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Comparative View of Community Engagement Factors in Doctoral Blended Programs in Two Universities

Samantha Mercanti-Anthony (Drexel University, USA)
Maria Lanza-Gladney (Rowan University, USA)
Session Information
October 14, 2015 - 1:45pm
Learning Effectiveness
Major Emphasis of Presentation: 
Practical Application
Major Emphasis of Presentation: 
Blended Program/Degree
Institutional Level: 
Universities and Four Year Institutions
Audience Level: 
Session Type: 
Discovery Session
Atlantic Hall
Session Duration: 
45 Minutes
Discovery Session 1

The session will compare and contrast a private and public universities blended delivery models.

Extended Abstract

For this Discovery session, attendees will learn about the learning and community benefits of blended delivery models in educational doctoral programs. The session will compare and contrast a private and public universities blended delivery models. Providing information on different models of blended Ed. D. programs at the two different institutions, this session will focus on different ways to incorporate face to face components in a program and how to effectively use that time to maximize learning, community building and engagement among learners and with the institution. Through the presentation of doctoral research at a private university and the experiences as a coordinator of doctoral program at a public university, presenters will compare and contrast research and experiences on doctoral hybrid programs.

A Next Generation University report found that campuses have moved to online and hybrid courses both to save on cost and to improve the academic rigor of their classes, therefore an increasing percentage of adult students are being offered the flexibility of online and hybrid programs. Blended programs provide the flexibility of online learning with the added value of on-campus in-person interactions. An online student's academic success correlates to their participation in the course (Morris, Finnegan, and Sz-Shyan 2005; Davies and Graff, 2005), therefore, the more students interact with one another, the instructor and the course content, the more successful they are in the course. Thus, creating an interactive engaged learning environment for the hybrid student is important for academic success. The presentation will focus on the different ways two institutions create effective face-to-face interactions that foster connections and community amongst students and how this can positively affect engagement within the online learning environment.

The definitions and models of blended learning vary, as will be presented through the models at both a private and public institution. However, the retention rates and research support that even minimal residency requirements can provide benefits not possible in fully online program. Given the nature of doctoral programs, the blended learning environment provides an engaging learning environment that helps cultivate student community during what can be a challenging process towards degree completion.

Through the use of on-campus residency requirements, orientation, and hybrid coursework, students are provided the opportunity to meet faculty, staff, campus resources, and other students. These sessions can be utilized to better educate students on policies and program requirements. Moreover, focusing on team-building begins a dialogue that the presenters' research has shown carries over to an engaged online discussion. The presentation will present these findings as well as a set of best practices to get the most out of the face-to-face components of the hybrid learning environment.
Lastly, the blended format provides opportunities for both students and faculty to provide feedback and prepare for upcoming phases in their degree completion. Instructor feedback and facilitation of online discussions contribute to a student's sense of community (Desai, Hart, Richards, 2008; Betts, 2009). Thus, it is imperative to craft an environment where students can create such a classroom atmosphere through an understanding of their course layout, the technology implement, the learning support systems and their instructional materials. The blended learning model fosters this type of environment by providing by online and face-to-face spaces to troubleshoot course issues and discussion. The presentation will cover reflective practices and engagement practices to foster instructor and student feedback that contributes to a sustainable program.


Betts, K. (2009). Lost in Translation: Importance of Effective Communication in
Online Education. Online Journal of Distance Learning Administration,
12(2), Retrieved from ERIC database
Davies, J., & Graff, M. O. (2005). Performance in e-learning: online participation and
student grades. British Journal of Educational Technology, 36 (4), 657-663.
Desai, M.S., Hart, J., & Richards, T.C. (2008). E-learning: paradigm shift in
education. Education, 129 (2), 327-334.
Morris, K. V., Finnegan, C., & Sz-Shyan, W. (2005). Tracking student behavior,
persistence, and achievement in online courses. Internet and Higher
Education, 8(3), 221-231.

Lead Presenter

Samantha Mercanti-Anthony is the Asst. Director for Online Learning in the School of Education at Drexel University. She is a graduate of Drexel University's Educational Leadership and Management doctoral program. The focus of her dissertation was quality engagement factors in blended learning environments.