oa African Journal of Health Professions Education - Challenges and opportunities related to postgraduate evidence-based practice module using blended learning
The use of information and communications technology (ICT) has become integral to health professions education worldwide. The incorporation of online facilities and maintaining of the face-to-face element make blended learning the 'best of both worlds'. Blogs can be used to create a relatively learner-centred environment that allows students to learn at their own pace. Though blended learning has been proved to be appropriate in higher learning institutions, it comes with challenges and opportunities. Our study intended to highlight the challenges and identify opportunities encountered by an evidence-based practice (EBP) postgraduate class who used the blended learning model of learning. An action-based research methodology was utilised in this study. This involved data gathering, action planning, action taking and action evaluation. Data were gathered through the use of a blog that was accessed by all participants. They made comments which were reflecting their perceptions on the model that was used for the course. The students gave consent to participate while permission from the physiotherapy head of department was also acquired. Deductive analysis was used for data analysis. The information from the blog was extracted and converted into text files. Coding and analysis into opportunities and challenges as expressed by the participants was performed. Theoretical saturation through every reviewer's agreement and satisfaction about the information was included. The data consisted of 94 postings made of primary postings (22) and responses (72). All the authors acted as reviewers. Certainty was achieved by discussing any ambiguity in coding. Any necessary amendments were made. The participants reported to have experienced some challenges pertaining to blended learning. The blog that was used as a media between students and the facilitator was inefficient in some way. Some students could not access it when required and some resources in the blog were inaccessible. The wireless internet connection mainly used in this model was not reliable. However, there were opportunities experienced by the learners. These included easy interaction between the learners and the facilitator at any time. The model also reduced instructor dependence and made the learners more responsible of their work. The blog appeared as a resource base for skills development. Timely feedback involving solving the problems students encountered during the course improved the communication skills between the students and the facilitator. However, technology constraints involving the blog and the internet connection were overwhelming among the students while writing up the tasks allocated to them. Despite the fact that students faced some challenges, facilitators of blended learning such as the interaction between the students and the facilitator of the course were motivating to keep the course interesting. While students experienced some opportunities about blended learning, its future rests on averting the challenges associated with it more, especially in developing countries. If the challenges reported would be addressed in developing countries, blended learning can be effective in building students' engagement and relieving of overcrowded classrooms in higher learning institutions.
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