An exploration of students' experiences of Blended Learning in a physics course at a university of technology
The '#FeesMustFall' students protest movement in South African Higher Education Institutions sparked critical discourse on Blended Learning as an approach to supplement conventional on campus contact (face-to face) lectures. This approach, however, needs careful consideration in its implementation due to its inherent resourceintense nature, which poses challenges in settings that are poorly resourced. For instance, there is a danger that it may further accentuate digital divide, marginalizing poorly resourced communities, and thus necessitates great caution in its implementation. This paper presents and discusses students' experiences of Blended Learning through their interaction with the adaptive medium WileyPLUS system and social medium WhatsApp group platform in a Physics course supplementing face to face classroom teaching. The data was generated through student focus group interviews, WhatsApp group discussions and students' results in both WileyPLUS and paper-based assessments. The results show that students who lived in university residences with access to university resources such as computers and Wi-Fi had a greater chance of improving scores in the Physics course compared to students residing off-campus without the necessary resources such as personal computers and access to internet services. Furthermore, in the group of students residing off-campus, scores on online versus written assessments were discordant - students scored better on online tests than in written tests. This was attributed to cheating collaboration, as students residing offcampus reported to have collaborated with fellow students residing on campus in order to score higher points on WileyPLUS at the expense of failing to gain the required level of competency to perform equally well in written assessments. In conclusion, the findings in this paper alert universities to the potential challenges and implications of employing various technologies to support Blended Learning particularly in a developing country where resource limitations feature.
Keywords: Blended Learning, Digital divide, #FeesMustFall, WileyPLUS, WhatsApp