Net gen or not gen? Student and Staff Evaluations of the use of Podcasts/Audio Files and an Electronic Voting System (EVS) in a Blended Learning Module.
At the authors’ institution, blended learning is defined as “educational provision where high quality e-learning opportunities and excellent campus-based learning are combined or blended in coherent, reflective and innovative ways so that learning is enhanced and choice is increased. Students are at the centre of this vision”. This paper outlines work undertaken to investigate the impact of integrating podcasts/audio file downloads and use of an electronic voting system (EVS) to transform module delivery from a traditional mode to a blended delivery. The purpose being to introduce a measure of flexibility in how, when and where students study; to increase interactivity and engagement in classroom sessions, and to enhance students' learning. The student cohort is diverse in respect of age – the majority or students are direct entry students of the so-called net generation, whilst a significant number of students (35%) are mature students. Would age be an influencing factor on the students’ preference for the learning methods employed, or their willingness or ability to engage with the technologies? An interim student evaluation was undertaken at the midpoint of the taught module, to provide formative, illustrative data to the module leader and teaching team about student opinion of the teaching methods and learning technologies. Given the option of returning to the traditional delivery method, 77.5% of students either “agreed” or “strongly agreed” that the module should continue to run in its blended format. The final evaluation discovered no discernable differences in the behaviour of the direct entry students compared to the mature students. Both groups accessed the podcasts easily, generally at home, and spent longer than if blended learning technologies had not been used. It was discovered that 16% of the mature and 24% of the direct entry students would have preferred lectures to podcasts, although the students were positive about the flexibility offered. Both groups of students were virtually unanimous on the benefits of the EVS to support learning. The teaching team concluded that the blended learning technologies increased the students’ engagement with their learning.