If We Adopt the Blended Approach: Will Students Still Come to Class?

If We Adopt the Blended Approach: Will Students Still Come to Class?

Home Forums Seminar 1: October 2013 If We Adopt the Blended Approach: Will Students Still Come to Class?

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  • One of the issues which bother those who may feel attracted to eLearning in brick-and-mortal on-campus institutions is the fear that an online component in a course will make students to stop attending f2f lectures. I am not too sure why this bothers some. But I would like to have your take on this one. First of all, if the online component of your course is so comprehensive and satisfying that some learners feel no need to attend f2f lectures, how is that a problem? On the other hand, if your online component stimulates the desire in your learners to know more, you would not need to compel them to come to class. In any case, to those who have such worries, where does the problem seem to be? Let’s have your comments please.



    Jerome I have been constrained to ask myself the following question. What do our students come to class for?
    If our blended approach gives them more of what they come to class for they sure will come!.
    In our ICT mathematics experiments, our learning materials are available to all students, whether they are taught with technology or not.
    We have a lot of students not taught with technology who want to move over and explore in the classes taught with technology..
    We also have a few students who attempt to sit in for both classes.
    So many factors in a complex question.



    I would like to compare this particular topic to one debate that is live in my country where use of technology is being introduced to schools. the question here is, if the students use technology in teaching and learning where content is delivered via computers or online, do we still need teachers? Part of what is hindering the uptake of the program is fear by teachers that they will loose their jobs. I answer to that is that teachers are still very integral part of teaching and learning. The physical presence of the teacher further deepens the whole process and vice versa. The same applies to our topic today, face to face still has its place with or without technology.

    I agree Len and Esther. The focus of this topic is to assuage the fear of such ones (Esther). The goal of the teacher is to support the learner to have the most pleasant learning experience and to get the most out of their study. So, if certain ones feel satisfied with what they get in the online component of a blended course, fine. Likely in such a course, certain components will be handled f2f. Even in courses that are purely f2f, there are those who have a culture of keeping away from lectures. Should the teacher be anxious about this?

    A very interesting question indeed! We need to define the roles of both teacher and student in this e-learning era and ask ourselves the question, what does a teacher do in a f2f which he/she cannot do online? And what does a student do in f2f which he/she cannot do online? I hope by the end of the seminar all shall be revealed!

    Hi all. Certain things always seem to me to be missing in these conversations about technology and education:
    – There are MANY different kinds of teacher
    – There are MANY different kinds of learner
    – There are MANY different kinds of subject that need to be taught
    – There are MANY different contexts within which teaching and learning happens.

    Hence, in order to make sense of the question: “Will the students come?”, all of these variables need to be recognised and used to identify the different patterns of teaching and learning.

    Consider: We are trying to teach undergraduates Schrödinger’s equation – this needs peace and quiet, a highly structured approach, and fast access to all the underlying maths and physics theories that might bear upon the way in which Schrödinger worked out his ideas. Perfect for online?

    Consider: We are trying to teach high school children about marketing, and we need to build their understanding on their own experiences of marketing (advertising, merchandising, product packaging) and it is essential to hear what they have to say and watch the expressions on their faces as the discussion proceeds – can only really happen in class where the interaction and the response of the teacher to the learners is instant. I would want to be in class and f2f !

    FInally, consider: Adults are learning the conversational form of a new language, so that repetition and practice is essential, together with backup in the form of dictionaries, thesauri, and so on. Here consolidation of learning happens when language is used, and so both technology-based resources and face-to-face conversational opportunities are needed.

    I suppose we could say “horses for courses”, but that over simplifies it. I am thinking rather “technologies for teachers, and learners, and subjects, and contexts … and so on …”. It is MUCH more complicated that we tend to assume.

    Any comments?

    Hello Andy, that is a very comprehensive way of looking at topic of this seminar. Styles of learning have to be matched with the technology and the subject before we can truly approach this seminar topic. Let me respond to your comment on building on high school students’ experiences on marketing. You said ‘ it is essential to hear what they have to say and watch the expressions on their faces’. Don’t you think real-time video conferencing will take care of this rather than result to f2f? For example if Harvard University wants to share its experiences in the teaching of marketing to students in developing nation we could know the constraints associated with assembling students at the US to share the result of research on marketing. I think the use of technology, that is with realtime video conferencing will solve a lot of problems for students from developing context who we all know face a lot of constraints including funding to cover the journey to Harvard. The teacher will be able to hear and respond to the students while live teaching is on. This seminar is another way of testing this suggestion. Looking forward to meeting all participants and the leaders of the seminar.



    Hi Olufemi, and all

    Real-time video is perhaps a great way of almost reproducing face-to-face type of interaction, if the required technology and bandwidth is available. Do you perhaps know of low resource ways of achieving the same or similar results?




    Andy, you are opening up the conversation to the kinds of questions we might ask in exploring the online learning landscape. Pehaps the questions are more important than the answers?

    Olufemi: Yes, video conferencing goes a long way, but now it’s about numbers. With a real audience, the smallest movement can prompt attention to problems of understanding or contributions from “the floor” – when I used to lecture 250 second year students at UWC I found the whole experience to border on the theatrical (!) and I think my students would agree that there really was useful interaction. If there were (say) nine audiences on nine screens in front of the speaker, it would be much more difficult. And, as Gerrit points out, we need bandwidth or dedicated phone lines (eg IDSN – does anyone talk about that any more?).

    Jolanda: I am smiling! Basically I do research these days so yes, the questions are everything! But serioously, the answer is to have clear, validated and reliable typologies for the different variables in designing education (my “different teachers”, “different learners” etc from above) and that is where research needs to inform us. I think there should be a rule that technology-in-education research should always be reported in ways that explain and define the variables. Without having time to give a specific example, I do find that I read a paper and at the end still wonder what variance there is in the key role players and contextual factors that make technology a good idea or not. Yesterday I was looking at a web-based learning opportunity from the UK and although it was aimed at an “MBA” kind of audience (I think) when I had looked at it I decided that they were actually fishing to see what kinds of people would respond to online opportunities such as they were offering.

    We are talking about “blending” – that is going in the right direction because as in good cooking, we need to manage the mix according to who is going to be eating. I look forward to further debate.




    Hi all,
    From the discussion so far, several issues coming up for example; Should teachers worry about the students who don’t turn up in the purely f2f lectures? what does a teacher do in a f2f which he/she cannot do online? And what does a student do in f2f which he/she cannot do online? Consider the different scenarios in regard to what is to be taught online of f2f; kinds of teacher, kinds of learner, kinds of subject that need to be taught, contexts within which teaching and learning happens. “horses for courses”? Do real-time video conferencing take care of of some of the issues faced in f2f? Is this technology easily available and the bandwidth too? rather what are the cost implications in adopting technologies in teaching and learning?
    I do hope that this seminar will shed light in all these areas. Lets keep dialoguing.

    [in haste – gotta do something else for a while]

    Esther – yes, great push in the right direction here! I am prompted to report that where I work ISDN lines were installed for video conferencing and I think they have been used ONCE (to my knowledge) – and on that occasion there was a monstrous issue getting the tv moved in, etc etc. Not at all like doing a skype conference!

    The question I have is: what sort of research could we do that will properly inform this debate, and ensure effective f2f-technology blending … ?

    [back later!]



    Julie Mafwil
    I appreciate the fears people exhibit about blended approach to learning. if students can get what they want on the net why must they come to class. some students in my University have to work to sustain themselves in school and may not have opportunity to come to class at the right time. These student will for sure enjoy their lectures by this method and not be missing anything in class. For the lecturers sometimes lecturers have to travel for conferences and may miss class this can be taken care of by this blended approach..

    I like the way you put it Sipho. My take is that one key feature of the online component in blended learning is essentially to provide a seamless learning pathway for the learner. Such a pathway keeps the learner exploring and working even outside the classroom. It helps the learner to broaden their horizons, think outside the box, utilize time more effectively and connect to resources, peers, and instructor through technology.

    Yes Andy. Superb thought there! It is precisely because of those complexities that the blended approach is most suitable for many courses and in many contexts. The idea is: What aspects of the Marketing course could learners more appropriately use technology to achieve? (E.g. if they had to do some field work in groups, report on their findings and have all groups share and discuss their experiences, what would work best if the class is, say 100? How long would it take each group to make a presentation and elicit meaningful contributions from others? How many in each group will really have opportunities to contribute? Would it perhaps be better if all could access the submissions of others, reflectively comment on these and use the f2f meetings to address matters arising? So I agree with you. Some things and some learners and some contexts are just not suited for the online option.

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