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Tuesday, August 25, 2009

One simple idea

Simples While I was away on vacation, I was reading when a phrase popped into my head, seemingly from nowhere:

One simple idea

Reflecting on this, it occurred to me that part of the reason for the failure of some of the projects I've tried to run over the past year has been complexity - trying to do too many things at once. Perhaps a one simple idea approach (which could later be elaborated on) might be more successful.

At the time, I was pondering what to do this year with my first year key skills module, I.T. & Numeracy Skills for Biologists. The immediate problem is that it's difficult to present this as one simple idea - two would seem to be the minimum requirement. All this was still circulating in my brain last week when I read:

I’ve stuck to the path I’m afraid: exploring student non-use of blended learning. Kate Orton-Johnson. (2009) British Journal of Educational Technology 40 (5): 837–847
This paper draws on qualitative data from a study of student use of blended learning as part of a conventionally taught undergraduate Sociology course. Findings from an early evaluation questionnaire highlighted an overwhelming pattern of non-use of the materials and subsequent research with a group of 16 students evidenced limited and inconsistent engagement with the resources. In an analysis of the category ‘non-use’, the students’ rejection of the materials is seen to be closely related to a trust in traditional texts as authentic academic knowledge and an instrumental and strategic approach to study. Blended learning resources are shown to challenge existing learning patterns and practices, reconfigure existing understandings and expectations of academic scholarship and reconstruct academic boundaries in new spaces.
"This instrumental approach to scholarship is not a new phenomena. Becker, Geer and Hughes (1968) in their study of college students, highlighted the conflict between grades and learning and argued that rather than acting as autonomous intellectuals in the pursuit of knowledge, students are primarily concerned with finding out what is required of them in order to obtain good results... The blended learning environments afforded students the flexibility and freedom to balance their academic and wider responsibilities; however, engaging with the resource in more depth was seen as an additional layer of work and in its non-compulsory and nonassessed form was avoided."

How do we boil down these complex online-offline interactions into one simple idea? Should we? And if we don't, how many students do we lose along the way?