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Design-based research for the development of a flexible learning environment

Belinda van der Merwe


Background: Students enrolled for the Bachelor of Radiography degree at the Central University of Technology Free State in Bloemfontein, South  Africa, spent many weeks off campus at hospitals during workplace learning. A design-based research approach was applied to analyse an educational problem, namely that students apparently fail to apply the theory of radiation safety regulations to protect themselves and patients.
Aims: The purpose of the study was to develop authentic activities and assessment for radiation safety requirements, to provide flexible learning in a blended environment to students off campus.
Setting: The second-year radiography students of 2016 and 2017 responded off campus to the QuestionPro survey.
Method: Authentic learning and assessment opportunities were contextualised and compiled to align with learning outcomes of the safety  regulations as confirmed during a Delphi process. Flexible learning opportunities were delivered via electronic mail (email) and WhatsApp. Assessment responses from the students were received via mobile phones with a Web-based software tool, QuestionPro.
Results: Of the 117 students, 92.3% responded to the QuestionPro survey. From the incorrect responses, learning areas that needed revision were identified, as well as the areas in the X-ray departments of the hospitals showing non-compliance with the requirements for radiation safety.
Conclusion: The three outcomes of this design-based research included the formulation of design principles, a designed product in the form of a Website and professional development of the researcher. The design-based research principles that were tested involved the use of knowledge in real life and measuring if students were effective performers with acquired knowledge.

Keywords: design-based research; flexible learning; authentic learning and assessment; real life; mobile phone; effective performers.