As in many universities, class sizes have increased more quickly than teaching and learning resources. A related challenge is the increasing diversity of the student body in terms of socio-economic background, learning styles, English language ability and preparedness. This paper explores ways in which traditional face-to-face teaching methods (such as lectures and tutorials) can be combined with online teaching and learning activities in a “blended” learning approach to improve teaching and learning and to accommodate student diversity. Using a large first year Economics class as a case study, data were collected on student perceptions of the use of blended learning. A statistical model was used on a sample of 50 students to determine which online activities were most beneficial in improving student performance. The majority of students agreed that replacing one lecture a week with online activities and resources improved their learning, although about 20 % of the class would have preferred more lecturing and fewer online resources. Statistical finding showed that more active online resources, such as multiple choice and graphing questions, were most beneficial in improving student performance, but that more passive lecture capture was also useful in modelling the discourse of the discipline.
This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Subscribe to journal
Immediate online access to all issues from 2019. Subscription will auto renew annually.
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Bennett, S., & Lockyer, L. (2004). Becoming an online teacher: Adapting to a changed environment for teaching and learning in higher education. Educ Media Int, 41(3), 231–248.
Ben-Shakar, G., & Sinai, Y. (1991). Gender differences in multiple-choice tests: The role of differential guessing tendencies. Journal of Educational Measurement, 28(1), 23–35.
Biggs, J. (1999). What the student does: Teaching for enhanced learning. Higher Education Research and Development, 18(1), 57–75.
Bonk, C., Graham, C., & Cross, J. (2006). The handbook of blended learning: Global perspectives, local designs. San Francisco: Wiley and Sons.
Boughey, C., & McKenna, S. (2011). A meta analysis of teaching and learning at public universities in South Africa. Center for Higher Education: Pretoria.
Cotterall, S. (1995). Developing a course strategy for learner autonomy. ELT Journal, 49(3), 219–227.
Craig, A. (2001). Education and the question about understanding: what’s next: Curriculum 2005, 21, 2005? South African Journal of Higher Education, 15(1), 25–31.
Daniel, J. (1998). Mega-universities and knowledge media: Technology strategies for higher education. London: Kogan Page Limited.
Exeter, D., Ameratunga, S., Ratima, M., Morton, S., Dickson, M., Hsu, D., et al. (2010). Student engagement in very large classes: The teachers’ perspective. Studies in Higher Education, 35(7), 761–775.
George-Walker, L., & Keeffe, M. (2010). Self-determined blended learning: A case study of blended learning design. Higher Education Research and Development, 29(1), 1–13.
Gibbs, G. (1992). Control and independence. In G. Gibbs & A. Jenkins (Eds.), Teaching large classes in higher education. London: Kogan Page.
Gujerati, D. (1999). Essentials of econometrics. Boston: Irwin, McGraw-Hill.
Gunn, C., & Harper, M. (2007). Using E-learning to transform large class teaching in Bullen, M. and Janes, D. (eds.) Making the transition to E-learning: Strategies and Issues. Ideas, IGI Global.
Krathwohl, D. (2002). A revision of bloom’s taxonomy: An overview. Theory into Practice, 41(4), 212–218.
Leathwood, C. (2006). Gender, equity and the discourse of the independent learner in higher education. Higher Education, 56, 611–633.
Lumsden, K., & Scott, A. (1987). The economics student reexamined: Male-female differences in comprehension (pp. 365–375). Fall: Research in Economic Education.
McCombs, B., & Whisler, J. (1989). The role of affective variables in autonomous learning. Educational Psychologist, 24(3), 277–306.
Meyers, N., & Nulty, D. (2002). Assessment and student engagement. Learning Communities and Assessment Cultures Conference organised by the EARLI special interest group of assessment and evaluation, University of Northumbria, 28–30 August 2002. http://www.leeds.ac.uk/educol/documents/00002240.htm Accessed 1 Feb 2013.
Mostert, M., & Snowball, J. (2013). Where angels fear to tread: Online peer-assessment in a large first-year class. Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, 38(6).
Mulryan-Kyne, C. (2010). Teaching large classes at college and university level: challenges and opportunities. Teaching in Higher Education, 15(2), 175–185.
Rhodes University Digest of Statistics (2011). Digest of Statistics, Version 15. Rhodes University http://www.ru.ac.za/media/rhodesuniversity/content/institutionalplanning/documents/Digest%20of%20Statistics%202011.pdf Accessed 25 Jan 2013.
Scott, I., Yeld, N., & Hendry, J. (2007). Higher education monitor: A case for improving teaching and learning in South African higher education. Pretoria: Council on Higher Education.
Siegfried, J., & Fels, R. (1979). Research on teaching college economics: A survey. Journal of Economic Literature, 17, 923–969.
Snowball, J., & Boughey, C. (2012). Using theory to interrogate analyses of student performance. Innovations in Education & Teaching International, 49(2), 195–205.
Snowball, J., & Mostert, M. (2010). Introducing a learning management system in a large first year class: Impact on lecturers and students. South African Journal of Higher Education, 24(5), 818–845.
Snowball, J., & Sayigh, E. (2007). Using the tutorial system to improve the quality of feedback to students in large class teaching. South African Journal of Higher Education, 21(2), 321–333.
Steenkamp, E., Viveirs, W., & Naude, W. (2007). The structure and content of the undergraduate economics curricula offered by South African Universities. Paper presented at the 2007 Economic Society of South Africa conference http://www.essa.org.za/download/2007conference/Steenkamp,Viviers&Naude_structure%20currucilum.pdf Accessed 28 Feb 2012.
Ward, A., & Jenkins, A. (1992). The problems of learning and teaching in large classes, in Gibbs, G. and Jenkins, A. (eds.) Teaching Large Classes in Higher Education Kogan Page, London.
White, S., & Sykes, A. (2012). Evaluation of a blended learning approach used in an anatomy and physiology module for pre-registration healthcare students. eLmL 2012: The Fourth International Conference on Mobile, Hybrid and On-line Learning. Accessed 20 Jan 2013. http://www.thinkmind.org/index.php?view=article&articleid=elml_2012_1_10_50027.
About this article
Cite this article
Snowball, J.D. Using interactive content and online activities to accommodate diversity in a large first year class. High Educ 67, 823–838 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10734-013-9708-7
- Large classes
- Blended learning
- Student diversity