Student Transitions to Blended Learning: An Institutional Case Study


  • Josephine Adekola University of Glasgow
  • Vicki Harcus Morgan Dale University of Glasgow
  • Kerr Gardiner Freelance
  • Moira Fischbacher-Smith University of Glasgow



student transitions, blended learning, digital education, learner experience research, case study


This paper examines the experiences of students transitioning to blended learning in the University of Glasgow as part of the QAA Enhancement Themes work on Student Transitions. We draw here on exploratory, qualitative research to examine the benefits, challenges and skills developed by students during transitions to blended learning as a means of advancing understanding, and informing future curriculum design. Data from home undergraduate and international postgraduate students were collected over two years through focus groups, individual interviews and end-of-course quality assurance surveys. We found that while home/undergraduate and international/postgraduate students have similar transition experiences, international taught postgraduates encounter additional challenges in terms of acclimatising to UK higher education (HE), especially within shorter programmes of study and where pedagogical and language differences exist. The findings are integrated in a conceptual framework highlighting the importance of access, acculturation (attitudes) and attributes (skills) to enable learner autonomy to engage effectively in blended learning. The findings have implications for institutional infrastructure, curriculum design and learner development. Further research is required to collect a larger data set as a means of developing the study’s conceptual framework, in order to better understand and support diverse student transitions to blended learning.

Author Biographies

Josephine Adekola, University of Glasgow

Josephine Adekola is a PhD student in the Adam Smith Business School, who worked as a Research Assistant on this project within the Learning Enhancement and Academic Development Service (LEADS). Her interest lies within the areas of risk management and student transitions.

Vicki Harcus Morgan Dale, University of Glasgow

Dr Vicki Dale is a Senior Academic and Digital Development Adviser at LEADS. Vicki has worked in UK HE for over 23 years, supporting teachers in using technology-enhanced learning approaches effectively. A Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy, Vicki is also the co-lead for ELESIG Scotland ([E]Learner Experience Research SIG).

Kerr Gardiner, Freelance

Kerr Gardiner was Head of Learning Technology and Media Production at the University of Glasgow but is now working freelance. Kerr focuses on how the evolving digital landscape is blurring boundaries, physical/virtual spaces and campus-based/ distance learning, and how to meet this challenge through the development of MOOCs, online distance PGT programmes and UG campus-based online courses.

Moira Fischbacher-Smith, University of Glasgow

Professor Moira Fischbacher-Smith is Assistant Vice-Principal (Learning & Teaching) at the University of Glasgow. Her research focuses largely on health care management and organisation, with a particular focus on inter-organisational networks, organisational performance, public-private partnerships and service design.


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