Implementing a Blended/Online Learning Policy on a Face-to-Face Campus: Perspectives of Administrators and Implications for Change
Many universities are currently exploring the factors that impact implementation of blended learning policies and institutions. In the Caribbean this is particularly important as financial support by governments in the region has dwindled in the context of a global recession, and universities are seeking ways to reduce costs and increase access. The vision for blended learning on one campus of a multi-campus, higher education institution in the Caribbean, was to enhance teaching and learning by offering students and staff greater flexibility, more opportunities for engagement and wider choices consistent with varying teaching and learning styles and needs. As this multi-campus university moves toward a re-engineered online policy and greater collaboration among the campuses, some administrators have expressed the view that they have been left out of the implementation strategies and are not clear on the status of the blended learning policy on their campus, nor their roles and responsibilities. This is a qualitative case study, focusing on the stage of blended learning implementation and the perceptions of deans and administrative officers at a specific higher education institution. The methods used were review of the use of the Learning Management System, and interviews conducted with deans and administrative officers. Thick descriptions of perceptions of administrators are provided. The implications of their perceptions for implementation are discussed and recommendations to close gaps where they exist are made. Findings confirm that change management strategies are required, such as establishing a sense of urgency, forming a powerful guiding coalition and creating a vision. Administrators need to provide clear direction on who should lead the initiative and senior management has a role in ensuring there is additional team support to increase programme development. Findings also indicate that while blended learning has the potential to reduce costs to higher education institutions, initial investments in software, hardware, appropriate staff and training require additional financial investments. Administrators have a role to play in sourcing funds for the implementation of blended learning and also in performing audits, which can help in providing information on the existing technical skills, hardware and software available on the campus and how they are being used.