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Blended Learning and the Classroom Environment: A Comparative Analysis of Students' Perception of the Classroom Environment across Community College Courses Taught in Traditional Face-to-face, Online and Blended Methods Open Access

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This study examined how students' perception of the classroom environment differs across traditional face-to-face, online, and blended courses. The study compared feedback from students enrolled in courses taught in each format to determine if the blended learning environment produces higher levels of participation (Cathectic Learning Climate/CLC), a stronger sense of connection to the instructor (Professorial Concern/PC), a more positive feeling about the cooperative nature of the classroom environment (Inimical Ambiance/IA), a stronger perception that the course is intellectually challenging (Academic Rigor/AR), a better feeling that the instructor is supportive and student-centered (Affiliation/AF), and a more positive sense that the evaluation criteria and course content have been clearly articulated (Structure/ST).The College Classroom Environment Scales (CCES) were used to gather information about students' perceptions of the classroom environment (Winston, Vahala, Nichols, & Gillis, 1989). Study participants consisted of 368 students enrolled in courses taught at a community college. A stratified random sample was taken during the Fall 2007 semester. Descriptive statistics, MANOVA, univariate ANOVAs and Games-Howell planned comparison tests were used in the analysis. The analysis revealed significant differences on all six dependent variables.The findings suggest that blended classes provide an atmosphere that is as good as or better than both face-to-face and online classes in producing higher levels of student participation (CLC) and a stronger sense of being connected to the instructor (PC). That both face-to-face and blended students perceive that their instructor is more supportive and student-centered (AF) and have more positive feelings about the cooperative nature of the classroom environment (IA) than do online students. But, classes taught online seem to foster a stronger perception that the course is intellectually challenging (AR) and that the evaluation criteria and course content have been clearly articulated (ST) than both face-to-face and blended classes.Overall, the results seem to suggest that by combining elements of both face-to-face and online courses, blended courses can create a positive learning environment while providing some of the convenience of an online course without eliminating the face-to-face contact that many students desire.

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