"Is there any unblended learning?" (2012)


Rethinking time and space
(Anders Norberg)

Anders Norberg, Skellefteå & Umeå University, doctoral student is rethinking blended learning in his research work.

Anders Norberg is questioning the concept of "blended learning" - often defined as 50% distance learning and 50% face-to-face meetings - and asks what blended learning from a teacher's and program manager's perspective is and what it could be. An overview study of the Sloan Foundation in 2010 collected over 40 models of blended learning. This question becomes even more important for a region like Northern Sweden where the access to education is restricted. Those persons who cannot travel to the cities of Umeå, Skellefteå or Luleå are more or less excluded, and the usage of technology is only one option. Thus, Anders points out "Is there any unblended learning?" (Oliver & Trigwell 2005) and focuses his study on a critical examination of blended learning.

There is an undeveloped research area of blended learning, which neglect the combination of several elements: When developing education, 'elements' like process, time, place, group cognition and individual interactions - and the interdependencies of them - are neglected. Thus, his central research question is: "To what extent is a time and 'learning as a process' perspective on education, instead of a traditional place and transfer-knowledge approach, useful to plan/conduct a meaningful student learning experience when ICT is implemented?" In other words: is there a appropriate mix of elements for blended learning (or not) and if yes, what are the elements of such a blended learning cocktail mix?

Anders Norberg plans to interview teachers as well as program managers and/or directors of studies at Umeå University and Luleå University on current traditional study programs that are specially designed as distance education. One outcome is a description about the current situation and the different understandings. In addition, he will also study if there are recommendations by experts (e.g., in USA), for example, to what extent can "blended learning" be conducted for a meaningful learning experience for students. His four years study plan is a useful mix of empirical studies, reading and writing phases to find answers to his central RQ.