Using Cultural-Historical Activity Theory to describe a university-wide blended learning Initiative

Full paper

Download the paper [PDF]

Anselm Paul
Victoria University, Melbourne Australia

Catch this session

Wednesday 6 December, 12pm – 12.30pm
Stream 2
Room R113


Institution-wide evaluations of Blended Learning implementations are rare. Even less common are evaluations that report the sociocultural context in which the implementation is embedded. Recently, an Australian university in the western region of Victoria, embarked on an ambitious initiative to blend all course units over a three-year period. Stemming from a rigorous analysis of reporting documents and participant-researcher observations, an attempt has been made to describe the sociocultural context of this blended learning initiative through the lens of Engestrom’s Cultural-historical Activity Theory (CHAT). This description, along with the challenges surfaced, will serve as a precursor to the university-wide evaluation that is currently on-going. The objective of the analysis is to rectify the complex processes, intricate relationships and dynamic environmental elements, which tend not to be captured by impact evaluations. Understanding what is going on will enable the University to situate evaluation findings in the context of factors that might have helped or hampered the achievement of outcomes, and remediate process-related problems in a timely manner. Staff Capacity and Engagement, a recognition of the collaborative nature of blended learning with clear accountability and communication strategies were a few of the factors that surfaced, which could make or break ‘the Blend’, if not adequately addressed. This paper argues for the necessity of process evaluations of blended learning implementations and the value of grounding these on ontological realities captured by accountability reports and observational data.

About the authors

Anselm Paul

Having worked with the Ministry of Education, Singapore for more than 10 years on diverse portfolios, Anselm is currently a Learning Designer with Victoria University, where he is also overseeing the evaluation of the Blended Learning Project. A qualified secondary school teacher, he has an Honours in Computer Science (University of Melbourne), a computing degree (Monash University) and a Masters in Learning Sciences & Technologies (Nanyang Technological University). His research interests include Programme Evaluation, Personal Epistemology and, the Technology Integration (and non-Integration) practices of educators.