25 February 2019

Research pick: We don’t need no education…well… - An experiment in blended learning: higher education without lectures?"

The rock group Pink Floyd famously proferred that “we don’t need no education” while singer Alice Cooper celebrated the fact that “school’s out!”. But, we do need education, just not necessarily provided in the traditional style of lectures.

Can blended learning that avoids the conventional lecture structure be a useful tool in higher education? An experiment by Kevin Anthony Jones of the School of Computer Engineering, at Nanyang Technological University, in Singapore and Ravi Sharma of the School of Business, at the University of Canterbury, in New Zealand, suggests might be so in the teaching of software engineering.

The pair has chronicled a ten-year blended learning program at a leading technological university where the concept of online courses and the technology are already very familiar to educators and students alike. However, over the course of ten years the outcomes were not quite what might have been expected from a technological starting point.

“Though there were few technical problems, it required behavioural changes from teachers and learners, thus unearthing a host of socio-technical issues, challenges, and conundrums,” the team reports in the International Journal of Digital Enterprise Technology. They add that “Education is a changing journey, not a prescribed destination, where learners, teachers, and administrators must reinvent themselves to harness the positive in this disruptive innovation of blended learning – closely related to flipped classroom – which combines eLearning with face-to-face and peer, interactions in problem-based learning.”

The bottom line is that while blended learning has many benefits it does not necessarily lead to better delivery outcomes cost savings. Nevertheless, it makes higher education a more customisable proposition that can be adapted for different learning styles and so make it more accessible to a wider range of students.

Jones, K.A. and Sharma, R.S. (2019) ‘An experiment in blended learning: higher education without lectures?’, Int. J. Digital Enterprise Technology, Vol. 1, No. 3, pp.241–275.

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