The impact of blended learning technologies on student performance/learning in biomedical science higher education

  • Sheelagh Mary Bernadette Heugh

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


This study examines the benefits of learning innovations in e-learning (asynchronous classrooms only) and blended learning (asynchronous virtual classrooms plus traditional learning) compared to traditional learning (classroom lectures). It specifically investigates effects on student satisfaction, retention, progression and achievement. We focussed on core biomedical science modules at London Metropolitan University: and four such modules were electronically supported using a learning and content management system programme. The collaborative learning intervention (N = 193, 71 males, 122 females), showed there was no significant change observed in performance across pre-intervention and post intervention modules over five years, with the exception of the 2010 cohort (p = 0.008) where students responded positively to the intervention. Interestingly, the quality of student online posts and final group grade for coursework revealed a strong positive relationship (r = +0.69, p < 0.0001, 42% improvement). We determined that tutors enhance work quality via moderation of online posts. The availability of personalised, timely and iterative feedback is likely to be responsible for this difference. Gender differences were apparent. There was a strong positive correlation between overall group rating and individual rating in male students only (r = +0.81**, p < 0.0001, 65% of predictions correct) and with males’ personal expectation (r = +0.5**, p < 0.0001) (Table 4.4). Males’ mean self-rating was 9/9 and females 7.9/9. Interestingly, 52% of females were likely to predict their final grade accurately, appearing to base this judgement on their interaction with the work and results self and peer assessment. The judgement of male students appeared to be based solely on self-belief that out stripped attainment with correct predictions in 25% of cases. The mean coursework pass mark for the post intervention module increased compared to previous years. Student self-evaluation showed that >80% enjoyed the collaborative learning work elements. For an optional formative assessment intervention, impact was evaluated over five-years. This study identified a significant difference between the intervention cohorts and the non-intervention year group, who were educated traditionally. When the post intervention groups were compared to the control, highly significant p values were obtained (p = < 0.0001 to < 0.00001). Additionally, students who were ‘quiz avoiders’ attained lower grades. The control group (N = 190), attained a mean mark of 55.3%, within this group, quiz avoiders achieved marks ranging from 34.4-42.6%. Quiz takers performed better than the control group with the mean marks ranging from 59.2-61.2%. Thus, blended learners’ achievements significantly improved (p = 0.0001), compared with those pre-intervention and those not engaging. In terms of self-evaluation, 60% of students rated the formative assessment (online quizzes) as ‘useful’ or ‘very useful’. Web-based collaboration improved academic performance and student satisfaction. Comparisons between pre-intervention and intervention groups were significantly different to the fraction of final exam first sit passes (p = 0.048). The intervention group showed the improvement. Interventions were applied at specific time points so that intra-annual comparisons could be drawn. This study detected profound differences: the mid-year exam (pre-intervention) was compared to the final exam (post-intervention) and showed a significant first sit performance (p = < 0.0001). Interestingly, 70% of students stated they would like the intervention (BB Collaborate) in more of their modules. We have shown, for the first time, that longitudinal studies over five year of large cohorts, there is a consistent significant improvement in student performance and engagement-using reward based formative assessment (Jacoby, et al., 2013 – incorporates data from this thesis). These interventions have subsequently been incorporated into the successful London Metropolitan University biomedical science course and in combination led to enhanced retention, progression and achievement over the study period. Furthermore, the practices illustrated are applicable to a modern higher education environment and are likely to enhance many similar course routes across the sector.
Date of AwardDec 2014
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Portsmouth
SupervisorRoz Gibbs (Supervisor) & Graham Mills (Supervisor)

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