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Promoting self-directed learning through the implementation of cooperative learning in a higher education blended learning environment
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Within higher education institutions there is currently a movement towards blended learning. Higher education institutions that were previously known for focussing on a face-to-face mode of delivery, now also move towards new internet-based technologies for teaching and learning. There is little reason to believe that information and communication technologies (ICT) will not be the defining transformative innovation for higher education in the 21st century. However, using new technologies does not necessarily improve the standard of courses. Courses need to be redesigned and redeveloped with reference to pedagogical theories. The aim of this study was to evaluate the influence of cooperative learning (CL) in a blended learning (BL) environment on students’ intrinsic motivation (IM) as characteristic of a self-directed learner (SDL). This study concluded that when using online technologies, teaching strategies should be adapted to the new opportunities offered by such technologies. When planning learning experiences, the educator needs to assist students in identifying their learning needs and taking responsibility for their own learning. Students who are intrinsically motivated will assume responsibility for their own learning process and will have a higher level of self-directedness. CL is one of the teaching strategies that empower students to develop to their fullest potential through the interaction, support and confidence they gain. Although extensive research has been done on the implementation of CL in a face-to face classroom, few studies could be found on the implementation of CL in a blended learning environment. Therefore, from the synthesis of BL literature, the researcher proposed a combined BL design model. This model integrates a number of BL design principles, IM aspects and CL elements into one model. A mixed-method research approach was used in the empirical study. The intervention consisted of the redesigning of the first year economics module ECON 121 into a BL environment with a specific focus on CL and its influence on IM. Students were expected to complete an IM and a SDL questionnaire at the beginning and again at the end of the semester. Semi-structured interviews were later conducted with participants from the experimental group to elaborate on some of the questions and issues addressed in the quantitative questionnaire. The quantitative data showed a tendency that the students from the experimental group have a slightly higher mean score than the control group in the post-tests. The value of the intervention was confirmed by the analysis of the qualitative interviews, which showed that most of the students who took part in the interviews displayed good SDL skills. They saw that by taking part in the team challenge, a key component of the intervention, they would benefit in the long run and that it will expose them to opportunities that assist them to explore their knowledge and skills. The students realised that by working together in groups, they could help each other to achieve the outcomes without having to wait for the facilitator to assist them. The students were motivated to do their part, learn more and achieve good results. They understood that it was their own responsibility to excel in the module, and they were willing to do whatever it took to do so
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