Virtual Reality or Virtually Real: Blended Teaching and Learning in a Master's Level Research Methods Class

Virtual Reality or Virtually Real: Blended Teaching and Learning in a Master's Level Research Methods Class

John Lidstone (Queensland University of Technology, Australia) and Paul Shield (Queensland University of Technology, Australia)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-880-2.ch006


This paper examines the enabling effect of using blended learning and synchronous internet mediated communication technologies to improve learning and develop a Sense of Community (SOC) in a group of post graduate students consisting of a mix of on-campus and off campus students. Both quantitative and qualitative data collected over a number of years supports the assertion that the blended learning environment enhanced both teaching and learning. The development of a SOC was pivotal to the success of the blended approach when working with geographically isolated groups within a single learning environment.
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Background: The Economic And Political Climate In Which The Unit Was Initiated

The economic and political climate that formed the backdrop and in some measures the catalyst for the development of the blended learning environment has been summarized by Singh, Atweh and Shield (2005). These authors identified the Australian Government policy document Our Universities. Backing Australia's Future (Nelson, 2003) as of particular interest in terms of teaching and learning. This document listed a number of significant problems facing Australian universities at the time that are still current, particularly:

  • considerable increases in course provision costs;

  • access to increased resources in the longer term, including those from additional income streams;

  • significant duplication in some university activities and course offerings and far too many units across universities and faculties with very small enrolments;

  • under-representation of students from disadvantaged backgrounds;

  • large numbers of students not completing university studies (approx. 30%); and

  • over-enrolments of students leading to overcrowding and adverse impacts on quality. (Nelson, 2003, p.10)

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