The Influence of Blended Learning on Student Performance in an Undergraduate Occupational Therapy Curriculum

Paula Barnard-Ashton, Lyndsay Koch, Alan Rothberg


Change is scary, especially when the world of technology, lecturers (digital immigrants) and students (digital natives) come together with learning in mind. Developing blending learning by integrating e-learning into an existing undergraduate Problem Based Learning (PBL) curriculum requires adaptable lecturers and the time for students to become habitual users of the Virtual Learning Environment (VLE). The occupational therapy curriculum at the University of the Witwatersrand has traditionally been delivered via PBL, but the increasing need to improve throughput rates and meet the diversity of learning needs of the students has driven the strategy towards blended learning. This study investigates the effect of habituation (student experience in using e-learning automatically) on student performance in one PBL module.

A retrospective two-cohort design was used to review the students’ access to the VLE and their performance on the summative assessments of the PBL module of two concurrent academic cohorts. Data were analysed descriptively and statistically for significance (Mann-Whitney U) and effect size (Cohen’s d and Hedge’s g).

There was a significant difference between the two cohort’s access to the VLE (p≤0.002) indicating higher habituation to blended learning in the second cohort, who had more exposure to e-learning due to their second year of using VLE. There was a small but relevant effect size (average d=0.31) in all three measures of student performance when comparing two cohorts. The average of the student marks on each measure shifted from a failing to a passing average. This study shows that the habituation of blended learning into an existing curriculum results in improved academic performance. Keywords: curriculum design, blended learning, connectivism, e-learning, developmental assessment

Keywords:  curriculum design, blended learning, connectivism, e-learning, developmental assessment

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ISSN 0038-2337 (print), ISSN 2310-3833 (online)

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