While blended learning is becoming more popular, universities are trying to figure out how to spread the combination of face-to-face and online learning across their institutions.
In a survey of 2,121 students in 34 courses, researchers from Toronto, Ontario, Canada's York University found that 48 percent of their students wanted to take blended courses, while 40 percent wanted to take classes in person. These blended courses provide more flexibility for students who work to put themselves through school, helps faculty members get to know them better through online discussions, and saves facility cost and space for universities.
But while many students would choose blended learning, it's difficult for students, faculty and administrators to want to change.
"Blended learning typically involves a more active learning approach, and students aren't used to that, so getting them involved in blended learning is not an easy move for students who are used to a passive mode of learning," said Ron Owston, dean of the faculty of education and founding director of the Institute for Research in Learning Technologies at York University. He spoke in a session at the Online Learning Consortium Blended Learning Conference and Workshop on Thursday, July 8.
A study of 214 Brigham Young University - Idaho (BYU-Idaho) faculty showed that technology infrastructure played a huge role in determining whether they would adopt blended learning.
"If faculty are not confident that the infrastructure is going to be able to support their use of online, blended and new technologies, that makes them very nervous," said Charles R. Graham, associate professor of instructional psychology and technology at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah. After all, when the infrastructure is unreliable for them in a face-to-face class that includes technology, he said in another session during the conference and workshop, how much worse would it be with more digital components?
While universities including York have tried incentive plans to entice faculty into blended learning, they haven't attracted many participants. These plans are expensive, and BYU - Idaho faculty responded in the survey that tenure and promotion, financial stipends, and course load reductions are among the least likely reasons that would convince them to try blended learning.
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