Engineering student experience and self-direction in implementations of blended learning: a cross-institutional analysis

Int J STEM Educ. 2023;10(1):19. doi: 10.1186/s40594-023-00406-x. Epub 2023 Mar 8.


BACKGROUND: Much of researchers’ efforts to foster wider implementation of educational innovations in STEM has focused on understanding and facilitating the implementation efforts of faculty. However, student engagement in blended learning and other innovations relies heavily on students’ self-directed learning behaviors, implying that students are likely key actors in the implementation process. This paper explores the ways in which engineering students at multiple institutions experience the self-directed selection and implementation of blended learning resources in the context of their own studies. To accomplish this, it adopts a research perspective informed by Actor-Network Theory, allowing students themselves to be perceived as individual actors and implementors rather than a population that is implemented upon.

RESULTS: A thematic analysis was conducted in two parts. First, analysis identified sets of themes unique to the student experience at four participant institutions. Then, a second round of analysis identified and explored a subset of key actors represented in students’ reported experiences across all institutions. The findings show clear similarities and differences in students’ experiences of blended learning across the four institutions, with many themes echoing or building upon the results of prior research. Distinct institutional traits, the actions of the instructors, the components of the blended learning environment, and the unique needs and preferences of the students themselves all helped to shape students’ self-directed learning experiences. Students’ engagement decisions and subsequent implementations of blended learning resulted in personally appropriate, perhaps even idiosyncratic, forms of engagement with their innovative learning opportunities.

CONCLUSION: The institutional implementation of blended learning, and perhaps other educational innovations, relies in part on the self-directed decision-making of individual students. This suggests that instructors too hold an additional responsibility: to act as facilitators of their students’ implementation processes and as catalysts for growth and change in students’ learning behaviors. Developing a greater understanding of students’ implementation behaviors could inform the future implementation efforts of faculty and better empower students to succeed in the innovative classroom.

PMID:36915857 | PMC:PMC9994781 | DOI:10.1186/s40594-023-00406-x


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