Question: Is blended learning applicable in the liberal arts’ intimate college classroom setting?
Answer: Yes! Based upon positive learning outcomes and participants’ reactions of faculty-developed blended learning STEM courses at Bryn Mawr and its partner colleges.
The Innovation: Blending Learning in the Liberal Arts
Blended learning initiatives tend to focus on large community college or university settings in order to increase student learning outcomes and reduce costs while expanding an institution’s capacity to serve increasing numbers of students. But what role can blended learning play in small, liberal arts colleges? Bryn Mawr partnered with other liberal arts colleges to examine this question in three ways:
- To provide the means for liberal arts college faculty to experiment with blending learning’s computer-based materials, pedagogical techniques, and integration strategies, particularly in gateway STEM courses.
- To share practices, resources, and data with the liberal arts community to further future adoption and research of blended learning strategies in a liberal arts college or small institutional setting.
- To evaluate whether a blended approach within a small liberal arts college setting produced student learning outcomes improvements similar to those demonstrated at large institutions.
Results Achieved: Bryn Mawr found that blended learning does facilitate liberal arts college values of learner-centered pedagogies, meaningful faculty-student interactions, and deep, active and authentic learning. The project:
- Exceeded its partnership goal of 10 partner institutions: 54 faculty members (14 at Bryn Mawr College and 40 at 25 partner colleges) developed and implemented blended learning courses during project.
- Exceeded its goal of 90% completion with merit grade in blended gateway STEM courses: 93.5% of all students and 93.1% of low-income students completed blended gateway STEM courses with a merit grade versus a college average of 83% receiving merit grades for non-blended gateway STEM courses.
- Improved the quality of faculty-student interactions: Faculty reported that students asked “better, more productive” questions because they knew more precisely what they did and did not understand. Several faculty members observed that the assessment data expedited identification of struggling students.
Long term Goal: Maximizing blended learning’s potential to support a liberal arts education and small institutions
The Grant Project:
Bryn Mawr received a grant from NGLC in April 2011.
NGLC funding enabled Bryn Mawr to provide faculty with stipends and technical support to develop blended versions of their courses. The project team collected and analyzed data on learning outcomes as well as faculty and student responses. The project team and faculty participants shared findings among partner colleges and publicly, most notably at a Bryn Mawr-hosted annual conference.
Since the NGLC project, Bryn Mawr received subsequent funding from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the AAC&U TIDES program, the Teagle Foundation, and FIPSE's "First in the World" program to continue current work and the annual conference as well as to pursue these areas:
- Collaborative production of online, interactive educational materials and faculty resources for computational skills development and underrepresented student engagement in physics;
- Development of blended approaches to psychology research methods and statistics, and just-in-time math remediation for introductory STEM students.
Partners: • Albright College • Amherst College • Allegheny College • Bard College • Barnard College • Bates College • Bowdoin College • Colgate University • Colorado College • Connecticut College • Franklin and Marshall College • Grinnell College • Hamilton College • Haverford College • Hobart and William Smith College • College of the Holy Cross • Ithaca College • Kalamazoo College • Kenyon College • Lafayette College • Macalester College • Middlebury College • Mount Holyoke College • Oberlin College • Pomona College • Saint Olaf College • Skidmore College • Smith College • Swarthmore College • Trinity College • Union College • Vassar College • Wake Forest University • Wellesley College • Wesleyan University• Wheaton College• Whitman College• Whittier College• Williams College