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Educators’ Multiroles in Blended Learning Environment
Abstract.The higher education in Russia is constantly going towards the development of blended learning environment trying to respond to global standards. The main trends of today’s education encompass skills-based approach, student-centered learning mode and computerized knowledge acquisition which lead to a gradual shift from traditional teaching to self-study. The core objective of the article is to define the educator’s diverse roles in managing academic flexibility, designing hybrid curricula with online component, thus encouraging lifelong learning. The purpose of the article is to reveal the challenges and requirements set before educators who have to cater effectively for meeting all the needs of learners. The research is based on empirical studies conducted by contemporary scholars, comparative analyses of diverse modes of teaching and learning and practical implications of micro-blended learning strategies which trigger the alteration and expansion of teacher’s functions. The study outcomes imply that technological enhancements and inconsistencies in scholastic environment dictate the emergence and evolvement of diverse teaching styles which pursue the goal to increase the insufficient language practice through informal and guided self-study. The author assumes that the research findings can be helpfully applied in educational sphere for designing and introducing e-learning schemes where educators act quite proficiently and knowingly in any teaching role.
Keywords: traditional learning setting, student-centered, integrate, technology-enhanced, educators’ role, blended learning environment, facilitator, motivator, critical thinking, self-development
Article was received:08-02-2018
In blended learning environment the role of the educator is diverse, fast-changing and combines a range of teaching methodologies. Now teaching and learning are constantly being modified due to innovations, reforms and penetration of information technology in education [8, p. 202]. The core role of an educator is teaching both in traditional and blended learning settings. The second utmost important role that educators perform it is being a facilitator in technology-enhanced learning situation. Although the above mentioned two roles are closely correlated and completed by the same person, but there is a distinct line of separation between them.
As a point of differentiation amongst educators’ roles we consider teaching as an activity which is directed to help students in learning: explaining new materials, supplying with homework, checking understanding, and doing other routine daily tasks. By way of contrast, facilitating the learning is rather challenging and fascinating. This concept refers to student-centered model of teaching which dominates in blended learning settings and which assumes that learners perform the act of learning, are totally engaged in knowledge acquisition process, whereas the educator’s role here is to make this very process active, interesting and innovative. So, the educator functions here as a mentor, i.e. he performs another third role, and makes the students learn.
The aim of this research work is revealing and summarizing the multifunctional activities performed by educators who succeed in designing and integrating computer-enhanced language courses.
Material and methods
In blended learning environment educators perform multiroles which are all noteworthy and crucial. It is evident that the creation of blended teaching environment doubles the teaching workload, increases professional requirements and managing leaning process becomes quite complicated [5, p. 251]; [6, p. 318]. For ‘using a blended learning method in teaching foreign languages induces tutors to constantly increase professional expertise, master computer skills, create new online courses, and contribute much time to lesson preparation’ [1, p. 4].
Accordingly there have been identified six main teaching roles by McKeachle (1978), all of which are applicable for e-learning models, without neglecting the core role of a teacher to teach mentioned in the introduction.
So, the educator acts as a facilitator who fosters and inspires learners to take active participation in the learning process, in discussions irrespective their language level. They help learners to perceive knowledge acquisition as a meaningful, enjoyable and relevant procedure. Second, the educator as an expert who shares his expertise and teaches skills with the help of lectures based on diverse activities, simulations and discussions. Third, the teacher plays the role of a formal authority that establishes and controls the academic process of conduct hours, dates of material submission and knowledge assessment. Next, tutor’s function is a socializer who communicates within large academic communities and provides learners with reference letters, research sources and internship contacts. The fifth role is an ideal character with great charisma, commitment and enthusiasm connected not only to professionalism, but to creating rapport with learners. Last but not least, the educator acts as a person who demonstrates compassion and understanding of students’ needs [2, p. 284].
Furthermore, educators who are mostly engaged in creating blended courses endeavor to make the learning materials engaging and effective, encourage cooperation, and enhance critical thinking and self-development. Therefore, we can add to the above list of teachers’ role one more utmost important function – the educator as a motivator, who promotes the blended teaching content, stimulates interest and leads to learning both in the class and individually.
Results and Discussion
After a deeper look at the educators’ work in the process of integrating blended learning in foreign language teaching, we need to describe the detailed scrutiny of it. The first activity is the selection and arrangement of the learning materials by taking into account the specialization, course duration, proportion of contact hours and self-study. Later, educators should clearly define which materials to work out in class and which to post online for individual learning.
The second essential point is the course design; that is planning and structuring classroom and online activities in compliance with learners’ needs, individual abilities, and requirements relevant to their profession. Moreover, the methods of assessment and giving feedback should be kept in mind.
Overall, we can highlight the following peculiarities of blended learning courses which play significant importance in creating them:
- unity and completeness of the subject field,
- didactic uniformity in the choice of tasks and examples,
- methodical sequence of activities and projects,
As the blended learning platform incorporates enormous information and encompasses diverse learning and teaching modes, then the educator should take the role of a careful guide to help learners move through the maze of knowledge. They support learners in analyzing the materials, collaborating with peers and acquire language skills with pleasure. Such teaching style is characterized ‘supportive and encouraging, giving ample feedback, being a good role model, being appropriately informal and eliciting discussion’ [3, p. 67].
Implementation of web-enhanced learning approach affects the entire process and mode of teaching, transferring classroom organization, course design and knowledge acquisition to a remote platform. A deeper look at blended learning scene and student-led learning methodology reveals that the entire classroom environment is changing, teachers are not only acting as educators, but they help and facilitate the learning, develop in learners self-study skills, help them recognize their inner talent, weak and strong points, foster creativity. Moreover, in prevailing situations foreign language acquisition process occurs outside the culture, traditions and values of the target language, consequently, ICT help to create favorable conditions and authentic atmosphere for language learning [4, p. 201].
In tertiary education the decreased number of contact hours has led to demotivation which is best solved with the application of project based learning offered by blended courses [7, p. 251]. By the time online courses flourish, lifelong development becomes a lifestyle, and educators strongly realize that they have to connect with their students virtually and manage their learning as they would in face-to-face classes. They have to provide real prospects for effective and encouraging learning, rather than a mere experience of tottering through a web of links and language sources.
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