Individual differences? Using vodcasts as a blended learning strategy. An Action Research project

This is the outline plan for an Action Research project for #mscmmel.  I have posted it so that any critical friends can comment.  I need all the help I can get, believe me!

image via



I work in a FE college in the UK, where I teach the Association of Accounting Technician (AAT) syllabus from Level 1 to 4.  The learners I teach could be bracketed into three categories. Firstly, full-time groups mainly consisting of 16-19yr olds, some who are school leavers, some who have transferred from 6th form college, and some who have progressed within the college. In the same groups there are some adult returners.  Secondly, there are part-time, mainly adult groups, some supported by employers on apprentice schemes, and some who are funding themselves in order to up-skill.  The final group are 14-16yr olds who are being offered vocational subjects to complement the GSCE offer in school.  To add to this diverse mix, “70% of all learners […] come from areas categorised as being disadvantaged” (Oldham College Strategic Plan, 2011-2014).

Action Research Context:

Models of Action Research suggest that it is a cyclical process.  For example:

  1. decide on a general idea;
  2. decide ‘field of action’;
  3. fact-find; general plan of action (in achievable steps);
  4. first action step – monitor effects;
  5. evaluate data;
  6. revise plan

(Kemmis and McTaggart, 1998).

This cylical process can be followed in the research I have done so far:

(1) My initial idea was to develop a resource which could support teaching a skills-based computer unit to large groups with differentiated prior knowledge. (2) I developed a series of video tutorials for spread-sheets which followed Mayer’s Principles for the design of Multimedia Learning.  (3) The resource was  introduced to one group of learners.  (4) Interestingly, the learners who seemed to welcome the intervention most were those from a particular socio-economic group: female adult returners.  They enjoyed “learning at [their] own pace”and “being able to stop, pause, or re-play” the resource. (5)  This would suggest support for Mayer’s principle of  individual differences. In this initial cycle, my focus was on Mayer’s principles for instructional design, and I had not particularly considered the ‘individual difference principle’, so it was a surprising outcome.  It had been in my mind that the resource would be as, or more, useful for the ‘Youtube generation’.

(6) Having completed the first ‘round’ of action research, my findings have encouraged me to revise the plan to focus on how and why multimedia can support different groups of  learners. This will be useful for my own teaching practice, and also for the institutional and wider context, by making a ‘claim to knowledge’ (McNiff and Whitehead, 2010)


Research Aims:

  • Develop an instructional vodcast  using Mayer’s design principles, as an intervention in order to…
  • Evaluate the results in relation to learners’ individual differences in cognitive style

Research Methods:

The purpose of the research is to determine if particular groups of learners engage more or less with multimedia resources.  Thus, the analysis will be mainly qualitative, ie. students will be interviewed individually and in groups.  Some quantitative methods may be used, for example how many times the resource was accessed, both in and outside college.


I will be linking my claim to knowledge by critically engaging with previous research.  To do this I will conduct a literary review which will consider the following areas:



Learning Teaching Theory/Practice

  • Mayer’s Design Principles, particularly the individual difference principle
  • Adaptive/Blended/Flexible learning
  • Cognitive learning styles
  • Bird, T., 2011, ‘The Impact on Learning of iTunesU Open Educational Resources, Open University

Action Research Theory

  • Friesen (2008) Emancipatory
  • Nixon (1981)      Own context
  • Conole and Oliver (2007): Organisational, Socio-cultural
  • Kemmis/McTaggart: social, reflective



I will be asking learners about their socio-economic backgrounds and prior learning experiences.  This will be sensitive information. Therefore, it is important that participants are aware that confidentiality will be maintained. Permission will be requested before conducting interviews.


I will be writing the research for a wider audience, and in order that the research evidence be accepted, it is important that I take all steps possible to eliminate bias. I am the researcher, and I will also be developing the resource. In addition, I teach or have taught most accounting students in the college at the present time.  It is important that I am mindful of the risk at each stage of the process.  Where possible, I will take practical steps to minimise bias.  For example, by using a  group I am minimally involved with for the intervention and having an independent person conduct the oral interviews.


  • Would you find the results of this research useful?
  • Are there any questions that you would  like to see answered?
  • Have you undertaken research in this area yourself?
  • Have you read any academic articles/sources which might be relevant?
  • Any other comments?

Your contributions are very welcome.

Related articles


4 thoughts on “Individual differences? Using vodcasts as a blended learning strategy. An Action Research project

  1. Hmm is anyone else encountering problems with the images on this blog loading? I’m trying to figure out if its a problem on my end or if it’s the blog. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.|

  2. Thanks Alison.

    I wasn’t sure where I was going to go with this. It was so striking how the one group of learners (women returners) really took to the vodcasts. I had several reasons running around in my head: could it be an issue of trust, or that I’m the same gender, and an adult returner myself, so not authoritative in a traditional way…..? I then re-found Mayer’s individual difference principle and have decided to focus on that; see what it brings up. I will definitely be critically examining it, and also seeing what else comes out of the woodwork through more reading.

    I’ll have to google ‘heuristic evaluation’ now, but thanks for the tip!

  3. Well thought through already Deb. I particularly like how you have tackled issues of reliability and validity through your links to your reading. I will challenge you on Mayer’s individual difference principle. There are several critiques out there, particularly the element of psychological oversimplification (people learn in social situations, not as individuals) and lab based theorising. Also it is quite aged (2001). Can you present arguments for and against this theoretical perspective, even if you then still choose to rely upon it. Also consider using heuristic evaluation as a method (see Neilson).
    This promises to be a valuable piece of research.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s