This paper presents the findings of a research study on a complete course re-design of a large first-year class, which changed the learning environment and reduced boundaries to allow for more meaningful student engagement and improved student learning. The specific purpose of this study was to determine if a blended course design can increase student engagement and influence students’ approach to learning in a large first- year course.
During the fall semester of 2010, GPHY 101: Human Geography was taught at Queen’s University as a traditional large lecture course of 438 students, with three lectures of 50 minutes per week (Model 1) for 12 weeks. In the following winter semester of 2011, the students in GPHY 101 were offered an intensive blended course (Model 2). In this new offering to 157 students, the lectures that were captured during the fall semester were made available for students to view online. Instead of attending actual large lectures, students were required to view the three weekly lectures on their own time prior to attending an interactive class of approximately 50 students for 90 minutes, once per week. In this weekly class with the professor, students were actively engaged in small-group problem solving, discussion, debate and other forms of cooperative learning activities.