Face-to-face is outdated – Blended learning is the hottest trend

The impact of replacing classroom time with an online learning environment

Blogpost written by Navyug Singh


Key Points

  • The demands placed on employee skills increase or change throughout their career because of the digitalisation of society. To meet those growing needs, higher education should be made more accessible to broader sections of the population.
  • Several universities consider replacing some of their classroom instruction with online instruction. This can be done by offering their teaching online, or having a mixture of face-to-face classroom teaching and online, which is called blended learning.
  • The data assume that blended learning environments aren’t associated with poorer learning outcomes but are equivalent to conventional face-to-face instruction.


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Many education institutions are trying to offer more flexibility and individualisation. Online or blended learning can assist in meeting this goal by implementing the latest technology. Providing those needs becomes more and more relevant due to the demands placed on employee skills or change throughout their careers.

In order to realise the growing needs for highly qualified employees in the labour market, higher education should be made accessible much easier to broader sections of the population. But in order to meet those demands of a digital society, it is expected that educational institutions provide greater flexibility and individualisation. Through this, learners have the opportunity to adapt the learning process more easily to their needs.

Flexible learning meets the needs of learners and enables them to take more responsibility for the learning process. Flexible learning places the needs of learners at the center. Learners can decide when, how and where they want to learn. Using today’s technology makes it possible to be independent and not restricted to a place and time.

And this is not just a statement that comes out of nowhere! Current research confirms that technology can actually create an interactive and engaging learning environment. This may have some positive effects on gaining knowledge or acquiring skills according to a recent study by Müller and Mildenberger.

Especially since the COVID pandemic, we have seen the need for such alternatives. To hold their seminars or lectures, educational institutions had to switch to digital platforms. At this time, it didn’t really matter anymore where the learners were. Even if learners awoke after a beautiful dream, they could still continue their education.

Although the situation is currently much calmer than during the pandemic, many universities are considering replacing some of their classroom teaching in the future with an online learning environment. But this can only be done if face-to-face classroom time can be replaced with more flexible learning conditions without reducing the performance of the learner.

With this in mind, we need to ask ourselves whether the replacement of some classroom time with online elements allows more flexibility without compromising educational quality and performance.

Thanks to Müller and Mildenberger, who did a systematic review study, who investigated the impact of replacing classroom time with an online learning environment, we can have some insight into the answer which may help us to understand the effect of implementing technology in the environment of classrooms.

In general, learning can take place in many different forms. It can be fully online, with all lectures, seminars, and examinations conducted online only. It can also be a combination of using technology for virtual and asynchronous learning, while still having face-to-face classroom instruction. This method of having virtual and asynchronous learning while still having face-to-face classroom instruction is referred to as blended learning.

There are many definitions which Müller and Mildenberger included in their review study for blended learning. One interesting and suitable definition comes from Garrison and Kanuka, who described blended learning as: “the thoughtful integration of classroom face-to-face learning experiences with online learning experiences.”

Following our introduction to blended learning, we should discuss the basis of their research. We should also discuss the kind of effect it can have on traditional classroom time when it replaces it. As mentioned before, Müller and Mildenberger have done a systematic review study. They analysed various meta-analysis about the effectiveness of blended learning that have been carried out in the last century.

Müller and Mildenberger’s review study, which applied strict inclusion criteria regarding the research design, the measurement of learning outcomes and the implementation of blended learning, found that despite reducing classroom time by 30 to 79%, blended learning environments are not associated with lower learning outcomes, but are equivalent to conventional classroom instruction. Rather, the study encourages higher education institutions to offer students greater flexibility in terms of time and place. This will make higher education much more accessible to a broader section of society.

In my opinion, I am looking forward to seeing many educational institutions provide their knowledge to a broader section of people so that we all have access to the knowledge that each institution has. In terms of numbers, the review study may not show any significant difference between blended and conventional classroom learning. However, as many students like me faced the harsh reality of a pandemic, it should be clear that such measurements like having the opportunity to take classes from home should be a common thing in many educational institution. Furthermore, in addition to Müller and Mildeberger, I think it is crucial for the provision of higher education to those who can’t afford it that institutions or the state provide the necessary hardware. Everything costs money, but not everyone has it.

 

Reference:
https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1747938X21000178

Online relationships: Easy to find, hard to keep

The meaning of friendship and the social dynamics in online communication

Blogpost written by Eliana Scruzzi


Key Points:

  • Friendships positively affect people’s well-being and are formed through the two principles of proximity and homophily.
  • Electronic communication has changed the way we interact with others. The exclusivity of a relationship, either friendship or love, is no longer guaranteed or perceived as before. The intentions of others are also very often misinterpreted, leading more easily to conflict.
  • The ultimate characteristic of a “true friendship” is the desire to maintain a long-term relationship.


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Many studies prove that friendships are essential for the well-being of individuals. The main reason for this can be seen in all the positive effects of affection and support that mere strangers cannot give in the same way. The introduction of social networks into our society has given us incredible opportunities to find new people and make new friends, removing the limits of distance and time. People have never been as close to each other as they are nowadays. However, a question naturally arises:

Can we consider new people we met online “real friends”? The answer depends on the meaning that we give to friendship. It is difficult to give a single definition of friendship when there are so many points of view expressed by psychologists, philosophers, anthropologists and sociologists. The issue becomes even more complicated when we try to understand how the dynamics in online relationships work.

A review study by Amichai-Hamburger and colleagues helps us to better understand the concept of friendship in the digital age by summarising the characteristics shared by different theories and research on the subject. In addition, it discusses how the positive characteristics of friendship are affected by the new way of communication through the net. Nowadays is more important than ever to understand the impact of the Internet on people’s well-being. Especially for the younger generation, who are just starting to learn how to create their first friendships with others.

Over the past 12 years, in the United States, for example, the percentage of children in primary school or lower education who use the Internet to communicate with others has jumped from 58% to 100% (The World Internet Project, comparison of 2010 and 2018 reports). The numbers are surprising and warn us to pay more attention to the potential negative effects of creating and maintaining relationships online. While these new social dynamics are still unclear, the Internet phenomenon shows no signs of slowing down or stopping.


Source: The World Internet Project, comparison of 2010 and 2018 reports.

According to the study, friendships arise because of two principles.

  • Propinquity: Two people become friends because they are physically close to each other or in frequent contact.
  • Homophily: When a person finds similarities with another person (e.g., in physical appearance, interests, ways of thinking, culture, etc.).

But what makes friendships so good for individuals?

The study offers five explanations:

  1. Intimacy: Friends deeply understand each other. Their conversations are profound and move beyond the simple everyday “small talk”.
  2. Companionship: Companions frequently enjoy spending good times together (in activities like playing games, doing sport, cooking, etc.).
  3. Social support: Friends emotionally support each other in difficult times.
  4. Tangible support and protection: Giving their close ones material support (such as money and objects) when needed and protecting them in dangerous situations.
  5. Exclusiveness: The tendency to socialize with only a select group or person.

Online communication has influenced the five characteristics of friendship in many different ways: Firstly, talking online puts people more at ease because there is less risk of being rejected or ridiculed in front of others. Nevertheless, online conversations seem to be less effective in understanding the other person’s feelings, which can be easily recognised in a face-to-face encounter through facial expression, body language and tone of voice. Spending time together in online activities is more common among gamers, but for others it is much more difficult. Furthermore, online communities that provide support can be very helpful for people suffering from a rare and stigmatized physical or mental illness. In addition, friendships held entirely online cannot benefit from all the tangible support and protection that others can offer offline, such as lending items or caring for children. Finally, exclusivity between friends is difficult to establish online because social media allow users to see interactions (e.g., comments) and the number of other contacts of their friends.

Why do friendships initiated in person last on average longer than online friendships?

According to the study, social media platforms can exacerbate jealousy by allowing users to know about interactions with other friends. Most often, online messages are interpreted more negatively than expected. This misinterpretation can lead to an increase in conflict in social interactions, a reduction in empathy and an increase in anti-social behaviour, all of which explain the low stability of online relationships.

The study also shows that friends connected online are usually from the same city or state. Thus, if on one hand the Internet seems to increase homophily because it is easier to find people with common interests and mindsets (e.g., online communities), on the other hand Internet decreases proximity because the sense of closeness is not perceived as well as in physical presence.

In conclusion, online relationships are easy to find, but hard to keep. The only ingredient for creating a true friendship is the desire to maintain a long-term relationship. Online communication increases closeness and intimacy between people who had already become friends offline. People‘ connections are filtered by the screen, which gives users full control over their actions and emotions, but also leads them more easily to misunderstandings and conflicts.

Research on the dynamics of online relationships needs to be deepened in order to understand the effects of the Internet on new generations of young people and to find the best ways to design more positive electronic communication for all social media users.

Reference:
Amichai-Hamburger, Y., Kingsbury, M., & Schneider, B. H. (2013). Friendship: An old concept with a new meaning? doi.org/10.1016/j.chb.2012.05.025.

Internet and relationship building: Complicated relational maintenance

Blogpost written by Agoua Germaine Stephanie Don


Keys points:

  • Currently, there are twists in the literature about social media and close relationships as to whether close-relationship building on social media can be sustained or disrupted.
  • So far, so good. There are 3 mostly used relational maintenance behavior (social contact, response seeking, and relational assurances) on Social media.

We all try to stay in touch with our families and acquaintances via social media, and we believe that we usually do so effectively. Similarly, we often think that we could meet our lasting love on social media. Therefore this belief is shared by people who invest their time on social media to develop a healthy relationship and those who keep trying and it doesn’t work. It may be surprising to realize that relationship building on social media and the lasting of that relationship are very complicated.

This is why a review article by Samuel Hardman Taylor, Pengfei Zhao, and Natalya N. Bozarova published in the review of Current Opinion in Psychology under the theme Social Media and Well-being (2022) is interesting. They argued for the twists of social media and relationship building and to what extent they participate in complicated relationship’s maintenance. So far so good. They also checked whether social media facilitate relationship building among dearest people? And this is where things get more complicated – and interesting.

The answer is yes, but not always.  More importantly, the researchers could distinguish the conditions that made such article more likely. If the people who use social media to keep in touch with their dearest person can put trust in their relationship’s maintenance, then it is more likely for that relationship to last. What is so distinctive about social media closeness and relational satisfaction? One aspect is social contact, another is response seeking and lastly relational assurances.

Driving forces of social media relationship maintenance

The findings were very clear on the driving forces of relationship maintenance. If the behavior conveys by social contact which facilitates a sense of presence in each other’s lives, that’s to say closeness, then social media relationship maintainance had a great effective.

In addition, response-seeking behavior which is to be the intention of gaining one partner’s attention followed thereafter a post shared may increase social support. It’s seen to be a relational maintenance strategy only if the intended messages are personalized.

Lastly in the driving forces of social media relational maintenance, there come relational assurances. There are seen to communicate intentions to preserve the relationship. Furthermore  Behaviors, such as sharing photos, updating one’s relationship status, or including a romantic partner in a profile picture, are examples of relational assurances on social media. However,  U.S young adult survey found that these relational assurances tend to disappear from profiles quickly after the dissolution of a romantic relationship, particularly among women and sexual minorities.

Rather than fostering closeness, as suggested by media multiplexity theory, maintaining a close relationship across the interpersonal media ecosystem generates new opportunities for close partners to connect while also creating new options to disconnect. This brings us to the second point of this article.

Driving forces of social media relationship disconnection

From what we know about social media relationship’s disruption, we should also be able to know our dearest person expectations.

Although many social media behaviors could undermine social media closeness or relationship, let’s look at the most cited in recent years:  phubbing and surveillance.

The act of ignoring a person’s conversation by using a mobile phone is characterized as phubbing. And in a romantic relationship, that behavior was negatively associated with satisfaction because of the feeling of exclusion and less perceived intimacy.  For example in the U.S, (15.7%) of heterosexual couples reported phubbing as a common behavior.

Our second behavior as a barrier to effective social media relationships is surveillance. It’s perceived as one partner persistently monitoring his/her partner’s social interaction and other digital traces. This action signals a lack of trust in romantic partners, jealousy, and alternative romantic partners that lead to break up.

The mixed relationship effects such as described in this article influences close relationship’s building on social media. And, knowing how to avert the negatives driving factors will lead to more healthier close relationship. For the reason that relationship seeking is the ultimate goal why people use social media. Future research could look at answering questions on social media use and the outcome on well-being.

 

Reference:
Samuel Hardman Taylor, Pengfei Zhao, and Natalya N. Bozarova. (2022). Social media and close relationship: a puzzle of connection and disconnection. Review of Current Opinion in Psychology (2022). December 11th, 2021; DOI: 10.1016/j.copsyc.2021.12.004

Social Media and well-being – Are Facebook, WhatsApp and Co. making us ill?

Blogpost written by Marlow Rischmüller


Key points:

  • There is currently disagreement in the literature about the impact of different types of social media use on individuals‘ well-being
  • So far, most work has examined rather surface-level metrics (e.g., time spent) and has not considered the reasons for use

“Make mental health & well-being for all a global priority”
Slogan of the World Mental Health Day 2022

Although Mental Health Day 2022 has already passed, promoting mental health and well-being remains one of the greatest challenges of modern societies, as also reflected in the third Sustainable Development Goal, „Health and Well-Being„. In addition, the amount of time we spend on social media each day is steadily increasing, reaching a new high in 2022.

It is therefore not surprising that more and more people are wondering how social media can affect their own well-being. For this reason, hundreds of new studies have been conducted in recent years to determine possible implications. In the period from 2019 to August 2021 alone, 27 new reviews were published with varying results.

But how big is the impact of social media use on our own well-being, really? To provide an overview of what all these new studies have found, Patti M. Valkenburg currently published a meta-review of the current state of research.

For her, well-being is characterized by happiness, life satisfaction, and positive affect. Ill-being, on the other hand, is determined by depressive symptoms/depression, anxiety symptoms/anxiety, and negative affect. Some of the other works understand the term well-being as a combination of e.g., life satisfaction and self-esteem. While ill-being for them means the combination of e.g., depression and loneliness.

The various papers studied focused on several different points. Some related to time spent on social media, others to intensity of use or comparison with others on social media.

  • Does time spent on social media impair well-being?
    Some studies had mixed findings (e.g., one study found that time spent had a positive impact on well-being, while another study found a negative impact on well-being). However, several studies found that time spent on social media led to anxiety and depression, but also to higher levels of happiness.
  • Does the intensity (e.g., how attached you are to social media or how integrated it is into your life) of social media use cause ill-being?
    Yes, according to some of the studies reviewed, more intensive social media use leads to higher levels of depression and anxiety, but this is likely due to suggestive questions in the scales used to measure intensity.
  • Does comparing yourself to others on social media lead to lower well-being?
    In fact, some studies have found that comparing oneself to others decreases life satisfaction and increases depression, while others found that only a minority of social media users experience envy and 78% said they never felt worse after comparing themselves to others.

The author concludes her review with 3 important recommendations for future research in this direction.

  1. Combining parts of well-being (e.g., life satisfaction) or ill-being (e.g., depression) may lead to contradictory results, as they may go in opposite directions (e.g., general social media use leads to both higher levels of happiness and higher levels of depression). It would be better to examine each part separately.
  2. Measuring time spent using social media may not be the most meaningful way to relate social media use to well-being or ill-being. Instead, the content consumed while using social media is worth considering (e.g., reading funny jokes versus reading hate comments), as this could have a far greater impact on well-being than the amount consumed.
  3. Not only correlation but also causality needs to be investigated (e.g., is my happiness level high because I use social media, or do I use social media because my happiness level is high). In this way, studies should explore the reasons behind users‘ response to social media.

Taken together, social media use seems to have only a weak influence, if any, on well-being. However, this is partly due to less than ideal metrics or different definitions of well-being. In addition, there are still some areas to explore that may yield new more meaningful results.

As much as I have been disappointed by the mostly inconsistent results so far, I am hopeful about the approaches that still need to be explored. Especially the influence of the type of content and the causal relationships seems to be promising in terms of new results. Perhaps there are also significant differences when considering the age of the users. For example, it could be that the use of social media produces completely different reactions among digital natives compared to older generations.

Reference:
Valkenburg, P. M. (2022). Social media use and well-being: What we know and what we need to know. Current Opinion in Psychology, 45, 101294. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.copsyc.2021.12.006

 

Video games and cognitive abilities: Does playing video games make us smarter?

Blogpost written by Romano Hoff


Key Points

  • The cognitive abilities of gamers who spend a lot of time playing video games tend to be better compared to people who barely play video games or non-gamers
  • Yet, considering all people – and not only hardcore gamers and non-gamers – shows that the impact of playing video games on cognitive abilities is quite weak


Image Source: https://armchairarcade.com/perspectives/wp-content/uploads/2020/10/cognitive.jpg


More and more people spend their free time playing video games daily. People of all ages come together to enjoy their time by playing together online. Worldwide, there are around 3.24 billion people who play video games. In Europe, gamers have an average playtime of 9.5 hours per week. This sparks the question whether this popular activity influences our abilities. If people spend so much time in front of their consoles, it would be great to have some positive effects other than just fun, right?

In the last few years many researchers examined the relation between playing video games and people’s cognitive abilities including for example the working memory, executive control, attention control and visual-spatial abilities. These abilities help gamers to perform better at competitive games which led researchers to the assumption that there could be a connection between cognitive abilities and playing video games.

In many studies, it was noticed that people who play video games have better cognitive abilities than people who do not play video games. But there were also studies that could not find an impact on the cognitive abilities by playing video games. A reason for these mixed findings is that many studies only had a small number of participants. Furthermore, many studies only included “hardcore” gamers who played more than five hours per week. Often, casual gamers were not part of those examinations.

In the following study, the researchers aimed to overcome these problems by looking at a greater number of participants with different time spent on video games. The study was conducted based on two experiments. In both experiments, the researchers measured the participants’ cognitive abilities and asked them about their experiences with playing video games.

In the first experiment, they tried to find out whether people who play video games perform better at cognitive tasks than people who do not play video games. Especially first-person-shooter-games were considered. The participants were divided into two groups. In the one group, there were the gamers, which are people who spend a minimum of five hours per week playing first person-shooters. In the other group, there were the non-gamers, which are people who do not play first-person-shooters or play videogames of other genres for less than one hour per week. Overall, the gamers performed better at cognitive tasks than non-gamers in terms of working memory, fluid intelligence and attention-control. The results of the first experiment are quite similar with the results of older studies indicating that playing video games can lead to better cognitive abilities.

In the second experiment, all participants were considered, that is, not only the extreme groups who play very much and nearly not at all but also casual gamers. With including all participants with different time spent on playing videogames the results were quite interesting. The findings show there were only weak correlations between playing video games and cognitive abilities. The effects of playing videos games on the cognitive abilities were not significant anymore unlike in the first experiment conducted with the extreme groups. One reason for this difference is that this study includes more participants than older studies. Also, not only extreme groups like hardcore gamers or non-gamers were considered. Considering all participants and all types of videogames, the authors concluded that videogaming has only a weak impact on individuals’ cognitive abilities.

While videogames are fun, there is currently no reason to believe they make us smarter. This study shows that the impact of playing video games on cognitive abilities is quite weak, but it needs to be examined further. For future research, it is recommended to consider as many participants as possible and not only the extreme groups of hardcore gamers and non-gamers to get a broader picture of the impact of video games on the cognitive abilities of people.

 

Reference:

Unsworth, N., Redick, T. S., McMillan, B. D., Hambrick, D. Z., Kane, M. J. & Engle, R. W. (2015). Is Playing Video Games Related to Cognitive Abilities? Psychological Science, 26(6), 759–774. https://doi.org/10.1177/0956797615570367

Fake news during COVID-19: People share the “truth” to improve their social standing

The motivation for sharing (mis-)information is different for informed, uninformed, and misinformed individuals.

Blogpost written by Till Rennspieß


KEY POINTS

  • Information that arouses positive feelings around COVID-19 is more likely to go viral on social media, regardless of the quality of its scientific basis, as research shows
  • Misinformed and uninformed individuals spread misinformation more frequently and are less likely to share facts than informed individuals


Spreading fake news – that is, misinformation – online is one of the most significant issues in the world! Misinformation leads to the public being largely uninformed, or worse, misinformed, about almost every aspect of public affairs, from politics to science. It is especially critical and dangerous in times of crisis, such as the Corona pandemic, when misinformation spreads. This circumstance holds the threatening power to divide society.

Social Media feeds us with news and information at any time, largely unfiltered. What we consume and take away is mostly determined by people in our virtual network who are sharing and retweeting posts, comments and articles.

But do people actually make sure that the information they are sharing on social media is correct? A recent study investigated the diffusion of (mis)information related to COVID-19 in China. The authors analyzed over 38 million articles and found that only 16.4% of the conversations that contained misinformation about COVID-19 were fact-checked. This implies that most fake news is spread without being properly questioned and, even more importantly, without being corrected.

The study also examined why people spread (false) information via social media. The authors state that all people have a basic desire to spread the truth in order to improve their social standing and to be able to warn or help others. This is true for both informed and uninformed individuals. Sharing information can be a way for people to gain social status by appearing well-informed and intelligent, and the shared information may also be useful for those receiving it. Both of those groups are contributing to improving their social standing. What is shared is more than information. It is a mutuality of personal connections and social networks.

Analyzing 222 unique pieces of confirmed COVID-19 misinformation, 69% were criticizing preventative measures, so misinformation that arouses positive feelings. While the epidemic is slowing down and people’s risk perceptions are declining the authors think (mis)information triggering negative emotions would increase.

The researchers performed two studies. In a regional survey in five Chinese cities, the authors aimed to find out how the levels of informedness and risk perceptions affected people’s information sharing behaviors. The other one was a national survey in 31 provinces of China were the levels of emotion, motivation and psychological factors were included as well. In comparison to prior literature, the distinction among uninformed, misinformed, and informed individuals is new to this paper. A key finding is that the motivation to spread information for all those individuals are often the same.

Intervention of strategies for future risk scenarios must be worked out. The authors formed three possible solutions to reduce misinformation spreading under risk and tested those:

  1. To improve people’s judgment accuracy.
    This decreased people’s intention to share truth and misinformation.
  2. Risk perception is an important factor for the behavior of people in risk scenarios and it could be helpful to balance those, so people do not under- or overestimate the risks.
    Usage could not be verified.
  3. To prevent people from being emotionally charged. The authors believe that monitoring ourselves, so how people adapt their behavior to the situation and being aware of this process, could lead to a reduction of misinformation diffusion.

Taken together, people’s emotions and their motivations to share (mis)information must be understood to keep them from spreading fake news. The COVID-19 epidemic was a state of emergency from which we could learn several things. The referenced article tells us, when looking on fake news and those who spread them, that it is important to distinguish between informed, misinformed and uninformed individuals and their differential informedness.

 

Reference:
Wang R, Zhang W. Who spread COVID-19 (mis)information online? Differential informedness, psychological mechanisms, and intervention strategies. Computers in Human Behavior. September 20, 2022; DOI: 10.1016/j.chb.2022.107486
https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0747563222003065?via%3Dihub

Welcome!

Welcome!
This blog is part of the master course „Information and Organization“ at the University of Bremen.
In the upcoming weeks, the students will present and discuss exciting insights about the role of information and digitalization for people, companies and society.
Stay tuned!