Seamus Fitzpatrick is the Head of the Business Faculty at Griffith College. Speaking with Business & Finance, Seamus offered insight into the blended learning study model at Griffith College.
“Blended learning is a mixture of in-person and remote learning where lecturers will pre-record their lectures and those lectures will be uploaded for students to view and digest at their own leisure. These recordings are also complimented with interactive webinars and some on-campus Saturday classes during the term.”
The blended learning approach was introduced by the Business faculty in 2016. Fitzpatrick, in his 20 years of working with Griffith College, found that there were a lot of factors that made it difficult for students to get to college during the evenings.
“In recent years we had students giving feedback and saying, ‘the commute was taking a lot of their time’. Students would also be unable to make evening classes due to their geographic location.”
“We were anxious to provide greater access to third level education”.
Fitzpatrick spoke of how the blended learning approach has risen in popularity since its launch in 2016.
“Initially, we had relatively small numbers but the numbers have grown quite significantly since then. So much so that we have introduced other programmes via blended learning. It really goes from strength to strength. We’ve also received a National Education Award for this programme”.
Perhaps the biggest reason for it’s surge has been due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Fitzpatrick is acutely aware of how the pandemic introduced more people to working and learning from home.
“The last two years with COVID, people are more comfortable working and engaging with services online in the home environment. We were a bit ahead of the curve, we were delivering blended learning before Covid”.
Fitzpatrick pointed out that there are a lot of things that are accessible online nowadays such as medical appointments, banking services, legal consultations, etc.
“If all of this is possible, why should education be any different?”
There are a lot of business programmes available through blended learning at Griffith College. These include a level 8 Bachelor of Arts Honours degree in Business as well as a level 8 in Business with a focus on Marketing and a level 8 in Business with a focus on HRM.
These programmes have proved to be very successful and have allowed for further programmes to be offered using the blended approach.
“Because of the success of the business programme and the numbers applying, we launched the BA Honours in Accounting & Finance through blended delivery as well. We are hoping to offer more in the coming years”, said Fitzpatrick.
Fitzpatrick believes that the blended model benefits all kinds of students, primarily those with long commutes as it can save them time and money. It also helps those with a busy work schedule who cannot commit to making the journey to college 2-3 evenings per week.
Fitzpatrick cautions that blended learning does require a lot of self-discipline as much of the learning is online and independent, rather than classroom-based.
“While remote working and learning is great, it doesn’t necessarily suit everybody.”
For those that prefer learning in person, there are options for them to come into Griffith College in the evening and do their part-time degree.
The supports available to students taking blended learning programmes are the same as those offered to on-campus students.
“We have a very good virtual learning environment. There would also designated ‘virtual’ meeting hours with their lecturers via Zoom”.
It is clear that support is offered to the students at any given time, not just within college hours.
“It’s not a case when it’s 5 o’clock or 5:30 the college is closed”.
Fitzpatrick made it very clear that students learning through the blended programme are still as important as those that attend college in person.
“They have all the entitlements and supports that a full-time student would have”.