The development and structure of student communities in the secondary blended learning science classroom
Crymes, Jonathan Boyd
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Blended classes have found a home in the arenas of higher education and the corporate world and are quickly gaining ground as a widespread method of delivering educational content. These fast-changing, technology-enhanced classrooms are providing both students and instructors new avenues for exploring a rich and diverse online world while simultaneously reinvigorating the traditional classroom. Researchers have determined that students enrolled in blended classes typically have a greater engagement with the class, a greater understanding of the material, enjoy the class more, prefer its structure over traditional classes, and generally do it in less time. It is commonly easier for learners in the blended class to access its materials, have greater flexibility for when and how they work, and have more control over their pace. However, few of these studies have occurred at the primary or secondary levels of education. Part of this is due to the newness of blended classes at these levels. They are simply not as readily offered or implemented at these levels. As a result there is little rigorous or relevant guidance in creating, implementing, sustaining, and improving blended classes. This study investigated how students create and interact in online communities in four Advanced Placement Physics blended classes. It was revealed that students were initially confused and resistant to the idea of an online component to the class, but soon realized they had access to a powerful new tool. Once this was apparent, students actively and quickly engaged in building an online community for homework and class work support, socialization, problem solving, and even regulating behavior within the community. Enjoyment of the class was attributed to its online component, including making new friends, helping students understand the material, and giving community support. Students participating in these blended classes feel a sense of connectedness to their class, peers, and class work even while away from the classroom. Learning becomes a more collaborative endeavor and students commonly create and manage online communities for support, socialization, and increased learning.