ERG SES D 06, In-service Education
The main consideration of many organizations and institutions is to enrich their staff’s skills in order to increase productivity. To do this, many interventions, such as mentoring, coaching, and so on, might be conducted by human resources departments and training centres. Blending learning, sometimes called hybrid learning, is one of the educational interventions to improve training activities so that staff working at any organization could expand their knowledge in terms of job qualifications.
The research was conducted at Turkish State Railways, which is one of the largest governmental organizations in Turkey. Approximately 15,000 staff are currently working to maintain railway infrastructure management. Two training centres, 23 trainers, and 150 support members train governmental organization’s staff. One of the main problems for the governmental organization is that if there is a specific in-service activity for some staff, they have to go to the training centres from different cities in Turkey in order to take the training sessions. As a result, such activities are costly for the governmental organization due to travelling expenses and the preparation of these traditional education approaches. Due to these challenges, the governmental organization management has already attempted to digitize some content in order to convert traditional education into online education. Nevertheless, the rapid growth of the technology has encouraged the governmental organization to find out different solutions to increase the quality of these activities and the satisfaction of the staff. Blended courses could be one of the training solutions as the governmental organization needs cost effective ways to train its staff. As Lee (2010) discusses, when a two part modality of classroom-based activities and online learning are used together, contextual relating should be considered facilitating the learning process. In other words, content used in classroom and online education should have a connection for learners to easily follow the course. Therefore, this preliminary study aims to examine applicability of blended learning for the governmental organization in order to improve in-service training activities considering opinions of its staff. Hence, this research project has two main research questions given below:
a) What are the opinions of governmental organization staff about distance learning?
b) Do these opinions about distance learning significantly differ according to staff’s gender, age, education level, and working time?
In this study, both qualitative and quantitative methods were used. 516 staff working at the governmental organization in different fields were recruited to conduct this research. The participants had e-learning experience, which took place in a Learning Management System (LMS) to deliver different courses in the governmental organization. A notification mail was sent to 516 staff to deliver the questionnaire and two open-ended questions. 114 staff answered the questionnaire, which is a satisfactory return number in a short time period considering workloads of the participants. Of those who filled in the questionnaire 86% was male (n=96) and 14% (n=16) was female. This shows that the sample was predominantly male, which is also similar to the total number of staff. Many of staff have been working between 1 and 5 years at the governmental organization (n=77). Most participant’s age is between 25 to 30 years old, which is 47% (n=55). This shows that almost half of the participants is young staff. Following this, 76% (n=87) of the participants have a bachelor degree, while 10% (n=11) of them have a master's degree. The data were collected by Opinions of Distance Education Students Questionnaire (Yıldırım, Yıldırım, Çelik, & Karaman, 2014) in Turkish, which has 18 items. The questionnaire includes four subscales: Personal convenience, Effectiveness, Instructiveness and Familiarity. These subscales’ alpha values are 0.862, 0.818, 0.807, and 0.799, respectively. The overall alpha value of the questionnaire is 0.864. Two open-ended questions were also added to the form to support the analysis in order to increase validity of the study. To do this, all the answers were transcribed taking a total of 5 pages. The names of the participants were coded to ensure confidentiality. For quantitative analysis, one way ANOVA test was used for statistical interpretation. Before doing the test, normality test was conducted with Kolmogorov-Smirnov. The test showed that the data were not normally distributed (p<0.05). Therefore, logarithmic transformation was used for the factor of familiarity. Moreover, the assumption of homogeneity of variance for one-way ANOVA was checked by Levene’s test. According to the test, there was not any violation of the assumptions.
One way ANOVA tests showed that there was no statistically significant difference between the mean score of men and women in terms of all the factors. Findings also indicated that educational level is not indicated as a learner variable differentiating any of the sub variables of participant’s opinions towards distance education in this study. However, how long the participants have been working at the governmental organization has a significant higher mean score in familiarity contrary to other sub variables. 5-10 year working participants have the highest mean score in terms of familiarity towards distance education. This is because the governmental organization initiated an online training project as an LMS to deliver some training materials 5 years ago and these staff members have used the system since that time. The qualitative part of the research indicates that most participants demand online education together with classroom-based activities. Indeed, the quality of online learning and classroom-based activities affect each other in order to have a balanced training process. Slotte and Herbert (2008) indicates that online training activities provide a fun way of discussion and interaction for staff about their job. This would show that when classroom-based activities sometimes might be tedious, online education could be used in order to provide different learning opportunities in workplaces. As for implications, a pilot blended learning implementation is needed considering research results to understand its effectiveness in the governmental organization. Although the participants mostly favor blended courses, the implementation process consists of many different interventions such as conducting meeting with line managers, scheduling implementation process, and etc. These interventions should carefully be planned considering not only staff opinions, but also the governmental organization’s needs.
Lee, J. (2010). Design of blended training for transfer into the workplace. British Journal of Educational Technology, 41, 181-198. Slotte, V., & Herbert, A. (2008). Engaging workers in simulation-based e-learning. Journal of Workplace Learning, 20(3), 165-180. Yıldırım, S., Yıldırım, G., Çelik, E., & Karaman, S. (2014). Uzaktan eğitim öğrencilerinin uzaktan eğitime yönelik görüşleri: Bir ölçek geliştirme çalışması [Perception of Distance Education Students About Distance Education]. Journal of Research in Education and Teaching, 3(3), 365-370.
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