In the spring of 2020, schools and higher education institutions (HEIs) were closed in 185 countries, affecting 1,542,412,000 students, which is 89.4% of the total number of students enrolled in the world [1
]. It was an unprecedented situation that, in record time, forced educational institutions and their actors to transform the work ecosystem in order to continue with the activities. The technical infrastructure of universities, pedagogical skills for distance learning and the specific requirements of some disciplines have been the main challenges recognised by HEIs [2
]. At the same time, the forced move to distance teaching offered important opportunities to adopt more flexible forms of teaching, such as synchronous and asynchronous or hybrid teaching, better known as blended learning (BL).
In particular, these forms of teaching were applied in higher education, which is less dependent on the presence of the teacher for the learning process of students, thus making the latter less vulnerable to changes in the teaching model.
Consequently, although students in Spanish universities could return to the centres after the lockdown, the need to maintain social distancing norms led them to opt for the BL model, which flexibly combined face-to-face classes and activities with those taught online. This resulted in a new, and therefore little explored, educational context for students.
There has been a considerable amount of research into BL and its impact on student learning, including concepts such as satisfaction, commitment or experience, from a pedagogy point of view. However, no studies have been found that analyse BL using an experientially oriented approach (focusing on the student as a customer) and, even more importantly, that analyse the relationships that the concepts of experience, satisfaction and commitment have with each other. It is known, in particular, that BL can improve student performance [3
] or be satisfactory [4
]. Nevertheless, the impact of BL on student commitment through satisfaction, which is considered an intermediate outcome of the student experience and leads to student commitment, has not been studied, least of all during a pandemic period. In fact, several studies have looked at the effect of commitment on satisfaction with BL but not at how satisfaction fosters greater student commitment [5
The literature on BL presents diverse methodological approaches (see Appendix A
, Table A1
). The main method adopted is based on descriptive analyses, such as frequencies or comparison of means [7
]. Other studies employ qualitative tools, such as focus groups or personal interviews [10
]. However, few studies deepen in BL using a structural equation approach [5
This research aims to explore in-depth students’ lived experiences during the implementation of the BL model during the COVID-19 period and to investigate its impact on student satisfaction and commitment. In particular, the study approaches the experience not from a pedagogical point of view (as to higher or lower performance) but from a more experientially oriented approach and focused on the affective, behavioural, sensory or social situations students have lived through. In addition, the work attempts to answer the following research questions:
The paper is organised into four sections. To begin with, it focuses on the existing literature on BL and the development of the hypotheses. Then, the methodology used is explained, and the results are presented. Finally, the results obtained are discussed, and conclusions are drawn.
2. Literature Review
2.1. Blended Learning
BL was first implemented at Stanford University in the 1960s and 1970s, with the onset of the usage of videos, allowing students to learn outside the classroom. Over time, specific learning systems continued to be developed, which, with the great technological advances since the 2000s, have given rise to today’s BL [15
BL is defined as “the thoughtful integration of face-to-face classroom learning experiences with online learning experiences” [16
] (page 96). This definition has evolved to a learning environment that allows the incorporation and combination of face-to-face, computer-based, distance and mobile learning both inside and outside the classroom [17
]. The different combinations that can be developed generate a wide variety of BL models to suit the needs of the student, the teacher and the subject matter [18
]. In each model, the weight of the teacher’s presence and the student’s self-learning through technological resources varies, which highlights the principal characteristics of BL such as presence, self-learning, distance and ubiquity [7
BL thus encourages students to be more autonomous, allowing them to practice self-organisation and follow the pace of learning that best suits them [19
]. In addition, not having to go to the classroom every day saves time, which students perceive as more study time, leading to better academic performance [20
]. The use of technology improves students’ digital skills, besides increasing their participation in the classroom [21
From a social point of view, BL allows interactions between students to take place not only in the classroom but also through virtual environments. This benefits the integration of students, forming communities that reduce students’ sense of loneliness [22
]. In addition, the fact that students with disabilities do not have to travel to the university to receive classes favours this collective, given that many facilities are not prepared for them, affecting their learning [19
In short, BL is learner-centred learning with a focus on the learner’s ability to acquire and process knowledge and solve problems [21
Despite this, BL is associated with problems of accessibility and equality. The need for computers or other devices that enable online activities to be monitored is a problem for students with limited resources. This engenders differences between students, creating an entry barrier that universities and public institutions must detect and try to resolve [23
To illustrate and clarify how BL differs from face-to-face and fully online learning models, Figure 1
shows the characteristics of learning models.
As can be seen in Figure 1
, the face-to-face and fully online models present totally opposite and different characteristics. BL, on the other hand, is not a disruptive model with respect to either the fully online or the face-to-face models but rather integrates the benefits of both models to form a new model that enhances student learning.
2.2. Educational Experience
In business, the consumer experience encompasses the sensations, feelings, cognitions and behavioural responses of a consumer when coming into contact with the brand, which, in turn, has repercussions on the consumer’s satisfaction and commitment to the brand [24
]. When applied to education, this would be the sensations, feelings, cognitions and behavioural responses that students experience with the educational services, systems and products of their institution [25
]. Of the dimensions of experience mentioned by Brakus et al. [24
], one based on the environment in which the BL model takes place (classroom, technical infrastructure, teaching methodology) should be added, given that this is a key element in the educational environment and one of the main touchpoints of the student with the institution.
Social–behavioural experience is based on the behaviours and relationships established with peers or the staff of the institution. In this regard, previous studies show that in BL, there is greater socialisation among students and between students and the teacher [21
], as well as greater participative behaviour of the students in the activities carried out [27
]. These behaviours have been shown to be positively related to satisfaction in BL [28
]. Based on the previous results, the following hypothesis is proposed:
Social–behavioural experience of students positively influences satisfaction with BL.
Affective–cognitive experience reflects how learning in BL has made the student feel, both emotionally and intellectually. Gazica et al. [29
] demonstrated that BL did not generate greater motivation in students in comparison to the face-to-face modality. However, it does provide the student with a greater capacity for reasoning and understanding the subject matter [30
]. This experience has been found to be a predictor of satisfaction with BL [6
], which is why the following hypothesis is proposed:
Affective–cognitive experience of students positively influences satisfaction with BL.
Sensory experience in education involves students’ perceptions through the senses, with a particular focus on sight and hearing. Unfortunately, no previous literature could be located that studies the sensory experience of the student in BL environments or its relationship with student satisfaction in this modality. Even so, if we understand that for the correct functioning of BL, it is necessary for the student to be able to hear and see the teacher and the class materials either in the classroom or online, it seems logical to pose the following hypothesis:
Sensory experience of students positively influences satisfaction with BL.
Formative experience depends on the infrastructures available, the methodology used and the organisation of the BL model. In this regard, there are studies that report problems in the organisation of online and face-to-face activities, leading to an overlap between them [31
], or student difficulties with the introduction of new methodologies [32
]. This gives rise to the following hypothesis:
Formative experience of students positively influences satisfaction with the BL model.
Satisfaction is understood as the degree to which students enjoy their studies [33
] and is a predictor of their commitment to learning [34
]. Previous literature has shown that there is a positive relationship between student satisfaction and commitment to learning [6
], particularly as to normative and affective commitment [36
]. This takes place when students see the objectives of the course reflected in the activities carried out and the involvement of the teacher, which predisposes them to take a greater interest in their studies [6
]. Therefore, the following hypotheses are proposed:
Student satisfaction positively influences affective commitment.
Student satisfaction positively influences normative commitment.
Based on the above, the conceptual model shown in Figure 2
depicts the proposed model and the hypotheses put forward. The model shows the social-behavioural, affective–cognitive, sensory and formative experience dimensions, as well as the resultant satisfaction and, in turn, normative and affective commitment.
A self-administered questionnaire was sent to undergraduate students of the following disciplines: social and legal sciences, arts and humanities, health sciences, sciences, engineering (see Appendix A
, Table A2
). The fieldwork was carried out in April and May 2022; prior to the questionnaires, participants provided informed consent, and the data obtained were treated with the utmost confidentiality and following all ethical protocols.
The questionnaire was designed to measure the four dimensions of experience (social–behavioural, cognitive–affective, sensory and formative), satisfaction and commitment to learning in a BL environment. To measure social–behavioural, cognitive–affective and sensory experience dimensions, the items proposed by Brakus et al. [24
] were adapted, while for the formative experience, items from Mbwesa [37
] and Parasuraman et al. [38
] were adapted. Satisfaction was measured using the items developed by Chen and Chau [7
], and normative and affective commitment by adapting items from Meyer, Allen and Smith [39
] and Fernandez-Lores et al. [40
], respectively. All items were measured on a Likert-5 scale, with 1 representing strongly disagree and 5 strongly agree. Table 1
lists the items used to measure each variable.
The questionnaire was reviewed by a panel of experts to assess the content validity and to ensure the accuracy of the translations of the texts. In order to check the clarity of the questions and elicit information on adequacy in terms of completion time, a pretest was carried out on a group of 23 students. Some items were eliminated and reworded for simplification and comprehension. In addition, an ethics committee gave a positive assessment of the proposed items and the procedure for obtaining them. The analysis of the data obtained was carried out with SPSS Statistics 25.
Of 501 survey responses obtained between April and May 2022 from undergraduate students at the Complutense University of Madrid (Spain), 467 were found valid. The sample had a cross-sectional character and was obtained only from the Complutense University of Madrid because it adopted a basic BL model in which students had one week of face-to-face classes and another week of online classes. This meant that within the particularities that each case might have, there was a common pattern in all of them, homogenising the experience in this learning modality, giving rise to variability in the sample but not in the object of study. The characteristics of the sample are shown in Table 2
Structural equation modelling (SEM) was carried out using the maximum likelihood estimation method to corroborate the hypotheses, using SPSS AMOS 28.0. First, the measurement model was estimated to assess factor structure, reliability, convergent validity and discriminant validity. Subsequently, the parameters of the structural model were estimated, and the hypothesised relationships were tested.
4.1. Measurement Model
The criteria for validity and reliability are used to check the fit of the measures. Reliability represents the ability of a measuring instrument (items) to consistently deliver the same result. Validity represents the degree to which a measuring instrument (items) accurately measures a concept [41
The reliability of the subscales of the model was adequate, with alpha coefficients above 0.7 [42
The factor loadings, composite reliability and mean variance extracted were assessed for convergent validity, as suggested by Hair et al. [42
]. The loadings of all items exceeded the recommended value of 0.6, and the composite reliability and the average variance extracted in all cases exceeded the recommended values of 0.7 and 0.5, respectively, as shown in Table 3
demonstrates the discriminant validity between the constructs, as the mean variance estimates extracted, which exceeded 0.5, were higher than all the phi-squared correlations between the constructs [43
4.2. Structural Model
The structural model was estimated (see Figure 3
). The recommended fit indices in assessing model adequacy [44
] were above the recommended range [46
], indicating a respectable fit: χ2 = 392.822; df = 163; (p
< 0.01); comparative fit index (CFI) = 0.968; Tucker–Lewis index (TLI) = 0.963 and root mean error of approximation (RMSEA) = 0.054 with a 90% confidence interval of 0.048 and 0.061. Table 5
shows the standardized path coefficients of the relationships of dimensions.
All standardised path coefficients were positive and significant at 99% confidence, except for the relationship between satisfaction and normative commitment (standardised path coefficient = −0.305; p < 0.01). These results support the hypotheses stated, except for H6 (‘Student satisfaction positively influences normative commitment’), in which, despite being significant, the opposite effect is observed, with a negative relationship between satisfaction and normative commitment, consequently rejecting H6.
Among the different dimensions of experience, the hypotheses (H1, H2, H3, H4) are corroborated, with cognitive–affective experience having the greatest weight (standardised path coefficient = 0.736; p < 0.01) and formative experience being the one that, surprisingly, contributes the least (standardised path coefficient = 0.59; p < 0.01). Experience has a strong influence on student satisfaction with the BL model (standardised path coefficient = 0.804; p < 0.01), such that as experience increases, so too does satisfaction. Finally, increasing satisfaction has greatly increased affective commitment (standardised path coefficient = 0.875; p < 0.01), supporting H5.
The aim of the study was to explore the students’ experience of the BL model and its impact on their satisfaction and commitment to learning during COVID-19. This experiment was carried out in a university with students from several fields of knowledge, highlighting the impact of the student experience on their satisfaction and commitment to their learning using BL during COVID-19.
The results demonstrate that a positive experience with BL contributes positively to student satisfaction and affective commitment. These results are broadly in line with what has been suggested by the previous literature. Specifically, the different dimensions of experience influence satisfaction, with cognitive–affective and social–behavioural experiences having the greatest effect. The latter is of particular interest, given that Gao et al. [13
] established that there was no relationship between the social–behavioural experience and satisfaction. However, this may be explained by the fact that the BL model encourages students to socialise [21
], mainly through online communication, such as class forums and the use of social networks, which during the pandemic, when social interactions were reduced, became more important [22
]. The effect of the cognitive–affective experience is underpinned by the fact that interaction and collaboration with other students encourage discussion and critical thinking, which translates into increased learning and satisfaction [9
]. The positive influence of the formative and sensory experience is justified by the fact that the perception of an efficient and suitable study environment promotes satisfaction [5
]. Another noteworthy result is the negative and significant effect that satisfaction has on normative commitment. This contradicts the previous literature but may be justified by the existing health situation, which may have conditioned and influenced this relationship. Affective commitment, on the other hand, has a positive relationship with satisfaction. This is explained by the fact that students in this learning model feel more comfortable and enjoy studying, which makes them more involved in learning as a matter of enjoyment [11
These results deepen the study of the experience in the BL model, showing that it can be very satisfactory and can strengthen the affective bond of the student with the study and their academic training. This work takes the study of the BL experience to its ultimate consequence, student commitment, filling a gap unexplored to date.
Furthermore, it also has implications for the university by demonstrating the importance of managing the student experience for greater success in the implementation of BL. It stresses that universities are not external to the existing relationships in the markets and should consider their students as customers and act accordingly.
In concrete terms, the results encourage educational institutions to boost their investment in infrastructure and teacher training. Since, as demonstrated, the sensory and formative experiences positively influence student satisfaction, so improving aspects linked to these experiences would contribute to greater satisfaction. This study also highlights the importance of a clear and concrete institutional strategy in the implementation of BL, which reduces variability in the student experience. Finally, as shown above and revealed by earlier studies, BL as an environment is conducive to the socialisation of students through online and offline communications. In this regard, the realisation of activities inside and outside the classroom that involve students and lead to the development of personal relationships would be advisable for an improvement in the social–behavioural experience.
This work is not without limitations. Firstly, the data collected were self-reported by the students, so in order to fully understand the experience, additional information was necessary, for which in-depth interviews were conducted. In addition, self-reported data has the inherent limitation that it only considers the subjects’ vision, so the results should be cross-referenced with academic results. This was not feasible in our study because, during the pandemic, the change in the educational model also involved a change in the evaluation system. Finally, the study has the limitations of transversal studies, such as data being obtained at a single point in time. However, since the objective of this study was to analyse the student’s experience in BL during COVID-19, this type of study seems appropriate.
With regard to future lines of research, the replication of this study outside contexts of health crises or similar situations, which could condition the experience in these teaching models, can be considered. Furthermore, contrasting the students’ experience with their academic performance could contribute to a greater understanding of students’ experiences in this educational context.
Conceptualisation, D.G. and S.B.-T.; methodology, D.G. and S.B.-T.; software, S.B.-T.; validation, D.G.; formal analysis, S.B.-T.; investigation, S.B.-T.; resources, S.B.-T.; data curation, S.B.-T.; writing—original draft preparation, S.B.-T.; writing—review and editing, D.G.; visualisation, D.G.; supervision, D.G.; project administration, D.G. All authors have read and agreed to the published version of the manuscript.
This work has been supported by the Madrid Government (Comunidad de Madrid-Spain) under the Multiannual Agreement with Universidad Complutense de Madrid in the line Excellence Programme for university teaching staff, in the context of the V PRICIT (Regional Programme of Research and Technological Innovation).
Institutional Review Board Statement
The study was conducted in accordance with the Declaration of Helsinki, and approved by Ethics Committee of Complutense University of Madrid (protocol code CE_20220317-09_SOC and date of approval: 4 April 2022).
Informed Consent Statement
Informed consent was obtained from all subjects involved in the study.
Data Availability Statement
This research was supported by the Student Observatory of the Complutense University of Madrid through project POE 17-212.
Conflicts of Interest
The authors declare no conflict of interest.
A sample of approaches from previous studies.
A sample of approaches from previous studies.
|||Pedagogy||Descriptive||Academic experience → Dropout|
|||Pedagogy||Descriptive||BL → Satisfaction|
|||Pedagogy||Descriptive and in-depth interviews||Preference between face-to-face and BL|
|||Pedagogy||Case studies||BL → Commitment|
|||Technological||Partial least squares||Commitment → Continuance intention|
|||Pedagogy||Partial least squares||BL → Commitment → Satisfaction|
|||Pedagogy||Descriptive and in-depth interviews||BL → Performance|
|||Pedagogy||Descriptive||BL → Skills acquisition|
|||Pedagogy/Technological||Descriptive||BL → Interaction and satisfaction|
|||Pedagogy||Descriptive and in-depth interviews||Commitment → Satisfaction|
|||Pedagogy||Descriptive and in-depth interviews||BL → Satisfaction|
|||Pedagogy||Descriptive||BL → Benefit perceptions|
Survey. (This survey has been translated from its original version used with the participants).
Survey. (This survey has been translated from its original version used with the participants).
|Your Experience in Blended Learning|
|The following questionnaire aims to study the UCM student’s experience with blended learning in the academic year 2020/2021. In this academic year, COVID-19 forced UCM to adopt blended learning, combining online and face-to-face learning. The following questions refer to this learning model during this period. |
Please rate each item according to how accurately it describes your experience, using the following scale: 1 = strongly disagree to 5 = strongly agree
|The following statement best describes my academic experience during blended learning:|
|Teachers dedicated time to attend to the students|| || || || || |
|Teachers provided personalised attention to students|| || || || || |
|The university had up-to-date equipment|| || || || || |
|The virtual environments used were adequate|| || || || || |
|My faculty organised the BL courses appropriately|| || || || || |
|Teachers did an adequate assessment of the subject|| || || || || |
|Teachers used an appropriate teaching methodology|| || || || || |
|The content of the courses was adapted to blended learning|| || || || || |
|The following statement best describes my blended learning classes:|
|I heard the teacher well|| || || || || |
|I heard my peers well|| || || || || |
|I saw the teacher well|| || || || || |
|I could see the audio-visual material well|| || || || || |
|Strengthened my relationship with peers|| || || || || |
|Facilitated my relationship with peers|| || || || || |
|Broadened my circle of friends|| || || || || |
|Encouraged me to study collaboratively with peers|| || || || || |
|Encouraged me to help my peers|| || || || || |
|Encouraged me to work as a team|| || || || || |
|Were stimulating|| || || || || |
|Encouraged me to be more active in class.|| || || || || |
|I would have continued studying in blended learning because:|
|NOTE: We know that in the last academic year, blended learning was compulsory, so the following questions are aimed at assessing the main reasons that led you to continue studying in this learning model instead of dropping your degree or dropping subjects.|
|I felt good|| || || || || |
|I was having fun|| || || || || |
|I enjoyed it|| || || || || |
|I was highly motivated|| || || || || |
|It was a must for me|| || || || || |
|I felt it was my obligation|| || || || || |
|It was wrong to stop doing it|| || || || || |
|I would have felt guilty if I didn’t do it|| || || || || |
|With regard to blended learning:|
|If I had the opportunity to do another course in BL, I would gladly do so|| || || || || |
|I would recommend it to other students|| || || || || |
|I was satisfied|| || || || || |
|Served my needs well|| || || || || |
|In which year of your course were you enrolled during the last academic year (tick the option where you had the highest number of subjects enrolled):|
|First|| || |
|Second|| || |
|Third|| || |
|Fourth|| || |
|Fifth || || |
|Not at university|| || |
|What percentage of the total number of classes did you attend in the last academic year?|
|0%|| || |
|25%|| || |
|50%|| || |
|75%|| || |
|100%|| || |
|Field of knowledge|
|Social and legal sciences|| || |
|Arts and humanities|| || |
|Health sciences || || |
|Sciences || || |
|Engineering|| || |
|Male|| || |
|Female|| || |
|I would rather not say|| || |
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Characteristics of learning modalities.
Characteristics of learning modalities.
Conceptual model and hypotheses.
Conceptual model and hypotheses.
Estimation of model.
Estimation of model.
Variables and items used in survey.
Variables and items used in survey.
|Social–Behavioural||SOB1||Strengthened my relationship with peers|||
|SOB2||Facilitated my relationship with peers|
|SOB3||Broadened my circle of friends|
|Cognitive–Affective||COA1||Encouraged me to study collaboratively with peers|||
|COA2||Encouraged me to help my peers|
|COA3||Encouraged me to work as a team|
|Sensory||SEN1||I heard the teacher well|||
|SEN2||I heard my peers well|
|SEN3||I saw the teacher well|
|Formative||FOR1||The university had up-to-date equipment|||
|FOR2||The virtual environments used were adequate|||
|FOR3||My faculty organised the BL courses appropriately|||
|Satisfaction||SAT1||If I have the opportunity to do another course in BL, I would gladly do so|||
|SAT2||I would recommend it to other students|
|Affective Commitment||AC1||Because it felt good|||
|AC2||Because I was having fun|
|AC3||Because I enjoyed it|
|Normative Commitment||NC1||Because it was a must for me|||
|NC2||Because I felt it was my obligation|
|NC3||Because it was wrong to stop doing it|
Characteristics of the sample.
Characteristics of the sample.
| I would rather not say||6.4|
|Field of knowledge|| |
| Social and legal sciences||38.1|
| Arts and humanities||29.1|
| Health sciences ||18.4|
| Sciences ||10.1|
|Classes attended|| |
Reliability and validity of measures.
Reliability and validity of measures.
|SOB||1|| || || || || || ||0.883|
|COA||0.272||1|| || || || || ||0.88|
|SEN||0.241||0.259||1|| || || || ||0.843|
|FOR||0.177||0.190||0.168||1|| || || ||0.837|
|SAT||0.325||0.349||0.309||0.228||1|| || ||0.74|
Structural model results.
Structural model results.
|SOE → EXP||0.709||0||<0.001||Supported|
|COA → EXP||0.736||0.095||<0.001||Supported|
|SEN → EXP||0.692||0.105||<0.001||Supported|
|FOR → EXP||0.593||0.107||<0.001||Supported|
|EXP → SAT||0.804||0.105||<0.001||Supported|
|SAT → NC||−0.305||0.057||<0.001||Not supported|
|SAT → AC||0.875||0||<0.001||Supported|
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