All posts by rbek

Confession

The first thing that comes to my mind when I remember the last semester is The Theory of Relativity by Albert Einstein. A bit strange, isn’t it? Absolutely not, because when you have tones of jobs to do in a small period of time, the time shrinks. Absolutely the same happened with me the last semester. A full-time English teacher, a class-teacher, an English Olympiad preparation teacher, and a distance master’s degree student seem a bit too much for one person, isn’t it? Probably it is. Many times I even have thought of dropping-out of the university or taking an academic break to have more time to write thesis but I also didn’t want give up studies in the half way. So, this is a story of my journey last semester.

Everything happened so fast that I even could not recollect at first what I have learnt so far in this course. Sometimes I even thought that it was just distracting me from writing thesis and my job. However, now with a clear mind I can state that I have gained a very useful experience during the course. As it is said that a man never comes out the same from a book as he used to be. This is probably my case. At first I could not observe any progress in my studies, and especially in writing. Receiving the same comments on my mistakes really irritated me. However, later, while completing my mini-thesis project I paid tribute to my instructor because of her forewarning. I believe this experience will be useful while completing my thesis project. The other and probably the most useful was the practice of writing a mini scale but a complete thesis. I experienced writing Findings and Discussion sections for the first time. I believe this provides with valuable practice.

Apparently I showed an evident improvement, especially in writing, but there is still a lot of room for improvement. The first thing that I have to work on is writing voluminous works. I usually express the ideas too concisely. Another direction for improvement is to enrich the methodological knowledge of research. Probably the biggest challenge in writing thesis is related to time. The concern is not related to time-management, but to time itself. I think I need to find out some more time to devote for studying. Overall, I think I still need to improve many aspects of my writing.

The improvement should be the goal of any activity, and especially in education. In order to improve online learning experience, I would suggest blending some elements of face-to-face learning with online learning. Another suggestion is to show students the instructors’ real support. I believe instructors’ support is crucial for student satisfaction. Student satisfaction is a predictor of student achievement.

Being a student yourself, it is difficult to provide some objective suggestions for improvements. From the point of view of a student, I would suggest to add some synchronous meetings to provide face-to-face instructions.

To sum up, this was a challenging time. We passed a long, and useful journey. However there is a lot to improve.

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THE PRINCE OF TWO KINGDOMS

Once upon a time, there was a kingdom, with wise but an old king. Everything was prosperous in that kingdom, but the king was too old to carry the burden. While the king was losing his power, another younger, energetic, but inexperienced king established his own kingdom. These two kingdoms lived together for a long time, but a time comes when the old king fails to solve new problems, and the younger king also fails to solve older problems. The story continues with a prince, who unites both kingdoms and succeeds in solving both older and newer problems. He collects best features of both kings in himself, so he becomes the future of both kingdoms, but nobody really knows which kingdoms does he come from and how he is going to reign.

This tale clearly describes the history of the development of blended learning. Where prince stands for blended learning, old king for face-to-face learning, and younger king for online learning. Both F2F and online learning fail to meet all necessary learning needs alone. Thus, the mixture of both learning modes is required to meet the needs. The blended learning provides the required mixture of modes, even though nobody really know whether it emerge from F2F or online learning. Nevertheless, blended learning compromises best practices of both modes, like social interaction from F2F learning and convenience of online learning. This is the main idea of blended learning to use best practices of present modes and pedagogies. The idea of blended learning is so new that nobody can clearly describe it. I believe this point provides ground for teachers to innovate and differentiate their teaching. Differentiation of teaching is one of the prevailing ideas of blended learning. This idea implies not only blend of F2F and Online learning, but also blend of pedagogies, methods, and learning settings.

The discussion of blended learning may seem too broad and blur. Actually that is true because, as I have already mentioned, there is no ready-made way how to blend. Blended learning is an attempt to gather in one the greatest achievement in education.

The blend of the best practices is the main predictor of the success and effectiveness of this new mode of learning. Blending is a new mode of learning, thus teachers can adapt the mode to their students, environment, and finally to themselves.

As a young and a techie teacher I believe that I am already using some elements that correspond with the main idea of blended learning. I use the Internet for various activities in the classroom. Besides my personal interest in using blended learning, we are also asked by the school administration to use such innovative educational models. I believe every teacher appreciate the model and implement it in their class. Also students will love to have technology in class as a learning tool.

At first glance everything might seem perfect. However, there are some obstacles in implementing blended learning. The first and I think the most significant and sensitive one is a shift for teachers. Teachers will have to rethink their role, methodology, and attitude to their job and to the technology. The real shift in teachers’ practice might be even more problematic. In contrast, the problems related to the cost of technology are simpler.

To sum up, blended learning is the future of education. This is not argued, but the question how to blend is still open. The implementation process of blended learning might not be smooth, but definitely the effectiveness will prevail the obstacles.

The last I would like to share a Ted Talk video on blended learning. I hope you will enjoy the video.

NOT THE GOAL – JUST AN INSTRUMENT

I investigated “The Effect of Student Satisfaction to Achievement in Online Distance Learning”. Voluminous research investigates the student satisfaction as a predictor of student achievement. Most of those studies concentrate on student satisfaction in traditional classroom setting, whereas online distance learning represents a different setting, with distinctive peculiarities and challenges. I intended to close the gap in the field, especially in Kazakhstan. The results of my study indicated strong correlation between student satisfaction and achievement in online distance learning. Hereupon, I discuss the data collection process in my research project.

I conducted a quantitative study, so I employed the most widespread and convenient instrument: a survey. I conducted the survey via Internet, as this was the most convenient way to collect data from the research sample. The survey consisted 25 questions divided into three main categories. The first category included background questions about the age and the gender of respondents. The second category included questions about factors predicting student satisfaction. This category was divided into sub-categories like, the role of instructor in student satisfaction in online distance learning, the impact of technology, and the student attitude towards online distance learning. The questions in this category were organized to measure the student satisfaction level. The third category included the question about the students’ Grade Point Average. Grade Point Average was used as an indicator of student achievement. Correlation of Student Satisfaction Level and Grade Point Average indicated answers to the initial research questions on the impact of student satisfaction on their achievements. Further on the data analysis process of the research confirmed the positive effect of student satisfaction on their achievements.

Everything did not flow smoothly as it was described earlier. I faced some challenges during the data collection process. The first, and probably the biggest challenges I faced were during the question formulation process. The difficulty was that I had to formulate questions myself, and this was my first such experience. I did my best to formulate sensible, coherent, and the most important, interlinked questions. Another challenge during the process was related to the recruitment. It was problematic to persuade everyone to participate in the survey. I am not sure, but probably these are the challenges that every new researcher faces.

Despite the challenges, there were obvious strengths of the data collection instrument. The most significant strengths of online survey is the convenience. Respondents choose the most convenient time and place to answer the survey. Another strengths of the instrument is the analysis of the responses that the online service provide. This considerably eases the researchers job during the data analysis process.

There is also other side of the coin. The only weakness that I faced during the data collection process was the interruption during the survey, so that not all respondent completed it. The researcher is incapable to intervene because you do not even know who is the one that did not complete the survey.

To sum up, I believe that overall it was a very useful experience. Especially, question formulation process will be a useful experience, even though the type of questions, and the research design differentiates from my proposed original thesis project. I hope that the instrument did not become the goal.

Building links – Literature Review

I believe on essential significance of reviewing previous literature in the filed of study. Significance of literature review is crucial, because this relies on experience and findings of previous studies, so the researchers do not have to invent something from scratch. I assume that it is possible to draw parallel between literature review and building on experience, which happens naturally in human development. For instance, there is no need to invent a new formatting style, like APA, but to develop it if necessary.

Development of proper literature review requires a systematic approach, but I believe that literature review demonstrates individual perception of a researcher, so it is possible to argue the existence of one suitable method for everyone. Nevertheless, here I discuss some strategies, which I personally find useful. In order to organize main themes in my review, I enumerate resources according to key words and separate into groups, so I can concentrate on specific books or articles. I separate my resources into parts, as my thesis topic investigates a problem, where different educational aspects intersect. However, generally it is problematic to indicate intersection points, because various studies concentrate on different aspects, which do not intersect to the point of my study. Unfortunately, indicating intersection point is not the only challenge in reviewing literature.

Finding appropriate resources for literature review is a common challenge for many master students. However, this make a problem until a researcher finds one appropriate resource. As soon as one good article is found, this makes the task simpler, as references from the article could be used. The answer to a good article is beyond the scope of this blog. There are also issues, which to some extend, challenge researchers: language barrier, difficulty in finding relevant articles to Kazakhstani context, deductive skills of a researcher, time etc.

Time is the most important resource for off-campus online master students in thesis writing. Recently, I have changed my job, and suffering from adaptation period that I cannot spend sufficient time on studies.

To sum up, literature review requires individual approach for every person. Regarding the individualism every student faces different problems to various extend. Apparently, time-management is the most valuable resource for master students.

An Outcome of Generalisation

Globalization affected various aspects of human life. One of the strongest effects was unification of different spheres; giving proper credit to authors and sources was not an exception. APA was introduced to unify the system of proper citing. Personally, I think that unification of citing is the biggest importance of APA formatting.

The unification of citing guided to a systematic approach in style of formatting. Despite, the systematization of formatting, consequences of the approach are both positive and negative. The positive impact of the systematic approach is the comprehensibility of citation to a wide community. However, systematization implied simplification, but a prerequisite set of guidelines alas generated complexification. Failure to follow guidelines leads to plagiarism, apparently, the most frightening issue, especially in academic or scientific works.

As a piece of advice for current or future students I would like to share my personal experience using APA formatting. Honestly, I heard about APA formatting when I started my Masters’ degree. This is sour reality of many Kazakhstani universities, where you are not required to follow any formatting which consequently result that students are not informed about APA formatting at all. Reasonable, my first advice for students is to get acquainted with the style. My first usage of APA was spontaneous and chaotic, unfortunately that I still cannot get rid of chaos in my use of APA. Another piece of advice that I would like to share is to learn APA formatting properly when the time and energy allows achieving this. Contemporarily, most of the universities arrange writing centers or even separate courses regarding the formatting styles, which are extremely useful and indisputably should be attended.

The third and probably the most useful piece of advice is that APA formatting is more that just citing. This includes many more things like organizing table of content, headers and footers, tables and figures etc. In order to simplify the use of APA formatting, I would recommend learning MS Word, one of the most widespread editing applications.

To sum up, unification of formatting is a extremely useful approach, however which implies some difficulties with complex guidelines. The efficiency of formatting can be improved with the help of various editing and formatting tools.

Inevitable Future

I perceive the future of education in online learning and this future inevitably will happen. The justification for a strong claim is consequences of human development on education. Invention of paper and industrial revolution gave huge impact for the development of education. Former provided new opportunities to sustain information, whereas latter stimulated introduction of mass public education to educate workforce for industries. Another stage of human development that contemporary has impact on education is technology. The introduction of technology implied supplementary impact than aforementioned stages. Anderson (2008), also highlights the impact of historical events on education. He particularly considers the World Wide Web as the key locomotive for online learning.

“The Theory and Practice of Online Learning” is a comprehensive book by Terry Anderson that incorporates several practitioners’ works from Athabasca University, Canada. This book was extremely beneficial for our group task in Comparative and International Education course. The book consists of four parts. The first part focuses on theoretical base of online learning. The second part focuses on infrastructure and content building for online learning. The third part focuses precisely on design and development of online courses. The last part focuses on delivery, quality control, and student control of online learning. The book provides comprehensive interpretations of theoretical and practical base of online learning and professional expertise from practitioners. However, a shortage of this work is related to practical part, as it is manly related to higher educational institution practice.

Apparently, online learning implied huge effect on the role of instructors in education. Another work that was extremely useful for previous course is “Clarifying the Instructor’s Role in Online Distance Learning” , an empirical study by Susan Easton. She conducted an ethnographic case study with multiple instruments. She admits that online distance learning implies some alteration for instructors, but at the same time it does not require conceptual change in instructor’s roles. The main strength of this study is empirical design. However, as a qualitative study, it does not allow generalization.

Vast literature focuses on different aspects of online learning and most of them provide sound discourses. Nevertheless, most of discourses are related to interpretation and implementation of online learning. Despite strong discourses it is apparent that online learning is the future of education.

Anderson, T. (2008). The theory and practice of online learning. Athabasca University Press.

Easton, S. S. (2003). Clarifying the instructor’s role in online distance learning. Communication Education, 52(2), 87-105.

Quality of Education

The choice of topic for thesis research was a tough decision to be made. I had to put a lot of effort to consolidate my ideas in one. I had many great ideas for the research, but I intended to make my research useful for the sample and to the whole educational system in Kazakhstan.

My intention brought me face to face with bureaucracy, one of the biggest problems hindering development of education in Kazakhstan. From my own and my colleagues experience I state that the teachers performance is evaluated only according to what is indicated on paper. Even though if you do not perform some activities but show them on paper, you are considered as achieving. I want to concentrate on the issue to bring insight into the current situation in educational system.

A lot of attention is paid to quantitative indicators of evaluating school performance, like test scores, university admission etc. The employment of current approach can be explained by simplicity of it. However, I want research qualitative indicators of evaluating school performance. I want to find out other indicators of success and school performance.

I decided to organize my research at Karaganda Kazakh -Turkish High School due to various reasons. First, it is a successive school on local and state level with World Science Olympiad gold medals. The school provides a good ground to investigate success. Second, I have free access to people and data at school, as I am currently working there and have support from administration of the school.

I am considering developing a qualitative study to bring insight into the issue in Kazakhstani context. My main sample will be administrative staff and teachers at school. I will probably interview people in order to collect data. However I am not sure about the methodology completely. Unfortunately, I could not do sufficient literature review to have better understanding about this section.

I am open to any suggestion regarding this study and hope to receive meaningful feedback from my colleagues.

Reflecting on my first year of studies…

I honestly can state that last year helped me to develop and enlarge my understanding of education. However, I would not point out single course or reading material as the most helpful, because each piece helped to develop different aspect of educational system.

The biggest challenge that I faced last year was writing. Personally, I hate writing at all, but I had to do more writing than I have ever done. Additionally, this year it is going to be harder, as I will have to manage my time very cleverly. This year I returned back to teaching at school, so even within last week I understood that working at a private company and doing a master’s degree is completely different from doing the same at school.