Swimming with the “Current”: An Access-Informed Exploration of Envisioned Blended Learning at Tishreen University in Syria
Today, Tishreen university in Syria is translating its emergency response to crises-prompted disruptions into an intentional blended learning model through the official inception of Moodle. The present study adopts a holistic approach to explore faculty's perceptions of this transition at the Higher Institute of languages. To this end, four pilot interviews, the researcher’s lived experience and the literature were used to design a web-based questionnaire. The questionnaire, completed by 23 teachers, elicited comparative reflections on teachers’ access to Moodle as opposed to their other digitally mediated informal experiences of access, mainly to YouTube. Analysis was largely informed by the digital divide layers: physical-material, instrumental (tool-related), substantial (content-related), motivational, and usage-related. The article argues that re-thinking academic structure and infrastructure is irreducibly grounded in formal-informal networked experiences. Although access divide models have evolved vertically into layers or generations, the current study suggests the need for a horizontal expansion. Firstly, current access divide models do not lucidly reflect distinctions between formal and informal access. Since the digital landscape we increasingly inhabit is not monthlithic in terms of its affordances, structure, modality or genre of information; formal and informal access outcomes are necessarily diverse, yet dynamically intersecting. Secondly, despite accentuating the role of digital proficiency theoretically, access research only tangentially differentiates between the consumption versus production dimensions of substantial content-related skills access. Questions regarding the impact of access on effective blended learning models in general and on academic knowledge in particular, emerge from the data. It is hoped that future research will fathom these distinctions and the relationships between them more profoundly to empower similar initiatives of transition. This is particularly impactful in a country like Syria where an added political-economic affordability layer engulfs the existing physical divide, resulting in mounting boundaries to digital academic and professional knowledge.
Copyright (c) 2022 Dima Dayoub
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