Accessibility and Engagement

Expectations and Experiences of Graduate Students in Blended–Synchronous Courses


  • Sarah Crary North Dakota State University
  • Andrea Huseth-Zosel North Dakota State University
  • Erika Beseler Thompson Minnesota State University Moorhead



blended-synchronous learning, graduate students, accessibility, engagement


To reach more students, many colleges are using technology to teach courses via a blended learning model, which allows students to attend class face to face or through a video network. The blended–synchronous format (a blended learning model) is defined as the synchronous instruction of face-to-face and remotely located students. Although it provides flexibility for students in terms of location, the blended–synchronous model also has challenges, including accessibility. This study aimed to understand the expectations and experiences of graduate students who attend blended–synchronous courses. The authors surveyed students in a midwestern, mid-sized research university, who were enrolled in programmes that use the blended–synchronous model. The survey focused on their experiences with, and expectations for, their typical mode of attendance. An analysis of quantitative data using descriptive statistics and independent samples t-tests determined whether there were significant differences between students who attended in person or via a video network (VN) regarding their ideal expectations and actual experiences with classroom engagement. Authors coded open-ended responses to capture and interpret key themes. Results indicated students did not experience significant differences in their ideal or actual classroom engagement regardless of the mode of attendance, although there were significant differences in actual experiences of accessibility—VN students are less able to hear and see the instructor and classmates. Additionally, a sense of “us versus them” emerged between the two groups, with VN students struggling to participate actively. Systems need to be developed to increase participation and social interaction in blended–synchronous courses.

Author Biographies

Sarah Crary, North Dakota State University

Sarah L. Crary PhD, is an assistant professor in the School of Education at North Dakota State University. She has over 15 years of K–12 experience with a focus on secondary education. Her experience includes both public and private school settings as a principal and classroom teacher, and she has served on numerous district-level committees—including accreditation and curricula. Dr. Crary’s research interests include information literacy, fostering equal access for blended learning, and understanding the experience of New Americans in small urban settings.

Andrea Huseth-Zosel, North Dakota State University

Andrea Huseth-Zosel PhD, is an assistant professor in the Department of Public Health at North Dakota State University. Her research focuses on health disparities, including rural/urban and gender-based disparities, and health equity issues. Specific areas of interest include the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on educator health and wellbeing; effects of COVID-19 on the health and wellbeing of older adults; aging; injury prevention; aging and public health; and menstruation management and period poverty for adolescent females. 

Erika Beseler Thompson, Minnesota State University Moorhead

Erika Beseler Thompson Ph.D., is the director of the Academic Support Center at Minnesota State University Moorhead. Dr. Beseler Thompson has taught for several years in blended instruction (hybrid/hyflex) classes and has researched effective instructional strategies for hybrid learning. She now helps students to adapt to, and thrive in, a range of course modalities.