COVID-19 forces Cambodian higher education to adopt hybrid teaching and learning

Image: Hong Menea/the Phnom Penh Post

Kaing Sopheap
University of Fribourg
Fribourg, Switzerland
July 15, 2020

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COVID-19 has forced the world to adopt online and distance learning and teaching on an unprecedented scale. Developed countries have had an advanced education system that can engage and support students’ learning with technology since decades ago. For example, they use Moodle as a learning platform; they have an IT support team for lecturers and students; and they have e-learning resources to support research. What about developing countries like Cambodia? How about Cambodian higher education institutions? To what extent have they been adopting hybrid teaching and learning?

According to Charlier, Deschryver, and Peraya (2006), hybrid teaching and learning is characterized by the presence in a learning environment of innovation dimensions linked to distance learning activities because it involves the use of a techno-pedagogical environment based on a complex form of mediatization and mediation. The term has been introduced to conceptualize types of learning environments under the HY-SUP European project between 2009 to 2012. To my knowledge, I believe that this term might be new to the Cambodian context.

Hybrid teaching and learning environment has been categorized into six types (Type 1 to 3 focus more on teaching while Type 4 to 6 on learning) of learning environments based on the Hy-Sup project as follows:

  • Type 1 “the Scene” Content-oriented “teaching” configuration, characterized by support courses and the availability of primarily textual resources.  
  • Type 2 “the Screen” Content-oriented “teaching” configuration, characterized by support on-site courses and the availability of numerous multimedia resources.
  • Type 3 “the Cockpit” teaching configuration oriented to the organization of courses eased by the use of management tools and sometimes integration of interpersonal and reflexive targets.
  • Type 4 “the Crew” learning configuration focusing on supporting the process of knowledge building and on interpersonal interactions. 
  • Type 5 “the Metro” learning configuration focusing on various forms of support and openness.
  • Type 6 “the Ecosystem” learning configuration characterized by exploitation of a large number of technological and educational opportunities offered by hybrid systems.            

Each type of the hybrid teaching and learning environment requires different levels of support and techno-pedagogy (the art of incorporating technology in designing teaching learning experiences so as to enrich the learning outcome), as seen below.

  1. Type 1 (the Scene): teachers favor classroom teaching but provide educational resources for students to download;
  2. Type 2 (the Screen): teachers mainly use the teaching and learning environment to make textual and multimedia learning resources available to their students;
  3. Type 3 (the Cockpit): teachers make the most of the potential of technological tools in order to manage their teaching and interaction with students. This results in the frequent use of tools to integrate into teaching resources;
  4. Type 4 (the Crew): teachers pay special attention to students’ learning progress by using interpersonal and reflexive tools to support learning, communication, and collaboration;
  5. Type 5 (the Metro): teachers focus on supporting and guiding students, be open to external resources and actors, and leave some freedom for the selection of methods and learning pathways;
  6. Type 6 ( the Ecosystem): teachers make use of all the dimensions identified to characterize hybrid teaching and learning such as students’ active participation (in-class and remotely), frequent and diversified use of technological tools, availability and production of multimedia documents, peer interaction, and openness of the system to external resources and actors, etc.    

Preliminary results from my research involving in-depth interviews conducted in 2020 with 17 Cambodian lecturers who are implementing hybrid teaching and learning indicated that almost all of the lecturers were in Type 5 “the Metro” before COVID-19, if analyzed in terms of the self-positioning tool in the HY-Sup project. Most lecturers use social media and online tools as learning platforms, making use of Facebook groups, Facebook Messenger, Telegram, and Google Classroom, among others, to engage students and share documents, information, discussion, and other learning opportunities as their university does not have a Learning Management System (LMS). However, almost all of the interviewed lecturers seem to upgrade from Type 5 “the Metro” to Type 6 “the Ecosystem” during the COVID-19 pandemic with little or no support from their institution regarding the use of technological tools and learning platforms. There are also problems with lack of proper training on how to use the tool, lack of a technical group to support lecturers, and unlicensed tools (e.g. Zoom). Despite the lack of preparation by individual institutions, COVID-19 has forced them to immediately adopt online and distance teaching.

In short, COVID-19 may be considered as a blessing in disguise as it has pushed many Cambodian lecturers to learn to use and integrate technology into their teaching. The COVID-19 crisis is a wake-up call for university management teams to invest in developing a full-fledged learning platform, purchase licensed tools for both lecturers and students to use, and prepare annual training or professional development for the teaching staff. Importantly, COVID-19 clearly indicates that online learning may not be able to replace in-class learning, but it can be used to complement face-to-face learning and teaching through the use of techno-pedagogy.                 

The Author

KAING Sopheap, a recipient of the Swiss Government Excellence Scholarships, is a PhD candidate in Educational Sciences at the University of Fribourg, Switzerland. He can be reached at sopheap.kaing@unifr.ch.

Published by CambodianEducationForum

CEF aims to provide a platform for Cambodian researchers, educators, teachers, students and administrators, especially novice and emerging writers, to express their views and share their perspectives and understanding on topics relevant to education in Cambodia and beyond.

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