This research paper focuses on a small-scale trial undertaken with undergraduate Education Studies students into the integration of online learning through a virtual learning environment with traditional face-to-face delivery. Universities are well versed in the utilisation of VLE’s to provide additional support and information for students, however this research project has sought to extend this beyond the realm of an information repository and utilise this as a means of key content delivery.
Trial sessions were conducted with students from all levels of the programme with follow-up focus groups and questionnaires utilised to garner opinion as to the efficacy of the trial. While results have shown that there are clear benefits to the adoption of an enhanced focus on online learning from the perspective of student experience, there are also cautionary tales to note. The concept of collegiality is significant in the formation of bonds within student cohorts combined with the desire to ‘belong’ to a community of learners. As such, what online learning may offer in terms of efficiency and convenience requires balancing against the broader hidden curriculum offered as part of a traditional undergraduate experience. This paper not only seeks to provide a research-based perspective on the trial as noted but also offer a theoretical discussion on the increasing integration of online technology into higher education from a wider standpoint.