Student experience


This study explores students’ perceptions of blended learning and its impact on their sense of belonging at a post-92 UK university. A critical realist framework that considers the interlocking domains of subjective experience, objective events and observations, and the mechanisms and structures that underpin them is used to situate these perceptions, while a mixed methods approach enables a multi-layered insight into the captured diversity of student experience. The quantitative and qualitative results demonstrate that while the student self-reported experience of blended delivery is mixed, its perceived impact on academic performance is negligible. The effects of blended and remote learning on students’ sense of belonging, however, are profound and require a change in current practices to accommodate the affective aspects of learning and university experience. The study responds to the calls within the literature for more in-depth investigations of student experience, especially as regards student perceptions of that experience.

Practitioner Notes

  1. Students do not perceive blended learning as intrinsically detrimental to their academic performance, including knowledge, skills, and academic confidence.
  2. Blended and online learning have a negative impact on students’ sense of belonging, and it ought to be prioritised in the blended learning context.
  3. The sources of students’ loss of belonging exist on multiple levels and require understanding of the macro and micro-drivers including university structures, socio-economic structures, teaching contexts, individual attributes, and application of technology.
  4. A critical realist analysis reveals blended learning as a site of struggle where learning experience should not be equated with university experience.
  5. Creating spaces for interaction and support, normalising learning as challenging, co-creating curricula with students, listening to their voice, and funding learning support services are some initiatives that promise to deliver meaningful change and improve student perceptions of their learning in the blended context.

Twitter Handle

@AlicjaSyska @DrCPritchard