A multitude of modes: considering ‘blended learning’ in context

Havemann, Leo; Charles, Elizabeth; Sherman, Sarah; Rodgers, Scott and Barros, Joana (2019). A multitude of modes: considering ‘blended learning’ in context. In: CDE RIDE conference 2019, 15 Mar 2019, London.

URL: https://london.ac.uk/centre-distance-education/cde...


Discussions of mode in higher education tend to contrast face-to-face teaching with distance education, while acknowledging that somewhere in between these poles, some students are engaged in a somewhat mysterious practice of ‘blended learning’. Blended learning is generally taken to indicate that a combination of face-to-face time in the classroom with the use of digital/online platforms is in use. While the question of whether blended learning is well-understood or well-defined remains unanswered, it can nonetheless be described as the ‘new normal’. This session considers transformation in educational delivery mode in the context of the results of an institutional review of technology-enhanced learning, undertaken at Birkbeck, University of London in 2018. An overview of the method and results of the review will be discussed, alongside consideration of the extent to which these findings are more widely applicable. Birkbeck’s mission has been to create opportunities to study for groups who are usually excluded by conventional modes of provision. However, where ‘distance’ mode teaching acts to take location out of the equation, Birkbeck has historically opened access through its timetable. Birkbeckstudents give up the semblance of a normal life to dedicate many of their evenings to the classroom. But perhaps this has obscured the extent to which student life is increasingly the life of the computer, as well as of the mind. Evening, face-to-face mode teaching, while seen to a great extent as the college’s ‘USP’, is only one element of the ‘student experience’ and digital practices have quietly gone mainstream. These results have thrown into question whether ‘face-to-face’ mode truly exists at Birkbeck any more. Furthermore, if blended learning has become an umbrella term that covers a multitude of modes, it seems that much closer attention is now due to the nature and diversity of ‘blends’.

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