Opting in or Opting Out: The Role of Hybrid Learning Course Design on Student Persistence Decisions in an Indigenous Pre-Nursing Transitions Program

By Snow, Kathy | Journal of Distance Education (Online), January 1, 2016 | Go to article overview

Opting in or Opting Out: The Role of Hybrid Learning Course Design on Student Persistence Decisions in an Indigenous Pre-Nursing Transitions Program


Snow, Kathy, Journal of Distance Education (Online)


Introduction

The New Media Consortium (NMC) Horizon Report: 2014 identified the adoption of hybrid learning in traditional higher education learning spaces as one of the most important trends that will impact education over the next two years (Johnson, Becker, Estrada & Freeman, 2014). However, the application of hybrid learning for students in non-traditional learning spaces in higher education, such as Transitions and Access programs, has not been extensively explored. A review of the scanty literature available in the area indicates that transitions programming is predominantly positioned around institutional needs (retention and attrition) rather than student needs (Astin, 1984; Barnhardt, 1994; Guillory & Wolverton, 2008; Larimore & McClellan, 2005; Reyhner & Dodd, 1995). This triad-the potential of hybrid learning to transform higher education, the gap in the literature related to hybrid learning and transitions programs, and the lack of documented evidence around the success of transitions programs from students' perspectives, forms the basis of the investigation for this small scale case study. Through an examination of a low tech hybrid learning strategy, the research aimed to discover the essential conditions needed in the design of a hybrid course that could lead to increased Indigenous student persistence within a Pre Nursing Transitions (PNT) program.

Review of the Literature

Theories of Persistence

For the purpose of this research persistence was defined as a continuous learning process that was the result of students' decisions to continue their participation in the learning event under analysis. The most commonly cited theories of persistence, as determined by citation frequency in three separate university library database searches, were: Tinto's student integration model (1975),

Tinto's Model of Integration has formed the basis of research and theory on student retention and persistence in higher education for more than forty years (Tinto, 1975, 2006, 2012). Tinto argued that academic integration is the single most important factor in predicting persistence (Tinto, 1975: 104). In response to criticism that the Integration model is not relevant for nontraditional or adult learners who may have stronger ties outside of the educational setting (Braxton, 2008), Karp, Hughes and O'Gara (2008) conducted a study which indicated that social integration was indeed related to positive persistence decisions for adult learners but was associated with academic integration more akin to collegiality and positive workplace relationships.

Rovai (2003) offered an alternative model of persistence that more clearly acknowledges the role of students' skills in persistence decision processes in relation to online learning persistence. In his Composite Model, Rovai (2003) used student characteristics and skills prior to admission as well as external and internal post-admission factors to determine persistence. Though integration into the university community remained a central component of the Composite Model, Rovai attempted to describe the scaffolding needed to mitigate the factors that can adversely affect persistence. Rovai added new variables in existing categories of the Tinto (1975) model, related to technology skills, study skills and learning styles theory. Rovai (2002) made the suggestion that when students' learning styles do not match that of the program, they are less likely to persist. Alternatively, according to Rovai (2003), the addition of contributed to their willingness to participate in the community and subsequently persist in their studies. Rovai's model designed to describe distance students' participation also suggested the use of a hybrid model for teaching as "the best of both worlds" (Rovai, 2003: 13) because it allows students to self-pace using online scaffolding in addition to the face-to-face component of a course.

In Berge and Huang's (2004) Sustainable Model of Retention variables impacting persistence are placed in three key functional groups: personal, institutional and circumstantial. …

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