Towards Blended Learning Designs Fostering Adults' Social Capital: What Do Empirical Findings Reveal?

Towards Blended Learning Designs Fostering Adults' Social Capital: What Do Empirical Findings Reveal?

Celine Cocquyt (Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Belgium), Anh Nguyet Diep (Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Belgium), Chang Zhu (Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Belgium), Maurice De Greef (Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Belgium) and Tom Vanwing (Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Belgium)
Copyright: © 2019 |Pages: 26
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-6292-4.ch003

Abstract

In responding to the ubiquitous presence of information and communication technology (ICT) in the educational landscape, blended learning has been increasingly adopted in adult education. While adult educators and practitioners face challenges due to such pedagogical shifts in instructional design, they are also encouraged to underscore the emancipatory values of adult education to contribute to the global social exclusion combat. Thus, it is of particular significance to examine how different elements of the blended learning design can result in social outcomes for adult learners. By deconstructing the blended learning design into specific online and general supportive factors, the present chapter sheds more light on the question: How does learning in a blended environment contribute to adult learners' social capital? On top of that, practical recommendations for instructors are put forward.
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Introduction

Blended Learning in a Digital (but Socially Segregated) Society

The first decade of the 21st century has witnessed the flourishing of a variety of adult education provisions. This is due to the need to cope with the rapid growth of knowledge, evolution in means of production, and substantial advancements to information and communication technology (ICT). In conjunction with research lines focusing on adult learning theories and the accompanied pedagogical practices, ICT-based education has developed notably. This type of education emerged as a promising solution to help adults overcome barriers that interfere with their participation in adult education, including situational, institutional, and dispositional barriers (McGivney, 1993; Norman & Hyland, 2003). Blended learning, which is a mix of face-to-face and online instruction, is becoming the new traditional mode of teaching and learning (Graham, 2006; Norberg, Dziuban, & Moskal, 2011).

In the meantime, societies worldwide are challenged to include adults who experience difficulties with social exclusion and poverty (United Nations, 2016). In other words, many individuals are excluded from full participation in society (World Bank, 2013). In Europe, 23.7% of adults are at risk of poverty or social exclusion (Eurostat, 2017). Social exclusion refers to a lack of participation or resources in several life domains, such as civic participation, social relations, housing, access to services, or digital participation (Van Regenmortel, 2017).

Adult learning and education (ALE) is a proven pathway in promoting wide societal benefits while countering challenges like social exclusion (Preston & Hammond, 2002). To date, policymakers and educational researchers have underlined ALE’s role in enhancing social inclusion (De Greef, Segers, & Verté, 2012; Nilsson, 2010). The concept of social inclusion is measured at a macro-level (e.g., a given state or community). However, for adult education, the empowerment and self-actualization of the individual is at stake.

This chapter will conceptualize social inclusion by the notion of social capital operationalized at the individual level. In brief, social capital consists of the bonding and bridging dimensions. The former refers to strong relationships among people of similar backgrounds and/or beliefs (Williams, 2006). The latter contains weak ties built among people of diverse backgrounds. These ties may provide access to new information and opportunities (Williams, 2006). Hence, an individual’s social capital refers to his/her social relations, participation in diverse networks, and the resources that arise from it.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Online Learning: Learning that is conducted and materials that are delivered via online or mobile technologies.

Learning Support: Support from instructors or peers regarding student learning by means of academic aid and emotional encouragement.

Social Capital: Strong or weak relationships among people in a given community that can provide access to new information, resources, and support.

Online Participation: Types of online posts initiated by individual learners for knowledge construction and the building of social relationships.

Blended Learning: An educational approach that blends teaching and learning in classroom settings and online learning environments.

Adult Education: Formal education aimed for learners who are over 18 years of age or whose age for compulsory education has passed.

Online Interaction: Interactions among learners in a course or members of an online community.

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