Blended learning in a second year organic chemistry class: students’ perceptions and preferences of the learning support
Although the implementation of blended learning in organic chemistry is rapidly growing, thus far, there are few studies published on the evaluation of supplemental types of blend in organic chemistry. This report covers a phenomenographic study that was designed to evaluate a supplemental type of blended learning approach implemented in a second-year organic chemistry course in a South African context. It offers a unique contribution in terms of catering to the needs of a diverse student body. Three open-ended questionnaires were used to probe: (1) students’ perceptions of the learning support; (2) students’ preferences for different types of learning support offered; and (3) students’ suggestions for improvement. Semi-structured individual interviews were used to obtain clarity on some of the responses from the questionnaires. Analysis of students’ responses revealed that the face-to-face component was highly valued as it gave the students the opportunity to ask questions and obtain answers in real time; the online component, especially Learnsmart, was found helpful for its flexibility and providing limitless opportunities to practice or revisit concepts. The discussion board was the least valued due to the overwhelming number of postings, and the students felt they were forced to participate in order to get marks. The students experienced the course as too fast-paced possibly reflecting cognitive overload, a potential weakness of the supplemental blend. The findings will be useful in many other contexts where the student body is diverse in terms of language proficiency and the level of preparation for the demands of organic chemistry as a discipline.