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Factors Contributing to Success in Blended Learning - The Case of Language Teaching and Training in Academic and Professional Contexts.

A participatory approach to Medical Communication TrainingResearch Question: How does the lecturer meet the (verbal) communication needs of medical pre-professionals in a blended learning environment?Towards a taxonomy of the communication needs of medical pre-professionals.Background In order to investigate the issues raised in the research question the focus is on medical students from the University of Stellenbosch for whom it is compulsory to do a communication course in Afrikaans at the beginning of their studies. Patient care is influenced by the quality of doctor-patient and doctor-colleague communication, and it will directly influence the quality of patient care (e.g., Hewett et al., 2009; Watson et al., 2012). Therefore universities worldwide include communication modules in their medical training. In South Africa there are eleven official languages and the three dominant languages in the Western Cape province are English, Afrikaans and Xhosa, which medical professionals have to master to a certain extend. The University of Stellenbosch's medical faculty decided to address the issue of limited time available for contact teaching of Afrikaans by introducing a blended approach to teaching and learning with 20 hours of contact teaching as well as 20 hours of autonomous online learning. An existing online platform for medical communication training, Medics on the Move (MoM), was incorporated into the syllabus. The development of the original MoM-syllabus started in 2006 as a EU-funded project under the coordination of Prof Kris Van de Poel from the University of Antwerp – and has since developed into an online tool for six European languages at beginners and advanced level with translated support for six other languages. At the end of 2012 this tool was adapted to suit the South African context and the course for beginners was translated into Afrikaans. This approach to medical communication training was introduced to South African students in February 2013. MethodologyIn order to identify the communication needs of medical pre-professionals, different methodological steps were taken. A literature study was carried out on topics related to blended learning in second language learning, learner autonomy and the role of the teacher facilitating learner autonomy, authenticity of the learning experience, different learning styles and teaching styles in second language communication and the potential of social media in an online learning environment. A diverse set of data was collected from two intakes of first year students in 2013 and 2014 and one intake of sixth year students who had completed their basic training in Spanish in Cuba (2013). A mixed method approach was used and quantitative as well as qualitative data (through questionnaires, focus group discussions and log books) were collected. The quantitative data included an end-of-project usability study and evaluation following a Logic Framework, MoM moodle logs, scores of national proficiency tests in Afrikaans and English, questionnaires indicating communicative needs and professional identity. Additional and complementary data were obtained by the researcher as a participant-observer as well as practitioner studying her own practice (Waters-Adams 2006).
Date:9 Sep 2014 →  8 Jul 2017
Disciplines:Education curriculum, Linguistics