher educational institution and the university serving 18 English speaking countries in the region.
15 A bstract of Dissertation Presented to the Graduate School of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfilment of the Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Education A PHENOMENOLOGICAL EXAMINATION OF THE BLENDED LEARNING EXPERIENCES OF ANGLOPHONE CARIBBEAN COMMUNITY COLLEGE STUDENTS: AN INTERPRETATION THROUGH THE COMMUNITY OF INQUIRY FRAMEWORK By Bhuvaneswari Gudapati December 2018 Chair: Justin Ortagus Major: Higher Education Administration Successful completion of any form of e Learning course s by community college students is an issue both at the global and national level. The purpose of this qualitative study was to explore the experiences of Angloph one Caribbean C ommunity C ollege student s who were taking a blended learning course for the first time The study evaluated their skills and abilities in navigating their courses via technology mediated learning through the framework of the Community of Inq uiry (CoI), which describes the way various components of cognitive, social, and teaching presences interact to create a unique educational experience. T h e blended le a rni n g e x p e ri e n c es of 8 c om m uni t y c ol le g e stu d e nts t a king a blended c ours e for the first time w ere e x plored in detail for e v iden c e of c o g ni t ive, s o c ial, a nd teaching presence described by the C o I a s key elements for gaining me a ni n g ful l e a rni n g e x p e ri e n c es in technology medi a t e d e nvi r onments Individual interviews and observations of interactions on social media (WhatsApp) and the CANVAS LMS were employed in the investigation. Phenomenological interpretive analysis was used to identify themes and provide insights into student perceptions of satisfaction and educational gain with blended learning F indings reveal ed that Caribbean community college student s perceptions of blended learning was positive with
16 student s show ing a clear preference for this mode of learning and indications of meaningful learning taking place more than in basic face to face courses Students expressed these prefer en ce s due to the comfort of learning in their own time and space, the flexibility to submit assignments online and receive immediate feedback, and the communication that created a greater cohesiveness with their peers and lecturer Additionally, students digital access and skills were not as significant a factor in learning as was expe cted Most of the students had access to technology in terms of hardware, software and internet at school or at home and had the basic digital skills needed to navigate online courses. The research fills a significant gap in Caribbean community college r esearch and points to the use of the community of inquiry framework as useful theory for future studies on blended learning.
17 CHAPTER 1 INTRODUCTION Globalization and the technological evolution that is changing the way we do things has impacted educational environments throughout the world and placed pressures on Higher Educational Institutions (HEIs) (tertiary) to step up and take on the mantle of nation building. Like their counterparts in the United States and other developed countries, HEIs i n developing and less developed nations are encouraged to find ways to educate the populous and become knowledge economies. This task is even more important for the Small Island Developing States (SIDS) of the Caribbean as they struggle to overcome social, economic and political upheavals still in existence from colonial days. The task is daunting to bring the majority of a nation's people in line with developed countries in terms of education and skills training This requires all tertiary institutions o f the Caribbean to aid in the effort. Community colleges are especially able to take on this task as a (Adamson, 2012). The Community colleges of the Caribbean came into existence nearly 60 years ago and since then they have fulfilled their main role of meeting the workforce needs of their respective countries. While respective governments and bodies such as the Council of Community Colleges of Jamaica CCCJ and community college leaders perceive d that this was the most prudent direction for the future of their colleges, there is no evidence, empirical or otherwise, that indicates how students feel There is also no indication about their experiences based on any form of o nline schooling or even what degree of online or blended learning method they would prefer. In 2014, it was reported by the Government of Jamaica (JIS, 2014) that it would continue its support of the E Learning Jamaica Project (e LJam) begun in 2006 to utiliz e Information and
18 Communication Technologies (ICTs) to improve the quality of education by allocating Jamaican $1.2 billion dollars (approximately USD$10.8 million) to the project. The aim of the project was to provide greater capabilitie s to schools that will impact school performance by enhancing experience s The Vision of e purpose of a k nowledge LJam, 2017). Among the schools selected to benefit from this project were five of the eight Community Colleges in Jamaica. This move by the Jamaican government, and governments of other Caribbean island nations towards a knowled ge economy, has prompted the leadership of higher educational institutions (HEIs) in the Caribbean to pursue efforts to offer more online courses Additionally, like their counterparts in developed nations, they see tertiary education as a means to help th eir opportunities and problems that stem from globalization emergence of new technologies, HEIs in the Caribbean have seized on new compe titive opportunities for expansion from the physical classroom to the online classroom. Since the inception of the e LJam project, the Council of Community Colleges of Jamaica (CCCJ) which governs community colleges in Jamaica and several community colleges throughout the Anglophone Caribbean have taken steps to offer general online courses These were designed to provide students with different avenues to pursue their higher educational goals; to reach different markets in the wider Caribbean; and to achieve higher completion rates amongst their current student population s However, with this move towards offering online educational opportunities came challenges associated with access and the ability of students to tak e online courses.
19 While Jamaica and many of the Anglophone (English speaking) Caribbean countries rank fairly well in technology adoption, specifically mobile technologies (Trucano, 2013), the results for online education are und erwhelming Only some institutions offer any form of online courses and programs. This is easily evidenced by a perusal of academic programs and courses on various institutional websites (e.g. University of the W est Indies, (UWI), University of Technology (UTECH), Excelsior Community College (ECC)). While eLearning is almost standard in the United States, one could say that it has only just reached its adolescen t stage in the Caribbean partially due to economies under pressure, academic isolation, and t he still growing ICT infrastructure. However, with the arrival of the Internet, and the reduced cost of computers, young people have adopted and adapted to the new technologies within their grasp such as cell phones and social media. Educational instituti ons need to be fully attentive to and mindful of the views and skills of these youngsters. Students after all are the key stakeholders in the educational process, and therefore it is crucial that their learning experiences be taken into account before considering any shifts from a traditional face to face modality to online or blended learning formats. The failure to understand student perceptions and feelings about their learning could result not only in student dissatisfaction but in their dropping out of courses leading to lowered completion rates. Research such as this are therefore of great importance as colleges move towards changing their delivery modalities to include a technology mediated learnin g system Statement of the Problem Over the p ast two decades, digital technology has propelled the growth of online education resulting in dramatic expansions and expansion throughout most educational institutions around the globe. In the United States ov er half of the online enrolments are accounted for mostly by those in two year higher educational institutions of learning (Allen &
20 Seamen, 2017). According to the American Association of Community Colleges (2011) around 50% of all community colleges offe r fully online degree programs. This is not necessarily reflective of Caribbean Community Colleges as there are no studies to gauge the extent of any e Learning offerings in these institutions But the Jamaican government, and governments of other Angloph one Caribbean nations, recognizing the importance of online education, have prompted the leadership of higher educational institutions (HEIs) in the Caribbean to pursue efforts to offer more online courses. Higher education leaders of the region, like the ir counterparts in developed nations, see tertiary education as a means to help their countries compete in the global arena and see education as a solution to both the opportunities and problems of globalization (Roberts, 2003). With the emergence of new technologies, HEIs have seized on new competitive opportunities for expansion from the physical classroom to the online clas sroom. While this push forward by the Caribbean island states is applauded, it does not happen without repercussions. For many institutions, online education is creating a duality where growing demand for more educational opportunities and increased enroll ment are coupled with a lack of access to proper ICT infrastructure and a perceived lack of digital skills by learners. Many educators in tertiary level institutions in the Caribbean do not believe that students are adequately skilled to take courses onlin e (personal communication, meeting with educators, 2017). Wall (2008) states that chief among the challenges emerging that are likely to have great impacts is the ever typically shr claim ed that these demands were behind the drive for distance education with demands from
21 non traditional students looking for different options; from administrations seeking to eliminate costs; and from private providers and corporate universities. Advancements in technology, evolving every year thanks to new hardware and software, are taking the world into new realms of communication, social interactions, and creating new fi nancial opportunities This is especially true in the educational arena where education is considered a key source for the development of human capital where it is seen as useful in promoting development on all levels: national, social, economic and politi cal (Li et al, 2015). Reuters N ews A gency (2017) reported that the Global E Learning market accounted for growth of $165.21 billion in 2015 with an expected growth of nearly $275.10 billion by 2022 increasing at a compound annual growth rate ( CAGR) of 7. have recognized and seized this opportunity for engaging in and increasing student engagement via web based/internet platforms. This integration of technology into the modern classroom in both the traditional classroom and the e Learning environment can offer various benefits to its based computing, digital textbooks, mobile connectivity, high in which h Rainie, 2012, p. 2). Gulati (2008) states that changes designed to expand participation in developed countries and promote lifelong learning for non traditional students is m arked with linkages to the development and growth of a strong knowledge econom y. Zhang (2005) agrees that developing nations can utilize distance learning to offer basic education to large numbers of poor people. The idea that anyone, regardless of their b ackground, can have the best education available is a
22 dream of people everywhere, especially for those in small developing states such as the islands of the Caribbean. However, Zhang (2015) notes that when embracing this new paradigm shift only presents professional challenges to educators but also opens up a vast panorama of With the growth and universal use of the World Wide Web (WWW), many higher education institutions have recognized opportunities for engaging in and increasing courses for internet based or e Learning platforms. Zhang (2005) suggests that widening particip ation in developed countries and promoting lifelong learning for non traditional students is linked to the development of a strong data economy. The background of higher education is changing and shifting as these new technologies emerge S ocial, technical and intellectual forces have converge d to push higher education to a point of significant transformation (Garrison & Vaughan, 2008). This convergence of forces raises serious concerns regarding the quality of higher education experiences for students Th ere is a need for research mediums, and the challenges this raises in their overall learning. Purpose of Study The central purpose of this study was to explore and d evelop an understanding through phenomenological analysis, of from the perspective of the Community of Inquiry (CoI) framework to better guide and provide a fuller explanation of the phenomenon under study and to gain insight into how well blended learning will be interpreted and accepted in Caribbean Community Colleges.
23 While there is an abundance of resea rch about online learning, much of it is quantitative in nature R esearch related to blended learning has mostly been from a quantitative perspective. Research related to blended and online learning within a community college perspective has not received a s much attention and is an under studied area (Jaggars & Bailey, 2010; Jaggars & Xu, 2011). Additionally, most of the research concerning online education is primarily related to students in four year colleges, and therefore result s in a scarcity of resear ch concerning community college students (Marti, 2009; Jaggars & Bailey, 2010). Moreover, while there is research on online learning, there is very little research concerning blended learning in the Caribbean, especially within the context of Caribbean community colleges. Most of the research comes from larger research institutions within the scope and interest of their institutions (Barclays, & Osei Bryson, 2012; Boisselle, 20 14; Clarke, 2015). M inimal research attempt ed to understand the impacts of skill level and comfort with use of technology, especially for first time users, and impacts on the learning experience s of student s Th e current research attempts to address this c lear shortfall. Research Questions Theoretical Context For this study I utilized the concepts within the Community of Inquiry (CoI) theory, developed by Garrison, Anderson, and Archer (2001) which suggests that social, cognitive, and instructional presence play a meaningful part in the learning experience when the three intersect. The CoI was developed to help instructors gain an understanding of the distinctive nature of learning in digital environments. According to Garrison et al. (2000), learners establ ish a community of inquiry with the shared intention of attaining a meaningful learning experience This occur s when the three elements of social, cognitive, and instructional presence interact and are accepted by students (Garrison et. al., 2000).
24 Additi onally, I utilized theories on digital technology access (Andreasson, 2015; Van Dijk & Hacker, 2000; Hargittai, 2001; Hargittai & Hinnant, 2008) which examine s digital inequality created by the digital divide and how the use of digital skills by students i mpact their learning. This was necessary as infrastructure access and digital skill levels are of real concern experiences. In keeping with these theoretical perspectives of the CoI and digital access, the research questions were designed to study and explain the experiences of Caribbean Community College students taking classes in a blended learning mode. The combination of these two perspectives will allow for a greater blended courses for the first time. Central Question Cresswell (2012) maintains that the central phenomenon in qualitative studies examines the wider question at hand. The (Cresswell, 2012, p.132). RQ1: cational exper iences in a blended learning course? Sub Questions Sub questions to be addressed in neutral in a. How do Caribbean community college students describe their perceptions and expectations of, and experience with, the blended learning approach (i.e. communication, collaboration, socialization, etc.) ?
25 b. How do students describe the impacts of access (i.e. internet, hardware, and software) in their blended class? c. How do students describe their digital skills /usage (i.e. preparedness in doing research online using software using LMS) in their blended class? Significance of Study In the last decade, there has been a worldwide increase towards online learning platforms with many schools, particularly higher educational institutions offering online courses in a blended or fully online environment. Allen Seaman, and Garrett (2007) further report that in the United States, despite the growth of online courses, there are still fewer online courses offered than blended courses There is a progressively sizeable market for blended learning delivery with stro ng user partiality to this mode of delivery which learning experiences. With this paradigm shift in distance education, research in understanding student perceptions of their experiences in online education and the challenge s they face in terms of the digital divide is of particular relevance to those offering online courses and moving towards establishing online schools. As Hargittai (2001) notes this is the second level digital divide Recognizing this need for research in student experiences and obtaining a grasp of the actualities of online education can help higher education stakeholders, specifically those providing online services in the Caribbean, to be proactive in mitigating any pitfalls the students or the institutions may face in future endeavours could have significant implications for college enrollment and the eventual permanency of program offerings. Therefore, it is important t o understand their interests, attitudes and thoughts, their digital preparedness and usage abilities, and their access to the internet and to other raw material s (i.e. hardware and software) These understandings can lead to appreciating student challenge s in succeeding in blended and other online courses and offer insights into curriculum development.
26 It can also be argued that higher educational institutions (HEIs) often benefit from the free and honest exposure from students who have had a positive expe rience and proceed to market the school and its offerings better than any paid advertisement or marketing campaign. time e xperiences whether positive or negative. Moreover, there is a minimum level of research that examines the experiences of a first time user of online education as a holistic experience that takes into account the issues of digital usage skills and acc ess (Hargittai, 2001 ) Research on these dominant issues may lead to a better understanding of the experiences of students in developing nations and small island states. Qualitative research studying first time user experiences is relatively narrow A dded to this is the issue of a lack of local and socio culturally significant research carried out within the context of the Anglophone Caribbean and specifically that of the Caribbean community colleges. Much of the research in the Caribbean ha s focused on u ni versities and there is very little published or unpublished research on community colleges ( via conversations with Jamaican researchers) that serve a large part of the Caribbean population. With eight community colleges in Jamaica alone and several others throughout the Anglophone Caribbean, there is an urgent need to expand and advance online learning research in small island states such as those in the Caribbean. Caribbean institutions of higher learning, as well as other educational institutions a nd government perceptions of online learning environments. Assumptions Before carrying on this research, assumptions made by the researcher were acknowledged and addressed. The m ain assumption in this study was that it sought to explain the experiences of Caribbean Community college students taking an online blended course for the first time. It is
27 noted that there was no attempt to report student data (e.g. gender, age, or marit al status) to reflect general academic attainment or learner persistence in the setting under analysis. The viewpoints of all participants towards learning in a blended format were described and examined to provide a sharper understanding of blended educat ion in the Caribbean community college setting. Moreover, the research is grounded in both overall traditional learning theories of constructivism, behaviourism and cognitivism, and theories surrounding digital inequality (i.e. access and usage). One theo experiences and often theories overlap and allow for deeper studies into the phenomenon In order to better understand learners and their experiences, I present a brief overview of some common l earning and digital inequality theories. Models of Experiential Learning Merriam et al. (2007) in examining various experiential learning models by Dewey (1938), Kolb (1984), Jarv is (1987), Boud and Walker (1991) and Usher, Bryant and Johnson (1997) (referenced in Merriam et al., 2007, p. 162) summarize d the learning model approaches These are derived from constructivist, situational, psychoanalytical, critical cultural and complexity paradigms and suggest a reflective approach to learning. Merriam et al ( 2007) note that Kolb and Jarvis both utilize the constructivist paradigm Kolb pro pos es that learning takes place when the learner moves from a concrete experience to reflection, then to conceptualization, and finally to action Next, depending on the action that takes place, the process is repeated I n his model Jarvis s model and includes the types of learning, reflective and non reflective. Reflective learning takes place when the learner plans, monitors and reflects on the ir experiences whereas non reflective is the remembering of past experiences and repeating the experience or doing what we are told.
28 Models by Boud and Walker (1991 ) take the situational approach and examine how S eco ndly they examine how emotion and past histories influence the reflective process. It is important to note that this model recognizes the importance of emotion on experiential learning. Usher, Bryant and Johnson (1997) also originate their model in the situational approach and suggest that emotions such as fear can block learning and can show itself in other ways such as perfectionism, anger, and aggression ( cited in Merriam et al., 2007, p.163) This model sees the e xperiential learning process as intersecting along the autonomy adaptation and expression application sectors It is divided into 4 quadrants lifestyle vocational, confessional, and critical where learning falls within and between these quadrants. Whi le all these models and theories provide for a sound basis for studying student motivations and models, Harasim (2012) suggests that theories of learning and online 3). Because technology and human development have gone hand in hand, Harasim (2012) further suggests that by understanding both the changes in learning and technology and the d evelopments in learning theory these changes author states that the three learning theoretical pers pectives are rooted in constructivism, behaviourism through our perceptions and interaction and discussion within various communities of ). Similarly, Fenwick (2003) (cited in Merriam et al., 2007) postulates on five views that
29 1) reflecting on concrete experiences (i.e. a theoretical perspectiv e based in constructivism); 2) engaging in a community of practice (i.e. situative theory); 3) getting in touch with unconscious or unacknowledged wishes and worries (i.e. psychoanalytic theory of learning); 4) holding firm against dominant social expectations of experience (i.e. cultural theories); and 5) exploring environmental connections between learning and the environment (i.e. complexity theories related to learnin g). cited in Merriam et al., 2007, p.160). Individuals experience tangible moments; they reflect on these moments and construct new knowledge as a result of their reflections. In using this viewpoint, other hand, situative theory hypothesizes is rooted in the situation in which A ccording to this perspective the goal, therefore is to participat e in a community of practice whereby participants practices are refined, new practices are developed and harmful or dysfunctional practices are cast off or changed. The psychoanalytical theory perceives an individual s unconscious as intruding on the conscious experience and creating conflicts that the learner must work through. This viewpoint acknowledges the complexity of the wishes and worries of the learner and the conflicts these raise including their effects on learning experiences. The fourth perspective, the critical cultural dominant norms of experie cited in Merriam et al., 2007, p.160). The final consciousness, identity, action and interaction, objects and structural dynamics of complex
30 161) and therefore attention is not based on the experience but rather on the While many theories were applicable, one theory, the Community of Inquiry (CoI) Model, which sta many of the concepts from traditional learning theories but was specifically deve loped to look at online learning. Through examination of the body of literature on CoI, it was evident that many of the ideas presented in the learning theories explored earlier were present in the CoI framework. CoI has signalled that these areas exist an d are effective in investigating online learning from a student perspective (Garrison, Anderson, & Archer, 2000). The CoI framework lends itself well to the phenomenological inquiry examining attitudes This works well to examine the experiences of Caribbe an community college students in a blended course as it allows for the understanding of the online learning phenomenon and encompass es key areas, including the social, cognitive and instructional presence which will be examined by this research. Further CoI use s theories to explain areas of digital inequality that may have an impact on student experiences These theories were also incorporated into the current research. This was important as technology and issues o f access are of concern in developing nations and specifically in small island states where internet, communication and technology infrastructure is not extensive or is not as reliable as in most developed countries. Digital Divide and Digital Inequality Theories The expression digital divide came into and truly heralded the digital age when researchers, advocacy groups and policy makers became concerned with the growth of the internet. With this growth came the term digital divide first
31 coined by Lloyd Morrisett, president of the Markle Foundation, who saw a gap between the haves and have L iterature on the digital divide and digital inequality is quite extensive but ther e seems to be some agreement (Andreasson, 2015; Hargittai, 2003; Sims, Vidgen & Powell, 2008; van Dijk & Hacker, 2000) that: 1) the two terms mean something different; and 2) that there is an understanding that this phenomenon is of very real concern not only in less developed countries but also in first world nations. I n its early days t he digital divide was said to be the difference between those who had access to technology versus those who did not (DiMaggio et al. 2004 ; Hargittai, 2003 ; Van Dijk, 2006) This can be summarized as a body of research concerned with how many users have access to the internet and other web technology and in what ways they use such technology. On igital inequality is concerned primarily with the extent of benefits derived by users of internet technology and variations of inequality which is ever changing as technology changes (DiMaggio & Hargittai, 2001; Van Dijk, 2012) Key theories have been developed over the years that attempt ed to dissect a nd understand the digital divide In their 2016 research, Pick and Sarkar compared four popular digital divide theories, Adoption Theory of Acceptance and Use of Technology (UTA UT), and the Spatially Aware Technology Utilization Model (SATUM) (p. 3878) The researchers c among these four for all occasions does not exist, but rather each theory has appropriate problems, settings, and contexts for 3895). Hargittai (2001) suggests that it is imperative to understand digital inequality, which she notes as the second level of the digital divide, in its many forms, especially as technolog y and
32 user needs change. Much of the research on digital inequality to date (Andreasson, 2015; Burri, 2011; DiMaggio & Hargittai, 2001; Hargittai, 2001; Sims, Vidgen & Powell, 2008; Van Dijk & Hacker, 2000) asserts that inequality is not exclusively about access, but also addresses issues of differences in the material people use to connect to and access the internet These issues of inequality also include place of access (i.e. self sufficiency of use); degree of social support systems; the way people use each medium; and last but most important, the level of comfo rt and level of skill with technology people experience. These issues create the divide thus creating inequality. Andreasson (2015) suggests that there are three stages of divide which h e categorizes as: "(1) access, in providing ICTs in the first instance; (2) usage, in the ability and interest to use them; and (3) useful usage, from which users can reap the potential benefits of the information Furthermore, Van Dijk and Hacker (2000) suggest that the gap can be characterized by four areas of acces s, which exist as of access as: Psychological access referring to a lack of any digital proficiency resulting from lack of Material access having limited to no access to or ownership of technology (i.e. no computers or network connections); Lac k of digital skills lack of user friendliness and a lack of education or social support ( digital skills access ); p.1). For the purpose of this study, the research will be guided by observing how the of students impact their online experience This will afford a clearer picture of how these two areas impact the cognitive, social and teaching presence.
33 Limitations As with many resear ch studies, this study had its limitations. The first limitation was that it was concerned solely with the shared experiences of Caribbean community college students engaged in blended courses at one institution and thus limit ed the data collection to those selected and represented by that population. The second limitation was that the study only more constructive and useful to examine students over a period of two or more semesters. Another limitation was that data was collected from only one institution and the participants were mostly from one department. A final constraint of the study was that any generalizations would have to happen on the part of the reader (Merriam, 2009) as the study was largely focused on describing Summary and Organization The wave of emerging technologies is flooding our environments and changing the way we communicate and connect This c hange impact s how we learn in profound and meaningful ways. Small island states such as those of the Caribbean region and other developing nations must find ways to ride this wave of change or find themselves drowning in the floodwaters. There is a great n and especially in the little known area of blended learning within the community colleges of this region. In Chapter 2, a literature review will be conducted of the evolution of distance education, providing a background of higher education and community colleges Then an examination of the current status of students in online learning programs will be conducted, including current literature in online and blended lea rning research in the U S and the Caribbean A nd finally background, a literature review and criticism on the community of inquiry will be provided
34 CHAPTER 2 REVIEW OF LITERATURE Overview The purpose of this literature review is to present literature significant to the problem of blended learning, in order educational system s. T he current literature on online learning in community colleges and specifically blended courses, is also reviewed, and gaps in the existing research are identified The chapter is organized into five main parts Th e first section is a brief review of the evolution of distance education up to the cu rrent status of online education and a brief overview of the current status of students in online learning. The second section will provide a background of community colleges, and a historical overview of higher education in the Caribbean leading up to the development of the Community C ollege system. The third section will examine the current status of students in online learning programs examine current literature on online learning, with a focus on blended online learning research in community colleges a nd student perceptions. The fourth section will examine current literature on studies in the area of blended learning and student perceptions and experiences with specific focus on studies in blended learning in the Caribbean. The final and fifth section will provide background on the theoretical framework, community of inquiry, and its usage in studying online learning and criticism of the framework. Background of Distance Education Distance education has evolved from its infancy as conducted via mail ord er courses to its current position with new technologies impacting how we learn, train and teach. This evolution occur overnight but came about through several stages, fraught with all the growing pains of developing a new product or technology whil e finding its footing.
35 I n their meta analysis of 40 years of research and Dawson (2015) agree with McGivney (2009) in suggesting that early distance education was the precursor to current web based education and has evolved over time. Mc Givney (2009) and Bates (2005) point to several stages in this evolution which has culminated thus far in our current system of online education. The first stage in the distance education evolution started with mail order courses in the regular mail services (McGivney, p. 15). The second stage of this evolution is that of radio and television, and included, stage of distance education is that of communication via the internet or video conferencing and learning that is support ed he teacher who originates the instruction Bates (2005) suggests that there are two more stages in this evolution The fourth stage involves study asynchronously online in conjunction with various online multimed ia technolog ies In the fifth stage flexible learning, which adds a high degree of automation and student control to asynchronous Additi global investments in their population He goes on to say that with the changing needs of studen t populations As technology
36 continues to develop and offers so many choices in the ways we learn, blende d and eLearning are but two choices in a technologically expanding universe. Evolution of Online Education/Learning Online education has come far since its early days A ccording to Harasim (2000) the ucation increasingly accessible and n. p.) Kagami, Tsuji and Giovannetti (2004) suggest ed This development propelled educational institutions and educators into a w hole new world of possibilities and opportunities in reaching a wider population. However, this bright outlook was soon tempered by the realities that access was not the same for all populations according to UNESCO (2016) and the Organization for Economic Co operation and Development (OECD, 2016) Development of Learning Management Systems and Impacts I n its essence b lended learning is the incorporation of physical face to face learning with technology mediated learning experiences. Nevertheless, it need s to be understood that this kind of integration is complex and involved incorporating facets from infinite design possibilities due to the varying and distinctive educational contexts, content, new technologies and internet based tools. As a consequence o f this complexity, it is integral to examine the many ways that technology is used in the learning process. One of these tools, the learning management system (LMS) is an essential aspect of online and blended learning. The evolution of learning delivery s ystems has grown from old fashioned paper correspondence to utilizing current learning management systems (LMS) which have made great impacts on the growth of web based and online learning. According to Coates, James, and have rapidly emerged and are having, and will increasingly have, profound effects on university
37 et al. (2005) describe LMS as a and been adopted by higher educational institutions globally LMS often consist of a combination of bject management and pedagogical tools to provide a means of designing, building and delivering instruction and material s with their latest advances in instructional technology These opportunities include greater accessibility, power, and speed which allows for greater interaction and communication, both synchronously and asynchronously, in virtua l spaces between students and their teachers. New Tools of Engagement blended class, and the learning activities that take place within each mode But they are not a dequately set up to serve the immediate and just in time interactions that happen between students and their peers or their lecturers before, during and after a class. Dunlap and Lowenthal, (2009) referencing Kuh (1995) contend that these interactions are vital to the of the classroom interactions like these and many others have adapting Chickering and Seven Principles of Good Practice in Educa tion for online education suggest be employed in ways consi stent with the Seven Principles. These new technologies are multi functional and have numerous uses and capabilities They should be leveraged to aid in
38 encouraging contact between students and faculty. These original seven principles of successful faculty in undergraduate education include: 1. Encourage contact between students and peers and between students and faculty (P1) 2. Encourage collaboration and sharing among students (P2) 3. Encourage active learning (P3) 4. Give prompt feedback (P4) 5. Emphasizes time on task (P5) 6. Communicate high expectations (P6) 7. Respect diverse talents and ways of learning (P7) In keeping with the seven principles of Chickering and Ehrmann (1996), the use of social media tools such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and WhatsApp can be se en as valuable tools For example, they can promote student faculty interactions (P1) ; promote collaboration and sharing (P2) ; promot e active learning via new media sources (P3) ; allow for instantaneous and just in time feedback (P4) ; support efficient use of student time to complete tasks and at their own pace (P5) ; encourage the use of online and social media tools for two way communication (P6) ; and finally allows the use of technology to meet the needs of different types of learners (P7). Current Status of Online Education in the U S In 2017, data collected on distance education in higher education in the U S showed enrollments are composed of 14 .3% of students (2,902,756) taking exclusively distance courses and 15.4% (3,119,349) who are taking a combination of distance and non (Allen & Seaman, 2017). According to Allen and Seaman (2017) approximately 83% of students in distance courses are in undergraduate programs and 68% of distance education students are enrolled in public institutions with larger institutions having the highest percentages of distance students. Additionally, the report notes that while there has been a drop in the number of online enrollments this is in tandem with the drop in traditional on campus drops in enrollment.
39 Online Education in the Caribbean Education in the Caribbean, as in many emerging nations, is often seen as a pathway to success and to full inclusion in society. It is regarded as a poverty alleviator by providing business and entrepreneurial opportunities, and is viewed as a means to lessen the crack between those currently barred from many benefits of society. The utilization of technology, and specifically online education, is viewed by many governments within developing states as a opportunities in a place and time of their choosing. However, Giulat i (2008) states that has been successful Citing Marrett and Harvey (2001), she describes the University of West ed in 1978 with financing from USAID time, interactive teaching using satellite television, regional telephone links, and teleconferencing centres in local schools and colleges supported by live audio communications, lectures, an d print course materials By the (UWIDTE) and made notable contributions to social and medical education. By the mid the UWI had established off campus dist ance education to serve 16 Caribbean nations as part of its main functions (Gulati, 2008). This experiment however was fraught with problems as many faculty members did not see the endeavour as a positive one and only as an addition in which they felt th ey were giving up their intellectual property rights. Marrett and Marshall (2006) suggest that added to these woes, the expense associated with technology for small island states is often mired in difficulties in the creation and delivery h is difficult to quantify and equally difficult to recoup" (Morgan, 2000, p.107). This investment however is one that
40 would be necessary to help propel less developed and developing nations onto a more equal footing with their first world counterparts a nd would thus allow for greater potential in both economic and social equality in the global arena. Taken from a global perspective, technology and specifically machinery is not entirely liberating for the common man many forms is ofte n a key factor that presents a new set of social and economic issues on both a national, regional, and global scale A s countries try to compete with each other for international businesses, citizens must become more mobile, so their education can extend b eyond the physical borders not only to gain high quality education but also to find jobs that may lift them out of poverty. I n her overview of the utility of online education in the Anglophone Caribbean Boisselle (2014) posits that while claims of onli ne l earning success have been made in countries like the U S and even in the Caribbean, the reality is far less positive M any developing nations such as those of the Anglophone Caribbean are faced with deficiencies in technology from power outages to l ack of proper equipment. Boisselle (2014) concludes that online learning like other forms of learning is another tool in the hands of trained and experienced teacher s but should not ity of technological can benefit from policies that are designed in the context of the Caribbean and its needs. Boisselle (2014) also suggests that there is a comparative l earning and its incorporation is considered based on the needs and development of the Caribbean. These needs for the peopl e of the Caribbean are, for the most part, related to a traditional storytelling nature, and are an integral part of their personal interactions.
41 A ccording to Boisselle (2014) t his cultural background would suggest that this method of education, tech nature of most Caribbean societies may help to explain why blended instruction has so far proven more effective at securing pedagogical Th erefore, future research and studies should aim to examine the perceptions of online learning for users, allowing for more informed policy decisions. Community Colleges History and Growth The Community C ollege concept is mostly an American concept that has been appropriated and adopted in countries worldwide, including the Caribbean It can be traced back Readjustment Act also known as the G.I. Bill and the C ivil R ight (Mellow & Heelan, 2008). This bill was seen as "the most revolutionary . piece of legislation to affect American higher education in the 20th century" (Wilson, 1994, p. 32) and as a plan to democratize higher education (Breedin 1994, p. 12) A ccording to Adams (2000) this was an of crucial economic and social changes in the U S after the war. The institutions that developed to meet these changes grew rapidly , and were colleg communities exploded throughout the U S as a catalyst from the B aby B oomer the anti war movement that propelled an in crease in enrolment in community colleges as the door s were opened to many groups of learners such as women. According to Adams (2000) this expansion of colleges and universities across the U.S. increased from an average of 18 institutions per year betwee n 1861 and 1943 to an average of 32 per year after 1944 with the highest recoded between 1960 and 1979 (p. 5). Marginalized groups such as Jews, women and African Americans veterans were able to benefit from the G.I. bill
42 consequently breaking down the ba rricades to higher education for these groups. This however was not equal for all and had different impacts for each group with African Americans and women benefitting the least. Nevertheless, change was happening then and community colleges continue to change now to meet the needs of a globally expanding and diverse workforce. Within this context colleges are now considering new opportunities for students near and far, including international students, afforded via co mputer mediated technology These changes demands, while staying relevant and competitive in the expanding higher education market. Furthermore, Groff (2013) articulates on the daily emergence of new technologies which are constitutive to obtaining higher order capabilities referred to quite often as 21st Century Skills, and which a re necessary for functioning and producing in today's world. Community College Students in the U.S. Today The community or state run college affords many students in the United States and around the world the opportunity to reach their goals of higher education while not having to leave their environments The last decade in particular has seen an increase and growth of enrollment i n online courses with faster growth through higher education (Allen & Seamen, 2011). The community college student body, including students from less traditional and older demographics are particularly attracted to online learning as it offers them more flexibility as many tend to work and have family commitments (Allen & Seamen, 2011). Statistics from the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC) 2018 Fast Facts datasheet indicates that the demography of the American community college student is ethnically diverse with over 50% of community college students being classified as minorities. The average age of these students as reported by the AACC was between 24 with 51% being
43 above 21 years. Additionally, the AACC data shows that 56% of students are female and 44% male In addition, 36 % are the first generation to attend college. While the community college demographic of the American student offers one picture, the demographic identity of the Caribbean community college students differs in tha t students are usually between the ages of 16 25 with evening students being above 20 years Often, these mature students who have families and work. Most students are from middle income to poor or income challenged families. Higher Education in th e Anglophone Caribbean The Caribbean Region is an area comprised of 28 countries with 24 islands and 4 mainland countries (Belize, Guyana, French Guyanne and Surinam) that have close ties with their island neighbors. With an overall population of 40 millio n, these 28 countries cover an area of approximately 727,000 square kilometers (280,696.27 square miles) and share similar geography and climates as well as unique and multifaceted cultural backgrounds but with certain commonalities that are important to t heir cohesion and survival as a region (CaribErasmus, 2012, p. 7). The Anglophone (English speaking) Caribbean also known as the Commonwealth Caribbean or the British West Indies is comprise d Cayman Islands, Tu rks and Caicos Islands, Jamaica, the British Virgin Islands, Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, St Kitts and Nevis, Montserrat, Dominica, St Lucia, Barbados, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Grenada, Trinidad and 15). These countries are also a large part of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) with regional integration which help s smaller nations gain a better footing and market standing against larger and often more developed nations.
44 Higher Education in the Anglop hone Caribbean serves a vast population with the larger islands of Jamaica, Barbados Trinidad and Tobago taking the lead in providing higher education while not the oldest college in the region, is still considered the Ivy league of Universities in the Caribbean. First established in 1948 as a College of the University of London, the UWI, as it is popularly known, is a research university with four campuses throughout the region ser ving nearly fifteen thousand students. However, while the UWI and other universities serve the region well, the cost of a university education, and the need for more workforce oriented programs led to the development of the community college system. Devel opment of Caribbean Community Colleges The increase in demand for tertiary education across the region, with many governments touting the importance of higher education, has placed a great demand on the educational system that had been a part of the Britis h model Additionally, this system did not serve the Caribbean populous well as it was geared for the elite. The community college models were an alternative that were viewed and argued for as socially, economically and politically necessary for growth and development (Grant Woodham & Morris, 2009) by the governments of the Caribbean who saw the se types of models developing in North America and other parts of the world to address such the secondary Woodham & Morris, 2009, p.300) was established in the late 1970s to fill this gap. Community colleges now exist in the Bahamas, Barbados, Jamaica, Antigua, Turks and Caicos and Trinidad and Tobago. However, based on the North American categorization of community colleges, only Barbados and Jamaica could be truly considered to fit the mould of multipurpose higher education institutions.
45 First established in 1974, the Jamaican Community College system with franchis es in Anguilla, the Turks and Caicos and the Bahamas was created to assist students pursuing sixth form (11 12 grade) studies. Now catering to a student population of 12,000 in any given year, nt in the tertiary landscape and they have enrollment in community colleges has grown over the past two years to about 18 percent and opines that community colleges offer high quality and affordable education that is aimed at improving lives and cementing the importance of community colleges in the Caribbean. Adding to this, the Comm unity College system in Jamaica for example has established several Memorandums of Understanding (MOUs) with institutions within the country (i.e. Jamaica Theological Seminary, University of Technology, University of the West Indies) as well as in the U nited States with Monroe College. The CCCJ is working on forming partnerships with Hocking College in the U.S. and is already collaborating with Niagara College in Canada in developing crucial programs for the region. Of the community colleges in the Carib bean, Jamaica which is the largest English speaking island has eight community colleges governed by the Council of Community Colleges of Jamaica (CCCJ), a statutory agency under the Ministry of Education (MOE) The CCCJ, which came out of an act of P arli ament was passed in December of 2001, has a mandate to supervise and coordinate the work of the Community Colleges in Jamaica (CCCJ Website). The aim of these community colleges of the Caribbean is to provide an alternative to the larger universities and to offer courses in keeping with societal needs much like those established in the U.S. to meeting the growing demand of returning veterans.
46 Community College Students in the Caribbean The communi ty college system affords many students in the Caribbean opportunities to reach their goals of higher education and acts mostly as a source for providing workforce development for the much needed tourism, agricultural, BPO and shipping industries that are some of the key industries in the area The last decade especially has seen an increase and growth of enrollment in community colleges, where cost plays a major factor in the affordability of education. The community college student body, which includes st udents straight out of high school and working individuals from various industries, are the main populations attracted to community colleges in the Caribbean. Working individuals often attend as part time students taking classes in the evenings, as this offers them more flexibility M any have day jobs and family commitments. These institutions provide students with educational programs offering training that leads to employability for new students, and career growth or change for those who are already wor king. Globalization and the Caribbean Community College According to Smith (2011), off shore institutions cannot be ignored as globally over 30% of students are enrolled in these private higher education establishments. In the Caribbean alone, there are catering to an increasingly significant proportion of the post 7). The existence of this many private institutions indicates that learn ers are quite willing to pay for services that meet both professional and personal needs (Smith, 2011). These private education providers have had a great impact by meeting regional needs, fulfilling accreditation ce, satisfying scrutiny and delivering programs of
47 Ove rview of Blended Learning Bonk and Graham (2012) state that while blended learning has been a common term and something of a buzzword in corporate and higher education arenas, there remains some uncertainty about what is meant by the term. The idea of blended learning is a bit of a misnomer as suggested by Graham (2006) as it is not really learning but the mode of teaching that is truly blended. Garrison and V augh an (2008) suggest that blended learning of thoughtfully selected and complementary face to face and online approaches and technologies" (p. 148). Bliuc, Goodyear and Ellis (2007) posit that the notion of blended learning only makes sense within the context of the recent background of corporate training which ce to Adding to this, Driscoll (2002) summarizes that there are varying descriptions and definitions of blended learning being utilized depending on who you speak to. It is therefore important to correctly understand what is conside red blended learning. Defining Blended Learning Definitions of blended learning are varied. As Driscoll (2002) points out, this can differ from combining various forms of web based technology (e.g., live virtual classroom, self paced instruction, collabor ative learning, streaming video, audio, and text) to achieve educational goals; or combining various pedagogic methods (e.g., cognitivism behaviourism or constructivism) to provide the most favorable learning outcomes with or without the use of instructio nal technology Other methods of blended learning include mixing various forms of instructional technology (e.g., videos/films, YouTube, CD ROM, web based training) with face to face instruction or training; or mixing or combining instructional technology with authentic job/learning tasks to produce a balanced effect of learning and working. Bielawski and Metcalf
48 (2003) similarly define blended learning as combining rich forms of traditional and interactive instruction with appropriate learning technologies These debates on the exact meaning of the term blended learning have been ongoing (Driscoll, 2002; Graham et al., 2003; Jones, 2006; Laster, 2004; Oliver and Trigwell, 2005; Osguthorpe and Graham, 2003) Most researchers believe that blended learning and blended learning environments consist of a combination of face to face and technology mediated instruction (Graham, 2006; Graham et al., 2003). Therefore, while traditional face to face instruction was occupied with interactions between the learner and instructor in the same place, technology or computer mediated instruction involved the use of information and communication technologies (ICT) to facilitate instructor and learner interactions and learning experiences without either needing to be in the s ame place. Halverson et al. (2014) describe blended learning as a combination of online learning and face to face learning modes and a mix of face to face and computer mediated instruction. Additionally, Graham (2006) suggests that research in blended le arning points to three primary reasons for taking a blended approach in instruction T hese are designed (1) to enhance the effectiveness of learning, (2) to increase access and opportunity through convenience, and (3) to increase cost effectiveness. The b lended approach is one in which instructors adopt various blended learning approaches that allows them to utilize the best of both worlds to create classes that maximize learning for their students. For the purpose of this study, blended learning, and blen ded instruction are defined as the appropriate fusion and use of face to face teaching methods combined with various technology/computer mediated learning technologies and tools to foster and support any and all planned learning and subsequent learning out comes.
49 Blended Learning Research Research on Blended learning has been extensive as evidenced by Halverson et al. (2014) Of of the top but this did not truly reflect the over 700 works linked to non North American settings (Welch & Spring, personal communication in Halverson et al., 2017 ). The focus of blended learning research topics as categorized by Halverson et al. (2017) generated nine major categories listed in order of those most cited: learner outcomes (42.1%), instructional design (31.6%), disposition (26.4%), exploration (21.1%), technology (21.1%), interacti on (10.5%), regional (10.5%), comparison (7.9%), and other (5.3%), (p. 347). Similarly, Drysdale et. al. (2013) in their meta analysis of dissertations and theses studying blended learning outcomes, disposit ions, instructional design, interaction, comparison, demographics, technology, Student perceptions. Studies on students' perceptions are one of the focus areas of a good portion of research in online and blend ed learning research as academics and administrators recognize the importance of understanding the experiences of students especially in terms of helping with completion agendas and program/course success. Guzer and Caner (2014) in their meta analysis of blended learning divided the research into the past (1999 2009), the present (2010 2012) and the future (which would have been anything after 2012 at the time this analysis was completed ) During the past of blended learning they determined three period s of sub classification: first attempts, definition period, and popularity period. It was during this popularity period (2007 2009) that they noted that there were two areas of key interest in blended learning research: effectiveness and perceptions.
50 Muc h of the research on student perceptions in blended programs/courses (Buzzetto More, 2008; Carswell et. al., 2004; Guzer & Care, 2014; Rovai & Jordan, 2004; Xu & Jaggers, 2013a; Xu & Jaggers, 2014; Traver et. al., 2014) indicates that there is a marked pre ference for this type of learning because it is seen as flexible, convenient and time saving. Rovai and Jordan (2004) comment that students regarded blended courses in a positive frame despite initial concerns about the online component and the technologic al and independent learning aspects. Additionally, students seem to prefer the blended to online component as it appears to be less abstract and ambiguous. S tudents also viewed communication in the blended modality positively, as Craswell et. al. (2004) no tes that it spurred greater interaction between students and their teachers and showed an increase in assignment return allowing for timely feedback. Internet presen tation is inexperience and cultural inexperience presented tougher obstacles than perceptions of students in other regions of the world to see if these have simi lar importance. Blended Learning Research Internationally In considering international research on blended learning, I allude to those outside of North America and Europe and other developed countries in general. Research on students' perceptions of blend ed learning in regions outside of those mentioned show similar views to their counterparts in the developed world. There is however a problem in finding these studies as put forth in the meta analysis by Halverson et al. (2017). The impetus of the meta a nalytical study by Halverson et al. (2017) was to examine the An interesting revelation of H
51 articles examined blended learning on either regional or international levels. Furthermore, there blended learning or hybrid learning I nstead authors used basic descriptions such as "partially online, partially face Blended Learning Courses V ersus Traditional Face to Face Courses Allen and Seaman (2016) reported that while chief academic off icers may have reservations about the relative value of online learning, they are in greater support of courses that mix components of online instruction with face to face instruction. This sentiment seems to be reflected in many studies regarding blended and face to face courses In comparing students' perceptions on blended learning versus traditional face to face courses, Al Qahtani and between blended and classroo m learning. The authors reported that the blended learning environment incorporates face to face teaching featuring the presence of an instructor and e Learning with flexibility and accessibility to the learning process, thereby giving students more opport unities to have control over the learning process and to adjust themselves to differing learning conditions and environments. Additionally, a 2007 study comparing students' achievements between a traditional health course and a blended health course by Me lton, Graf, and Chopak Foss (2009) the researchers found that the final course grade was significantly higher (p = 0.048) for blended students (M = 79.62) compared to traditional students (M = 76.38). The results led the authors to conclude that students taking a blended course are more in charge of their learning content in their own time T herefore face to face time can be used to support other more engaging activities through the active learning process. Both studies agree that students taking blended courses achieved higher performance than their counterparts in traditional course s
52 Adding to this, Song, Singleton, Hill, and Koh (2004) reported that students motivation and their need to connect socially can affect their online learning experience. F urthermore, research shows that students perceived blended learning as positive This satisfaction with blended courses was due to several factors: convenience, flexibility and time it offered them to complete tasks (Rovai & Jordan, 2004; Tseng & Walsh Jr, 2016; Voci & Young, 2001) (p. 274). Furthermore, based on Chickerin g and Gamson's (1987) Seven Principles it can be seen that blended learning in its present form incorporates almost all these principles as presented in their paper on new technologies in online learning. Poon (2013) states that the blended modality lends itself well to encouraging student faculty interactions, encouraging active learning, and aids in prompt feedback This may lead to explanations for why the blended format is so readily well received by students. Blended Learning in Community Colleges Early works on blended learning and their primarily on 4 year colleges. With the continual endurance and growth of online and blended learning and the inevitable proliferation of m learning (i.e. use of mobile devices and technologies for learning), concerns regarding the efficacy and success for students in community colleges and their various sub groups have gai ned in significance, especially in light of achievement gaps as illustrated by Xu and Jaggars (2013) in a study of enrollment at Washington State Community college. Results of the study suggested that women tended to outperform men in online course s simila r to results for traditional face to face courses. The study
53 2013b, p. 6), thus giving credence to the concept that blended learning could serve as a solution to problems associated with student success for those taking classes purely online Additionally, Xu and Jaggars (2013b) make the assertion that there have been no studies They suggest this is an important area in need of further exploration. Further study by Xu and Jaggars (2014), comparing face to face and solely online courses, found that students were more likely to withdraw from an online course than the traditional face to face course, even when examining diverse subgroups of students. Similarly, Moskal, Dzubian, and Hartman (2012), in comparing face to face a nd solely online modalities of community college courses, found that web based blended courses resulted in higher success rates in terms of completion rates and showed the lowest amount of withdrawal from courses compared to courses utilizing lecture captu re as a means of instruction. T he authors suggest that t his blending of the face to face with traditional classroom activities may work as a safeguard for those students most at risk of dropping out and work in favor of those students who may prefer one format over another. Adding to this is a study using the M yers Briggs inventory by Harrington and Loffredo (2009) The study was largely compris ed of female undergraduate students, and revealed that where extroverted students prefer face to face courses, introverted students showed a preference for online courses Again, this study reinforced certain ideas about reaching those students who may be marginalized. Caribbean Community College Research The Ministry of Education of Jamaica (2017) reports that there will be more online programs introduced in the coming y ear H owever, r esearch on community colleges in the Caribbean is sorely lackin g. After extensive search es r
54 *Caribbean community colleges and research, *Caribbean community colleges and e Learning, *higher education and Caribbean community colleges and blended learning, *Caribbean community colleges and blended learning *blended learning and Caribbean, *Caribbean community colleges and hybrid learning on Google Scholar, EBSC OHost, and ProQuest, it was clear that published research, book chapters and dissertations are limited (Boisselle, 2014; Clarke, 2015; Cobley, 2000; Corbin, 2017; Dirr, 1999; Enightoola, Fraser, & Brunton, 2014; Figaro Henry & James, 2016; Figaro Henry, Mi tchell, & Grant Fraser, 2011; Grant Woodham & Morris, 2009; Howe, 2005; Jules, 2008; Kistow, 2011; Latchem, 2017; Maharaj & Mohan, 2006; Marshall et. al., 2017; Marshall et. al., 2008; Marshall, 2004; Marrett & Marshall, 2004; Masino, 2013; Roberts, 2003; Roberts, 2002; Schoolderman et. al., 2017; Smith, 2011; Soo Ting, 2016; Thurab Nkhosi, 2013; Woodall, 2011) Most of the results were similar across each of the different search engines. Furthermore, it is evident that much of the research was from a unive rsity perspective and many from the UWI. Added to this, it was noted that many of the works were mostly by the same authors in the same topic area s : online learning, and m learning quotes) brought up only three dissertations and none which actually dealt with community colleges Only one dissertation deal t with online, blended or eLearning in higher education. An additional search using the terms "community colleges in th e Caribbean" (in quotes) brought two additional dissertations but again nothing to do with online learning in any form. All of this research with the exception of Grant Woodham and Morris (2009) came from and was focused on Caribbean universities (i.e. UWI and UTECH). Even in mentioning the role or demographics of tertiary (higher) education, community colleges are barely mentioned and there is little to no published information on community college demographics.
55 Furthermore, many of the actual studies m entioned here were conducted from 2000 to 2013 with only a few works created in the past five years. Nevertheless, there is unpublished research given every year at the Annual CCCJ conference held in Jamaica where lecturers present on a variety of topic s related to Community colleges in the Caribbean (as this is an open conference) B ut again even here research on e Learning in general and specifically blended learning is scarce to non existent This deficiency may be due in part to a lack of motivatio n by those in community colleges who often do not have interests or incentives to pursue research. Added to this, in conversations with my colleagues over the years, there was a reluctance on the part of academics to invest their time and effort as they were often not provided time to pursue research like their counterparts at the university level Many do not see the importance of research as they feel it would not contribute t o changes in the system(s). These ideas are supported by Lewis and Simmons (2010) who contend that the research culture in the Caribbean is in need of change which can only happen if there is a life of facu lty, by adopting tenure as a basic value, by a collaborative ethic, by narrowing distinctions between research and teaching, and by Research Gaps Despite an abundance of research in the field of blended learning, there is as suggested by Halverson et al. (2014) more exploration needed regionally, especially in the Caribbean where blended learning research is in short supply. Additionally, as Halverson et al. (2014) note, America, Western Europe and the Far East. Kistow (2011) notes that there are very few studies on any form of e Learning in the Caribbean and the re search has focused mostly on faculty development and the didactic technical aspects.
56 These obvious gaps in the research on e Learning in general and more so in blended learning in the Caribbean suggests that there is a great need for further study A s t hese small need to engage in research and development, these are the main pillars for sustainability and growth. Summary Bonk (2009) proposes that it is more than likely that blended learning will eventually colleges, will ne ed to gain a wider knowledge of the needs of their students to better help them navigate technology mediated learning as well as to connect and collaborate with peers and instructors. This is never more true than at the present moment for the Caribbean reg ion, as we play catch up with developed nations and move to a knowledge economy serving both the communities of our small nations and our people. Therefore, understanding the Caribbean students, our key stakeholders, is paramount to ensuring we put forward programs that are sustainable on all levels: cognitive, social, educational and economic (for tertiary institutions). Theoretical Framework The community of inquiry framework first advanced by Garrison, Anderson and Archer (2000) is modelled on the basis of inquiry that is not only useful but allows the researcher to construct logical links between ideas through critical thinking. Garrison et al. (2000) proposes that learning takes place through three types of interactions : social presence, cognitive prese nce, and teaching presence These interactions happen in a community of inquiry that is comprised of both students and teachers. This framework is one that was developed as the authors saw a need for new ways in which to study online behaviors and experien ces.
57 Overview of the Community of Inquiry Model The Community of Inquiry (CoI) framework was a theoretical framework developed by Garrison, Anderson and Archer (2000) designed to examine both teaching and learning online This Sessums, 2011, p.127). The framework utilizes a threefold approach to u nderstanding how teaching and learning occur in the online setting, be it fully online or through blended courses with the core of the model highlighting the educational experience. Figure 1.1 below is an illustration of the Community of Inquiry model as p resented on the official CoI blog of Garrison et al (2017). Fig ure 1 1 Community of Inquiry Model Teaching presence. Teaching presence is described by Anderson, Rourke, Archer, and Garrison (2001) as the planning, facilitation and directing of intellectual and social activities that lead to realizing learning that is not only educational but personally significant and enriching.
58 The authors describe this presence as comprising three functions that include the design and organization of instruction, the facilitation of discussion, and finally guiding instruction. The first function designing and organizing instruction is mainly concerned with how a course is set up and organized to allow students to learn and communicate. The second function facilitating discussion, refer s & Arba ugh 2007, p. 164). The last function of guiding or directing instruction is concerned with the teacher s role as a guide for the students in directing their learning. Social presence. Social presence is described as how the student identifies with member s Garrison (2009) states that students (or participants ) ability to identify with the community (e.g., course of study), interact intentionally and consciously in a trusted environment, and establish social relationships by way of sharing their individual selves (i.e. personalities) is how social presence is e stablished. Cognitive presence. Cognitive presence is described as the degree to which learners construct and build knowledge through active discussions or individual reflections. Eventually students are mentally stimulated and challenged when the intell ectual elements are triggered. During this process, the lecturer acts as a facilitator and guide so that learners can succeed through meaningful learning experiences (Garrison, Anderson & Archer, 2001) Research Using CoI Since its conception, research uti lizing the CoI framework has been significant, and according to the CoI official website (2018) the seminal paper Critical Inquiry in a Text Based Environment: Computer Conferencing in Higher Education (Garrison, Anderson & Archer, 2000) has been cited more than 2,800 times (para. 4) as of August 2015 It has provided the
59 & Archer, 2000, para. 4). Much of the research employing the CoI framework has shown the strength of the theory and its applicability in both quantitative and qualitative research. A breakdown of the research, offered by the official Community of Inquiry website (2018), shows that studies at times have concentrated on one or the other aspect of the three areas of the framework: cognitive, teaching and social presence. Additionally, the website points to a number of studies on methodological variations of the CoI over the past fifteen years, as well as articles and papers critiquing the theory. However, notwithstanding the use of the CoI in research on blended environments (Akyol & Garrison, & Ozden, 2009; Garrison, Cleveland Innes, et al., 2010; Traver, Volchok, Bidjerano, & Shea, 2014;), a p reponderance of CoI studies have focused primarily on varying concepts dealing with online, computer/technology mediated, or other distance delivery courses (Garrison et al., 2000; Garrison, Anderson, & Archer, 2001; Garrison et al., 2010; Rourke, Anderson Garrison, & Archer, 1999; Shea et. al., 2012; Shea & Bidjerano, 2010; Shea et. al., 2010). Research on presence Studies on cognitive presence using the CoI often concentrated on online discussions and student behaviors, perceptions and abilities to analyse evaluate, and think critically (Breivik, 2016; Garrison, Anderson & Archer, 2001; Kanuka, & Garrison, 2004; et al., 2016; Meyer, 2003; Meyer, 2004; Morueta et. al, 2016; Sadaf & Oleso vab, 2017; Shea & Bidjerano, 2010; Shea et al., 2012). Pool, Reitsma and van den Berg (2017) referencing studies on learner presence (Shea & Bidjerano, 2010; Shea et al., 2012) suggest that there has not been enough attention given to students in online learning environments in terms of their roles, participation and experiences to
60 understand self regulation skills in online and blended modalities where students self directed learning plays a crucial role. Akyol and Garrison (2011) concluded in their study on learning tasks of a higher order, using online and blended modalities, that it was essential that all three forms of presence be in attendance when using the blended modality However, Armellini and de Stefani (2016) argued, based on iden tified patterns in their research, that there needs to be an adjustment to the CoI as social presence is greater than age social aspects of the educational process have become an essential c omponent in the (p. 1205) This presents an interesting argument for studying how technology shifts are changing learner and learning patterns and warrants furt her investigation. Criticism of CoI Researchers (Annand, 2011; Jzgou, 2010; Rourke and Kanuka, 2009; Shea et al., 2012) of the CoI generally agree that it is a valuable theory in the study of e Learning and other technology mediated learning but propo se that it has several weaknesses that need to be addressed. Annand (2011) suggests that the weight of social presence within the COI framework has been exaggerated and might not truly mirror online educational practices. Annand further contends that there outcomes from sustained, contiguous, two T herefore, sub categories of teaching and social presence need to be overhauled allowing researchers to modify their analysis considering the different activities that specifically support individual and group activities. W hile acknowledging the potential and importance of the CoI framework in studying online learning Shea et al. (2012) agree that while
61 learners perform the same roles (expressed as teaching presence), it ignores some of the real world dynamics that shape and constrain much of online learn (p. 93). The authors propose that the framework does not account for the fact that neither instructor n or l earner engages in the same role and therefore each participates in different ways to succeed thus creating what the authors term a Continuing on this idea of the potential of CoI to contribute to e Learning research, Jzgou (2010), respond ed to an article by Rourke and Kanuka (2009) for greater research on the CoI construct The researcher offer ed a criti cal analysis of the theory, stating that the CoI, which echoes and incorporates a reas of research stemming from pragmatist and socio constructivist viewpoints, can be seen as a refreshing exploration of e Learning However, she argues that Garrison and And difficult to understand and needs clarification of the major tenets of the theory. On a somewhat positive note, Jzgou (2010) notes that the work of other researchers does help in expanding the reach of the framework in the scientific community based on the explanations of those who have appropriated it for their own studies and this bodes well for expanding and furthering the theory. Morueta et. al. (2016), referencing studies b y Marton and Slj (1976) and Marton (1988), suggest that the process of learning and the results that follow are closely linked and is necessary to condu ct studies that consider it as a central element in the analysis of model represented by studies utilizing the CoI ysis among
62 support this idea of a learner presence regulation seems to serve as a basis for a new form of presence within the CoI mo CoI vs. Traditional Learning Theories The Community of Inquiry comes from a social constructivist view point and much like many t raditional models of learning, some w hich were presented earlier in Chapter O ne, these provide i ns ight into approaches used in the study of student learn ing. This worldview focusses on looking at how the social cognitive and teaching aspects of learning affect their outcomes, the tools they use in learning and even how they approach learning itself However, the CoI takes this further to look at how students are learning in a whole new world where technology has become a new force for learning While, traditional models and theories of learning explain aspects of learning with several overlaps that c an explain online learning, I believe the CoI is inherently suited to study online learning I t incorporates the basic concepts of traditional learning theories to provide a model that works when examining e learning modalities as well as traditional modal ities This duality is what creates the best model to study blended learning in this or any research wishing to expand understanding of this mode of learning. It is only fair to see the foundations of the theory from pioneers in education and how they have influenced the CoI framework. Dewey. John Dewey is considered the pioneer of experiential learning and his work is the basic foundation upon which the CoI f ramework was buil t. He saw learning and education overall as a way for students to connect with and create mea ning from the world around them, from their life experiences The students could then decide h ow those experiences help ed them connect to the curr iculum. Therefore, simply put, their life experiences shape how they learn Dewey (1938) stated that 25) H owever
63 p. 25). Dewey believed that to avoid these miseducative experiences and for l earning to be effective you need to have interaction and continuity Learners should be helped by their teachers to learn from their experiences by providing the necessary resources and support to allow learning to occur. Dewey felt instructors should guid e students through the learning process utilizing a student centred approach that included reflection and analysis of how they ( the students) learn and how they approach their own learning. The goal is to connect the student with subject matter in a commun ity where students can take real world problems and use the curriculum to find solutions to these problems. Kolb. experiential education. Kolb espoused new ideas driven by new experiences and felt that learning theorized that learning oc curred in a cycle and happened in four stages. In Stage 1 known as a concrete experience the learner has a new experience or encounters a new situation. In Stage 2 known as reflective observation the learner reflects on this new experience. Stage 3 is where the learner begins to come up with new ideas or modifies existing ones and is known as forming abstracts and generalizations In Stage 4, the final stage known as testing hypothesis the learner applies what has been learned and this leads to personal growth. Bergsteiner, Avery, and 30) It is dominant among adult learning theories Bergsteiner et al. (2010) theory serves as a base for the design of learning experiences. The quality of learning is
64 dependent not on subject matter but on the learner B y providing educatio nal environments that support learning and collaborative experiences the learner is fully involved and draws on their experiences. Knowles Knowles presented six dimension or character istics that motivate adult learners theorized that to (Merriam, Caffarella, & Baumgartner, 2007, p. 84) Knowles (1978 ) suggested six dimensions to learning that included: self directed learning where the learner is not dependent on the teacher to learn but directs their own learning; experience where the student uses their own past experiences to draw from and share with others; social role is where the learner understands the benefits of learning and does not need to be told what he/she needs to learn; application is where the learner links their learning with reality and problem or task focussed learning; internal motiv ation is where the learner is driven by personal goals or desires; and last reasons for learning, where the learner needs some justification for the time, money or effort put into learning Knowles concepts while developed in consideration of the adult le arner is very useful in understanding the online or blended student demographic as it incorporates many of the concepts present in this theory, especially in terms of self directed learning and motivations. CoI and Blended Learning In what ways therefore do these traditional theories relate to the CoI? In looking at these seminal works, we can see where each of these ideas is captured in one of the three presences According to Garrison and Vaughan (2008) constructivist principles are the basis of nearly all frameworks in educational teaching and learning. As higher educational institutions embrace technology and move to offer programs online and in blended environments, a model is needed to understand the dynamics of these environments Seeing this need, Garrison et al. (2000)
65 developed the CoI framework built on concepts such as those of the constructivist approaches of Dewey, Kolb and Knowles and incorporating the three elements of social, cognitive and teaching presence to help students attain the grea ter levels of learning I believe that this framework provides the bridge between the many different variables highlighted in the se traditional theories including but not limited to: socialization, communication, instructor facilitation, resource usage, individualization, content development, course organization and technology growth and deployment in the classroom As suggested by Dewey and others, t he C oI examines the nature of how students learn and the sociological aspects of learning where students co construct knowledge leading to a deeper and more satisfying learner experience The framework reflects many of the ideas of these early pioneers and I propose that regardless of whether you are studying traditional, online or blended modes of learning, it lends itself well to the broader scope of the three presences which are open to some amount of flexibility and interpretation within educational conte xts. Summary of CoI Over the p ast fifteen years, the CoI framework has proven to be invaluable in the study of online and blended learning ( Garrison, Cleveland Innes, and Fung, 2010; Swan, 2009; Swan & Ice, 2010) It allows the researcher to appropriate t he concepts behind the theory and expand the theory by examining the idea of presence along a range of other ideologies. Research presented perceptions and success i n online and blended courses. Additionally, utilizing the theory from a qualitative perspective to better understand the learner presence as suggested by Shea et al. (2009) and Garrison et. al. (2010) will provide insight into how students approach their learning, and how different technology (e.g. social media) plays into the idea of social presence and whether that will in any way influence cognitive presence and teacher presence
66 Supporting these ideas, Kumar et. al. (2011) suggest that with the increase of social media usage in online learning programs for students and their casual use of these virtual spaces adds to their learning experiences and creates additional hurdles in evaluating the development of CoI between students in online or blended courses/programs. There is a need to study whether these ideas are supported equally in the learning experiences of students from less developed countries such as those of the small island states of the Caribbean.
67 CHAPTER 3 METHODOLOGY This qualitative study was designed to shed light on the experiences of students from the Anglophone Caribbean C ommunity C ollege and their overarching educational experiences in a blended course. The chapter first describes the conceptual framework and re search design chosen and the ontological, epistemological and phenomenological tenants that guide the study. Second the study describes the methods used to carry out the study including the institutional setting in which the study takes place, the samp ling methods and criteria, and participant recruitment. Third, data collection processes and instruments are described followed by the methodological rigor and positionality statements of the researcher. Conceptual Framework Phenomenology Phenomenological philosophy according to Stewart and Minkus (1990) centering on the following basic themes: a return to the traditional tasks of philosophy, the search for a philosophy without presuppositions, the intentionality of consciousness, and the refusal of the subject object dichotomy." (p.5). Phenomenology has been shaped by the pure phenomenology of Edmund Husserl, and by the hermeneutic phenomenology of theorist Martin Heidegger and finds its ties to social constructivist theory also known as interpretivist theory. Types of phenomenology. There are two types of phenomenology often cited and described in the literature: transcendental and hermeneutic (Moustakas, 1994; van Manen, 1990; Creswell, 2013). Transcendental or empirical phenomenology, founded by Husserl, espouses the idea that the researcher set s aside any prejudgment and utilize s their imagination, intuition and universal structures to collect information on the experiences of the participants (Moustakas, 1994). Hermeneu tical phenomenology, espoused by Heidegger, argues against the Husserlian
68 idea and instead sees phenomenology as interpreting the lived experiences of those being studied They understand that people are a part of the world in which they exist and the two cannot be separated. Therefore, unlike transcendental phenomenology which put s forward the idea of bracketing one's experiences, hermeneutic phenomenology says this would be impossible to do. Phenomenology as methodology. Creswell (2014) states that this type of research ribed, and from this construct emerge s themes key to understanding the overarching experiences. Phenomenology therefore is not only a philosophy but a sound research methodology drawing greatly from the writings and ideas of Husserl and Heidegger. This me thodology is one highly favored by those in the health and social sciences, especially sociology (Cresswell, 2013). (Moustakas, 1994; van Manen, 1990) argued that it coul d be used in different ways and suggest s Furthermore, Moustakas (1994) and van Manen (1990), suggests that these common grounds include studying the lived experienc es of people, recognizing that the experiences are conscious ones, and then developing these perspectives via descriptions of the essence of the experiences not just analyzing and giving explanations The phenomenological method derives meaning from mul when studying goals to gain a deeper understanding of the human experience or to discover ideas
69 from fresh and new perspectives. Phenom enological research attempts to ascertain the real essence or meaning of a phenomenon, and display this as it actually occurs for participants. My phenomenological approach in this study was based more in transcendental phenomenology which allows for a better understanding of the meanings of the lived experiences within the Caribbean cultural context. My reasons for using interpretive phenomenology is that : 1) this type of research examines real world experiences for thos e who have gone through a particular experience in a distinctive environment together; and 2) because this is the first time th e phenomenon is being researched in a Caribbean Community College setting, therefore utilizing the interpretive method is the bes t approach to ascertain the nuances o f events and happenings faced by learners experiences Research Design e inquiry as their experiences shed light on how they shape their individual learning objectives and provide deeper insight for those interested in the online experiences of Caribbean students. The research is guided by the following questions and used to fr ame the research, which takes a qualitative approach: RQ1: experiences in a blended course? a. How do Caribbean community college students describe their perceptions and expectations of, a nd experience with, the blended learning approach (i.e. communication, collaboration, socialization, etc.)? b. How do students describe the impacts of access (i.e. internet, hardware and software) in their blended class? c. How do students describe their digi tal skills /usage (i.e. preparedness in doing research online using software using LMS) in their blended class?
70 Crotty (1998) suggests that at the beginning of the research, researchers should provide a statement regarding how they see data in terms of the approach to be utilized and guidelines they will follow in monitoring all aspects of the study from start to finish. According to Grix (2004) any inquiry is best conducted initially by determining the relationship between the following : what a resear cher thinks can be researched and the nature of the reality (their ontological view), what they can learn about it (their epistemological view), and finally how to go about getting the required knowledge (their methodology). After this you can begin to understand the effect your ontological outlook can have on what you learn and how to get that information (Grix, 2004). Below are the ontological, epistemological and methodology aspects of this research. Ontological view. & Hatch, 2002, p.13 and 15) and suggests that it is the assertion researchers make concerning their experience; epistemology is how people arrive at that experience; and methodology is the means of examining it. From an ontological perspective, my research is considered with an understanding that accepts that the phenomenon under research is multifaceted where eventualities are inevitable (Guba & Lincoln, 1994). I concur with the assert ion by Crotty (1998) practices, being constructed in and out of interaction between human beings and their world, and developed and transmitted within an essentiall The ontological further uniting the epistemological bents within this analysis. Epistemological view. Crotty (1998) describes episte
71 Epistemologically, the phenomenological approach is grounded in the worldview of subjective and individual knowledge and underscores the sign ificance of individual viewpoints and interpretations. As such they are influential in understanding these experiences, increasing the conventional wisdom and the chaos of expectations that are taken for granted. Epistemology therefore offers us an understanding about our concept of certain knowledge, especially with regard to the methods, the validity, and the scope of acquiring that knowledge (Lester, 1999). Epistemological research can help us differentiate belief from opinion. Hatch (2002) suggests that as people are an essential element of the settings we study, each person brings their own perspective and therefore reality is created synchronously by bot h the participant and researcher. Phenomenological methodology As described earlier, in the phenomenological method, the researcher sets out to describe the lived experience rather than trying to explain or give meaning to the experience. Concerned solely with studying participant experiences, the phenomenological methodology is approached without any pre conceptions about collected data and as described earlier emphasizes subjectivity. Creswell (2013) suggests that this method is designed to be less str uctured and therefore encourages participants to be more open in sharing their experiences and thus maximiz es the extent and depth of information the researcher is able gather. Prior to beginning the research approval will be sought for research of human subjects B oard of the participating Community College. Each participant will be provided with a written consent form to be completed prior to participation. These consent forms will seek permission to make
72 digital recordings of all interviews. In order to ensure confidentiality, participants will be provided with pseudonyms, and any identifying markers and experiences will be masked. Setting for the Study Institutional Setting I chose to use my own college, Excelsior Community College (ECC) because Jamaica is the largest anglophone island in the Caribbean, has the most community colleges, and was easily accessible and convenient fo r the research ECC is a community college in the heart of Kingston, Jamaica and is one of ten Community Colleges governed by the Council of Community Colleges of Jamaica and a part of the tertiary system which is partially funded by the Ministry of Education. It is the oldest community college in Jamaica with a rich history of innovation while serving and meeting industry needs and supplying the countr workforce. ECC has a student complement of approximately 2500 students across five campuses: 1. The Main Campus Faculty of Business Management Faculty of Computer Science and Engineering Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Education Faculty of Pure and Applied Sciences 2. The Ca mp Road (School of Tourism, Hospitality and Entertainment Management THEM) The School of THEM is a part of the Faculty of Business Management 3. The St. Thomas Campus The Wesley Grove site in Port Morant The Princess Margaret Hospital in Morant Bay which h osts the Enrolled Assistant Nursing (EAN) Programme which is included under the Faculty of Pure and Applied Sciences. 4. The Church Street Campus (School of Performing Arts SPA) The SPA is a part of the Faculty of Humanities 5. The Deanery Road Campus (Scho ol of Engineering Logistics and Built Environment SELBE) The SELBE is a part of the Faculty of Computer Science and Engineering
73 ECC is currently implementing online programs and moving to have its entire business program online by the end of 2017. Core business courses are being offered in a blended format utilizing both Moodle and CANVAS learning management systems. The leadership of ECC are innovators and are offering online courses as part of a strategic move to reach a wider market share within in t he Caribbean. e Learning a t Excelsior. ECC has always been a trendsetter and at the forefront of embracing new paths to success for its students. In this vein ECC has moved to add online learning as part of its strategic plan to become a learner centred and lifelong learning institution. This is reflected in it it L ives, Nurturing Global C itizens In 2016 the official E Learn Unit was created to pursue this goal by offering programs and courses online. It was recommended that the school start with a blended format first as Caribbean students may not be fully ready for online courses due to issues of access and lack of digital skills in academic pursuits. Currently the E Learn Unit, which I and one other lecturer coordinate, is responsible for training faculty, designing co urses, and helping departments get their programs and courses online, develop workshops and conduct marketing. The E Learn unit has worked over the past two years to get many courses online and to have several courses in almost all departments utilized in a blended format via the CANVAS or Moodle LMSs. The courses are however utilized by most lecturers as a means of supplementing and providing material more than they are in a true sense b lended courses A few lecturers, including myself teach in a blend ed mode, utilizing the tools to aid not only in supplementing material but to engage students in new ways, to facilitate learning and to provide prompt feedback.
74 Research Participants and Course Structure Creswell (2013) recommends in a phenomenological study that investigators interview anywhere from 5 to 25 individuals who have all experienced or shared in the phenomenon and conduct multiple in depth interviews with the participants. He further notes, cit ing Dukes (1984), Polkinghorne (1989) and Rimen (1986), that phenomenological sampling can have as few as 1 For this study I recru it ed 10 15 students to ensure there is enough data collected in the event that students drop out. P u r pose f ul sampling t e c h niques. This phenomenological study will utilize a non probability purposive sample specifically criteria sampling. This sampling method was chosen as it is the most appropriate method for this study It will involve participants experienced with the issue at hand due to their involvement in the situation being studied and the experience of the conditions they will be participating in when taking online courses. Creswell (2003, p.185) states that purposive sampling is best in the selection of locations or participants who will be paramount in assisting the researcher to understand the pro blem, as well as the research question being studied. While students may be of help in encouraging other students to participate resulting in snowball or chain sampling, it is expected that most students will come from the volunteer process. Sample popul ation and sampling criteria. The sample for this study will consist of students at Excelsior Community College in Kingston, Jamaica, enrolled in a blended online class. The criteria for participant inclusion will be that participants have to be: registere d in any business course offered in a blended format by the college; in their third year as these are 2 + 2 programs, (i.e. students are engaged in a two year associates degree program before they can be admitted for the final two years to the
75 bachelors level program, and where students are most likely to take their first blended course; enrolled in at least one blended class; and will have access to and some knowledge of technology (e.g email usage, have access to a computer at school and/or home). Overview of participant backgrounds. Participants in the study were all third year students pursuing either a Hospitality or Tourism track, and they were required to take Sustainable Tourism Development as part of their core program structure They also had to meet the criteria requirements set forward in the methodology. There are only two sections of the course with 30 students from the hospitality track and 33 students from the tourism track in respective sections Only two students came from the hospitality section while the rest came from the tourism track. Two students, Darcy and Tamecia, came from the hospitality track They were both older, Tamecia was a mother and Darcy worked and both had added responsibilities that played into their responses. The rest of the respondents were all tourism track students who were between th e ages of 18 24. David from the tourism group also worked and supported siblings as part of his responsibilities. Amongst the tourism students, David and Donna are also both active artistically David work ed in the local pantomime (musical comedy stage productions popular in the Caribbean) scene and Donna was a mostly gospel singer. All students in the study support themselves financially. Donna and Tamera, Lara, Melanie and Christy although not working during the semester have all participated in the international internship program to earn money to pay for school and all other materials. This is also how most students are able to purchase the technology tools they possess. Course lecturer and structure. The course lecturer and designer for the course was the researcher (myself), and I taught both sections of the course. Although attempts were made to
76 recruit students from other more general business programs from the business faculty, my first attempts were not successful and therefore, it was decided to use students from the department I taught in for both convenience and connectedness with students Furthermore, conducting interviews with students taking the same course offered continuity, and also allowed me to access students LMS analytics and obse rve their online usage and participation for triangulation purposes Additionally, to truly understand the phenomenon I had to choose classes where blended learning was really taking place. I am one of the few lecture rs teaching in a blended format as opp osed to those only using online tools to disseminate information. A first attempt at data collection was made during the summer semester of 2017 but proved problematic as students who volunteered for the study dropped out and were unable to participate fo r a variety of reasons Only five students were interviewed. The responses of these students had not reached the data saturation point and therefore I felt the whole process had to be restarted in the fall semester to truly capture the nature of the phenom enon A final purposive sampling of eight of ten students who participated was examined for characteristics, behaviours, and attributes of the students and the blended environment in which they were engaged and where they experienced the phenomenon. Addit ionally, the research sought to clarify whether digitals skills usage and ICT infrastructure had any impact on students learning and their overall experiences in a blended course P articipant recruitment and confidentiality. Prior to the start of the research, selected participants were contacted via email and by asking fellow lecturers teaching blended courses to ask for volunteers for the study ( Appendix A) Once students had resp onded, they were asked to sign the Informed Consent form ( Appendix B). Upon completing and returning the consent forms, students were invited to interviews at an agreed upon time after the first two weeks of
77 October of 2017. No compensation was provided to students except some food and beverage during the interview as a token of thanks for their participation. Data Collection Qualitative research methods, such as research interviews, are thought to offer a clearer understanding of social phenomena than th at from conducting a purely quantitative method. Interviews are especially suitable when we know very little about a phenomenon or when a stronger insight is required from participants to really understand what is happening. The data collection for this r esearch will involve individual interviews using semi structured interviews. The interviews will consist of several key questions that are open ended This will help to both define the areas to be studied and allow the researcher to further explore any ide as or responses of interview will help the researcher by allowing them to direct questions, and probe and gather information on areas that may arise. Additi onally, website/course navigation analysis will be utilized to aid in understanding how students navigated the online course they were in and which features they utilized most to further understand their motivations. Creswell (2009) proposes that this ty pe of data collection is well suited to phenomenological studies and allow s the researchers to obtain the language and and website analysis can increase an d enhance the accuracy of the study through triangulation. Open ended, semi structured interviews. The interviewing format is used as it will give the participants of the study some direction on what to talk about during the interview. S emi structured interviews will be conducted that are guided by open ended questions According to Creswell (2014) t his is more flexible as it allows the researcher to elaborate on
78 information important to the students, which may not have been considered or thought of as significant previously. A structured interview may not give this type of leeway and flexibility. For this study a total of 2 0 int erviews, two interviews per student were conducted Each interview was carried out in 20 25 minute sessions. The interviews started 2 3 weeks after students had enrolled in their courses and further interviews were conducted again at the end of the cours e. This allow ed me to assess any changes in experiences as the progress ed through the course and to ascertain what the most significant issues were for students and how this has changed their views in any way. Data saturation as suggested by Den zin ( 2009, 2012) is achieved when all data is triangulated and examined thoroughly to ensure all relevant and important information was captured. This was achieved after examin ing t he responses of 8 students, however I continued to code the information of all participants. LMS analysis The we bsite/course navigation of students was examined to aid in understanding how students navigated the online course they were in and which features they utilized most. I examined the number of times students visited a page and their participation activity to see if this corresponded with students responses in interviews. This helped to triangulate data in regards to how involved students were in the online portion of the course WhatsApp analysis Students pa rticipation in the WhatsApp chat was also analysed to see how students interacted and felt about the course and course activities. This type evaluative process Creswell (2009) proposes is well suited to phenomenological studies and allow s the researchers t o Creswell (2014), along with the interviews and website analysis can increase and enhance the accuracy of the study through triangulation.
79 Role of Researcher and Methodologi cal Rigor When conducting qualitative analysis Lincoln and Guba (1985) argue it is best to use different terminology to ascertain the strength of a study rather than validity or reliability and therefore necessitate utilizing other criteria to en sure rigor For qualitative research, rigor is maintained and best served by utilizing ( p. 512). Strategies for Credibility According to Lester (1999) when engaging in phenomenological research inference can B ut even though the research can be robust in suggesting the existence of fact ors, the researcher must be cautious in evaluating the extent of these causes Lincoln and Guba (1985) suggest that by establishing credibility, transferability, dependability, and confirmability researchers can achieve reliability E xplanation s are only t rustworthy when they mirror the data and where there is transparency in the interpretive process. The researcher has to ensure that any interpretation is evident and is presented in any and all reports. Maxwell (1992) suggests that interpretation needs to be tested by referencing the research subjects (p. 290) and suggests that for any interpretation to be valid it must be constant with the opinions of the participants who should be able to identify or confirm the results of the research. To demonstrate credibility researchers must show that their portrayal of the data has been satisfactorily represented, and that they are credible Lincoln and Guba offer five methods for indicating credibility. First, the authors suggest that researchers eng age in activities that will ensure any finding or interpretations are credible with exercises such as prolonged engagement, triangulation and persistent observation Second, they suggest activities like peer debriefing
80 where a colleague, not involved wit h the research, is called in to enquire about the researcher's thinking regarding all aspects of their research to offer insights into any pitfalls or problems. The third method aims at honing the working theory as more information is gathered. The fourth method involves comparing the first set of findings and interpretations against originally recorded raw data. The last method that the authors suggest is to member check This involves allowing participants to check the data gathered and any interpretatio ns made for accuracy of their experiences and to ensure credibility Following this advice, I employed the following strategies to ensure validity: bracketing to clarify researcher bias, member checking, triangulation, prolonged engagement and using rich thick descriptions that are detailed. B racketing Also known as phenomenological reduction bracketing is the process by which a researcher suspends all his/her presuppositions or biases in order to listen to the experiences of the participants as they se e it from their world views. In doing this, I provide d a positionality statement of my own world view of online learning and my views about education to ensure that I provi ded an open mind as I listen ed to the students stories. Member checking. conformability can be addressed with member checks that will be conducted P articipants will be sent transcripts of their interviews to establish the veracity of information and the perspectives of the data represented therein. This ve rification process will help determine whether the analytical impressions are a true representation of their experiences that they expressed in the interviews. Triangulation. method to ensure trustworthiness In this study, the transcribed interviews of students, along with their social media activity (WhatsApp) will be used to see how engaged the students are in the course.
81 Furthermore, students were encouraged to voice their opinions at any time either online or face to face about their learning experiences in order to gather varying perspectives about the phenomenon. Prolonged engagement. Creswell (2013) highlights the value of persistent and checking for misinformation that stems from distortions introduced by the researcher or This is a valuable asset because it aids in trustworthiness and helping to validate collected data. To ensure that I built trust with the students, I engaged with them both in class and online in the discussion boards as a lecturer, and in the WhatsApp c hat as both observer and participant. I participated in both academic and social settings so that I gained a better understanding of students world views. This helped me to better understand where they were coming from. Rich thick descriptions. By provid ing rich thick descriptions the researcher provides information on the participants, their backgrounds, and any issues that would be important to report, I prov ide rich thick descriptions of students' backgrounds and experiences to help elucidate their shared learning experiences. In reporting the findings, I provide background and context of students whose information was being used to elucidate on their respons es I did not think it was necessary to provide individual participant portfolio s as I wanted to bring the students stories to light as I presented their own words on their experiences in Chapter 4 Data Analysis Phenomenology cannot be reduced to a set of cookbook like instructions but rather is dependent on phenomenon being studied and has to evolve (Hycner, 1985 ; Keen, 1975).
82 Hycner (1985) based his findings on the early research of several scholars from the field of psychology (Colaizzi,1973; Gio rgi, 1975; Keen, 1975; Tesch, 1980) Their work provides a step by step explanation for the data in his own study, which he then provided for others using the same method These guidelines according to Hycner (1985) suggest that in analyzing phenomenologi cal data, researchers will benefit from using the process outlined by Hycner (1985) Data Explici t at ion According to Hycner (1991) it is better to use the term Explicitation analysis as the latter has serious implications for phenomenological studies Analysis he suggests means a breaking down of the data and therefore a loss of phenomenon Explicitation on the other hand would maintain the context and integrity of the phenomenon while investigating the various elements as proposed in this study. approach is that, as suggested by Hycner, it is best used by researchers with a strong philosophical understanding of phenomenology My understanding o f the phenomenological underpinnings are moderate. While Hycner (1985) suggests nine steps in his analysis methods, he is clear that these are not rigid, and researchers often move back and forth in the steps to verify data Using a simplified version of H I employed the following steps: 1. Transcription 2. Bracketing and phenomenological reduction. 3. Delineating units of general meaning. 4. Clustering of units of meaning to form themes. 5. Summarising each interview, validat ing it and where necessary modifying it. 6. Extracting general and unique themes from all the interviews and making a composite summary.
83 Step 1: Transcription An important part of the analysis will be in gathering, categorizing and organizing the data. In order to do this the first step is to create transcriptions of the record ed interviews verbatim. This according to Hycner (1985) should incorporate the literal statement s, including nonverbal and dialectical communications The transcripts are then read and re read to gain a general view of what is happening. At this stage, coding will be a crucial step in moving from gathering data to analysing data. In this first step I transcribed all the interviews and read and re read, making notes as I went along This process allowed me to find do an initial coding of the data, picking up on key words and phrases as suggested by Saldana ( 2015) Step 2: Bracketing and Phenomenological Reduction In this next step both bracketing and phenomenological r eduction occur. Phenomenological r eduction is important because not just hearing what is spoken but rather listening for the meaning with an open mind. It is important therefore fo r the researcher to bracket themselves ( i.e., suspend their own views as much as possible) and allow the backgrounds of the participants world views to come out to understand what they are saying rather than what the investigator wants to hear them say. In doing this one of the key suggestions by Hycner (1985), based on the earlier works of researchers such as Merleau Ponty (1962) and Kee n (1975), is that one should admit to any possible biases. A good measure of whether bracketing has taken place is for researchers to list any presuppositions that they are consciously aware of as well as to inform their dissertation committee on these bel iefs. Step 3: Delineating Units of Meaning Hycner (1985) states that delineating units of meaning is a crucial step because participants reports that are seen to explain the phenomenon are extricated or separated Here u nits of meaning are said to be an y collection or grouping of words or statements that connect or
84 link to the same key meaning The researcher at this point is required to use their own judgement at the same time as they put aside their own pre suppositions or biases In this step, I examined each individual s interview by listening to it repeatedly while making notes beside transcripts I also used notes from the initial interview, including dialectical usages (Jamaican patwah) and non verbal communications, to extract and list units of meaning. Coding. Charmaz (2009) underscores that coding is the key link that ties data collection and any theoretical development or emergence that can expl icate the data while allowing you to define what is occurring within the data The researcher w ill need to code the information which can be done by hand but this can be quite laborious Saldana (2015 ) describes the coding process can sometimes summarize or condense data, not sim ply reduce it (p. 4 ) The research er states that and concepts Following the guidelines for coding q ualitative data by Saldana (2015 ), I first organized my data and then group ed similarly coded information into categories Additionally, I used computer aided qualitative analysis (CAQDAS) to aid in the management and coding of data. Qualitative research benefits from the development of software designed to aid in qualitative analysis with programs like ATLA S.ti, MAXQDA and NVivo. CAQDAS, as Weitzman (2000) suggests, can aid in research by helping in tasks such as creating and writing up notes, editing, coding, storing data, searching for and retrieving data, creating links between data, graphically mapping d ata and performing content analysis. For this research, NVivo 12 was utilized to help with secondary coding which made the coding process easier Most importantly NVivo saved time in verifying manually coded data. Step 4: Clustering of Units of Meaning to Form Themes In this next step I grouped important units of meaning and significance (topics of importance) to the students (Moustakas, 1994) Hycner (1978 ) highlights the importance of
85 going back and forth to the recorded interviews and the n on recurring units of meaning to develop clusters with appropriate meaning Again its emphasized that researchers need to use their intuition and judgement something which cannot be precisely delineated, for here h ( Hycner, 1978 pp. 59 ). Step 5 : Summarising, Validating and Modifying Interviews This step is much simpler in that in that the researcher incorporates all the themes extracted from the data to create a holistic picture of the phenomenon Here as suggested by Hycner (1978) I member check ed by returning the transcribed and interpreted interviews to the participants to ensure that the data c aptured the true essence of their individual experience within the context and that any modification was applied None of the participants made any changes and accepted that the essence of their experience was as they reported it Field notes were extensi vely used to corroborate information as part of the triangulation process. Field notes. At the time of interviews, along with recording and documenting the resear cher gets caught up in the data collection process, it is recommended that they maintain the balance between their reflective (i.e., feelings, hunches, and impressions etc.) as well as descriptive notes (Groenewald, 2004). Step 6 : Extracting General and Unique Themes Here I used a codes (codes that are created before starting based on theory or hypothesis) and in codes (codes emerging from the data) I used the CoI coding template to provide a basis for data collection and thi s allowed me to conduct primary coding of experiences based on the coding template. Emerging codes were also coded to reveal greater
86 meaning from students experiences and were used to link data to CoI concepts as well as other ideas emerging from the data Positionality Statement Research bias is an area of great concern in any qualitative research The responsibility of the researcher as both the inquirer and analyser need s positionality. Positionality can be impacted at all stages and on all aspects during the research positionality is shaped, may influence what researchers may bring to research encounters, their choice of p knowledge and the power relations that are inherent in research processes in ord er to undertake ethical research . In conducting this research, I come in with some biases that I acknowledge and the worldview that technology is for the most part a good thing. As I conduct my research and interact with student participan ts, I am aware that I first come to this as a lecturer with several years of education, having finished with a double major degree in my undergraduate studies, and with double degrees in Communications and later in Tourism and Hospitality Management I hav e several educational certificates a Post Graduate Certificate in Online Teaching and a Certificate from the American Hotel and Lodging Educational Institute as a Certified Hospitality Educator. Currently I am not only a lecturer in the School of Tourism Hospitality and Entertainment Management, but also hold the post of special responsibility as E Learning Coordinator. I am also part of a team that is developing a new program for my department in partnership with Niagara College, Canada as part o f the CARICOM Education for Employment
87 (CEFE) program. Because of these varying roles, I have a keen interest in online learning and the challenges faced by students in terms of access and how that parlays into their online experiences. I point to my ow n experiences with online learning which have been positive, my interest in online learning, and my more comfortable monetary status within the context of the Caribbean as affording me different perspectives than those of my students. I also acknowledge th at those who are participating in the program are more than likely to be my own students W hile I will have to distance myself as their lecturer when conducting interviews, I also know many of these students and their backgrounds allowing me added insight into how they approach learning and technology usage In balancing this need to not overreach and assume too much from my own knowledge, or to not probe too far for fear of leading the students, I will have to listen to my intuition and sound judgement (H ycner, 1978) as a researcher to ensure the data collected is accurate. I acknowledge that these experiences, skills, and my status as both a Lecturer and more significantly as the E programs can affect my research in terms of interviewing, data analysis and interpretation I submit that I am more than able to carry out this study based on the very same background as a lecturer, as someone who is keen to understand the realities that are faced by my students in their learning process, and on examination of all relevant literature related to the topic. Also, as a member of the Academic Research and Ethics Committee at my school, I submit that I am equal to the task at hand. Summary Thi s chapter addresses the data and methods to be used in the study I endeavoured to present the ontological, epistemological and methodological drivers of the research and
88 presented the strategies to be used to ensure rigor of the research. Additionally, i nformation on the interview and data gathering processes and data analysis process were provided. In the following chapter the analysis of the data will be presented thematically as themes emerge from the data analysis This will allow for a rich discussio n on the experiences of the participants.
89 CHA P TER 4 F INDI N G S Even though students are the heart of Caribbean Community Colleges and are a fundamental part of any strategic enterprise of education in these institutions, there have been few studies depicting their experiences in blended or even online higher education programs The key research question of this study worked toward discovering the perceptions of Anglophone Caribbean Community College students taking a blended course for the fi rst time by examining the cognitive, social and teaching presence of the Community of Inquiry framework This framework provides the logic and direction to understand the purpose and nature of the blended learning approach in Caribbean community colleges. experiences It also provides insights into situations and challenges that are a part of their reality by utilizing semi structured, recorded, and transcribed interviews to in vestigate the initial experience of Caribbean community college students first experiences in a blended course through their lived experiences p.26) and therefore the focus of the study was to recognize and categorize key themes and components relating to the experiences of students taking a blended course for the first time, and to explain these experiences within the cognitive, social, and tea ching presence of the CoI framework Four main themes emerged from the data: 1) blended learning challenges; 2) student s shared blended learning experiences; 3) social elements of learning; 4) teacher preparedness and use of technology for instruction ; 5 ) social, cognitive and teaching presence These themes and sub themes wer e initially coded manually by the researcher, and later employed NVivo 12 to
90 expedite the coding process by leveraging its node functions (Table 4 1), they were placed into a themati c structure The next section of the chapter will focus on presenting data by first discussing emergent themes and sub themes revealing areas of shared student experiences Second, I will present findings on the presences showing evidence of the framework and connections to theories mentioned in earlier sections of the study. Third, I will offer additional qualitative findings that emerged from LMS and social media usage observations and linked to the three prese nces. And finally a summary overview of the chapter will be provided Blended Learning Challenges Garrison and Vaughn (2008) assert that blended learning surpasses the educational experiences of physical and online learning and represents an essential r eform of approaches to learning. Education, they offer, occurs best within a community of inquiry T herefore, how we incorporate real and virtual communities is informed within the context of the community of inquiry model and other connected research suc h as research on digital skills and usage (Hargittai, 2001; van Dijk, 2012) This therefore calls for a holist ic approach to understanding the ir learning experience s, and the implications of this for courses offered in blended settin gs. Additionally, i t would be remiss to ignore the challenges and benefits that a blended learning approach can have on the learner in an ambiguous digital environment even as Caribbean students live and function in a mobile and network rich world where technology has gaine d significant importance. These students are no longer divorced from the everyday functions of individual experience s, whether they be personal, work or education related C ommunities of learning are present in both traditional fa ce to face, blended and online settings as presented in the literature review on CoI (Akyol & Garrison, & Ozden, 2009;
91 Armellini and de Stefani, 2016; Garrison et al., 2001 ; Garrison, Anderson, & Archer, 2001; Garrison et al., 2010; Rourke et al., 1999; Sh ea et. al., 2012; Shea & Bidjerano, 2010; Traver et al., 2014;). Social, cognitive and teaching presence are categorized with various elements of inquiry, as illustrated in the Table 4.2 which uses the CoI coding template created by Garrison et al., (2001) to present a list of activities, events, and happenings that exemplify each of the categories within the three presences. The current study was conducted, as described earlier in C hapter 3 in a 3 rd year hospitality and tourism core course on sustainable tourism development Both the lecturer and students worked together throughout the semester by utilizing both face to face and online strategies so that students would gain an individual and a collaborative experience in the class. In unpacking the data a nd examining evidence of CoI, the elements (Garrison et al., 2001 ) identified in Table 4.2 help to illustrate each of the presences: social, cognitive, and teaching. The data as exhibited under the four emergent themes Some intriguing data overlaps pointed to technology le a rni n g a nd the proper use of tools leading to course fa c i l i t a tion, and to so c ial in t e r a c t i on that included both positive communication, a nd c ol l a bor a t i on practices. In this first theme, it was necessary to provide the context about where students were starting from in terms of their ability to navigate the online aspects of the course, as well as their digital skill levels and their general ability to access the internet in a country where ICT infrastructure was not at optimal range. The findings from this data points to two key areas : that need ed to be considered to assess student success in the blended course.
92 Table 4 1 NVivo 12 Codebook of data coded for study showi and Name Description Files References Technology and Blended Learning Challenges 4 8 Learner Skill Levels Students adeptness at using hardware and software 0 0 Hardware and Software Usage Skills Access to hardware (computers, smart devices) 9 9 Online Research Skills Their ability to conduct research online using common search tools both on and offline. 9 4 Technology Access How much access do students have 9 0 Access to Internet Do they have access and are there any challenges 8 5 Access to Hardware Has at least one device 9 11 Access to Software Has access, can get access 9 5 Technology Discomfort 3 4 Cognitive Presence Students Learning Experiences 9 5 Confusion, Frustration and Adjustment information, 2 3 Learning Activities and Assignments Discussions, quizzes, debates, videos, other 4 6 LMS Usage Skills Able to move around in LMS, trouble finding things 1 1 Management Time, Convenience, Flexibility, Comfort 7 10 Meaningful Learning 6 10 Social Presence Social and Technical Elements of Learning 0 0 Communication 1 1 Communication with Teacher What mediums used? Availability 2 6 Peer Communication What mediums used? More or less 5 7 Social Media Usage and Skill Which ones used? Why and what do they use for 3 3 Teaching Presence Teachers Preparedness and Use of Technology 1 2 Lecturer's Use of Technology 4 6 Students Expectations of Teacher General expectations of their role 3 9 Teacher Availability and Accessibility to Student Is she reachable, does she communicate with you 2 2 Teachers Preparedness for Class Knows the material, can use the technology 3 3
93 Table 4 2. Community of Inquiry Coding Template adopted for research from Garrison et al., (2001, p. 3) with examples from this research. ELEMENTS CATEGORIES EXAMPLES OF PRESENCE Social Presence Open Communication Active WhatsApp group chat In class discussions and collaboration Group Cohesion Sharing information Encouraging peers in WhatsApp chat (Both students and lecturers were found to be active in this environment) Affective Expression Students expressing sympathy, humour and generally questioning and encouraging peers through Social Media Active use of emoticons and gifs to express emotions Cognitive Presence Triggering Event (Interest in the Topic) Students interest in a topic is shown by their visits to various LMS pages (e.g. videos on global warming); Increased participation on discussion boards Exploration (Motivated to learn More) Asking questions of both the lecturer and peer Providing new information on WhatsApp chat Integration (Pulling together knowledge and discuss) Connecting Ideas through online discussion responses to peers Presenting new information Connecting ideas to own lives in WhatsApp chat Resolution Demonstrated knowledge in group discussions, exams and in class activities Teaching Presence Design and Organization Setting Curriculum and Methods Variety of tools (i.e., giving students course outlines and expectations, clear instructions for assignments, reflections or learning at end of course, videos) Facilitating Discourse Interactive in class exercises (i.e., debates, topic presentations) and online discussions on various units; open communication via different modes o f communication Direct Instruction Lectures, in class discussion and sharing of ideas, WhatsApp group used to send links on current information on topics being covered
94 T ec hnol o g y Access I nternet access was pointed to as an obstacle by several students who said it was not always reliable due to weather or systems being down. Therefore this created issues for students who were not able to get access to online tools (e.g. library resources like EbscoHost) This was especially problematic for one student who relied on school computers for written assignments but had a tablet to do other online assignments. Students had these comments regarding W i Fi issues and access to the net: David : Melanie: Poor service, and the weather would be affecting it (Wi Fi and access) Tamera: E xpressed Well, it was kinda difficult for me at some points r to Wi Fi basis every day school. to go online to see certain information that was on online on the CANVAS. Differently from that, I roblem with it. I learned over the Internet and while face to face. Other students, while not having as difficult a time, did have issues with accessing the internet due to poor Wi Fi connections at home and at school. This interruption though not seemi ngly disruptive, left students waiting to retrieve information from their LMS for assignments and for studying only at times when they were able to get service. There are three main reasons for these disruptions to ICT services in Jamaica and other Caribbe an islands The first is intermittent Wi Fi service due to lack of infrastructure in certain parts of the island. Even though providers indicate they have tower cells, there is limited or no service at times. This is an issue throughout the Caribbean despite the significant growth in ICT infrastructure over the last decade Infrastructure in main cities like Kingston, where students attend school, is more prominent than in rural areas or the deep outskirts of Kingston where many students trav el from
95 to attend school. Many of the Community Colleges in Jamaica are in rural areas and internet access is more likely to be an issue than those faced by the participants of the study. Second, as pointed out by students, poor service can be affected by weather such as on rainy and cloudy days. Also, electricity outages, although not as prominent as a decade ago, cause disruptions to services. Although these issues occur infrequently, they are enough to create th online course assignments and to retrieve information when needed. As mentioned earlier in this study a reality faced by many Caribbean community college students involve issues of not only access to the internet but the ability to access and use other technology tools such as hardware and software Buzzetto More (2008) found attitudes and acceptance of technology are instrumental in uncovering and clarifying the benefits of any online learning experience It is therefore necessary to understand how adept students are at using various online resources LMS, etc.) and how comfortable they are in using these to take a blended course ( Figure 4 1). As use this technology, then it would be a bit more challenging for me. Having that knowledge, then it makes the process a bit easier.
96 Figure 4 1 Breakdown of stu dents access to technology, their usage and skills.
97 Levels of skills. According to digital skill levels are dependent on several factors. These include the ability to navigate the web and find information (web search /online search skills); the ability to use basic tools such as computers, email and basic software (e.g. Microsoft Word) and other forms of social communication online. It was necessary, therefore, to evaluate these basic skills in the participants. I t cou ld not be assumed that these students, who are part of what some term as millennials (also known as generation Y or the Net generation and born between 1981 1996 ) and Google generation (those born after 1993) had all the digital abilities said to be part of these groups. Hardware and software access and comfort It was worthy of note that all the students had access to the internet either at home, at school or via data on their smartphones Most of the students revealed that they used the internet at home and school with some indicating they used data while travelling back and forth from school on the bus or in a taxi. Furthermore, all students reported owning more than one type of device but only two did not have a personal laptop or desktop being used fo r schoolwork in the classroom. All students had a smartphone as one of their devices and were frequently seen with it in class being used for schoolwork Students all indicated they had access to common Microsoft Office applications (apps) like Word, Powe rPoint and Publisher. Many students were seen using mobile applications such as Google Mail and WhatsApp for communication. All students indicated they used the Google search engine for research online for both school and personal searches. Comfort with ba sic hardware All students indicated that they had a Smartphone and or tablet with a few having access to a computer (laptop) and they indicated they were fairly comfortable using their devices T wo students indicated they had three devices, a smartphone, a desktop /laptop and a tablet and t wo students indicated having only a tablet and smartphone. This
98 access to technology, and especially mobile connectivity, shows that students are digitally prepared to in terms of technology a ccess Comfort with various software and general skills. Students generally expressed overall ease with using emails and using Microsoft Office with MS Word and MS PowerPoint being the most popular software for schoolwork When asked to give their level of comfort using software such as MS Word on a scale of 1 10 with ten being the highest comfort level, all except David indicated an average range of 5 7 good at doing formatting and so on skill levels as adequate LMS navigation and comfort. Participants voiced some fear s, first of using the LMS and then of taking a course in the blended format. A few of the students Donna, Lara and Tamecia, expressed their ambiguity about taking the blen ded online portion of the class because they were not comfortable with technology and preferred a hands on approach. O thers like Tamera expressed frustration at navigating the system in the earl y part of the course but admitted they had not viewed the orientation videos provided Donna : oh, Jesus, this online thing, though, it takes a while. I think it takes a while to get Tamera: f the Canvas through, but then now I realize how important it was because it teaches me how to get to the websites Research skills. All students indicated they were fairly comfortable in using the internet for research with Google being the domina nt tool used for online research and any kind of online search activity. A few of the interviewees said they used Google Scholar and EbscoHost for their research and two indicated they still used the physical on campus library.
99 Melanie I find the materi al based on I use Google. I use some of those educational sites my teacher will give us. Also, I will use encyclopaedias on the internet, as well, and Google Book (student is referring to search results which While student s indicated they primarily used the internet for research for coursework, some indicated they used it for personal use such as listening to music and watching YouTube videos. Interestingly, it was pointed out by a few students that their computer was in mo st instances for work but their smartphones were for socialization and leisure. Technology discomfort. S tudents articulated their fear of technology with one student clearly stating that she was not a fan of using technology for learning. Donna while app reciating the videos on topics covered, and was an active WhatsApp user who did not really care for using technology Her online usage was also minimal but her overall course outcomes were high which speaks to her self regulation and motivations in learnin g. She was very active in the physical class and in the WhatsApp group chat but less so in the online class She admits it was not for her, although she appreciated aspects of the experience. Donna: cal. I get very reluctant, maybe. E S tud e nt s Shared Blended L e a rni n g E x p e ri e n c es Understand ing student perceptions on learning, individual learning experiences and social interactions with peers and instructors is a significant factor necessary to gain insight into to face, or in online or blended learning the classroom is the crossroads where the social and the W hether this crossroads is online or face to face certain truths will remain for instance, that students need to make connections with their peers and teachers
100 (Pascarella & Terenzini, 1980; Tinto, 1997) T hey need to be taught in different ways with different tools for those with different learning styles and with teachers prepared to meet their needs (teaching presence) A nd finally for learning to take place they must be comfortable enough to use the tools (i.e. books, pen/pencil, computer, smart device, LMS), and be able to gain deep meaningful learning via assignments that challenge, raise awareness and make them question and think critically about the topics at hand Palloff and Pratt (2005) contend that collaborative learning is more consistent in blended learning environments and allows for the realization of higher order learning outcomes. Kanuka et al. (2007) suggest that cognitive elements leading to success inclu ded activities that were well structured; ha d clearly defined roles and duties for the students; and could trigger debate between students. In examining the blended learning experiences of Caribbean community college of collaboration amongst students and their peers as they work to help each other remember assignments, share information and form a bond through their responses, h as helped them to stay on track with class assignments; has helped in understanding material they may not have grasped in class; and in sharing of ideas with peers online and in class discussions. Equally important was the information on issues such as, ti me to manage schoolwork, flexibility of the learning environment and schedule, and being comfortable of effective individual learning Each of these factors influenced the general learning experience throughout all areas of learning Even though these are not a part of the CoI framework, the significance of this finding necessitated inclusion and analysis for the larger conversation about Caribbean C ommunity C at framework
101 In analysing transcripts and after listening to interviewee recordings, several sub themes jumped out of this theme that point to technology access and usage challenges, collaboration, and management of schoolwork These sub themes paint a picture of the overall student experience in the Sustainable Tourism Development course that they were enrolled in for the semester and points to the cognitive presence in student learning. Cognitive P resence Evidence of the four c ognitive presence categories: triggering events, exploratio n, integration, and resolution, can be seen throughout the class in activities like the discussion boards, the chats, and in class. Students interested in topics presented in class, followed by their exploration to discover more about the topic represent ways in which critical thin king starts to take place. The eventual sharing of knowledge and ability to argue and defend what they know is part of the process of learning. T he final phase of applying knowledge in different setting s shows that meaning ful learning and resolution has occurred. Confusion, f rustration and a djustment. Learning to navigate the LMS and finding different materials for assignments left students frustrated and confused in the be ginning However, once they figured how to navigate the LMS, they adjusted and had only minor issues. Lara expressed her fear and eventual adjustment to using the online system and expressed a complete turnaround in how she viewed the very thing she had fe ared. Lara: manipulate and I interact with the different devices, basically, and where I see how bene ficial it has been for me, basically, to get information across more easier. material are at your fingertip. I can just log in and just information is there where
102 Another student, Tamecia, while not entirely comfortable with tec hnology, indicated its importance in society and the need to ensure she learned to use it and get comfortable with it. This I suggest, can also be considered an addition to her learning as she demonstrates both motivation and self regulation in her learni ng Furthermore, by o vercoming her fear and taking steps to embrace new ways of learning this allowed th e student to gain meaningful learning. She described her feelings by saying: Tamecia : I think I need to go on the internet, I need to go on the smart devices know when smart devices just came out and I started using it. I was so scared to even press the button because I think something might happen . You just get that timid feeling all the time when you go on line because you think you might press something wrong and then something happen and then another thing Another student, Tamera, said she was never taught to use the systems and did not know how to find things given in assignments orientation videos It was curious to discover that despite her issues with navigating online, she still prefe rred this method of learning and eventually learned to navigate through the LMS A study of her online activity in the LMS showed that she had significant activity throughout the semester illustrating her engagement in the online element both in her page v isits and in her discussion participation She states that reasons for her initial discomfort were due to information not being provided and said : Tamera: room, I don't know where to go If the teacher or the lecturer give us something to do or where to find during online to go on, I don't know how to get to that right. Confusion and frustration about the LMS navigation were expressed at some level by several s tudents. They indicated that though orientation videos were provided for students,
103 lecturers may need to provide incentives for students to go through the videos, as they seemed to have not seen the orientation as important until much later in the semester Mana g emen t. W hen asked what they liked about the blended mode of learning t ime, flexibility, comfort and convenience are all words used by students to describe the importance of the blended mode in managing school life and home life when asked what the y liked about the blended mode of learning This flexibility of being able to work anywhere (e.g. on their phones while on a bus) was one aspect of the mode that students especially appreciated. Tamecia, a single mom, indicated that while she was scared of her smart device and was not as comfortable with technology as her peers, she appreciated and depended on it as a tool of convenience in getting schoolwork completed. She describes her challenges and the frustrations of travel and reaching home late tire d and ready for bed. Tamecia: well and so he takes up most of my time. Time from school to get home like if I on this most that I can or put my phone on and do something. It works for me, but if I ho persons are going through a lot as well Tamecia wa s not the only one to remark on the convenience of the blended mode and being able to work in a flexible time and space. Others also describe the blended format as one that was convenient for them allowing them to be in their comfort zone s and being able to learn in their own space and time and allude to the balance that the blended learning course brought to their lives by allowing them to work in flexible spaces or times and to complete their assignments. The idea of home and work balance is one that is not new and is often mentioned in literature on online and blended learning.
104 Meaningful L earning Evidence of the four c ognitive presence categories: triggering events, exploratio n, integration and resolution, can be seen throughout the class in activities like the discussion boards, the chats, and in class. Students interested in topics presented in class, followed by their exploration to discover more about the topic represent ways in which critical thin king starts to take place. The eventual sharing of knowledge and ability to argue and defend what they know is part of the process of learning. T he final phase of applying knowledge in different setting s shows that meaning ful learning and reso lution has occurred. Learning activities and assignments provide opportunities for students to learn, collaborate and apply knowledge and create communities of inquiry as suggested by the CoI framework However, in traditional learning Warren (2016) warns class often prevent or discourage complete participation . . and that some students are W hen asked w hat they liked about the blended learning experience i t can be inferred from student responses that the blended modality overcomes this obstacle to some extent. Students indicated they liked the convenience offered in the blended mode where they had time to think and not be rushed to answer as t hey would be in a traditional class where time is of the essence. This allowed them to give more thoughtful responses and allow ed them to manage not only their schoolwork but gave them a sense of belonging they might not have in the regular classroom Me lanie, a student who actively participate d in class, expressed that not all students were comfortable in the traditional classroom Online discussion activities online provided these students opportunities to express themselves and learn from each other. S he states that the
105 ut that she had gained more from being able to go online and reinforced what she lear ned in class. Melanie : Say I will learn a topic today, and I will see it as if the topic was explained well, and I got the full concept, but reading through online, follo wing through it step by step, I will get more information than what I have learned during class. I find it more easier, because I get more concept with both, but reading it step by Triggering event. Tamecia in describing learning about the topic of Global Warming was awed with by her lack of knowledge on the topic and indicated that this knowledge raised her interest in the subject matter This is an indication that the trigger as described by Garrison, Anderson and Archer (2001) was achieved Tamecia: Learning about the ozone. I find that really, really interesting because all along t know all of these things. I mean I know somewhat However, m eaningful learn ing also occurs in different ways for different people Furhter to the triggering event, Tamecia excitedly describes her growth and comfort with using technology in the end of the semester interview where she gives a clear example of her increased learning and ability to apply knowledge to different assignments. Tamecia: savvy type. I remember I had an event the other day, a conference the other day, and I was compelled to do some interviews with persons, well, some videos with persons telling me about how has techn ology impacted communication in the workplace. That was actually our topic, and I went out and I made some interviews, got some pretty good answers, some pretty good feedback. Then I ended up playing the video in my presentation, like, yes, I have improved. I can do stuff like this. I can upload. I can play this. Really, so the improvement has improved a lot where that when I just started, I can comfortably go on it and say, Oh, this where I should be, or, I should be here.
106 This unexpected learning about how to use different digital tools is a demons tration of meani ngful learning taking place outside of, or as an extension of the course. She also adds that she is a better learner in a setting where she has time to work things out in her head. A noticeable point on this is the fact that several of the participants who were reluctant towards using technology at first had a changed attitude towards the end of the semester They reported similar growth in their digital skills and a growing comfort in using technology for learning. At the e nd of the semester, students indicated their overall comfort in the blended mode of learning but said they were not sure they would like a fully online course for learning. Exploration event. Further observations of discussion posts (Figure 1.2) showed tha t some participants engaged in activity in which they went beyond the requirements of the as from perspectives other than their own. This type of motivation by students to regulate their learning can be seen as a sign of their ability to think ahead about their performance, and planning and reflecting on learning activities. According to resear chers, self regulated learning can lead to higher learning outcomes if students are able to manage their time and reflect on activities that may frustrate them, and find ways to overcome their issues ( Anderson et al., 2001; Gar rison, 2003; Shea et al., 201 3). Tamecia, the single mother, illustrated this self regulated learning best as she explained how she has to plan her activities. Knowing that time management is an issue for her, she needs to use different strategies to achieve her goals. Tamecia: For the on completed. However, for your face to face class you might get an assignment tomorrow or maybe later down in the week, but then as I said based on time
107 t more done in the most convenient For Tamecia time is a major factor in completing tasks and one that she struggles with. But she was very conscious of this and reflected on how the blended mode has actually helped her with manging her time. Her example illustrates the difference between the traditional classroom restraints for busy people like her versus the flexibility of the blended learning modality. Collaboration Palloff and Pratt (2005) point to cultural differences amongst learne rs. They stated that while some cultures favour a cognitive mode of learning, others prefer a community way of knowing. This is certainly true of the Caribbean where learning is community process. Meaningful learning therefore often took place in a communi ty like forum with the exchange of ideas with peers and lecturers. The r evelations coming out of the data showed that students challeng ed communicated and shared new information through the WhatsApp group chat. This co mmunication proved not only to be cognitive in nature but bled into the social aspects of learning where students felt they were more connected to their peers and with the lecturer. Lara describes blended learning as effective and a way for both students and lecturers to interact with and learn from each other. Lara: but also for lecturer. They can interact and understand your students and their thinking. Integration. Garrison et al. (2001) described integration as a process by which students synthesize information and connect ideas from different sources to come to an understanding. Melan ie describes this as a moment of growth for her, as she has learned to integrate information
108 from different sources and used the information to develop her opinions for an assignment that asked students to conduct an article review. Melanie: I 've grown. I have grown cuz I get to look at the whole education and the whole course in a different way in terms of achievement I have grown , because we had to read books, so I'm just going to remember what we read. Now, I look at it in two ways. I look at it as also reading books, but also going on online, reading other information and writing reviews of what we thought or what we learned from all of it Resolution. The final phase of the cognitive domain is the ability of students to apply knowledge they have gained in their course. This last phase is described by researchers as one of the hardest steps to identify (Akyol & Garrison, 2011; Enightoola, Fraser, & Brunton, 2014 ). However, in this study, students demonstrated their resolutions in instances like the one described by David. David: Everyone in class, in face to in the face to face discussion. The online discussion, a nd because you being graded for the discussion, everyone participated, and you can views on different topics. That is what I want to highlight, that big idea, that experience where discussion is concerned. Social Ele m e nts of the L e a rning E x p e ri e n ce Communication in the blended environment opens new learning interactions that can spread past the narrow scope of the physical class room. It is central aspect of learning and one of the revised seven principles of education using technol ogy as posited by Chickering and Ehrmann ( 1996). Timely feedback from lecturers to students and open communication between student lecturer and student student are seen as essential to good student engagement, learning and educational outcomes. While commu nication can be seen more easily in the social sphere of the CoI, it overlaps with both the cognitive and teaching spheres of the framework.
109 Social P resence There was evidence of social presence in terms of the three categories : open communication, group cohesion and emotional expression. Communication was a key word and part of key phrases voiced in responses by all the participants when asked about their communication between classmates and between the lecturer. Open communication between peers and lecturer, group sharing and cohesiveness and emotional bonding and support are all elements of socialization said to be indications of social presence. Students displayed open communication practices, leading to group cohesiveness with t he use of social media to keep in touch with peers and to keep each other informed and supported In assessing students, one particular question was asked to see how students compared their interactions with peers and lecturers in the blended format with other traditional courses. The students unfailingly preferred the blended mode and described their experiences as more responsive to their needs. Christy liked having access to information and felt it helped her be more prepared. Christy: Yeah. The way ho have to wait for the teacher to se nd you notes or whatever. The outline is already there. Open communication. Students indicated the importance of communication, an element of learning emphasized by Chickering and Ehrmann ( 1996) as essential to students e ducational experience. Garrison and Vaughn (2008) agreed that discourse engages participants through reflective practices. In communities of inquiry, this is dependent on the sharing of insights and experiences through continuous collaboration and communication among all stakeholders.
110 Figure 4 2 Examples of students Unit 1 discussion posts on Global Warming.
111 Signs of communication and collaboration can be seen taking place in responses provided by students on their experiences, and by examination of the notes taken during observations of in class discussions as well as discussion posts in the LMS and in WhatsApp chats. Further, students use of the WhatsApp messenger app to facilitate communication between themselves and their peers and lecturer demonstrat ed open and free communication. Communication with l ecturer All students indicated that communication was very important in their learning and pointed to several reasons for their views. Chief among these reasons were: an ability to clarify information, immediate or quick feedback on assignments, quick responses to queries and the general connection with their lecturer, making it more comfortable to communicate with her. They liked connecting with their lecturer both in face to face and online, as they co uld bring their concerns and get advice. The communication, therefore, was not only related to coursework but other academic and personal reasons. It does increase my interaction between myself and my lecturer because there were some courses that I to that interacts both Facebook, not Facebook, but WhatsApp on the online Canvas and also in person, which is in class. So, I have two different mediums in which I can communicate, and I can bring my concern, my misunderstanding in order to Melanie: access, and my lecturer, it is excellent. I can go to her. I can ask her. She gives me advice on certain ideas that I have. If any little incident come up, I can she will C ommunication with p eers Connecting with their fellow classmates was also seen in a different light. Many of the participants indicated they found they had more of a voice online than in the physical class With a class of over thirty students, they sometimes felt they could not voice their opinions or thoughts. There was also, as Tamecia points out, a reluctance to
112 participate in class by some students. But the blended option provided a different venue for communication to take place Lara, one of the first interviewees (who was extremely nervous during the first interview and had to be reassured that nothing she said was a wrong or right answer), describes how her communication with her peers allowed her to get immediate and valuable feedback via WhatsApp about assignments she may have missed (sharing information), but also that it helped her to bond with her classmates. Lara : Hey, did you know about assignment that was just put on the online learning site and they would tell it, and you go on the site, and see the information. It give you that bond to know about the individual, but, also, they would like to inform you about certain things I 've se en an improvement in communicating with my peers because we're not communicating just in class, but also communicating online, where we get to express ourselves. Each one will get to ask e ach other questions more in a different way of learning. I get to have a closer relationship and I get to understand them better. Group cohesion. Peer feedback and communication was another part of the social element that was shown to be very present and important. Tamecia points out that in class students may not always talk to each other Tamecia: your peers. Sometim hen I said that interaction helps to learn Affective expression WhatsApp messages (Figure 4 3, Image 2 on peer exchange) showed that affective (emotional) expression was present. This was demonstrated when one student (not one of the participants) tried to brighten the day for her peers by sharing a fun video and generating humour, leading to Tam ecia expressing that she was now motivated for the day. In observing the chat, several students used happy and laughing emoticons to express liking the
113 expressions with each other and said you text something funny in the group, and then you get a Right? Social Media Usage Another aspect of communication that was benefici al to students was with their lecturer who utilized the WhatsApp to communicate with them. This gave them instant access to their lecturer for immediate feedback to questions They felt this benefitted the whole class because when one person asked a ques tion that others were also curious about, they all learned from the response Social media is a popular means of communication amongst Caribbean students and the WhatsApp app is one frequently used by students on a daily basis as a means of communication with each other Realizing that this may be one way to connect with students, I asked a student from each section of the course to set up a WhatsApp group chat for their section. D ata indicates that the use of WhatsApp in addition to other communication (on and offline) with students was well received Students showed great enthusiasm for the instant communication provide d by WhatsApp and continued to use it even after the class was c oncluded When asked what they thought about communication in their class, students often remarked on the ease of communication and the quick response from both peers and their lecturer Donna elaborated by saying that a student asking a question allowed others to benefit as they may have had the same question, so learning was expanded to the group. She further highlighted that she liked that she could get a quicker response from her lecturer than others and that was very important to her. Donna: I always have a question then maybe somebody else asked that question, that once you a Ah, Jesus. It has been so much easier. For
114 example here. We can just make to the whole class questions. Mi know seh you may tek a lickle while to reply but you will reply. have WhatsApp. You understand? You are just there. Te acher Preparedness and Use of Technology for Instruction course material and assignments for dual settings is a challenge Garrison and Vaughn (2008) state that to en sure that a community of inquiry is productive, it is important to bring together all elements, the design, facilitation and direction of a course, for a holistic educational experience. Synchronous and asynchronous activities should engage students in cou rsewo rk that trigger s allows for debate and is reflective. Teaching P resence Instructor course design and organization, discussion facilitation, and direct instruction are evidenced through various activities that are perceived by stu dents as aiding in their learning of a class often prevent or discourage complete participation and that some students are reluctant to speak in public s W do they like how the students indicated they liked the communication and the various activities provided to aid in learning. They liked the role playing and debate activities in the traditional class setting, viewing them as entertaining. But they liked the online activities for diffe rent reasons. One of these reasons was the c onvenience of the blended mode that allowed them time to think and not be rushed to answer whereas in a traditional c lass setting time is of the essence. The online environment afforded them more time to think ab out their response s
115 Students E xpectations of L ecturer When asked what students expected of their lecturers and their classes in general, there were several reasons given with a consensus on certain expectations Students expected lecturers to facilitate their learning by providing new ways to learn, to use technology to aid in learning with different tools (e.g. use of videos or YouTube), and to create assignments that would allow students to use different skill sets. This is illustrated in the various re sponses on expectations of their lecturers: Donna: things. I learn by visuals, seeing things. Videos, for example, or pictures. So, I expect them to facilitate that type of learni ng. Maybe introduce new ways of not Lara: information, these kind of tools so that they can use and manipulate these tools David: can call it a kinaesthetic learner. I participate in presentations. Lecturers' U se of T echnology Design and organiza tion. (i.e. LMS) was described as confusing to some. This was partially due to students failing to watch the orientation videos provided to help them learn the system and navigate the LMS. Ta mera, who had the most difficult time, described the system as very confusing because I Even though the course was arranged in CANVAS in units/modules and students were told to watch orientation videos to familiarize themselves with the system, some students like Tamera, for one reason or another, did not follow through on this immediately, although they
116 eventually did. Tamera states her grades might have been higher had she known how to navigate the system as she missed a key assignment. sphere of the blended approach. The course designer should have implemented a mandatory orientation. This would provide first time users an introduction to the LMS, a sense of welcome and introduction to resources available to them and given them enough time to work out through any issues or problems, without worry ing about affecting their coursework or grades. (Jon es, 2013). Chickering and Ehrmann (1996) encourage the use of technology to connect students to faculty to communicate, provide feedback, and encourage active learning and collaboration. Darcy describes her experience with her lecturer who encouraged her t o learn to use the online system Darcy: all other courses. To me, I like it because even if yo lecturer ensure you She put that to you and keep on do it. Even for me, back in understand it, but when she encourages you to do it, and you like it. You can tell Christy: I think that she finds every mean and way to help us learn the course. that we can relate to in terms of technology. Discussion facilitation. In describing her experience with learning, Christy expressed that the lecturer method. She just doesn expectations of assignments and the use of various tools for learning.
117 Lara: n with an understanding of the courses, the be done. Not just that, it helps not just interact with both the teacher but also help the class members also interact with anothe r class member. Communication is for example, unit one is finished. There is a discussion for it. There might not be an online discussion for it but, also, when you have a in class discussion where trying everything in just one class where you have a discussion. Basically, I get to understand certain aspects of a unit, yeah, of a unit or, in general, the also online wh ere I can manipulate and reinforce my memory the information that David: provide us with this information. Watch them. Learn more of that. It also helps in the process. As I said before, as a student, you are to prepare yourself to come to Direct instruction. Most direct instruction seemed to happen when students shared and brought in new knowledge from their explorations of the topic. Furthermore, s tudents appreciated being able to utilize the online material given to them to follow along whi le the teacher wa s lecturing, which they perceived helped them to understand the material better They felt they go t more examples of the subject a nd were able to concentrate in the noisy classroom setting. Melanie, in her conversation with the interviewer, said the teacher provided more information via the online system as she lectured Melanie: (online on the LMS) go ing through the (using material posted online to project for class) but, also, giving u other than what is Teaching presence is an integral part of the community of learning and as has been described here by the students as a very important one when the right tools are used to create that community.
118 Lecturers A ccessibility and A vailability Access to their lecturers was a key point made by all participant s in the study. Students emphasized and consistently mentioned how important it was for them to be able to connect with their lecturer at any given time. One student described this element as important when comparing feedback on discussions in class versus online for her learning. Darcy: Compared to the other class that is not online, your work will be sent to you. T different (online) because the lecturer s already online can see your work put into w where everyone is at. Furthermore, most students saw accessibility and availability as a very important part of the communication process Donna describes her experience as part of a larger and more personal relationship between her and the lecturer. T his student teacher relationship as she describes it as one that allows her to build confidence in completing work with a supportive facilitator. Donna: I really value our student teacher relationship in that I can get some confidence and it can maybe I ca n be confident in doing the course knowing would get very, very anxious Additional Findings Triangulation of Qualitative Interviews In carrying out the study, experiences. This included examining all technology used by the lecturer and students to gain a comprehensive picture of these experiences. The use of both the LMS and the social media application WhatsApp that were used as part of this blended course were therefore analysed by examining the course analytics, observations of discussion posts and communication in WhatsApp chats to gain a thorough picture by corroborating interviewee responses. This allowed
119 me to discern how students used technology for their learning and which tasks and activities generated the most curiosity and responses. Online Course Analytics and CoI As suggested by Tinto (1997) quantitative (hours spent on studying) and qualitative (student revision and comprehension of material) C ourse analytics allow researchers to collect information on pa rticipation rates in specific assignments and activities, and the amount of time students spend engaging with online resources or with their peers. In a blended modality, this can be measured by examining students traditional activities as suggested earli er by Tinto (1997), and by examining online activity. This was very useful in triangulating data to see where responses matched what students were saying or if there was any divergence from their responses. For the most part, the data gathered from the LMS course analytics and WhatsApp observations supported the interview data. LMS observations. For this study, I examine d student course analytics of the CANVAS LMS to observe and note the number of page visits over a semester for each of the participants, including the amount of participation online to see how involved and active they were with course material and assignments. This as I stated before allowed me to corroborate information gi ven by participants in their interviews with what was happening with their online activities. closer to assignment dates. Nevertheless, page views indicated that there wa s significant online activity throughout the semester. Some students had as many 300 500 page views. Students such as Tamecia, Tamera and Darcy who expressed their uncertainty in using technology for learning were some of the most active in discussions and had a lot to express (Figure 4.4) An unsurprising observation was that the LMS pages often visited were the ones where students were given videos to watch related to topics being covered in class Many of the students
120 indicated that they lik e d having the videos as supplementary learning material as sometimes they did not understand what was covered in class. According to the responses this could be due to a number of issues such as: the noise levels in the classroom where students were unable to concentr ate or hear lectures; a lack of understanding of the concepts covered and which could not be fully explained in the short period of time with a large class of thirty or more students; and finally, because students said they were more visual learners and th e videos helped to brings ideas across participating online, had the most page views and participation rates, with the exception of Tamecia who only had four participa tion actions. Tamecia indicated that she was not as comfortable online and was trying to learn the system. This may explain why her participation on the LMS was less. Tamera, too, had comparatively high page views and good participation despite her struggl es in navigating the LMS. David had indicated he was a kinaesthetic learner and Donna indicated she did not like to use technology much, so their lack of use of the LMS was not entirely surprising Communication on the LMS was limited to the internal emai l system and to students postings on the discussion boards (Figure 4.4). Most communication (Table 4 3) was conducted on the WhatsApp chat as a preferred method because it allowed for real time and almost immediate responses to student queries. Students c onsistently mentioned the WhatsApp as a means of communication in almost all areas of their learning, and this was evidenced throughout this section. Melanie summarized what most students have said in their interviews. Melanie: share what can be useful and helpful to other person that cannot visit the online site frequently as other person would. What we do in online in the WhatsApp group, is that we share topics, share information, and if it missed something in class and the in dividual is not there, we
121 quote it back in the group, and they will understand better. It is more of a learning This use of social media messenger communication for such a diversity of actions speaks not only to the abilities of students to use new communicative technology in new and meaningful ways, but to the future applications of these mediums as teaching tools. WhatsApp chat activity observations. In exploring students interactions on discussion posts, in conferences an d other communications (WhatsApp) I was able to observe the depth of understanding or confusion participants had on the subject matter under review (e.g. Global Warming assignment) and respond accordingly. Students not only actively discussed the topics from class but found information that they shared such as videos on what was happening in the Caribbean and in nature; motivated each ot her with fun videos, and asked for help when needed (Figure 4.3). This was an extension and furthering of discussions. The lecturer also used the WhatsApp space to provide students with additional information directly on the chat. This allowed students li ke Tamecia to access information on the go. The assignment, such as the one shown in Image Three (Figure 4 3), allowed students to help each other with the learning process and allowed the teacher to respond on the chat with immediate feedback so that all the students benefited. The participants invariably showed increased interest in the topics and shared that information with classmates. Of note, the chat was also used to communicate about other classes and to pass on information from other teachers in tr aditional learning courses. Communication using the WhatsApp was a truly not just a social tool. I observed students using the chat to motivate each other and all students in the chat had a voice and opinion. Tamecia was quick to point out that the WhatsA pp was the medium she loved because it kept her connected with what was happening not just in class but at school.
122 Tamecia: on Friday, but we still get to talk to persons over the wee love to use to speak to somebody over the weekend. Something might happen just like earlier when someone put something about the pollution and things like that. Of course, persons are able to communicate on our weekend and gi ve their opinion. Table 4 Students Total Page Views 5 Oct 17 to 12 Dec 17 Total LMS Participation (actions taken) LMS Communication From Lecturer LMS Communication From Student David 157 3 2 0 Tamera 243 6 2 0 Darcy 478 16 2 0 Donna 232 7 2 2 Lara 539 9 2 0 Tamecia 255 4 2 0 Melanie 309 10 2 0 Christy 187 7 2 0
123 Figure 4 3 Examples of discussion post by students with technology ambivalence but who both had lengthy contributions
124 Figure 4 4 WhatsApp screenshots of student and teacher communication showing (from left to right): 1) teacher exchange with students; 2) peer exchanges motivating each other and socializing; 3) peer exchange with student asking for help on understanding assignment.
125 Chapter Summ a r y Student engagement is the core of the Community of Inquiry (CoI) paradigm and benchmarks of good edu cational practice which involve collaborative learning, student teacher interactions, and didactic and enhanced educational experiences in supportive learning environments. The findings of this study tell the story of anglophone Caribbean Community College students who shared experiences in a blended learning course through the lens of the community of inquiry (CoI) framework and its three key elements of social, cognitive and teaching presence. T he research examined five key themes related to students exp eriences with and perceptions of technology access and skills, shared blended learning experiences, social elements of learning, teacher preparedness, and social, cognitive and teaching presence. The findings revealed how and if digital access and skills affected students learning in a blended environment and how that impact ed meaningful learning. This phenomenon was scrutinized for evidence of the elements, which if found could demonstrate meaningful learning experiences in blended learning classes. Rese arch findings reveal ed that though Caribbean students dealt with some issues related to digital access and some students had fears of learning online they were able to overcome these issues and fears to ha ve a meaningful learning experience in each of the CoI domains. Students did however go through what can be termed as different growing pains of adjusting to a new way of learning Students expressed feeling s of confusion, frustration and eventual adaptation to the new learning environment. The CoI distinguished itself and proved to be a valuable framework to investigat e and describ e the experiences of Anglophone Caribbean Community college students first ever blended learning experiences with findings showing that the blended course w as well represented within the framework with students having meaningful experiences.
126 CHA P TER 5 D I SCUSSION, IMPLICATIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS Su m m a r y This chapter presents a discussion of the findings with a summary using the Community of Inquiry (CoI) frame work (Garrison et al., 2000) to understand the blended learning experiences of Anglophone Caribbean Community College students as well as to summari z e their technological readiness to take the course via this modality. The section will include a discussion of patterns observed from the themes, a thematic discussion which coalesce s within the three domains identified in the CoI framework: social, cogni tive, and teaching This also included an identification of observe d patterns in each theme, a presentation of implications for practice and recommendations for future research followed by the conclusion Significance of Findings The data form of the res earch revealed a generally positive view of blended learning experiences from Anglophone Caribbean Community College students similar to those of their counterparts in the U S where research has shown a preference for this modality ( Buzzetto More, 2008; Carswell et. al., 2004; Guzer & Care, 2014; Rovai & Jordan, 2004; Xu & Jaggers, 2013a; Xu & Jaggers, 2014; Traver et. al., 2014) While analyzing the f our key themes examined in the study, it was observed that there were three overall patterns that emerged and flowed through more than one theme connecting the themes together This helped to further tie the CoI framework together. In the following section, I will present these ob served patterns followed by a discussion of each theme and the CoI framework and where patterns were observed. Patterns Observed Three key patterns observed from the research suggested there was: 1) a high connectivity of social presence to both cognitive and teaching presences; 2) the existence of
127 meaningful learning; and 3) the usage of social media as a tool for communication and learning. These three patterns were pervasive, and each pattern was seen to be in three or more themes as related by the stude nts in their description of the blended learning experiences. As cognitive and teaching presence have become more social with social presence, becoming a force for student engagement and support, as well as a means of understanding material presented in class This differs from the view by Annand (2011) who suggested that social presence was exaggerated. Disagreeing with Annand (2011), I propose that the social context and nature of teaching presences. This research utilized a great deal of social milieu with learners incorporating both digital skills and technology to leverag e learning Additionally, there is some debate on the extent to which learner presence represents a new domain to be examined, as suggested by researchers examining online learning ( Morueta et al., 2016 ; Pool, Reitsma and van den Berg, 2017 ; Shea et al., 2 012 ) I contend that while learner presence is important, it is not separate but rather central to communities of inquiry where learners are profoundly integral to all aspects of the learning environment. These aspects include everything from design of courses by instructors, to how students communicate and the tools they choose to communicate with, and finally to how studen separate element but rather a facet within the entire model because learners and learning is what communities of inquiry are really about. Additionally, I propose that teachers are learners also in methods and approaches based on what they learn
128 The second overarching pattern observed was that of meaningful learning One of the key measures of a successful community of inquiry (CoI) is when meaningful learning occurs (Garrison et al., 2000). This, however, has not been as easily demonstrated in the research, as put forward by Rourke and Kanuka (2009). The authors contend that de spite all the studies using the CoI framework, few try to show when this aspect of the CoI occurs. This study however has illustrates this in the descriptions of their experiences through the four phases of the cognitive elements. event, followed by asking questions and going online to learn more In the next phase, students illustrate d integration by describing how they connected ideas with their cohort through online and WhatsApp discussion s and by sharing new information to further the discussion. In the final phase of resolution, students can be seen to apply knowledge in group assignments presented in class and through discussion posts where they conducted article reviews based on what they had learned Additionally, as all learning is not formal and may be taking place outside of the classroom, there is potential for ev en more meaningful learning to take place, which we are not able to observe. However, it is possible in a program such as the tourism and hospitality program in which the students were engaged, that the interrelatedness of courses in the programs could all ow the researcher to see whether knowledge from one course carried over to and could be applied to different courses. The third observed pattern of social media usage is, not surprisingly, very popular among what we think of as the Google generation. Howev er, the ways it is used, as demonstrated in this study, provides us with an awareness of how students adapt their learning styles to new learning
129 roles and parti cipation in blended modalities play a crucial role The social elements of learning are not new concepts and have been a part of the research on student engagement (Anderson et al., 2012; Astin, 1995; Tinto 1997) Furthermore, Dunlop and Lowenthal (2009, 2010) suggest that social media tools can be different tools used to engage students This study conclud es along the same lines with the data demonstrating how WhatsApp communications between students and the lecturer were both highly involved in a mobile collaborative learning process going beyond traditional classroom activities. The finding s reveal ed that WhatsApp could be used as an instructi onal tool in engaging students and points to the potential of WhatsApp or similar tools for mobilizing faculty into taking a more active hands on role in a community of inquiry. Blended Learning Challenges One sign i ficant result stemmed from the sub question on whether internet access and their learning This affect ed all three domains of the CoI. Researchers ( Van Dijk & Hacker, 2000; Hargittai, 2001; Hargittai & Hinna nt, 2008) have pointed to issues of access and skills levels, with Hargittai calling this a second level digital divide, as a roadblock to learning in the digital world. In response to questions about their comfort level and usage skills, the f indings indicated that in spite of challenges faced with intermittent and poor Wi Fi services, which at times left students without access to the net and to their online materials in the LMS, they had a good perception of learning in this dual modality Ma ny express ed a preference for this type of learning. Students demonstrated that they were more digitally prepared both in terms of having access to the infrastructure (i.e. Wi Fi), hardware and software, and having the basic digital skills of being able t o navigate the web and do research.
130 It was discovered that even with poor service and limited access to the internet and an LMS that was problematic for a few students, the majority fared well and their learning was not negatively impacted Even the mos t affected students found they were able to access information eventually and in the blended format they were able to attend to assignments and gain information in the traditional way at difficult times Here we see that even with issues of inequality, wh ich include d places of access, students are not are impacted as greatly as thought However, like Hargittai (2001) I concur that there is still research required on students skills and usage as infrastructure and technology changes and educational environ ments change. Another growing aspect of learning with technology is the use of the social media tools like WhatsApp (Pattern 3) w hich proved to be useful in the dissemination of information, a means of communication and an excellent tool for instant and quick responses to student queries. Early works on experiential learning suggest that social construction of meaning (Dewey, 1959; Kolb, 1984) through engagement allows for meaningful learning The data here suggests the use of social media demonstrates communication, interaction and learning taking place amongst the participants their peers and the lecturer. This surmounts the obvious pitfalls of physical internet access with the use of mobile data and the ease with which students use this technology H ere everyone had access in class or at home, regardless of the type of phone or device they were using, allowing them to connect with each other and collaborate on learning in the community of inquiry. Student s Shared Blended Learning Experiences Similar to Rovai and ( 2004 ) study, the data showed that even with concerns regarding technology issues, students prevailed and had a positive outlook about the modality. Findings showed that the blended learning approaches used in the course, which inclu ded a mix of traditional face to face lectures, in class discussions, assignments and exercises (e.g.
131 presentations, impromptu debates, and role play) combined with online discussion boards, online exams and videos enhanced the learning experience for all participants. S tudents cited t his combination of coursework as working well for them and providing them with different tools to meet their individual learning needs. did not diverge from the blend ed learning experiences of the students and in fact showed that students had successful learning experiences through interactions with their peers and lecturer which fostered reflection and le d to higher order thinking (Pattern s 1, 2 and 3) As describe d earlier, blended learning was the preferred mode of learning by all participants, except one, and participants all said they would take courses taught in this mode if they were offered. One student said she preferred the face to face aspect of her c lasse s as she found it easier to present her ideas in class However, the most popular mode was a combination of the two, suggesting that they complemented each other and allowed students to get the best of both worlds This corresponds with responses from Caribbean University students in a study by Enightoola et al. (2014) also using the CoI in a mixed methods research which examined attitudes towards e learning. All three patterns were observed under this theme, where student responses demonstrated the use of the WhatsApp platform (Pattern 1 and 3) and other online tools used to manage their time, and allowed for flexibility in completing coursework Meaningful learning (Pattern 2) was their collaboration with peers and sharing of information; with the time allowed to think and process information in the blended modality; and with the flexibility of the mode to post their thoughts in online discussions and activities from home and from a environment after a period of confusion for some and frustration for others also demonstrated
132 their growth as learners using new technology and utilizing that technology to d iscover and explore new ideas and concepts. Social Elements of the Learning Experience The literature indicates (Garrison et al., 2000, 2010; Lowenthal and Dunlap, 2014; Rourke e t al., 2001, Swan, 2003) that social presence is recognizable through three m ain categories of social presence: affective expression, interactive responses and cohesive responses In their work, Rourke et al. (2001) suggest that indication of this can be seen when students express emotions, show humour, and self disclose Throug h t he use of the WhatsApp chat students demonstrated this with shared jokes, expressing other emotions like fear, sadness, frustration with their classes or coursework or with a project they were working on. Rourke et al. (2001) and Swan (2003) suggest that interactive responses can be seen in each other, or expressing appreciation for something and agreeing with the viewpoints of others The findings show that st udents felt more empowered and expressed that they felt they had more of a voice online than in class They remarked on the use of the WhatsApp chat as a favoured medium for collaborating with and learning from their peers, as well as from their lecturer The last category of the CoI, cohesive responses was also demonstrated with students identifying with the group and bringing about group cohesiveness. An almost musketeer like cohesion of one for all and al l for one suggests behaviours and attitudes that lead to group commitment (Rourke et al., 2001). However, in agreement with Lowenthal and Dunlap (2014), I contend that definitions of social presence need to be clearer, especially when investigating in culturally diverse learning environments where a sense of belonging may differ and ideas of how people belong may be viewed differently. While Garrison et al. (2000 and 2010) have provided a significant tool to
133 assess social presence the framework does not provide clarity on how to help design courses that facilitate the development of this presence. Furthermore, as social and cultural cues are constantly changing and technological innovations introduce new tools (e.g. augmented reality), there is a need to re examine how these new technologies will strengthen or diminish social presence. Additionally, this research showed that cultural background s have some impact on the types of tools that may be used by different groups of people. The participants (Jam aican) of this study shared a similar language, camaraderie, types of humour and conversations in the discussion forum and WhatsApp which indicated that participants felt that they were a part of th at group and shared inside jokes and other expressions and stories that showed their with their class. In contemplating all these aspects of how to engage and connect with students, I suggest a deeper examination of not only students comforts and needs but those of the teachers so that in designing courses w e choose the best mediums, whether it is face to face or online or both as was used in this study. Additionally as suggested by this research and by Shea and Bidjerano (2010) meaningful communication happens outside of the classroom and in mor e social set tings This was evidenced through the patterns observed where teaching and cognitive presence are seen to be more social (Pattern 1), with meaningful learning taking place in the sharing or knowledge in the mobile setting (Pattern 2) and the social media messenger is used to bring about learning (Pattern 3) and create group cohesiveness. Teacher Preparedness and Use of Technology for Instruction Students cited teacher preparedness mostly in terms of being able to communicate with their lecturer, instant feedback access to receive answers to queries, and presentation of material by the lecturer as key strengths of the course They appreciated the variety of assignments and the various online tools used to meet the learning styles of different lear ners (e.g. auditory and
134 visual learners) and the ability to learn in a space where they were comfortable and had the WhatsApp to communicate with the students was mentioned as making it easy to connect with her whenever they needed to (Pattern 1 and 3). However students pointed to the issues they had with navigating the LMS (course design) as a key factor that made the first part of course somewhat difficult until they learned how to use the system. Similar to Shea et al. (2010) this study found that communication and organization helps to create a stronger teaching presence in the CoI framework However as suggested by Kumar et al. (2011), this research also indi cates a need for faculty development in terms of faculty organizational, pedagogical and administrative skills to foster teaching Additionally, there needs to be awareness and training for the potential of social media to communicate and to be use d as new tools for teaching and engaging students As the data clearly pointed out social media can be a key tool for c ommunication between students and their peers and students and their lecturer. S ocial media us e s were all described as being very important in all three presences. Social, Cognitive, and Teaching Presence Social. Open communication, group cohesion and emotional expression were observed in the interactions in class, online in discussion posts, and in the WhatsApp chat (Pattern 1 and 3). Student s expressed humour, sympathy, frustration and other Anderson & Archer, 2000, p.100) with group members. They shared information among group members for all the classes they had together and generally helped each other with anything they did not understand. Most of the participants of the study were some of the more vocal members of the class, with people like Tamecia, David, Donna and Melanie often leading group discussions or sharing information in the chat.
135 Also, as mentioned earlier in examining the social elements of learning, while there is clear evide nce of social presence, there is a need for clearer definitions of this presence (Lowenthal and Dunlop, 2014) This is crucial in light of the changes happening with technology and within the cultural context of the students experiences. Understanding soc ialization must be seen from the perspectives of the cultures in which students operate. Here again defining or having some social presence indicators that would incorporate the cultural aspects of learning should be included to provide a clearer understan ding of students perceptions. Cognitive. Throughout the interviews and observations there was evidence of the main categories of the cognitive presence proposed by Garrison et al. (2000) COI framework, which include d triggering events, exploration, int egration, and resolution. In this course cognitive presence was presented in three main ways through : 1) unit discussions encouraging students to delve further into topics and then apply ing their discoveries of key concepts to both online discussion assignment s ; 2) participation in group work with presentations in class at the end of the semester ; and 3) through reflections in class and in any space they saw as a place to share ideas and resources. Students readily embraced this and moved t hrough the four phases of this domain. There was evidence that the first three phases were clearer to discern than that of resolution This final phase is one that researchers have said is not as clear, since learning can take place in a setting outside of the classroom and may not necessarily be seen in the class setting (Dunlap & Lowenthal, 2010; Shea & Bidjerano, 2010) Meaningful learning (Pattern 2) was clear in the observations here, and it was interesting to note that, when asked how successful they thought they would be in the course, all respondents said they expected to do well In examining their final grades, it was noted that students scored in the 75 th percentile or above, with only one student scoring in the mid 65
136 percentile. This student, T amera, was also the one who said she did not have access at all times to the LMS and had to wait to get to school to complete work Therefore, there are two key takeaways from this information First, t here may be some link between students perceived lear ning and their actual grades as they are probably considering different aspects of their learning processes and what they deem as successful The second is that access to tools like the LMS and internet ha ve an impact on learning in the blended mode Both these ideas will need further investigation in future studies. Teaching. Cognitive and social elements of the CoI were linked in all the ways the teacher approached this blended course, from initiating a WhatsApp group chat to be used to inform and s hare information with students, to using tools to reach students with different within which group cohesion was created, leading to collaboration and sharing among st peers and the lecturer. The discourse within the LMS, the chat, and experiences in class all contributed to meaningful learning and social presence. This complete convergence of the three elements indicates the value of the CoI and how learning takes pl ace in that central core of the model Every facet of learning from the social to cognitive to teaching are interlinked. However, some researchers offer differing opinions and argue that social presence has greater impact (Shea et al.), but I submit that cannot happen The framework as proposed requires all presences be inter twined in their ultimate goal for true meaningful learning (Garrison et al., 2000) to occur Other arguments on learner presence as being fourth element that needs to be added is argued by some researchers ( Morueta et. al., 2016 ; Pool et al., 2017 ) as a modification that needs to be added to the CoI framework W hile there may be some validity to this line of arguments, I submit tha t students remarks on their experiences ( both in class and online ) for this research
137 would argue against this idea as the course design was very learner centred and i ncorporated learners needs with the variety of learning task s and assignments (e.g. role playing in class, online discussions, incorporation of video lessons to support main lessons) Learning presence as described by Morueta et al ( 2016 ) is about the learning process but as presented by Garrison et al. (2000) this is a part of the framework as the learning process occurs through the three presences. Implications of Blended Learning in Caribbean Community Colleges The blended classroom is a new learning envi ronment for students, lecturers, course designers, and decision makers. Existing litera ture on blended learning ( Buzzetto More, 2008; Carswell et. al., 2004; Guzer & Care, 2014; Rovai & Jordan, 2004; Xu & Jaggers, 2013a; Xu & Jaggers, 2014; Traver et. al., 2014 ) shows like this study that there is a preference for the blended format. This study shows that students have been successful in this blended environment and this offers opportunities for further research that can aid in both student success and completion rates for institutions T he approach is one that must be tempered wi th ca ution ensuring that researchers understand that the cultural nature of learning in the Caribbean context has proper infrastructure (i.e., physical and non physical virtual spaces) and is in place to s upport this kind of learning Implications for Students needs are at the heart of communities of inquiries M eeting those needs means preparing students to work in different spaces, using different t echnologies. For students, this will mean having access to some physical technology (e.g. computer or smart device) that will allow them access to all areas of the blended environments in which they may learn. It also means orienting students so that fears can be allayed and issues similar to those mentioned, such as not knowing
138 where to find information, are mitigated. Additionally like Enightoola et al. (2014 ) I believe engaging students in online discussions and using social media tools like the one in this study will lead to greater instances of critical thinking and meaningful learning. Implications for Faculty As important as student engagement is for the essential growth and development of students and for institutions of higher learning in the Cari bbean, there is a clear need for better understanding of the needs and wants of our students (Bonk, 2009) Students throughout this study kept asking one question that took me by surprise which was, Why is the school only now doing this and why are shows that we need more research on student perceptions of their wants and needs Given that many lecturers are of the opinion that students are not ready to learn online (conversations with fac ulty) or even in a blended modality, this question by students shows that we may be underestimating their readiness for different modes of teaching. Drawing from the theme on teacher preparedness and use of technology for instruction, t he promise exists f or faculty members to make transformational shift s in their teaching approaches. As shown in this theme and from students comments instructors have the opportunity to design environments where students work to build knowledge through collaboration with th eir lecturers, their peers and via the content (Vaughan, 2004 ) instead of just disseminating information Technology moves from being simply a means of distributing material to becoming a valuable tool for communication and collaboration. Implications for Course Designers A key component, though not investigated in this study, but which came through from As demonstrated in the first theme on blended learning challenges s tudents indicate d confusion in using the online systems
139 (LMS navigation ), although some admitted that they had not gone through the orientation videos as instructed. For designers not only of courses but of entire programmes, there needs to be an investigation into the or ganization of courses and the type of activities that incorporate various elements of the CoI that are best suited for blended environments a nd allow students to more easily understand and navigate new systems. Palloff and Pratt (2005) suggest that buildin g these can also create satisfaction through community involvement Additionally a key concept that emerged from the interviews, points to the need for studying the challenges of blended learning environments. Kanuka and Rourke (2013) state that research on successful blended learning programs are dependent on how instructors design and deliver in t his modality. Dziuban et al. (2004) remark ed that the se benefits counterbalance the challenges of blended learning. One suggestion is the t raining of support staff which is crucial when developing and designing programs or courses. As such, both teachers a nd course designers will need to investigate strengths and weaknesses through research and examination of LMS course analytics of current courses using blended learning approaches. This study on blended learning informed the manner in which the CoI develop ed in this environment It also points to ways as suggested by Shea and Bidjerano (2008), that the framework can be used by instru ctional and course designers to create effective blended learning environments where teaching and learning are enhanced Imp lications for Institutional Decision/Policy Makers The findings of this phenomenological study suggest that even while students have shown their preference for the blended learning modality and it offers many benefits for tertiary institutions and learners alike, caution is advised on the approaches taken It is important to be aware of the technological failings (i.e. internet access) that can impact
140 learning on a holistic level. Policies around blended learning or even future online endeavours mu st consider the physical infrastructure that is a weak point in the Caribbean But t hey must also consider whether this mode of teaching will be used to merely present content or instead will be used to promote communities of inquiry as suggested by Garri son et al. (2000). Policies will also need to be used to consider whether educators are interested in an environment that is not just about subject competency but also about student engagement. Policies will need to address faculty sensitization and traini ng to change how we think about teaching in this new digital world, where students share and collaborate with their peers and lecturers and use digital facets for e ffective expression (Garrison et al., 2001) as evidenced in this research. The responses to these questions will have implications for the role of lecturers, faculty and administrators in blended learning environments where the social, cognitive and teaching elements intersect and work to create a rounded approach to teaching and learning. Fur thermore, any institutional undertaking of this nature must be data driven with emphasis on research by both administrators and faculty. Finally, the study reflected that students favoured the instant communication of present social media like WhatsApp. As such, policy considerations need to be evaluated that pertain to issues regarding, privacy, safety and security in using social media in the classroom Institutions will need to consider training all stakeholders in the proper use of these mediums of communication within an educational context. Infrastructure and Implementation Cost Implications One of the sub questions of the research asked how it affect ed their learning As suggested by the first theme, and pointed out by students on the technological failings (e.g.
141 internet failures) that affect them and impair learning on a holistic level As a result, internet access s hould be part of any strategic de cision making process beginning and rising to those of the course designer s, lecturers and decision makers who must decide how much time, money, and effort will be involved to make blended learning successful in all three CoI domain s If Caribbean C ommunity C they will need to look to realties of both the monetary and man hour cost of offering courses in a blended mode. Any development will need to consider the costs of developing and training for these environments. The long term strategic benefits for student engagement, and meeting accreditation and curriculum quality assurance needs, and completion rates also need to be considered. R ec om m e nd a t i ons for Future Research The analysis of this study indicates that Caribbean Community College students come to college with access to social networks and have digital skills typical of their generation They have the ability to use popular educational tools and services (e.g. Google search engine) that are available on the simplest smartphone. Upon entering college students step into a world designed to support learning. However, with the growth of technology and social platforms for communication, we can no longer assu me that the brick and mortar classroom is the only space where students will learn and must be prepared for designing courses to meet these new technological demands Great opportunities are available to study how changes in technology may alter student l earning patterns as suggested in the study. This as well as investigations into necessitate further investigation. There is a great deal of potential for research on blended learning and e learning in general in Caribbea n Community
142 Colleges Presented here are four key recommendations for future research stemming from the results of this research. The first recommendation is for further exploration of studies in s with mobile readiness and comfort wit h technology Some participants in the study still held residu al fears regarding technology. asize d their abilities to access technology and digital usage skills more efficiently than expected Additionally, even though participants were enthusiastic about taking more blended type courses investigation is needed to see if this enthusiasm is the same across different disciplines such as the hard sciences and across different student levels. The students in this study we re in their third year of college and had more collegiate experience That may have had some impact on their learning and interacting in groups. Additionally as shown by Akyol, Vaughan and Garrison (2011) in their research, it would be useful to have a lo ng term study that follows students taking courses in the blended format over more than one semester to see how CoI is developed and maintained. The second recommendation stemming from the data is a need for the investigation of social media usage as a mea ns of communication, collaboration and sharing of information amongst both students and lecturers. As indicated by Dunlop and Lowenthal (2009) more research is needed on the use of social media In addition, further research on CoI within mobile learning (m learning) environments is recommended as more students use their mobile devices as indicated by the data. The question of how effective this type of learning would be in student outcomes would be both interesting to see from a curriculum development p oint as well as a course design perspective Furthermore an investigation into why and how social media is used by Caribbean community college students and students from other Caribbean educational
143 institutions would shed light on how educational institut ions can develop curriculum that incorporates these new technologies to develop communities of inquiry. The third recommendation, stemming from the literature review, is the clear need for research on Caribbean Community Colleges in general but specifica lly as indicated by this research, studies focussed on students perceptions of online or blended learning). These investigations should also incorporate investigations into teaching perspectives, in cluding new approaches to teaching and the role of instructors in using these new mediums Studies should also include research on course design for blended modalities and incorporation of emerging technologies This type of research will provide much needed data on the impacts of changing environments to students, teachers and institutions, and improve the development of programs and cu rriculum. This will provide HEIs with the opportunity to decid e on strategic moves to ensure they are meeting, not only local, but also global standards of accreditation and quality assurance in education The fourth recommendation also st ems from the scarcity of literature on Caribbean Community Colleges. C onsidering that this may be one of the first and perhaps only study to attempt to apply the CoI model to Caribbean Community Colleges in the region recommendation is made for future res earch to consider studies on these smaller workforce oriented tertiary institutions which have great impact on the mandates of Caribbean nations to develop a knowledge economy to meet global workforce needs Therefore, it is only natural that we further ex plore blended learning in workforce oriented programs like tourism and hospitality to gain perspectives on challenges faced by those students, faculty, and administrators Most of these programs are conducted in cohort models T herefore e xamining the u niqu e challenges
144 faced by specific programs and teaching challenges in deliv ering practical oriented educational courses via a blended program will allow for greater and more comprehensive insight into the possibilities for e learning (both blended and fully online) Additionally, this will be greatly beneficial for other higher educational and government training institutions in the Caribbean. One caveat to all this recommended research is that scholarship just for the sake of scholarship is not an affordab le practice as it requires considerable time and in some cases monetary investment. When research reveals information that points to further investigation, it is for institutions to encourage discourse and incentivize those with an inclination to go furt her. Caribbean scholars, like their first world counterparts, need funding and time to further valuable research that can benefit all stakeholders The refore, the government, CCCJ, and community college s should find ways to incentivize their faculty and staff to carry out research that can benefit them and put the Caribbean nation s on a level playing field with the rest of the world. Contribution s to Literature Past research has shown that while blended l earning research is prominent in the western countries and namely North America and Europe ( Drysdale et al. 2013 ; Halverston et al., 2014) there is not much in other regions of the world, including the Caribbean. Additionally, studies on Anglophone Caribb ean community college student perceptions and needs and especially qualitative studies examining online learning or learning in a blended modality as indicated by this research is practically nonexistent T he research bridges a serious gap in Caribbean Com munity college research and adds to the body of knowledge while providing a unique theoretical contribution to the community of inquiry theory Community of inquiry framework. The study provides insight into new ways of examining and analyzing teaching and learning and the student experience. This research advances the CoI theory in studying the blended learning mod ality in contrast to what it was
145 originally developed to stud y, that of on line learning and conferences The study showed that the CoI framework can be adapted quite easily to the blended format and even to studying the traditional classroom format s WhatsApp. Another area where this framework was useful was in looking at socia l media usage as a new tool for engaging students and create meaningful learning experiences as seen in this research. This very surprising outcome of the research demonstrated that communities of inquiry can be created through social media and I cautiousl y suggest that this can be useful as a guide to develop blended programs that meet the needs of not just Caribbean student s but all students There is a great potential to explore this and other similar technology mediums for creating new communities of in quiry. Finally, the study provi des Caribbean scholars a glimpse of the many opportunities for future research from student, faculty and policy perspectives that are needed in understanding blended learning within a Caribbean context, and specifically from the perspective of Community College students and their perceptions of learning online. Conclusion s There is little doubt that learning online in Ca ribbean Community Colleges plays a vital role in educating and fostering skilled workers for their respective nations. These c olleges among other higher educational institutions of the Caribbean are responsible for providing the opportunities, tools and resources needed to stimulate le arning and development Learning, however is not a passive process and the amount of effort applied on the part of students, completion. One of the key contributio ns of this research was the investigation of the community of inquiry from a blended learning perspective with the results indicating the advantages of the
146 blended environment over a purely traditional or online environment. The data revealed the strengths of the blended learning course in this research that included: i) student satisfaction with the use of social media as both tools for communication and learning, ii) faster group bonding as students engaged in both physical and online spaces, iii) greater level of inquiry with students sharing, collaborating and integrating information to have meaningful learning experiences, and iv) greater teaching presence as lecturer s would be able to provide new mediums and tools for teaching, provide faster assessmen t and respond to student queries in real time via social media thus facilitating greater trust. In the final analysis, this phenomenological study focussed a spotlight on students articulated preference s for the blended learning modality and the benefits they gain in balancing home, school, and work. Each of the three presences of the CoI: social, cognitive and teaching, were observed and showed that students learned through collaboration with peers and lecturers. Students belonged to a cohesive group as suggested by the CoI framework (Garrison et al., 2000, 2001) The findings revealed not only how students interacted but how they used social media to further learning and create a stronger group bond. Fu rthermore, the research pointed to the importance of learning collaboratively as a sound foundation for blended courses like this where communication and collaboration were presented through all three areas of the CoI Utilizing the Community of Inquiry f ramework in studying various modes of learning in the Caribbean is highly encouraged to meet regionally relevant research based on the needs and realities of our students, faculty, and institutions. Community colleges in particular need to move towards pro ducing more research that is centred around their institutional realities They should find ways to encourage and incentivize staff to produce relevant but important research on learning and practices associated with these higher educational institutions. It is expected that the
147 findings and observations presented here will help Caribbean scholars to shape both research and practice that will enhance the experiences of both learners and teachers in the blended environment. In closing, as Caribbean Communit y Colleges and other Caribbean institutions move towards incorporating blended learning programs, it will be necessary to evaluate the effectiveness of this learning mode by tracking the blended learning approaches used and the resultant outcomes, student satisfaction, retention and completion rates. This will provide a basis for intelligence on creating, developing and changing program structures that benefit students, faculty and colleges. In addition, institutions should not only be able to assess the ou tcomes but the blended learning process itself as this will be vital to understanding how to achieve meaningful and lifelong learning experiences. Finally, there is little doubt about the academic benefits that blended learning offers and the vital role i t can play in educating and fostering skilled workers It can also increase the competitive advantage for institutions with the will and fortitude to redefine and facilitate higher educational learning experiences
148 APPENDIX A RECRUITMENT EMAIL
149 APPENDIX B I NF O R M ED CONSENT Pr oto c o l T i t le: Blended Learning Program in Community Colleges in the Anglophone Caribbean: A Community of Inquiry Interpretation Ple a s e r e a d th i s c o n s ent do c u m ent ca r e f ul l y b e fo r e y o u d e c i d e to pa r tici pa te in th i s s tud y Purp o s e o f t he r e s e a r c h stu d y : T o d esc r i b e s t u d e n ts first time e x p e r ie n c e s i n an online learning pro g r a m Wh a t yo u w ill be a s k ed t o do in t he s t u d y : To p a r tici p ate in 3 i n d i v i d u al i n te r v i e w s to give the researcher an understanding of your experiences in the blended course you are taking The study will be led b y a graduate s t u d e n t in a doctoral program. Your interview may be audio or video recorded and later transcribed by the graduate student completing the interview Your name will not appear on the transcript, nor will the names of your institution or colleagues. T i m e r e q uired: A ppro x i m at e l y 20 25 m i n u t e s per interview Interview 1 Start of Semester Interview 2 End of semester Ri s ks a nd B ene f it s : T h is s t u d y w ill o n l y i nv o l v e n o m or e t h an m i n i m al r i s k f o r t h e p a r tici p a n t s W h ile t h e r e a r e n o d ire c t b e n e f its f o r t h e p a r tici p a n t s t h e d ata c o llected m a y h a v e s i g n i f ic a n ce f o r f u t u r e pr a c tice, r esea r c h a n d po li c y C o m pen s at i o n: P a r tici p a n ts w i l l r e c ei v e refreshments in the form of food and drinks (snacks) during the participation. C o nfiden t i a lit y : Y o u r i d e n ti t y w ill b e k e p t c on f i d e n tial to t h e e x t e n t pro v i d ed b y l a w Your interview may be audio or video recorded and later transcribed by the graduate student completing the interview Your name will not appear on the transcript, nor will the names of your institution or colleagues. When the study is completed, and the data have been analysed the list of participants and all interview data will be destroyed. The final results may be pre sented in a written study for dissertation purposes and for presentation at professional conferences and/or submission to educational journals for possible publication. V o lu n ta ry p a r t icip at i o n: Y ou r p a r tici p ati o n in t h is s t u d y is c o m p lete l y v o l u n ta r y T h e r e is n o p e n al t y f o r n o t p a r tici p ati ng Y o u r d e c i s i o n w h et h er to p a r tici p ate w ill n o t a f f e c t your sta t u s in the online course you are currently taking Ri g ht t o w ith d r a w f r o m t he s t u d y : Y o u h a v e t h e r i g h t to w i t h dr a w f r o m t h e s t u d y at a n y t i m e w i t h o u t c o ns e q u e n c e Y o u d o n o t h a v e to a n s w er a n y q u es t i o n s y o u d o n o t w a n t to a n s w e r Wh o m t o c o nt a ct if yo u h av e q u esti o ns a b o ut t he s t u d y : Dr. Justin Ortagus (Supervisor and Committee Chair) University of Florida College of Education, and all relevant contact information. Assistant Professor, Higher Education Administration and Policy 295 Norman Hall Gainesville, FL 32611 Phone: (352) 273 4338 email@example.com
150 Wh o m t o c o nt a ct a b o ut yo ur ri g hts a s a r e s e a r ch p a r t icip a nt in t he s t u d y : University of Florida Institutional Review Board P. O. Box 112250 Gainesville, FL 32611 2250 Telephone: (352) 392 0433 Fax number: (352) 392 9234 E mail address: firstname.lastname@example.org I h av e r ea d t he pr o c e d u re o utlined a b ov e. I vo lu n ta rily ag r e e t o p a r t icip at e in t his s t u d y a nd h av e r e c e i v ed a c o py o f t his de s c r ipti on P a r tici p a n t s s i g n a t u r e a n d d ate P r i n ci p le i nv e s t i g at or s s i g n a t u r e a n d d ate
151 APPENDIX C SAMPLE FIRST ROUND INTERVIEW PROTOCOL Introductory Questions 1. Could you give m e s o m e backg r ound infor m ation on you r se l f ( i.e. a ge, m ajo r current student status, nationality)? 2. Do you understand what is meant by the term Online Learning? Follow up 2.1.1. Could you tell m e what you think online learning is? 3. Do you understand what is meant by the term Hybrid/Blended Learning? Follow up 3.1.1. Could you tell me what you think blended learning is? 4. Have you taken any courses online in either format (fully online or blended) before? 5. 5.1. 5.1.1. 5.1.2. 5.1.3. 5.1.4. 5.2. 5.2.1. 18.104.22.168.1.1. 5.2.2. 5.2.3. 5.2.4. 5.2.5. Research Specific Question 6. As a student what are your expectations of classes you take? (i.e. what do expect will happen in the class) 7. As a student what are your expectations of your lecturer/s? (i.e. what do think is their role in the class and in your learning) Follow up 7.1. 7.2. 7.3. What kinds of things would you like to see happen in your classes? 7.4. Why are those things important to you? 8. Have you ever taken any kind of class online or partially online? 9. How do you feel about taking courses online? Follow up 9.1. Why are those things important to you? 10. What do you like the most about blended learning classes?
152 Follow up 10.1. Why are these things important to you? 10.2. W h a t parts of the c o u r s e have been m ost i nte re st i ng so f a r? 10.3. Which parts of the course have helped you learn the best? 10.4. How do y ou g o a bout tr y i n g to l e a rn the ma t e ri a l? 10.5. W h a t things help y o u in t his pro ce ss? 11. What do you like the least about blended learning classes? Follow up 11.1. Why are these things important to you? 12. Which mode of learning do you prefer of the two face to face or blended? Follow up 12.1. Why do you think you like ________that one over the other? 13. Can you describe some of the ways your lecturer/s use blended learning in the classroom? (i.e. How do e s the in s t r uc tor t eac h the c lass a nd le s sons? ) Follow up 13.1. How much has this impacted your experience in the course? 13.2. Can you give me some specific ways that this makes your leaning easier? 13.3. Can you give me some specific examples of what your lecturers are doing? 14. What are some challenges or obstacles that you have encountered in your blended learning class? Follow up 14.1. Can you give me some specific examples of these obstacles? 15. In your experie nce so far, how does your use of time in this course compare with your face to face courses? (i.e. do you spend more or less time with the course? Follow up 15.1. Why do you think that is? 16. Follow up 16.1. Why do you think t hat is? 17. How has blended learning impacted your success in the course? 18. Does your lecturer use social media (e.g. WhatsApp/Facebook/Twitter) as part of your course? Follow up 18.1. Do you think that this helps your learning? 19. Can you give me some examples of how t his helps you learn? 20. From your experience, how has the communication with your lecturer been in this class compared to others? Follow up 20.1. How has your lecturer kept in touch with you? (i.e. communicated with you) 20.2. How important is communication between your lecturer and you in general? 20.3. How important is communication between your lecturer and you in this blended learning class? 22.214.171.124. How much has this impacted your experience in the course? 126.96.36.199. Can you give me some specific ways that this makes your leani ng easier? 20.4. How do e s the ins t r uc tor t eac h the c lass a nd le s sons? 188.8.131.52. How much has this impacted your experience in the course?
153 184.108.40.206. Can you give me some specific ways that this makes your leaning easier? 21. Do you believe that ta king this blended course maybe helpfu l to you in your future (i.e. at work/at college/ )? Follow up 21.1. In what ways do you think it could be useful to you in the future?
154 APPENDIX D SAMPLE INTERVIEW PROTOCOL SECOND ROUND INTERVIEW 1. the semester and you are almost complete with taking your first hybrid course, can you describe your overall experience with the course? 2. Questions would be tailored to each student based on their previous interviews) A. Would you t ake another hybrid class like this one? B. Do you think you could take a fully hybrid course? C. Can you describe how you feel now about taking a class hybrid? D. Can you tell me how comfortable you are using the different tools in the hybrid class? E. What are someth F. Do you think you could take a fully hybrid class after now? G. Can you tell me if you would or would not take a fully hybrid course? 3. (Questions would be tailored to eac h student based on their previous interviews) A. Can you tell me how you feel about your teacher and how they conducted the class (the activities, assignments, communication) ? 4. (Questions would be tailored to each student based on their previous interviews) A. Can you d escribe your experiences with hybrid classes now compared to when you first started?
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170 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH Bhuvaneswari Gudapati is a graduate of Missouri State University where she earned her Bachelor of Arts in h istory and Spanish, and later a Mas ter of Arts in c ommunications. After completing her studies, she incorporated her love of travel, teaching and lea rning into a career in al boutique hotels in Jamaica. Changing career paths and pursuing her passion for learning and teaching, she brought her hospitality and tourism experiences t o the Excelsior Community College in the School of Tourism, Hospitality, and Entertainment Management Currently she is not only a lecturer at Excelsior but also the e Learn C oordinator and programs to the wider Jamaican population