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Blended Learning Can Benefit Students If It Is Done Right


Blended Learning Can Benefit Students If It Is Done Right

by John H. Pryor
Blended Learning Can Benefit Students If It Is Done Right

One of the hottest topics in education in recent years has been Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), which deliver all content through the Internet. Depending on who you listened to, it seemed like MOOCs were going to be both the savior and the death of higher education. It turns out they were neither.

In fact, discussions about MOOCs and the best way to deliver online content has seemingly bolstered another teaching method that has been used in educational settings for years: blended learning. Blended learning, also referred to as hybrid courses, is defined as traditional face-to-face classes that incorporate online materials and lectures that students can access at their convenience.

In the most recent Gallup-Inside Higher Ed Survey of College and University Presidents, Gallup presented college presidents with a list of 13 topics that have been in the news frequently in the past year and asked if these topics had been discussed on campus, if they resulted in some action on campus, or if neither discussion nor action were underway. Nearly all presidents surveyed said they discussed blended learning on campus (97%), and 87% were also taking action regarding blended learning. By contrast, 54% said they discussed MOOCs, and only 15% had taken action around MOOCs. Clearly, blended learning is winning the day.

Moreover, college presidents are significantly more likely to say that blending learning, rather than MOOCs, will have a positive impact on their institution. Half of college presidents surveyed reported that blended learning would have a very positive impact (50%) and an additional 44% forecast a "somewhat positive" impact. On the other hand, just 3% of college presidents thought MOOCs would have a very positive impact on their institution.

These results suggest that we will likely see more traditional classes transformed into blended learning classes in the years ahead. This shift toward blending learning could benefit students tremendously, but only if university leaders and faculty make the most of it.

In a blended learning model, students watch at least some lectures outside of the classroom. Two things can happen here. If the motivation is simply to cut costs, then the time that faculty members previously spent lecturing may be dropped from the class schedule. If, however, the move to a blended learning model is driven by a desire to increase student learning, professors can use this extra time to interact with students.

If faculty and students make the most out of the time they would have otherwise spent in lectures, it could contribute to students having a great job and a great life after college. Research from the Gallup-Purdue Index shows that student who feel supported in college are more likely to be engaged in their work and have higher levels of well-being after graduating. Being supported in college, we found, meant having the following three things:

  1. A professor who made students excited about learning;
  2. A professor whom students felt cared about them as a person; and
  3. A mentor who encouraged their hopes and dreams.

Unlike MOOCs, blended learning allows students to interact with professors in more meaningful ways, thus increasing opportunities for students to cultivate strong relationships with professors and potential mentors.

Just as many college presidents expect, blended learning can have a positive impact on colleges. But will that impact come in ways that Gallup knows are linked to the most important college outcomes: having a great job and a great life? Or will it impact the balance sheet? Certainly, both better student outcomes and lower college costs are needed. If some colleges choose the balance sheet, will those savings be passed on to students in the form of reduced tuition or shifted to some other college cost center? How a college president deals with such decisions can tell us a lot about their priorities.

For more tools and advice to help teachers, students, and schools succeed, visit Gallup's Education Knowledge Center.


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