As I continue to evolve as a blended learning educator, I decided to try and measure some of the effects of blended learning with my students. In a previous article, I documented how incorporating blended learning assignments into my traditional classroom raised my course passage rate. In this piece, I compare student performance along two, 10-week periods. The first was predominantly blended, or 1:1 iPad-based instruction, the second was predominately textbook-centric, or traditional paper and pencil-based instruction.
Armed with a proliferation of digital instructional resources, broadband, and inexpensive devices, many educators are combining online instruction with regular classroom instruction to improve students’ learning experiences. Staker and Horn (2011) classify blended learning as a formal education program where students learn, at least in part, through online delivery of content and instruction. Students have some level of control over time, place, path, and/or pace of instruction. Part or all of the instruction is delivered away from home in a supervised, brick-and-mortar location. This blending of online and face-to-face instruction is expected to be standard practice in in the future (Murphy, Snow, Mislevy, et al., 2014). The purpose of this article is to inspire conversation as to how educators can evaluate whether or not blended learning actually improves student outcomes in their classrooms. What variables should be examined? Can quasi-experimental studies be set up as action research projects without disrupting the classroom?
It was in this spirit, that I compared my blended classroom to my traditional classroom along four factors: (a) classwork completion; (b) homework completion; (c) assessment scores; and (d) course averages. Five random samples of classwork, homework, and assessments were analyzed for each 10-week period.
|Table 1 (N=127)||Blended Classroom||Traditional Classroom|
|Classwork Completion Percentage||0.77||0.70|
|Homework Completion Percentage||0.71||0.63|
Students in this sample completed more of the blended classwork assignments. Students also completed more of the blended homework assignments. Assessment scores were similar, however, traditional instruction netted slightly higher means. Course averages were also similar, yet traditional classroom instruction had a slightly larger mean. Again, it should be noted that this was not a true empirical study. The sample size was not large enough to be generalizable. Further, I am not sure what the finding of higher engagement and participation, yet lower achievement signifies, but I will spend time reflecting on it.
Again, the purpose of this article was to provide educators switching from the traditional classroom role to a blended role with some data points for comparing their experiences. The results may not be as valid as those from a large scale study, however, as more 1:1 educators compare their student outcomes, we will learn what outcomes to expect and gather valuable context to evaluate which practices are the most effective. In order to do that, we need front line teachers to document their practices, collect data, and disseminate it. Educational journals will not publish this work, but we can share it in the blogosphere and the Twitterverse. Heck, I sure some teachers will even Snapchat this.
In conclusion, I will say that teaching with the iPads was novel, challenging, and frustrating at times, but best of all it was fun. My students loved using them and I enjoyed experimenting with them. Students read more, wrote more, viewed more historical content, and took more field trips to historical sites (even if they were virtual trips). In short, the iPads turned my classroom into a student-centered, active learning, historical thinking adventure. The entire experience rejuvenated my teaching. I can’t wait for the next school year. I suppose that’s a significant enough outcome for me.