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Is Blended Learning Effective?

Blended learning sounds like a nice idea--mixing a traditional classroom environment with online components--but is it actually effective? It seems almost intuitively obvious that it is. And with the explosion of blended course delivery in recent years, despite the dearth of research, clearly education institutions take that point for granted.

But researchers at the University of Missouri didn't want to take it for granted when it came to deciding on a delivery model for her own class. So Shawna Strickland, director of the Respiratory Therapy Program at the University of Missouri School of Health Professions, along with student Jason Domachowski, launched a study into the effectiveness of blended learning versus a traditional classroom, dubbed "The Effectiveness of Blended Learning Environments for the Delivery of Respiratory Care Education."

"I couldn't find any research on the subject of blended learning when I was trying to decide for my own class whether blended learning was effective," Strickland said through the University of Missouri News Bureau. "In theory, it sounds great, but there was really no hard evidence that it works. In addition, it is important to ask the question: 'do the students even like it?'"

The study compared two classes taught by the same teacher using two different delivery models: one purely traditional (i.e. face to face), the other blended.

The result, according to the study, was a wash. Academically, there was no statistical difference in achievement between the two classes. And there were no major differences in satisfaction levels based on subjective student comments.

According to an abstract of the report, "None of the variables showed a statistically significant difference (p=0.05). Further testing revealed an expected positive relationship between pre-existing GPA and the final examination grade as well as the final examination grade and the course grade (p=0.05). No other positive relationships were noted in course outcomes, student satisfaction or subjective comments."

The implication, according to Strickland, is that a blended approach is at least as effective as a traditional classroom environment and that there is additional promise for blended learning in the future.

"While there was slightly more confusion regarding hybrid classrooms, the results favor the continuing practice of blended learning environments as a viable option for course delivery in health care education," Strickland said. "Overall, the basic results say it's at least as good as a traditional classroom. As professors become more technologically savvy and more used to supplementing their courses with online material, the blended course will become more favorable."

According to the University of Missouri, the complete study will appear in the Journal of Allied Health.

About the Author

David Nagel is the former editorial director of 1105 Media's Education Group and editor-in-chief of THE Journal, STEAM Universe, and Spaces4Learning. A 30-year publishing veteran, Nagel has led or contributed to dozens of technology, art, marketing, media, and business publications.

He can be reached at [email protected]. You can also connect with him on LinkedIn at .

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