The OU centre for STEM pedagogy
A blended tutorial is a single learning event which gives students the opportunity of attending face-to-face or online. This project considers the barriers and opportunities to using blended tutorials to support distance learning at The Open University, especially in a mathematics-learning context.
Two pilot blended tutorials were carried out on the Level 3 mathematics module M337 Complex Analysis, and an evaluation undertaken via thematic analysis of qualitative data from practitioner reflections, lesson observations and semi-structured student interviews.
The five themes which emerged from our analysis consider pedagogical issues (the “two different worlds” of online and face-to-face attendance, and the need to develop a “blended pedagogy”), technical issues (audio and visual communication) and organisational issues (in relation to scheduling of tutorials).
We recommend that further experimentation and research is conducted into blended tutorials. They offer opportunities to increase the number of tutorials, to offer greater choice for students, and to give more opportunities to feel part of a wider community of learners through capturing casual interactions. More research should be conducted using a single practitioner, perhaps with the help of a student monitor.
However, care is advised in developing a pedagogical approach which is suited to the blended environment. Our analysis suggests it is not necessary to create a wholly egalitarian experience across modes, but accessibility and learner-centred pedagogy do need to be placed first, and there is scope to allow students across both modes the choice to participate in audio and text chat. For mathematics teaching and learning specifically, a shared visual space is seen as vital.