Blended learning in tertiary education : a science perspective.
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Education
Blended learning has been suggested as having the potential to transform tertiary education through its ability to provide flexible learning options, cost reductions and high quality educational experiences. Combining the benefits of both the face-to-face and online learning environments, blended learning provides opportunities for tertiary education organisations to improve the engagement, satisfaction and achievement of students. Tertiary science is experiencing issues with student recruitment and retention due to it being complex and challenging to learn and often poorly taught. Blended learning, therefore, with its ability to support visualisation of abstract scientific processes, critical thinking and attitudes to science could provide a means to encourage students to study science. However, to date, most studies on blended learning in undergraduate science have focused on evaluating the implementation of a particular blended approach within a small number of science classes or have considered only the teacher or student perspective. This study sought to explore both lecturer and student experiences of blended learning within undergraduate science whilst also considering the institutional context within which science teaching and learning operates. A case study methodology was used to investigate blended learning in undergraduate science in a New Zealand university. Data collection methods included interviews with university management, lecturers and students. Management interviews were used to determine the university’s stage of blended learning adoption and to provide the institutional context for the study. Lecturer and student interviews provided a rich description of each group’s experiences and perspectives of blended learning in science. These were supplemented with lecturer and student surveys which provided breadth to the findings. The findings revealed both the institutional and disciplinary context influence lecturer and student perspectives of blended learning. They also highlighted the similarities between lecturer and student experiences. Lecturer perspectives and issues have long been taken into consideration by tertiary organisations when planning their blended learning implementation. However, this study suggested that student needs and support are equally as important and recommended that they receive the same attention.