Blended Learning towards Social Capital in Higher Education

Blended Learning towards Social Capital in Higher Education

Michela Freddano (University of Genoa, Italy)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-2122-0.ch057
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This chapter focuses on blended learning towards social capital by showing the experience of Methodology of Social Research II, the blended learning training course held at the Faculty of Education of the University of Genoa (A.Y. 2010/2011). Blended learning engages disciplinary, technical, and relational skills so that human capital and social capital are empowered. The evidence is that in higher education blended learning empowers teaching/learning processes and student achievement providing active student engagement into participatory processes promoted in educational and evaluation activities, involving students in balanced relationships with peers and teacher facilitated by new technologies and tutorship.
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Blended learning mixes different learning environments combining traditional face-to-face methods with computer-mediated activities. The introduction of blended learning changes the formative environment, suggesting the use of knowledge acquired in other contexts (problem solving transfer) and the sense of community (Hoehn & Rietsch, 2008). Blended learning can promote mutual collaboration, exchanges and reciprocity to follow shared learning goals, also between students who are geographically far.

Moreover social capital is relevant in term of processes and outcomes. There are various definitions of social capital; here the assumption is that social capital is a resource realized through relationships (Coleman, 1988), characterized by two dimensions that are stressed by Torrigiani (2010:87): relational (the relationships that tie different individuals within the context) and cognitive (knowledge and information about the problems that individuals/groups have to solve, including the heuristic aspects, such as the cumulated experience and sharing of common meaning). Social capital is based on relationships between individuals and consists of informative contents and interpretative codes provided by these relationships.

The social-cultural constructivism is the framework (Wilson, 1996): knowledge is not given but co-constructed by students actively engaged in practical and problem-based activities; learning is embedded and develops formally, non-formally and informally (Tipeil, 2009), also through tacit skills, such as to be able to work in group, to be competitive and to be goal-oriented.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Student Engagement: Participation of student to teaching/learning and school decision-making.

Participatory Evaluation: Evaluation based on stakeholder involvement into the evaluation processes.

Learning from Collaboration: Situation in which two or more people achieve from working together.

Learning Together: Situation in which two or more people are all learners.

Social Capital: Connections within and between social networks, highlighting the value of social relations and the role of cooperation and confidence to get collective or economic results.

Blended Learning: Pedagogical method that combines traditional face-to-face activities with computer-mediated tricks.

Tutor: Student (or teacher assistant) who supports students facilitating the relationship and communication between teachers and students.

Evaluative Brainstorming: Evaluation tool by which individuals try to find solution for a specific problem by gathering a list of ideas spontaneously.

Learning from Interaction: Situation in which two or more people have a learning effect upon one another.

Learning from Information: Achievement from sharing messages and communication mediated or not by technology.

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