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George Roberts :: Blog :: Blended learning?

June 17, 2007

This is more of an essay than I intended! Further to Nicola's "defining the e" and the discussion that followed, Rhona Sharpe led a review of Blended Learning for the HE Academy. I contributed part of the literature review. The political argument was largely submerged in the final paper. I rehearse it here. And in the SlideShare

Whatever it is, it is widely recognised that blended learning is ubiquitous. We can blend:

  • delivery        different modes (face-to-face and distance education)
  • technology     mixtures of (web based) technologies
  • locus         authentic/work-based and class-room based learning
  • pedagogy    different pedagogical approaches
  • chronology     synchronous and a-synchronous interventions
  • roles         multi-disciplinary groupings of learners
  • focus        different aims
  • direction    instructor-directed vs. learner-directed .

Rothery observes that most standard practices in universities across Europe now involve a mixture of approaches (Rothery 2004).  But, e-learning is still too concerned with content delivery and transmissive models of learning (Derntl and Motschnig-Pitrik 2005). If e-learning is reified as unidirectional, transmissive, computer-based learning, then anything that allows non-e into the blend is more acceptable than all e. Stubbs and Martin speak of blended learning as preserving "... pleasurable opportunities we have for face to face contact with our students." (Stubbs & Martin 2005) Motschnig-Pitrik describes blended learning as making "... person-centered learning and teaching more effective and feasible by enriching it with elements of computer-supported learning" (Motschnig-Pitrik 2005, and see also University of Hertfordshire CETL, 2005).

When we try to pin down the meaning of any modification of the term “learning” such as blended learning we will ultimately have to address what is understood by learning. Blended learning opens up the possibility of blending learning styles and epistemologies. (Beetham 2005; Roberts and Huggins 2004).

Finally, Oliver and Trigwell (2005) raise the Freirian question: education as the practice of freedom. The overt curriculum of the industrial era, the "3 Rs" was reading, 'riting and 'rithmatic. The covert curriculum, inculcated by early modern schooling was punctuality, tolerance of repetition and subordination: compliance with which was important for the functioning of capital intensive industry. Overt curricula are presented as being beneficial for all. Covert curricula benefit particular positions: dominant elites or their powerful oppositional forces. From this perspective the key affordances of e-learning, flexibility, community and individualisation are problematic. Against flexibility might be set a return to piecework and insecurity. Against community and team working might be set normalisation and a re-expression of hierarchies. And, against individualisation or personalisation might be set an increased tolerance to surveillance and a willingness to surrender personal information to anonymous, autonomous agents offering only predatory reciprocity. (Roberts 2004) The final dimension of any blend must acknowledge the possibility that there is a blend of covert and overt curricula in the programme.

Overview for Keywords: blended learning, critical theory, policy, politics

Posted by George Roberts


  1. So if it's ubiquitous, why talk about blended learning? See rant ;-)

    What are the covert curricula (agendas) at Emerge?  Tongue out

    Frances BellFrances Bell on Wednesday, 20 June 2007, 16:24 UTC # |

  2. might pidgeon steps help whilst walking through running commentary? Innocent

    aporiaaporia on Sunday, 24 June 2007, 13:05 UTC # |

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