Is blended learning making us stupid, too?

Ray Archee of the University of Western Sydney presented this paper at the International Conference on Higher Education Research in Shanghai, China, at the weekend. The title comes from a paper by Nicholas Carr from 2008 entitled ‘Is Google making us stupid? What the internet is doing to our brains’ which assessed whether the internet was having a negative effect on concentration and learning. Carr found that people adopted different reading behaviour when online compared to ‘traditional’ reading and that concentration, comprehension, absorption and recall rates were significantly lower when read online.

Archee defines blended learning as a combination of face-to-face teaching augmented by a technology-based range of tools including blogs, websites, videos, forums, interactive activities and often supported by online submission and assessment.

The author conducted a meta-analysis of the 244 peer-reviewed articles that included ‘blended learning’ in the article title. Using Leximancer to identify key themes,  a key and surprising finding was that the word ‘teaching’ was classified only as a minor concept with a relevance of 20%. The author suggests there is a conceptual flaw that a blended approach automatically creates new learning.

Some studies (eg from Columbia College Research Center) have shown that online instruction is less effective for weaker students and for students for whom English is not their first language. A Canadian study of 8,000 HE students showed lower satisfaction scores for units with more e-resources and that student thought they learned more in traditional environments. As online environments are often experienced in isolation and recorded lectures can be viewed as boring, students are not motivated to access the available online resources.

The author suggests that the infrequency with which online resources are accessed by students means that blended learning is unlikely to achieve the desired cognitive transformation. In the final conclusion, Archee says he likes blended learning, is not deluded that the online resources will be used with great frequency or excite his students and that blended learning should be renamed blended teaching.

For the full paper, follow this link.

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