A virtual analysis, blended learning put to the test

The Bok Center for teaching and Learning has analysed for HarvardX blended courses. And not surprisingly it is all about pedagogy.

“While the variability among the four College courses made general interpretations a challenge, the student assessments did reveal some commonalities that were not necessarily course- or instructor-specific. Among the key findings:

  • Students tended to conflate the teaching approach with the blended format, responding more to the teaching itself than to how specific online or blended elements worked.
  • Students appreciated the quality of the HarvardX materials, and most found them interesting and engaging.
  • For the most part, students spent roughly the same amount of time on homework and preparation for the blended class as they did for a traditional Harvard course.
  • Students valued the increased flexibility and ability to learn at their own pace, but still wanted in-person interactions with faculty and among themselves. They said that sections — small-group discussions outside the class ― were especially vital, enabling feedback, time for Q&A, meaningful collaborations, and a deeper sense of intellectual community.
  • The most common student complaint was that online learning opportunities were often redundant with in-class components, as faculty experimented with how to best use class time and encourage participation. In-class activities worked best when they were well-structured, such as when students were given discussion questions, problem sets, or worksheets in advance.
  • In any setting, students cut corners to save time, earn participation points, or get through required assignments or assessments. Many adopted efficiency strategies while watching the online lessons, causing some to integrate the materials in less-than-meaningful ways.”
The key takeaway is of course that for a good blended course you need sound pedagogy. Which for anyone involved in teaching is an open door of course. Just adding technology, video and putting course materials online doesn’t make for good education. But maybe that is because in secondary education pedagogy is central to good education. In higher education this doesn’t seem to be the case as much.

My main conclusion of blended teaching is that it enables differentiation. A student doesn’t need to be in the classroom all the time if that doesn’t fit the learning goals of that student. Or maybe a lot of remediation is needed. Plan time for individual coaching and in the classroom design challenging activities to engage the group as a whole.

In the end I, and any good teacher will always try to make sure that in-classroom activities are worthwhile and stimulate deep learning, that way students will come. Even if they’re allowed not to.

Research summary here

One Comment

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.