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  • Please quote as: Bitzer, P.; Söllner, M. & Leimeister, J. M. (2016): Design Principles

    for High-Performance Blended Learning Services Delivery - The Case of Software

    Trainings in Germany. In: Business & Information Systems Engineering (BISE),

    Ausgabe/Number: 2, Vol. 58, Erscheinungsjahr/Year: 2016. Seiten/Pages: 135-149

    (DOI: 10.1007/s12599-015-0403-3).


    Design Principles for High-Performance Blended Learning Services Delivery

    The Case of Software Trainings in Germany

    Philipp Bitzer •Matthias Söllner •JanMarco Leimeister

    Received: 14 July 2014 / Accepted: 21 May 2015 ! Springer Fachmedien Wiesbaden 2015

    Abstract The ‘‘perfect’’ orchestration of training partici- pants, IT and process design is one of the ongoing challenges

    within blended learning service research and practice.

    Blended learning services (BLS) offer a great variety of options to design learning processes, overcoming many

    shortcomings of pure e-learning services and providing

    better scalability and more advantages for learners than pure face-to-face class teaching. Nevertheless, due to inconclu-

    sive results of blended learning design research in the liter-

    ature, BLS designers can hardly find support for the systematic design of efficient and successful blended learn-

    ing processes, which would enable a high degree of learning

    success with a balanced degree of delivery effort. Based on major determinants of BLS processes’ quality, the authors

    identify, develop, and evaluate design principles for high

    performance BLS using an action design research approach. They first derive a set of initial design principles, based on

    insights from literature and own exploratory case studies as

    well as workshops with experts from the field. They then improve the design principles iteratively in expert work-

    shops as well as apply the design principles in four software

    training sessions. Finally, they present seven evaluated design principles for BLS, which are the core of a nascent

    design theory and contribute to a time-efficient and suc-

    cessful BLS delivery. Furthermore, these principles enable practitioners to systematically apply the design knowledge

    formalized within the principles in order to improve BLS

    design and delivery.

    Keywords Blended learning ! Blended learning services ! Efficiency ! Learning success ! Design principles ! Learning service engineering

    1 Introduction

    In 2010, more than 70 % of all German companies invested

    in vocational training. In fact, 94 % of all major companies (with more than 1000 employees) invested in vocational

    training (Vollmar 2013). This accounts for a market vol- ume of more than 28 bn euros (Seyda and Werner 2012).

    These numbers show the major economic importance of

    such learning services, due to the need to constantly train employees in order to remain competitive and avoid the

    loss of knowledge to demographic change (Vollmar 2013).

    At the same time, Arthur et al. (2003) stated that vocational training is becoming increasingly technology-supported,

    referred to as blended learning services (BLS). Blended

    learning services combine face-to-face instruction with computer-mediated instruction (Graham 2006). They con-

    sist of processes where participants and trainers interact in

    e-learning and face-to-face learning scenarios (Graham 2006; Wu et al. 2010). Their goal is to integrate the

    Accepted after two revisions by Prof. Dr. Becker.

    Electronic supplementary material The online version of this article (doi:10.1007/s12599-015-0403-3) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.

    Dr. P. Bitzer (&) ! Dr. M. Söllner ! Prof. Dr. J. M. Leimeister Chair for Information Systems,KasselUniversity, Pfannkuchstr.1, 34121 Kassel, Germany e-mail: [email protected]

    Dr. M. Söllner e-mail: [email protected]

    Prof. Dr. J. M. Leimeister e-mail: [email protected]

    Dr. M. Söllner ! Prof. Dr. J. M. Leimeister Institute of Information Management (IWI-HSG), University of St. Gallen, Unterer Graben 21, 9000 St. Gallen, Switzerland


    Bus Inf Syst Eng

    DOI 10.1007/s12599-015-0403-3

  • strengths of synchronous (face-to-face) and asynchronous

    (IT-based) learning activities (Garrison and Kanuka 2004). In this context, training courses for enterprise resource

    planning (ERP) software, which is the largest enterprise

    application market, has a significant share within voca- tional training (Gartner 2012b). Nevertheless, the delivery

    of ERP training varies widely in terms of training organi-

    zation structures, applied IT tools and learning methods with varying yields of success (Gartner 2012a).

    Thus, the design of successful BLS is a challenging matter due to the interplay between three critical aspects,

    i.e., (1) the service process design (Gupta and Bostrom

    2009), (2) the use of technology to support the service process (Gupta et al. 2010), and (3) the integration of the

    external (human) factor into the service process (Parasur-

    aman et al. 1988; Zeithaml et al. 1985). From a BLS provider perspective, all three aspects have to be enhanced

    simultaneously for two dimensions, i.e., time-efficient

    delivery and high learning success of the participants. More precisely, standardization and the systematic use of IT can

    help to minimize the time needed and to create economies

    of scale. At the same time it enables a high learning success for the training participants since customer satisfaction is a

    crucial element for successful services. Moreover, the use

    of IT enables providers to save time resources (Ray et al. 2005; Weiss et al. 2007) and to deliver a more interactive

    BLS with a higher learning success (Melville et al. 2004).

    Last, (3) the customer integration enables BLS providers to transfer delivery efforts with the customer, which again

    saves time–resources during the BLS and simultaneously

    enables BLS participants to learn in a more interactive, self-regulated and finally more successful way.

    Nevertheless, current research results show an incon-

    clusive database regarding the design of efficient, suc- cessful BLS. The latter, in turn, is essential to foster

    resource-saving aspects of BLS in correlation with poten-

    tial learning success gains (Lehtinen et al. 1999; Gupta et al. 2010). This lack of transferable insights can be

    explained by the fact that many studies have focused on

    input–output research designs that ignore critical aspects of the learning process (Gupta and Bostrom 2009).

    To sum up, we regard the current lack in the systematic

    BLS process design as a considerable shortcoming. The research presented here intends to address this shortcoming

    by studying blended learning services (BLS), the goal

    being to develop and collect productivity-oriented design knowledge from an efficiency and effectiveness perspec-

    tive. On this account, design principles help to synthesize

    and formalize design knowledge (Lindgren et al. 2004). In doing so, we are adding to the existing body of

    knowledge on BLS by developing a nascent design theory

    (Gregor and Hevner 2013) while answering the following research questions:

    1. Which design principles foster successful BLS, i.e.,

    improve BLS outcomes?

    2. Which design principles foster time-efficient BLS, i.e., decrease BLS delivery efforts?

    In order to achieve our desired goal, the remainder of

    this paper is structured as follows. First, we introduce findings from literature. In the following, we present the

    research methodology, which encompasses a literature

    review, a multiple case-study approach, and a two-folded evaluation embedded within a design research approach.

    Then, we present the seven final design principles. There-

    after, we present the evaluation, explaining the evaluation approach and presenting the core results of the evaluation.

    The paper closes with a summary which includes areas of

    future research.

    2 Blended Learning Service Research

    Services are perishable, intangible experiences rendered for

    a recipient who does double duty as both customer and co- producer (Fitzsimmons and Fitzsimmons 2011; Leimeister

    2012, 2015), implying that customers influence the process

    and the result of a service. Hence, in contrast to the pro- ductivity of manufacturing industries where the tangible

    assets can be identified and counted easily, qualitative aspects have to be considered within the design of BLS.

    Therefore, economical process measures – such as delivery

    time – as well as success measures – such as learning success – have to be considered.

    2.1 Ensuring High Learning Success for Blended Learning Services

    The field of learning analytics offers a wide variety of find- ings on factors influencing learning success (e.g., Greller and

    Drachsler 2012). Therefore, it is important to carve out

    precisely the focus of this research. In accordance with Grönroos and Ojasalo (2004), we are focusing on capacity

    efficiency, creating insights into the measurement of service

    delivery process quality as well as into the design of a pro- ductive service delivery process, i.e., a design which i