Challenges for this place or any place: student preferences for lecture ‘places’ in a blended learning environment

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Research and Development in Higher Education Vol. 38: Learning for Life and Work in a Complex World

July, 2015, 528 pages
Published by
T. Thomas, E. Levin, P. Dawson, K. Fraser & R. Hadgraft

With advances in technology, students now have a choice of ‘learning places’ that enables them to “be connected to a community of learners anytime and anywhere without being time, place or situation bound” (Garrison & Kanuka, 2004). Our institution places significant emphasis on learner choice, whilst demanding high impact, quality and equity of experience, regardless of the choices made (Brown, Kregor & Williams, 2013). We surveyed our students, across four geographically dispersed campuses, to find out why they make the choices they do about where they learn, in an effort to understand how we can best meet their needs without being overwhelmed by the complexity of offering and maintaining multiple modes of delivery. This paper reports demographic factors that, for the 124 respondents, were associated with mode usage and explores the thinking of students around their choice of learning 'place’, identifying key pedagogical and pragmatic themes that were evident in the reasons they gave for the choices they made. The findings provide a complex picture, but our learners readily identified the elements of their preferred mode that 'fitted' with their learning needs at a particular time and in their particular circumstances. We discuss the challenge to us to increase quality and equity by ensuring that the elements students value most in each mode are maintained and enhanced, but are also extended to those who choose to engage via other modes.

Keywords: equity, blended learning, online learning