An investigation into efl students’ perception of blended learning at university of foreign languages, Hue university

A survey was conducted with 102 students from Hue University of Foreign Languages

(HUFL) English Department who had opportunity to take part in blended courses. In addition, a focus

group discussion was also administered with 10 voluntary students. The findings from this study

revealed the general perception of blended learning of EFL students and expressed their positive

attitudes towards blended learning. The study also indicated that the strengths of blended learning

outweighed its weaknesses. Some advantages can be listed as flexibility, usefulness, and increased

interaction. In addition, the limitations and problems of blended learning cannot be ignored, inluding

technical and Internet problems, time-consuming procedure, heavy workload and plagiarism. Those

challenges are followed by a number of practical suggestions for addressing the drawbacks, including

solving technical and Internet problems, providing proper training to students, increasing the number of

labs blended courses. Students’ acceptance of blended learning was also shown from their preference

to take another blended course in the future and their liking to recommend for their friends.

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AN INVESTIGATION INTO EFL STUDENTS’ PERCEPTION 
OF BLENDED LEARNING 
AT UNIVERSITY OF FOREIGN LANGUAGES, 
HUE UNIVERSITY 
Nguyen Hoang Hanh An* 
Univerity of Foreign Languages, Hue Univerity 
Received: 02/03/2020; Revised: 10/04/2020; Accepted: 28/04/2020 
Abstract: A survey was conducted with 102 students from Hue University of Foreign Languages 
(HUFL) English Department who had opportunity to take part in blended courses. In addition, a focus 
group discussion was also administered with 10 voluntary students. The findings from this study 
revealed the general perception of blended learning of EFL students and expressed their positive 
attitudes towards blended learning. The study also indicated that the strengths of blended learning 
outweighed its weaknesses. Some advantages can be listed as flexibility, usefulness, and increased 
interaction. In addition, the limitations and problems of blended learning cannot be ignored, inluding 
technical and Internet problems, time-consuming procedure, heavy workload and plagiarism. Those 
challenges are followed by a number of practical suggestions for addressing the drawbacks, including 
solving technical and Internet problems, providing proper training to students, increasing the number of 
labs blended courses. Students’ acceptance of blended learning was also shown from their preference 
to take another blended course in the future and their liking to recommend for their friends. 
Keywords: Blended learning, EFL learners, benefits, challenges 
1. Introduction 
1.1. Background of study 
In the boom era of technology and information, computers and the Internet have had an essential 
effect on every aspect of human life, especially education. The advances in technology and developments 
in teaching and learning methodologies have presented new circumstances for more effective 
implementation of learning programs. Apart from the existence of the traditional face-to-face classroom, 
the technology development has led to the birth of a new learning environment that is called blended-
learning. 
One of the areas where the application of blended learning takes place is in higher educational 
institutions, which include universities and colleges. Over the last decade, blended learning has been 
growing in demand and popularity in higher education and has become a widespread teaching phenomenon. 
However, while blended learning is well-received in western societies, levels of success vary in Asian 
countries because of a number of challenges relating to different cultural backgrounds, different attitudes, 
as well as issues around implementation (Tham & Tham, 2011). 
With the development of information technology, Vietnamese educators have identified the 
integration of ICT (Information and Communication Technology) in education as one of the vital ways to 
achieve its aim of developing a modern education system. The use of ICT in education and training has 
been encouraged to increase. Blended learning, a combination of face-to-face learning and online learning, 
Email: annguyen18997@gmail.com 
has been introduced to the country with the belief that it can easily broaden the spaces and opportunities 
available for learning to a large number of learners. Educational institutions in Vietnam are increasingly 
using blended delivery strategies to deliver course contents to diverse and dispersed student cohorts. 
Like many other universities, HUCFL has prioritized the development and application of blended-
learning in education in order to up-scale and improve training quality. The material facilities and learning 
sources are being upgraded and supplemented to meet the students’ needs. Expectations and requirements 
on students in HUCFL are becoming more and more challenging, while they have more time to prepare for 
the lessons and self-study, which requires both students and teachers to have appropriate learning approach 
for students’ self-studying activities. Hence, the students need to be flexible in their process of learning by 
simultaneously using other sources of learning, especially online learning, to obtain information besides 
taking classes in traditional classroom. 
1.2. Research questions 
1. What are the students’ general perceptions of blended learning? 
2. What are the students’ experiences of blended learning courses? 
3. What are students’ suggestions to improve the implementation of blended learning in their 
language learning? 
1.3. Significance 
The study focuses on examining EFL students’ perception of blended learning at HUFL. This will 
help in understanding the students’ perception and experience on blended course delivery process and 
exploring students’ views regarding the advantages and limitations of merging the features of face-to-face 
language instruction and online language learning in a new pedagogical approach called blended learning. 
The findings of this study may promote educational leaders in universities to consider and encourage 
blended learning to create an effective learning environment. In particular, it can help inform the further 
development and implementation of blended learning in HUFL as well as in other universities. 
2. Literature review 
2.1. Definition of blended learning 
According to Graham (2006), “The term blended learning is being used with increased frequency in 
both academic and corporate circles” (p. 3). Stacey and Gerbic (2008) suggested that whereas e-learning 
focuses on the electronic environment, blended learning stresses the relationship between traditional 
instruction and online instruction. Badawi (2009) defined blended learning as “a flexible approach that 
combines face-to-face learning activities with online learning practices that allow students to exchange 
collective and individual feedback on and responses to the four specific areas namely; learner feedback, 
learner strategies, authentic material, and alternative assessment synchronously and asynchronously” (p. 
15). 
2.2. Blended learning in higher education 
With the recognition of technical and pedagogical problems of purely face-to-face learning or online 
learning, as a combination of online and face-to-face environments, blended learning is proposed to have 
potential to facilitate improvements in pedagogy towards student-centeredness, increased access and 
flexibility and increased cost-effectiveness (Graham, 2006). In blended learning environment, researchers 
commonly agree that learners can study at their convenience while being kept motivated by socially 
interacting with the instructor or other learners in some face-to-face sessions (Graham, 2013). Blended 
learning is fundamentally a new paradigm in higher education that institutions are approaching with a 
variety of outcomes in mind including expanding access and improving the quality of learning outcomes. 
In Vietnam, blended learning can be a solution for high education (HE) institutions since ICT 
integration is regarded as an important tool to facilitate the realization of HE reform objectives, which are 
(1) to expand in size and (2) to improve teaching curricula and pedagogy to enhance students’ ability to 
carry out active and collaborative learning. 
2.2.1. Benefits of blended learning 
There are numerous benefits that blended learning in HE can bring to three main stakeholders of EFL 
education reported in the literature that are students, teachers and HE institutions. 
With regard to students, blended learning research reports several benefits, which is the focus of this 
study. First, with the help of online learning components, blended learning can provide students with rich 
sources of language learning materials of different types (Grgurovic, 2010). Second, blended learning 
provides students with more opportunities to interact with teachers and other students, which can increase the 
students’ motivation, engaging them in high order thinking, cognitive reflection of their understanding and 
co-construction of knowledge (Stodel, Thompson & MacDonald, 2006). Third, blended learning offers the 
advantages of pacing and schedule flexibility. The online components in blended learning offer the increase 
in the flexibility and convenience so that students can complete their own learning tasks from home and at 
any time that best suits their schedules. Last but not least, blended learning can bring about the improvements 
in students’ academic outcomes. It is reported that students in blended learning course performed better on 
exams, assignments, discussions, projects and other assessments compared to students of purely face-to-face 
or online courses (Partridge et al., 2011). 
For the teachers, research shows that blended learning has potential to facilitate teachers’ 
understanding of individual students’ learning to enhance their reflective learning. The engagement of 
online communication tools can be used to increase the interactions between teachers and students beyond 
face-to-face classes. The online assessment tools can also provide teachers with information about students’ 
learning experiences and assist the monitoring of students’ progress. Another benefit of blended learning 
for the teachers is that it enables teachers to promote students’ interactive and collaborative learning. The 
online learning components allow teachers more flexibility in designing lessons and learning activities. 
Researchers explored some of the benefits of using blended learning in HE institutions. Graham (2006) 
considered cost and resource effectiveness as an advantage of blended learning for institutions. Since materials 
can be placed online and reused for an extended period of time, the costs for institutions might be lowered 
(Sharma & Barrett, 2007). The use of blended learning can also reduce the staff and students’ contact time 
and, therefore, save on staffing costs. 
2.2.2. Limitations of blended learning 
Despite various benefits reported in the literature as discussed in the earlier section, blended learning 
is also seen as posing challenges for learners, teachers, and institutions. 
According to Graham (2013), self-regulation is considered as one of the main obstacles to blended 
learning for students. Not all students are able to carry out the self-regulated practices in a blended learning 
environment. Hence, they have to face the difficulties in managing time and controlling their independent 
learning. Further, some researchers comment that since students have to employ technologies to study 
blended courses, their lack of experience in applying technology to learning process or their unfamiliarity 
with technological learning may put pressure on them. 
It is said that it can be time-consuming for the teachers to prepare lessons in a blended learning 
environment. As for those teachers who are familiar with teacher-centered pedagogy, the adoption of a 
student-centered approach requires radical changes in teachers’ pedagogical practices. Consequently, these 
teachers may encounter problems with giving online feedback, assisting students with online discussions 
and managing online problems. Some teachers have inadequate knowledge of the potential of online 
communication tools for language learning, so they prefer face-to-face communication with students. 
For HE institutions, one of the risks for institutions is that they may have a “fear of losing control 
over the course, lower student evaluations, and an uneasiness about how this type of learning model fits 
into the culture of teaching, research, and service” (Vaughan, 2007, p. 88). Additionally, since blended 
learning implementation relies on the employment of technology, it can be hindered by poor technical 
infrastructure at HE institutions, including a lack of additional software to design blended course, a lack of 
technological stability and reliability, and a lack of the Internet accessibility. 
3. Methods 
3.1. Participants 
The research took place in University of Foreign Languages, Hue University (HUCFL), and there 
were 102 participants selected for the research. They were undergraduate English-majored students 
currently studying at HUCFL, ranging from second-year students to fourth-year students. The chosen 
subjects were students who took up blended learning courses. There were 7 (6.9%) male students and 95 
(93.1%) female students, ranging from 20 to 25 years old. 
3.2. Data collection instruments 
A questionnaire delivered to the participants consisted of 26 questions classified into 4 parts. The 
first part of the questionnaire aims at investigating the participants’ social and demographic aspects like 
age, gender, course(s) taken... The second part helped in identifying students’ general perception on blended 
learning. The third part helped in analyzing the effectiveness of the blended courses as well as the attitudes 
of the students towards blended learning through the experiences they gained during the learning process. 
This part also assisted in identifying challenges students had to face while taking up the blended courses. 
The final part helps in contributing to the improvement of applying blended learning to teach and learn 
English in the university. The questions from part 2 to part 4 are presented in a Likert scale format. The 
Likert scale ranges from 1 to 5 where 1 represents (Strongly Disagree), 2 (Disagree), 3 (Neutral), 4 (Agree), 
5 (Strongly Agree). 
A focus group discussion was also conducted to explore in depth the students’ perception about 
blended learning. The focus group discussion was addressed with the support of 10 voluntary participants. 
The open-ended questions helped students to express their insight related to the benefits and challenges of 
the blended courses, as well as students’ recommendation for future improvement on blended learning, 
which might not be embraced by the survey. 
4. Results 
4.1. Students’demographic 
The number of previous blended courses that participants enrolled is shown in Table 1. It is obvious 
that most of the students involved in the research participated in only 1-2 blended courses, and they did not 
have much experience on applying blended learning to their studying in their previous courses. 
Table 1. Students’ participation in blended learning courses 
Type Categories No. Percentage 
Number of blended courses 
1-2 81 79.4% 
3-4 19 18.6% 
> 4 2 2% 
4.2. Students’ general perceptions 
Table 2. Students’ general perceptions on blended learning 
General insights on blended learning 
Strongly 
disagree 
Disagree Neutral Agree 
Strongly 
agree 
1. Blended learning is one of the most 
effective ways to learn English 
0% 3.9% 14.7% 55.9% 23.5% 
2. Blended learning allows for more 
flexibility and more convenience 
0% 2.9% 12.7% 68.6% 15.8% 
3. Blended learning helps to learn in-depth 
about a matter/subject 
0% 3.9% 20.6% 54.9% 20.6% 
4. Blended learning creates an innovative and 
independent learning environment to study 
language 
0% 4.9% 17.6% 52% 25.5% 
5. It is necessary to apply blended learning to 
more courses in universities 
0% 2.9% 14.7% 49% 33.4% 
As shown in Table 2, more than three-fourths of the students had positive perceptions on blended 
learning during their learning process due to the efficiency, flexibility, the depth understanding of courses 
and self-regulation it provided for them. Students also agreed that more blended courses should be added 
in the university. The flexibility and convenience rated the highest with 84.4% of students’ agreeing with 
it, followed by the necessity for applying blended learning courses with 82.4%. In the group discussion, 
most of the participants agreed that blended learning was really an effective way to improve their language 
skills and understanding regarding to the benefits it offered to students. They also expressed their 
satisfaction with the flexible scheduling, increasing interaction and deeper understanding of the subjects 
when taking blended courses. 
4.3. Students’ experiences 
4.3.1. Benefits 
Table 3. Benefits of blended learning 
Items 
Strongly 
disagree 
Disagree Neutral Agree 
Strongly 
agree 
1. Learning anytime and anywhere 0 % 2.9 % 10.8 % 58.8 % 27.5 % 
2. More time for complex topics 0 % 4.9 % 13.7 % 61.8 % 19.6 % 
3. Self-paced learning 0 % 6.9 % 17.6 % 58.8 % 16.7 % 
4. In-depth understanding 0 % 2.9 % 13.7 % 48.0 % 35.4 % 
5. Good preparation before attending class 0 % 3.9 % 23.5 % 54.9 % 17.7 % 
6. Self-involvement 0 % 6.9 % 24.6 % 58.8 % 09.7 % 
7. Interacting with other students 0 % 9.8 % 20.6 % 57.8 % 11.8 % 
8. Helping students appreciate different 
perspectives 
0 % 6.9 % 10.8 % 62.7 % 19.6 % 
9. Getting prompt feedback from teachers 0 % 12.8 % 17.6 % 57.8 % 11.8 % 
As indicated in the result, most of the students, a vast majority of participants had positive feedback 
to blended learning and they also had positive attitudes towards it, with the results revealing that their 
responses to the benefits of blended learning mainly ranged from “Agree” to “Strongly agree”. The highest 
rated advantages were the flexibility in learning anytime and anywhere and the in-depth understanding 
about a matter/subject. The students also appreciated the benefit of the learning management system in 
spending more time for complex topics, self-paced learning and helping students appreciate different 
perspectives. However, the students’ responses revealed uncertainty when they were asked if blended 
learning assisted their self-involvement in the learning process, interaction among students and prompt 
feedback from teachers since nearly one-fourth of students were not sure about them. 
4.3.2. Students’ attitudes 
Table 4. Students’ attitudes toward blended learning 
Items 
Strongly 
disagree 
Disagree Neutral Agree 
Strongly 
agree 
1. Students' enjoyment 0 % 4.9 % 22.5 % 58.8 % 13.8 % 
2. Taking another blended courses in 
the future 
0 % 6.9 % 13.7 % 56.7 % 22.7 % 
3. Recommending blended courses to 
others 
0 % 6.9 % 10.8 % 60.8 % 21.5 % 
It is obvious that most of the students satisfied with their experiences on blended learning. Students 
agreed to take another blended courses in the future and recommend blended courses to others. By 
examining students’ behavior to blended learning, it can be seen that they took a positive attitude towards 
blended learning as a beneficial learning approach, which helped them improve their English and enhance 
more knowledge. 
4.3.3. Challenges 
Table 5. Students’ challenges in experiencing blended learning 
Challenges 
Strongly 
disagree 
Disagree Neutral Agree 
Strongly 
agree 
1. Time-consuming 4.9 % 27.5 % 48 % 12.7 % 6.9 % 
2. Heavy workload 2.9 % 19.6 % 51 % 16.7 % 9.8 % 
3. Facilitating cheating 2.9 % 17.5 % 44.1 % 20.6 % 14.9 % 
4. Technical problems 6.9 % 15.7 % 20.6 % 34.3 % 22.5 % 
5. Internet connectivity 4.9 % 4.9 % 10.8 % 45.1 % 34.3 % 
From the data analysis, it is obvious that the salient limitations reported in this study were Internet 
connectivity and technical problems that encountered by students. The other limitations were not rated in 
the same manner as the first two; they are less significant, including the heavy workload, facilitation for 
cheating and time-consumption. These challenges occurred in the uncertainty category. In other words, the 
students were not sure that these limitations create difficulty or prohibit their involvement in using 
technology for learning. This finding is consistent with Al Zumor et al. (2013), whose study investigated 
that “Internet connectivity problems and technical problems were the most serious challenges” (p. 104). 
4.4. Students’suggestions 
Table 6. Students’ suggestions for improv

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