INSIGHTS ON THE IMPLEMENTATION OF BLENDED LEARNING IN ESL CLASSROOMS
These days, it is not an uncommon scenario to see teachers of ESL classrooms embracing 21st century language learning and teaching methods. Some ESL teachers take advantage of the modern facilities and electronic gadgets and apply them in their teaching. It is possible and practical as most language learners have instant access to the Internet. Prihastiwi et, el. (2017) highlight that instead of obtaining information from printed resources, language learners normally prefer to have digital information from the Internet.
In line with this age, applying blended learning in ESL classrooms is a practical and laudable approach. The word ‘blended’ means combined and implies a mixture of more than one components (Picciano, 2009). Currently, the term ‘blended learning’ involves combining Internet and digital media with established classroom forms that involve the physical presence of the teacher and learners. In blended learning, learners have some control over time, place and pace (Friesen, 2012). In short, blended learning is about an approach that integrates classroom teaching with online experience.
Blended learning integrates the use of technology with the best features of face-to-face interaction. Hence, implementing blended learning encourages teachers to select teaching approaches that fit the learners’ current profiles as digital natives. Learners of today are mostly digital natives who have grown up with wide exposure to gadgets and technology. Blended learning which is obviously facilitated by technology, is also referred to as hybrid learning or B-Learning (Shu & Gu, 2018). It basically combines delivery of traditional class activities with computer-mediated and online instructions (Allen et al., 2007).
Gleason (2013) points out that blended learning can be valuable for language learners. Learners take control of their own learning with the support from their teacher. Teachers mainly facilitate and learners can partake, learn and question even outside the classroom which is more and more appealing to young learners. Teachers plan the learning environment and manages learning activities that allow learners to be autonomous. The implementation of blended learning means both teachers and learners do not lose their autonomy since teachers can control the instructions and learners can learn on their own through online and computer-mediated activities.
Poon (2013) puts forth that both teachers and learners recognise that blended learning can help the introvert learners; they take responsibility of their own learning by making them not only autonomous but also confident. Moreover, blended learning which allows teachers to implement a more student-centred form of learning, can also accommodate the different needs and interest of learners (Allen et, al., 2007). It allows learners learn in their own pace, get immediate feedback as and when their answer is wrong, they may attempt to answer for the second or third time. In addition, learners have access to notes, guidelines and videos from other sources to help them.
Bachman and Scherer (2015) and Wayne (2012) support blended learning as it emphasizes flexibility in learners’ learning process, whereby learning can take place anytime and anywhere as long as ICT facilities provide opportunities for learners to accomplish their tasks. Noh et, al., (2019) reiterate that if blended learning is designed and implemented appropriately, it may empower learners to take control of their pace of learning as well as learning environment.
Blended Learning in Malaysian ESL Classrooms: Some Practical Lessons
Blended learning has been recognised as an effective approach to teaching and learning and it has been increasingly researched in recent decade (Noh et, al., 2019) In Malaysian context, blended learning is definitely applicable to be implemented among Malaysian learners. The following are some examples of the relevant resources for blended learning that would integrate online learning and classroom teaching effectively:
Based on the instruction given by the teacher, learners would have to visit the site or link and complete their tasks online. To me, online learning can be done before or after learners go through classroom teaching. It depends on the purpose of online learning. If it is intended as an enrichment or a reinforcement activity, then it should take place after classroom teaching. However, if online learning is to give exposure or as an introduction to a learning topic, then, obviously, it has to be carried out before the face-to-face lessons with the teacher.
Perhaps, not all ESL/EFL online materials suit the needs and contexts of Malaysian learners. However, I believe there are sufficient sites or links that cover various language skills and emphases for Malaysian learners. There could be three main issues when it comes to the implementation of blended learning in Malaysian context. First, it is ESL teachers’ readiness and willingness. Even if all learners have no problem to access the Internet, blended learning will not take place if teachers are reluctant to implement it(for whatever reason or excuse).
Secondly, it could be teachers' insufficient knowledge about online learning and blended learning. Noh et, al. (2019) highlight that teachers’ knowledge about blended learning is essential to equip them to implement the approach well in their teaching and learning. With the pedagogical knowledge, teachers’ awareness can be created, whereby it can motivate them to learn more about it and later embrace blended teaching. If teachers fail to have clear understanding and information about blended learning, they might have a misconception about the approach, hence, refuse to implement it in their ESL classrooms.
Finally, learners’ readiness in term of the Internet facilities is also a contributing factor. The fact is simple, not all learners can easily have access to the Internet. It could be due to poverty, poor living standard or geographical factor; poor connection to the Internet. If this issue can be fixed or at least the access rate among learners can be increased, then, there will be better chances for a more comprehensive implementation of blended learning.
Blended learning has been considered as an innovative approach involving modern conceptions of learning. Learners are more motivated to be engaged through this way of learning (Allen et al., 2007). Ellis (1994) recognises learner motivation as a key factor influencing the rate and success of second or foreign language learning. Blended learning does not only lead to enhanced learning, but also promotes learners to have a greater autonomy in the learning process. Therefore, blended learning approach should always be an important approach to be embraced by ESL teachers.
Allen, I.E., Seaman, J. and Garrett, R., 2007. Blending in: The extent and promise of
blended education in the United States. Retrieved from https://eric.ed.gov/?id=ED529930
Bachman, C., & Scherer, R. (2015). Promoting student autonomy and competence using a hybrid model for teaching physical activity. International Journal of Instruction, 8(1). From http://www.e-iji.net/dosyalar/iji_2015_1_1.pdf
Ellis, R. (1994). The study of second language acquisition, Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Friesen, N. (2012) Report: Defining Blended, [Online], Available:http://learningspaces.org/papers/Defining_Blended_Learning_NF.pdf [22 Sep 2014]
Gleason, J. (2013). Dilemmas of blended language learning. CALICO Journal, 30(3), 323-341. Retrieved from https://www.google.com/ Dilemmas_of_Blended_Language_Learning_Learner_and_Teacher_Experiences
Lusiana Prihastiwi, Dewi Rochsantiningsih and Suparno. (2017). Blended Learning to Activate English as a Foreign Language (EFL) Learners’ Autonomy. Pertanika Journal of Social Science and Humanities, 25 (S): 1 - 10 (2017). Retrieved from
www.pertanika.upm.edu.my › JSSH Vol. 25 (S) Sep. 2017
Noh, N. M., Abdullah, N., Teck, W. K., & Hamzah, M. (2019). Cultivating Blended Learning in Teaching and Learning: Teachers’ Intrinsic and Extrinsic Readiness in Malaysia. International Journal of Academic Research in Business and Social Sciences, 8(2), 257–265. Retrieved from https://www.google.com/cultivating-blended-learning-in-teaching-and-learning-teachers-intrinsic-and-extrinsic-readiness-in-malaysia.pdf
Picciano, A. G., 2009. Blending with purpose: The multimodal model. Journal of
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Poon, J. (2013) ‘Blended learning: An institutional approach for enhancing students' learning experiences’, Journal of Online Learning and Teaching, vol. 9, no. 2, [Online], Available, http://jolt.merlot.org/vol9no2/poon_0613.htm [15 June 2013]
Shu, H., & Gu, X., 2018. Determining the differences between online and face-to-face student–group interactions in a blended learning course. The Internet and Higher Education. Volume 39, October 2018, Pages 13-21
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