Online and blended learning courses are becoming the norm on university campuses. Whether a course is conducted entirely online or incorporates some digital components, such as an out-of-class discussion board, digital learning is changing the way students interact with content as well as peers and teachers. In this study, researchers from Israel investigated students’ perception of virtual and blended courses, focusing on their feelings of challenge and threat, self-efficacy, and motivation.

The researchers surveyed 484 university students, all of whom had previously taken both virtual and blended learning courses. Through a series of questionnaires and open questions, they gauged their feelings of challenge and threat in response to different elements of courses, measured their perception of self-efficacy in virtual and blended learning environments, and tracked their motivation.

Students reported similar perceptions of motivation and feelings of threat and challenge in virtual and blended courses. However, the researchers discovered a stronger negative correlation between self-efficacy and negative feelings in virtual courses than in blended courses. Furthermore, while about one third of respondents reported no sense of threat in either type of course, those who did feel threatened attributed their negative feelings to the nature of teacher interaction in virtual courses more than in blended courses. Overall, virtual courses provoked more negative feelings in students than blended courses, especially regarding teacher interaction and successful completion of course requirements. Some students also reported negative feelings about mandatory digital discussion forums, preferring more fluid and flexible face-to-face discussion.

The results of these surveys suggest the important role teacher presence and the social environment play in students’ learning experiences. If teachers are more aware of students’ perceptions of their interactions and methods, they can better cultivate an environment that supports student success in digital and blended learning.

Zilka, G. C., Cohen, R., & Rahimi, I. D. (2018). Teacher presence and social presence in virtual and blended courses. Journal of Information Technology Education: Research, 17, 103-126.

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