Emphasizing Interpersonal Engagement in Seminar-Style Blended Courses

Derek Thurber, Alyssa Dyar, and Lois Trautvetter

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Results and Discussion


Emphasizing Interpersonal Engagement in Seminar-Style Blended Courses

Research Problem

What factors influence student interaction and satisfaction in seminar-style courses offered in a blended format in a professional graduate program at a highly selective research university and how can these blended courses be improved over time?

We will explore this question by examining the complete blended learning redesign process, including the program format, activities/tools used, faculty development/ongoing support, and student training/support.


A qualitative case study of blended format courses within the professional graduate program was conducted from Spring 2016 through Winter 2017 (additional courses in Spring and Summer 2017 will be added). The blended coursework was developed as part of a new certificate program, created to engage students who were already working in the field, but may not be able to attend classes in the traditional format, either due to location or scheduling. Changes were made to courses and the blended format over the course of the year based on feedback from faculty and students.

Table 1. Background and Context of Blended Format Courses. Each row represents one of the four courses examined.

Course Quarter # of Instructors # of TAs In-Person Class Hours Online Sync Class Hours # of Students
1 SP16 1 - 20 8.5 17
2 SU16 1 1 18 8 16
3 FA16 1 - 18 10 12
4 WI16 2 - 15 12 41

Literature Review

  1. Blended Learning Models and Practices in Higher Education. Definition and uses of blended learning.
  2. Differences in Online and In-Person Teaching and Learning. Educational technology tools and strategies.
  3. Interaction and Engagement within Online and Blended Learning. Community of Inquiry Theoretical Framework (Garrison, 2003, 2017).

Data Collection Methods

  1. An artifact analysis of syllabi and learning management system course sites.
  2. Two student surveys at the end of each course.
  3. Feedback from faculty.
  4. Focus groups from students who have taken at least two blended format courses (to be completed after all eight courses being assessed here have been completed).

Key References

Garrison, D. R. (2017). E-Learning in the 21st Century: A Community of Inquiry Framework for Research and Practice (3rd ed.). New York, NY: Taylor & Francis.

Garrison, R., & Vaughan, N. D. (2007). Blended learning in Higher Education; Framework,Principles, and Guidelines. Jossey-Bass.

Picciano, anthony G. (2016). Research in Online and Blended Learning: New Challenges, New Opportunities. In C. Dziuban, A. G. Picciano, C. R. Graham, & P. Moskal (Eds.), Conducting Research in Online and Blended LEarning Environments (pp. 1–11). New York: Rutledge.

Shea, P. (2007). Towards A Conceptual Framework for Learning in Blended Environments. In anthony G. Picciano & C. Dziuban (Eds.), Blended Learning Research Perspectives (1st ed., pp. 19–35). Sloan-C.