Acquiring effective communication at university through 'blended learning'

Liz M Y Chan and Radhika Jaidev
SIM University

It is common knowledge today that educational institutions, especially those focusing on adult tertiary education, are faced with the constant challenge of having to respond innovatively to the ever-increasing demand for new and dynamic skills and competencies, a lifelong learning mindset, and e-technology capabilities -- the rationale being that adult learners need to be equipped with not only core occupational skills, but also more technologically sophisticated and specific employability skills. Therein lies the greatest challenge for SIM University (UniSIM), Singapore's fourth and, to date, only university for working adults. UniSIM was officially launched in 2005, its main focus being on providing working professionals and adult learners with an opportunity to obtain higher academic qualifications, and to equip them with practical, transferable skills.

In recognition of the above challenge, UniSIM employs an eclectic pedagogical approach in delivering its many courses in a flexible and modular way. One such course is a UniSIM core module entitled Effective Communication (COR100) which employs a 'blended learning' model, defined here as 'the combination of a number of pedagogic approaches, irrespective of learning technology used' (Whitelock and Jelfs 2003). COR100 incorporates modern technology using interactive learning on e-platforms such as Blackboard“ with traditional methods (such as face-to-face lectures and a textbook). In brief, COR100 aims to equip all UniSIM students with adequate skills and knowledge in two important areas -- academic writing and communication for the workplace – by the time they graduate. Having adequate academic writing skills will allow the students to manage better, for instance, their assignments, reports and examinations; and obtaining workplace skills will enable them to speak and write better in their respective professions. It is with such a collective rationale that this paper presents the challenges in developing such a course and using a mixed pedagogical approach in delivering it. In addition, the paper discusses preliminary feedback from learners on whether this approach to teaching academic writing and communication skills has enabled them to achieve the learning outcomes for the course.